SteelSeries Xai Laser Gaming Mouse Review
There are some out there who like to think of gaming peripherals as flashy, extravagant products that cater to a select group of well-heeled individuals. However, there is another and some would say much larger segment of the gaming populace who don’t want shiny LEDs or convertible palm grips. They want a straightforward peripheral that works well and features robust yet unobtrusive software yet doesn’t have the look-at-me styling of many other products. That’s where SteelSeries enters the equation.
For many “serious” gamers, SteelSeries is who they turn to for their high performance peripherals like headsets, keyboards some serious gaming mice without any needless extras. Instead of using precious time and untold effort making their products look fancy, SteelSeries’ engineers are in the business of making great performers rather than skin-deep supermodels. Their latest -the $89.99 Laser Xai- hopes to continue this trend of excellence through understated design.
Packaging & Software
The packaging container SteelSeries has opted for is not only colorful, but also allows the mouse to be held without removing it from the packaging.
Our only real gripe with the software is the lack of a clearly defined macro editor section. The software from most of the competition puts the macro editor front and center but for some reason SteelSeries tucked it away behind a few doors. Even though the option for modifying macro parameters is there, only way to access it is by selecting one of the six buttons drop down boxes and selecting “Macro Editor”. Doing so allows a separate dialog box to open and the buttons can be further configured via additional modifiers.
Honestly, besides the hard to find macro editor the only real annoyance we have with this software package is the fact that the number of options included for each button is extremely limited. If you are used to software from the likes of Gigabyte or Logitech, this meager list of options will likely be a bit disappointing. Luckily, the editor itself is quite robust and while not as advanced as some, it is still user friendly and very well thought out.
Our Experiences with the Xai Laser
Much like just about any SteelSeries mouse on first glance the Xai Laser doesn’t look all that special. In fact, you could easily be forgiven for thinking it was the stock mouse that came with some off the shelf “prebuilt” system from the likes of Dell and HP. Luckily, perceptions in this case are only skin deep and any such assumptions of banality are seriously misleading since the Xai is truly in a class of its own. To put it bluntly, for the palm grippers out there SteelSeries has made a product that will fit like a second skin, regardless of what size hand is holding it.
Accurately communicating the subtle perfection of SteelSeries mice isn’t easy since in this case there aren’t any easily describable design attributes which allow for greatness. Rather, the utter lack of superfluous “ergonomic” flourishes makes for a product that should appeal to almost everyone.
Usually, the comfort (or lack thereof) of a peripheral is largely dependant upon personal preference but the Xai is designed in such a way that it is almost palm size agnostic. The subtle rise of the back coupled with the rubberized texture ensures a firm grip even in the most sweat-inducing situations and allows for control without any compromise.
With that being said, the Xai’s design doesn’t allow for comfortable use in every situation. I personally have a large hand and found it a touch on the narrow side for my usual finger grip and almost uncomfortable for my hand when used in a claw grip.
When it comes to the features SteelSeries managed to cram into this mouse, here too we were extremely impressed and yet still left craving for a bit more. There are eight buttons and a vertical only scroll wheel but for horizontal scrolling a different SteelSeries product will be needed. While all of these buttons are customizable (via the software) only six can be used for executing macros. The right mouse button, the scroll wheel (up and down) and the ninth button (for lack of a better word) cannot be set up for macros and thus are extremely limited in what they can do besides the standard options.
The lack of horizontal scrolling abilities for the most part was not missed in our testing but we can see how it could be an issue particularly in some strategy games. Nonetheless, there really aren’t many instances where horizontal scrolling is used in games so we can excuse its absence from the Xai.
Unfortunately the lack of a dedicated profile selector switch on this mouse can be considered a huge loss. Sure, there are two buttons on the right side of the mouse, but neither is meant for this role. SteelSeries fully expects you to either use the software or flip the mouse over and use the combination of the small bottom mounted LCD screen and the DPI button to do what should be a quick and painless operation. Other companies all have mastered the ability of including ten or more buttons on their mice along with a profile switch so we feel fully justified in expecting the $90 Xai Laser should do the same.
Regardless of the MIA profile shortcut, there are enough buttons (with access to macros) that setting up most options in a single profile shouldn’t be an issue. We just have to remember that SteelSeries makes a point of stating that five custom profiles (including downloading professional’s own profiles) can be saved to the mouse itself but fail to say how hard it is to access them on the fly.
Over the last two years or so, it seemed like every company was hell bent on releasing their own peripheral line to make a quick buck. We have seen our fair share of outlandish features, uncomfortable designs, sky high prices and dead end marketing campaigns but SteelSeries found a way to weather this competitive storm by sticking to a simple, no compromise approach. Instead of trying to stand out from the crowd they went back to the basics of good mouse design and stuck with a tried and true formula for the Xai Laser.
Let’s be truthful here: the Xai really doesn’t bring anything new to the table and in many respects it will likely be considered a basic gaming mouse by many. But that isn’t a bad thing at all. What it sets out to do is provide a no-frills approach to a market that’s full of bloated products and in our opinion SteelSeries has succeeded in leaps and bounds.
There is an understated beauty lying in the simplicity of the Xai but that’s not to say it slouches on the performance front either. From tracking to a well-designed bottom mounted LCD to well rounded software, we were constantly impressed by how it handled itself in games. There are plenty of mice out there which are all show and no go but the Xia Laser proves that “gaming” products don’t need far out looks and an unlimited number of features to be successful.
One of the best things about many SteelSeries products is the fact that features aren’t added simply because they’ll make good looking bullet points on a marketing presentation. This may cause some to overlook some of their more interesting products. However, you owe it to yourself to seriously consider the Xai Laser over the competition since it offers what we find to be an enviable balance of features, comfort for palm grippers and gaming performance.
|Latest Reviews in Peripherals|