Review: SteelSeries’ Simple, Durable, Dependable Diablo III Mouse

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As expected, games peripheral-maker SteelSeries has released Diablo III-themed accessories for Blizzard’s uber-popular hack-and-slash. In one corner, the tamely named “Diablo III Mouse” (henceforth, D3M) — in the other, the equally matter-of-fact “Diablo III Headset.” We’ll tackle the mouse in this writeup.

If you’re familiar with SteelSeries, you know its top-end mice, in terms of build quality and underlying sensor engine, are the Xai and more recently Sensei models. We’re talking virtually identical mice in terms of the frame (save for coloration and finish), with tweaks to the Sensei model as well as a more powerful processor designed to give it iterative (though only noticeable if you’re ultra-hardcore) tracking superiority.

I mention those two models because my initial reaction to the D3M, pulling it out of the box, was that it was the Xai with translucent Diablo III-themed style lines and logo. It has a finish similar to the Xai’s smooth but very grip-able black matte vibe, as well as the same buttons and button placement. In fact my SteelSeries contact confirmed that this mouse was indeed based on the form and button layout of the Xai, but that it uses the “newest, most durable switches” with an eye to Diablo III‘s click intensity.

(MORE: Diablo III Review: Drop By for the Grind, Stay for the Achievements)

I won’t waste time reviewing the packaging — suffice to say it adequately protects the mouse and isn’t a pain to open (it’s also about the size of a fat book, so easily stored if you stockpile original packaging with an eye toward resale value). Inside: the mouse, a Quick Start guide and SteelSeries’ product catalog. If memory serves, SteelSeries has been shipping their products without software discs for some time, and the D3M is no different: The mouse functions perfectly well as a basic mouse without the SteelSeries Engine software, but if you want to deep-dive, count clicks, program buttons and so forth, you’ll have to download the latest software from SteelSeries’ downloads page.

Spec-wise, the mouse comes equipped with eight buttons, which sounds about right for a game as click-simple as Diablo III. MMO wonks may feel a trifle constrained, but dedicated Diablo series players will probably find they don’t touch half of them, opting instead to trigger the game’s handful of realtime commands by tapping keyboard hotkeys.

Unlike most MMOs, where you’re after interface precision, Diablo III requires realtime tactical click-finesse, and — as in shooters — extra mouse buttons can interfere with your ability to execute intensely repetitive actions. I started playing Diablo III with my Razer Naga Hex, for instance, and found myself inadvertently clicking the six-button thumb panel on the left side (which is odd, given the Hex’s billing as an “action-RPG” gaming mouse).

The D3m is capable of up to 12,000 frames per second, 150 inches per second, up to 5,700 counts per inch, 30G acceleration and ~2mm lift distances, which puts it exactly on par with the Sensei (and slightly ahead of the Xai in CPI). Good luck needing a fraction of the possible FPS count, of course — it’s nice to see here, but more of benefit if you’re sniping in a shooter at incredibly high resolutions.

Unlike the Sensei (but like the Xai) the DSM uses a 16-bit sensor data path, though I’ve yet to see the real-world advantages of the Sensei’s faster 32-bit ARM processor (over the Xai’s, that is). The D3M also employs a welcome 6.5-foot double-braided cable with red highlights, which makes it plenty long for most setups, and all but indestructible.

(MORE: How to Play Diablo III on Your iPad)

Under the hood, the D3M sports appropriately hellfire-ish red lighting (through the scroll wheel, translucent artwork and logo) that can pulse at different frequencies, remain steady, or be turned off altogether via the SteelSeries Engine utility. The scroll wheel trades the Xai/Sensei’s fine-notching for larger triangular ones — again, it’s a style thing that has no discernible impact on functionality, since the grooves in the wheel don’t align with discrete clicks when scrolling forwards or backwards.

Speaking of the SteelSeries Engine software, which works on PCs or Macs (as does the mouse), bring that up and you’ll find the usual list of “themed” tweaks, including the option to track your current session as well as lifetime click totals. There’s also game-profile launching, letting you fiddle DPI sensitivity and/or LCD lighting settings and load them when playing specific games.

Coming from the Razer Naga Hex, which has a trifle easier to depress left/right primary buttons, the D3M’s buttons felt a tick heavier and the depression distance longer (the D3M’s click noise is also a little louder, if that matters). SteelSeries says that the switches in the D3M are the “most durable” around, to support Diablo III‘s click-crazy gameplay.

It’s beyond my means to test them to failure, of course, so I can’t hand down gospel wisdom about such claims, but they do feel much heavier-duty than the last few gaming mice I’ve owned. Rest assured that there’s zero mush when clicking through: From depression (down-click) to release (up-click), it’s a very solid, clean path. SteelSeries rates the D3M to 10 million clicks per switch, which is something like three time greater than conventional gaming mice — assuming the rating’s up to snuff, good luck wearing one of these things out.

Is it worth $69.99? Let’s assume you’re reading this review because you’re an authentic Diablo III fan and won’t be eyeballing the admittedly low-key artwork like that tattoo you wish you’d been sober enough not to get — then yes, absolutely, and without further qualification. You’re basically getting a Xai/Sensei-caliber mouse with ridiculously durable switches for $20 less than the going price of the Sensei (comparable to the Xai), and with genre headroom to spare, especially if you’re a shooter fan.

Score: 5 out of 5

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