SteelSeries' (SS) design philosophy has always been to create true gaming tools for professional and enthusiast level gamers. Eschewing the gimmickry and pointless flashing parts of many of its competitors, SS instead talks to the people that play games and asks them what they need from there peripherals and goes ahead and creates something to fit those requirements without adding anything superfluous. Such was the methodology used to create the mouse that we're looking at today, the Xai.
Carrying on from where the highly successful – and rightfully so – Ikari gaming mouse left off, this new model takes the hyper-sensitivity and customisation of its forbear and runs away with it, offering a sensing mechanism that can make 5,001 Counts Per Inch (CPI), take 12,000 Frames Per Second, and cope with 30G of acceleration, and movements of 150+ inches per second. You can also adjust the CPI all the way from 1 to 5,001 in increments of 1, select your polling rate, set your lift distance, and adjust all manner of other software-based mouse trickery.
It has a ambidextrous design that is very reminiscent of the classic Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1. In the hand it feels very comfortable and lends itself well to both fingers-on and palm-on grips (although if you don't know what these mean, that won't matter). In particular the slightly inward sloping sides and rubberised surface make the mouse easy to grip with just your thumb and little finger and it's perfectly balanced so as not to tip forward or back when lifting and moving it. Mouse comfort is a highly subjective thing but overall we feel the Xai is about as good as it gets.
Build quality seems very impressive with pokes and prods being met with nothing less than absolute solidity. As is the trend, the cable is braided but we must say we've never found this to be any better than plain rubber cables. It is at least very long at two metres. SS also makes a point of it having gold plated connectors. We're again not so sure that makes much difference though.
The only cause for concern, with regards build, then, is the rubberised coating. While it feels lovely, these coatings do tend to rub off over time leaving little bald patches where your fingers sit. In particular this can affect where you grip the mouse on the sides. It could take some time, but I've had mice that have started to deteriorate in these sections within months. This isn't a complaint exclusive to SS but the Razer Mamba is one mouse that dealt very well with this problem by having thick rubber sections on the sides.
Three large Teflon glide pads are used and, combined with the mouse's low weight, they provide exceptionally smooth and quiet movement. Incidentally, there's no weights system in this mouse as it's something that none of the gamers SS has talked to use. We couldn't agree more that weights systems are next to pointless so kudos there for not adding cost with unneeded features.