Last November I published a review for SteelSeries’ first foray into the ultra-lightweight gaming mouse market with the Aerox 3, in which I praised the mouse for not only being a great product but for converting me into a gaming mouse believer in the first place. I’ve since begun making my way through the plethora of other options on the market, but find myself coming back to the Aerox every time.
Thanks to the kind folks at SteelSeries though, I’ve been rocking their brand-new Rival 5 mouse for the past few weeks and I’ve gotta be honest – I might not be able to go back this time.
Cutting a similar (but far more subtle) silhouette to SteelSeries’ Rival 600 mouse, the Rival 5 is a sleek number with a right-handed design and a modest array of programmable buttons. Given the $119 AUD price tag I wasn’t exactly expecting a budget product but still found myself pleasantly surprised by how premium it looks and feels. The sleek, matte black body accented by two multi-zone RGB strips feels great in hand, and once again SteelSeries’ Super Mesh USB cable puts all other cables to shame.
At the top of the Rival 5, where the action happens, the main mouse buttons provide a nice, deep click that’s responsive and tactile without being too loud. They’re sitting on Golden Micro IP54 switches, the same ones used in the Aerox 3, which are some of the most durable and resistant around. The mouse wheel might be disappointing to those that prefer either a very rigid click or a completely smooth scroll, as its single option sits somewhere in the middle of the two with a soft scroll through discernable notches. It’s great for general use and productivity but definitely won’t help anyone using it for in-game switching functions.
One of the Rival 5’s most unique draws is a paddle-like button on its left side, just above the two more-traditional side buttons. It almost reminds me of a smaller, clickier version of the strum bar from a Guitar Hero guitar and works as an alternative to loading up the side of the mouse with extra buttons by offering both a down and up press. I wasn’t sure about it at first glance, but with my palm grip on the mouse I actually found it far easier to activate than any of the other extra mouse buttons and quickly reprogrammed it to replace those. I’m sure there are better applications for it than back/forward functions that’ll suit gaming and productivity, but at a base level it’s super comfortable and intuitive to use, making it more than just an interesting gimmick.
You might also notice the big, silver button on the left side toward the top of the mouse. SteelSeries has positioned this as a precision aim button that, in theory, can be pressed or held without interrupting momentum thanks to its angled design. I have smaller hands and use a fairly relaxed palm grip so I can’t actually reach the button in most situations, but in temporarily adjusting how I hold the mouse I found that it certainly works as intended.
All said, I found using the Rival 5 for both gaming and as my day-to-day to be one of the most comfortable and responsive experiences I’ve had – more than some of its pricier competitors. Its TrueMove Air sensor performs like a dream and the mouse skates beautifully across every surface. It also can’t be overstated just how gorgeous a mouse it is, managing to package its gamer-focused layout and bold RGB lighting into something that sidesteps the typical gaudy, gamerbro nonsense you’d find in similar products. Whether or not you’re a fan of lighting your desk up like a white suburban street on Christmas it’s hard to look at the Rival 5’s illuminated curves and not be at least a little impressed, especially once you start playing around with your own custom lighting profiles.
If you’re a current SteelSeries user you’re probably already familiar with the company’s updated software suite, GG. What was once Engine is now a total solution that also encompasses SteelSeries’ new easy game-clipping application, Moments. It’s easy to use and doesn’t seem to eat up too many system resources, which is handy given the mouse didn’t seem to hold my RGB profile on-board if I closed it completely. As with any gaming peripheral app it works best if you’re fully into the brand ecosystem, where you’re able to sync everything in one location.
The Rival 5 is another solid mouse from SteelSeries that offers an all-rounder feature set and great looks at a reasonable price point. If you’ve been looking for a comfortable and slick alternative to the G502, this is a serious competitor – one that’s even easier on the wallet at RRP. It might not find a use with everyone, but for my habits the paddle button is a genuinely handy innovation for both work and play. If you’re looking for something affordable, versatile and stylish you can probably stop looking. This should be your next new gaming mouse.