Have you ever settled for less than the best, merely because the best wasn’t quite as attractive as you like or hoped? This could apply to a countless number of things—anything from your choice in a significant other to something as prosaic as a plate of fries. Sometimes poor presentation can trump the acceptance of the presented. It’s not rational or practical, it’s the fickle nature of the human decision making process. While size may not matter to some, looks matter to many. SteelSeries definitely understands this and is likely why the company now has a small wardrobe of style options for their flagship input device, the Sensei Pro Grade Laser Mouse.
The Sensei has been around for a while and undergone a number of technology enhancements. Many like myself bypassed this powerful offering solely because of lackluster looks and drab design. Simple is one thing. Boring is another. Despite it’s amazing technology, ambidextrous comfort and endless customizations options, the original Sensei was visually underwhelming. That’s all in the past, now. Today we put hands on the Fnatic-themed Sensei, which adopts the pro gaming team’s color scheme. It’s an attention-seizing black matte with orange and white highlights. It looks great and finally compliments the mouse’s great performance.
As I mentioned, the Sensei works for left- or right-handed users. This feature is also why the mouse lacks a distinct style or shape. The wrong contour here or curve there would push the mouse to a more left- or right-handed specificity. None of that here. The Fnatic-inspired Sensei, just like all the rest, offers full comfort and control for traditional righties as well as the more “sinister” lefties. I have a rather large hand and the Sensei accommodates it better than most. The arch in the top, rests comfortably at my pointer and middle finger knuckles. Those who palm their mice or use a more “claw” style, will find comfort in the SteelSeries Sensei. All 8-buttons are easily accessible with no struggle or hassle. Each offers perfect resistance so they are not pressed accidentally while holding the mouse. I disabled one of the right side buttons, so I didn’t have to worry about pressing inadvertently, as I tend to grip my mice tenaciously during intense gaming sessions.
Many gaming mice use elaborate weight systems so users may adjust the heft and solidity of their rodent du jour. That would just get in the way here. The Sensei is not watching it’s weight. Its comfortable in its skin and in your hand. The 0.22 lb stature is a stellar balance between lightweight maneuverability vs. sufficient mass and solidity. Movement is smooth and near-frictionless with adequate resistance. This is also helped by the “glides” or feet used underneath the mouse. SteelSeries has covered 16% of the mouse bottom with these friction-hatemongers. The result is incredible precision to enhance your gaming performance.
But not all gamers are created equal. Thankfully, the Sensei comes packed with a 32-bit ARM processor, built into the mouse. This mini CPU kills the need for desktop software for adjusting mouse settings. They can now be done directly on the mouse. Just flip the mouse over to view the LCD settings screen. You can scroll through CPI settings by increments of “1”, then select and save. You can also save various profiles, which you can then switch through right on the mouse, using the LCD screen. Color code your profiles to immediately recognize which is loaded. The three different illuminated locations light up and can be set from 16.8 million colors. Yup you read that right. This will ensure no one picks up your uniquely fluorescent hot-fuchsia Sensei at the next LAN party.
But your freedom isn’t limited to CPI settings, alone. That ARM processors powers even more technology for further customization. Enter: SteelSeries ExactTech, which is comprised of several micro technologies. ExactLift grants lift distance adjustability to maintain responsiveness, even after you briefly lift the mouse from your mousepad. ExactAim enhances the laudable precision on the Sensei by recognizing mouse cursor acceleration. As you slow down the cursor, the mouse decelerates even further so you can fine tune those glorious ventilating headshots. On the flipside is ExactAccel. It does the opposite and speeds up the cursor as it begins to accelerate. This particular feature can double the speed of the cursor thereby allowing the Sensei to reach unprecedented speeds of 11,400 CPI–twice as quick as some of the fasted mice currently available. With the competition on the ropes, SteelSeries presses their onslaught, pairing comfort with technical complexity.
The SteelSeries ExactTech running on the embedded ARM processor, lets you adjust multiple settings to fit your play style. This includes complex macros. Users can layer extremely long and time-sensitive macros, including those which require precise timing, use keystrokes and more. The Sensei advanced macros could easily get you banned from a server if you’re not careful. The accessibility and freedom borders intimidation. (NOTE: SteelSeries does offer a separate set of desktop utilities available for download for users who prefer a more traditional means of adjusting settings).
But don’t sweat it. Fresh out the box, or after hours of tweaking and customizing… The Sensei cuts through games like a hot knife through a nerd’s Crispy Kreme. Never before has a single accessory so significantly impacted my first-person gaming performance like the Master. The SteelSeries Sensei has helped my kill-count skyrocket in CoD: Black Ops, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 and Tribes: Ascend.
Honestly, there are only two things amiss with the Sensei. It’s a bit too small for Ham-Hand Sanders, here. Yet that’s less important than the skimpy number of CPI presets. While you can set a total of five different profiles, you can only assign two CPI settings for each profile. That’s half the presets of offerings from Razer, CoolerMaster and a few others. It’s notable, but negligible!
Against the mighty and recently praised Corsair M60 Gaming Laser, the Master from SteelSeries stands above by a few “mouse hairs”, with mildly superior comfort and precision. It commands a heavier purse but here, monetary respect is given where it is rightly deserved and the SteelSeries ExactTech utility suite is more than deserving.
Ultimately, the Sensei lives up to its name – Comfort? Mastered! Precision? Mastered! Robust software? Mastered!
The Bottom Line: This is Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a master rodent with unparalleled precision from which competing offerings could learn a great deal. The comfort, performance customization, robust technology–and now–sharp looks place the SteelSeries Sensei as my absolute favorite gaming mouse to date.
- Lightening fast laser precise
- ExactTech is powerful & versatile
- Comfortable ambidextrous design
- Sporty and stylish Fnatic theme
- Limited to 2 CPI presets per profiles
You can buy the SteelSeries Sensei Pro Grade Laser Mouse (Fnatic) at Amazon for $96.47.
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.