They won't see you coming: the XAI Laser Mouse with LCD

SteelSeries logoWhat do people look for in their gaming mice? We recently spoke with SteelSeries about the company's distrust of DPI as the last word in mouse quality. The company's XAI Laser Mouse reflects this philosophy when it comes to design: the mouse is unpretentious, functional, and features software that will help you learn to use the mouse to its fullest.

That software is the secret of the XAI Laser Mouse—if you're not a mousing pro or you don't understand all the tweaking that can go you into your mouse settings, it will hold your hand through the process. If you're already a demanding gamer, it will make it simple for you to set up the mouse exactly how you like it. Oh, and there's also a screen on the bottom of the mouse. Let's take a look at the hardware and software.

SteelSeries XAI Laser Mouse

The hardware

SteelSeries doesn't go for blinking lights or splashy logos, and the XAI Laser mouse features a refreshing, understated design. The plastic is matte, the buttons have a very nice click, and the low-friction surfaces on the bottom of the mouse make sure you have a smooth ride no matter what surface you're using for a mouse pad.

The mouse is good for those who are right-handed as well as lefties, which is a welcome touch. Two buttons on either side give you more customization options, although the way my hand sits on the mouse lead to accidental hits of the right-hand buttons. Adjusting my grip wasn't a big deal, but it was annoying for the first few hours.

The mouse wheel is clicky, not smooth, if that bothers you. There is a small button underneath the wheel that adjusts DPI on the fly, allowing you to have two DPI values ready to go. Keep the DPI high for running around and shooting from the hip, and then hit the button to drop it for sniping. This is also useful for games like Bad Company 2, which require heavy use of vehicles; you can have a DPI setting ready to go for piloting tanks or a UAV.

If you're not using a good gaming mouse right now, all this may sound a little intimidating, but the last time I went to a friend's house for a four-person LAN I was surprised to find every single one of them had a mouse with DPI that could be adjusted on the fly, and there was a lengthy discussion about the best settings for the game we were about to play. Adjustable DPI, with a dedicated button on the mouse, gives you a very real advantage while playing online.

To that end, there is a small LCD screen located on the underside of the mouse. This allows you to adjust all the settings on your mouse even without having the software installed on your system. If you use multiple systems, this is a godsend: your settings are ready to go whether you're playing on your laptop or on your gaming box.

If you're in the middle of the game and want to adjust your DPI, flip the mouse over, make the adjustment using the screen, and then put it back on your mouse pad to play. It's easy to assume that an LCD screen on a mouse is a gimmick, but you get used to having it there; the last time I played Left 4 Dead 2 I used the screen to make a few changes to my settings, and then saved it as a new profile so I could switch back and forth whenever I need to, without bringing up the software on the desktop.

Right now I have profiles with different DPI and button assignments for Bad Company 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Killing Floor, and StarCraft 2. Setting them up was easy, and now my mouse feels optimized for each game.

The software

As mice begin to feature more... features, and the button count goes up, the software included with the hardware has a much harder job on its hands. Frankly, setting up a mouse isn't fun; it's something we tolerate and want to put behind us to get to the important part: playing.

The software for the XAI Laser Mouse offers a wealth of options, but it's all laid out well and is easy to get around. You can download pre-made profiles, set up your own profiles for your favorite games, adjust button assignments, and get down and dirty with how your mouse interacts with your computer.

If you don't know what these settings mean (and SteelSeries calling DPI "CPI" in their own settings is just a little precious), the software offers an "advice" tab on the side of the window that you can extend at any time for an explanation of a feature, what the measurements mean, and some ideas on how to properly set your mouse up. It's like a crash course in fine-tuning your mouse, and you'll soon understand all the arcane numbers and adjustments.

In conclusion

This is, to put it mildly, a very good mouse. It feels impressive in your hand, has nine buttons you can program to your heart's content, features a built-in LCD screen that lets you change your settings or create profiles while in-game. It performs all the tasks asked of it admirably.

At $90 from the official SteelSeries store, it's also not exactly an impulse buy. The question is: will you get nearly $100 worth of function out of this product? After using it for nearly a month's worth of gaming, the answer is yes. It takes time to explore all the options and get used to taking a more hands-on approach to your mousing, but the software helps you along. By the time you're used to everything that it offers, you'll have a superior experience set up to your own personal tastes. All that, and no blinking logo.

Source: ars technica

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