An MMO gaming mouse can be quite the intimidating thing. At first glance, the sheer amount of buttons looks unnatural, and making the transition to thumb control after years of hammering away at the keyboard is also no small feat. But ask any MMO player who’s made the jump and they’ll tell you how badly you’ve been missing out. With other companies relying on side-mounted number pad, Steelseries aims to shake things up with a more intuitive design, RGB customization, and programmable tactile feedback. Their weapon? The Rival 500 MMO/MOBA gaming mouse. Let’s see how they did.
The Rival 500 is surprisingly stylish. The garrish number pad on most MMO mice is an eyesore that’s hard to design around. The 500 eschews the side-grid in favor a circular pattern of buttons surrounding the thumb grip, allowing that side to blend much more naturally with the rest of the mouse. Everything is a sleek matte black, which prevents fingerprints and really allows the illumination to pop.
And pop it does! The bullseye Steelseries logo on the palm rest is an opaque white with a vibrant RGB backlight. The inner ring of the mouse wheel features the same, providing two points of illumination. The lighting is exceptionally well done, the color cycling almost hypnotic with how smooth and radiant it is. I never thought I would say this, but this is a mouse can complete a desktop. If you have other illumination, it’s the cherry on top to instantly draw the eye. Since the palm covers the logo when in use, the lighting never becomes distracting. Hands off, its style; hands on, it's function.
Lighting effects can be fully customized across four presets and 16.8 million color options. You can keep the LEDs static or disable them entirely, but more fun is ColorShift and Multi Color Breathe. ColorShift seamlessly phases between hues with no visible stepping at any pace or tone you choose.Breathe is similar but rotates colors in inhales and exhales of scaled illumination. You can tie lighting shifts to customizable triggers.
Triggers are an interesting addition to Steelseries’ recent offerings and are powered by the GameSense plugin within the Steelseries Engine (SSE) software. As long as your game is compatible with GameSense, in-game actions can trigger illumination changes and tactile feedback on the Rival 500. Dropping HP may make your mouse turn red and vibrate an alarm pattern, for example. You can also tie tactile triggers to button presses.
Yes, the Rival 500 is in fact a vibrating mouse, and that is much cooler than you might at first think. Using the SSE software, timers can be created from individual keypresses and when they expire your mouse will vibrate exactly as you choose. No longer will you have to watch in-game cooldown timers. Set that hotkey with a the right countdown and from there on out, your mouse will tell you when that ability is ready to fire. This is the kind of mouse innovation we’ve been waiting for.
The Rival 500 is entering the MMO mouse market surprisingly late in the game for Steelseries. It’s relative lack of side inputs (6 compared to the 12 on the standard side-grid) may initially put off some players. It is, after all, these very buttons that make MMO mice so compelling. Instead of placing everything at the thumb, Steelseries has shifted three additional buttons onto the face, angled for easy access. Including left, right, and down middle-mouse clicks, and the sensitivity adjustor there are 15 programmable inputs (13 if you don't use the left and right mouse buttons). This is where things got a little iffy for me.
Having come from the Razer Naga, I immediately missed having complete control at my thumb. That said, the trend in MMOs these days is less abilities, not more, so the six encompassing the thumb were enough to get all of my most used abilities ready to quick fire. And, true to the marketing, having these buttons surround the thumb and mostly accessible with natural movements turned out to be much faster and easier (the rear button still requires a claw). The problem is that the two buttons directly below the thumb have a lip to “flick” down, and also easily hit by mistake. They can be locked to create a thumb rest but I found being careful was the less limiting choice.
Steelseries also designed the 500 to avoid any accidental slippage. Using double-injected rubber, each side features a bumped grip that works wonders. Those bottom buttons could have been a huge liability but instead only resulted in a rare mis-click. Between the grips and the rubberized surface, it does feel a bit like you’re holding a tire, though.
I came away surprised by the Rival 500. After succumbing to the grid-style MMO mouse for five years running, I expected to feel lost without all of those buttons right at my thumb (which are great in all genres, by the way). Instead, I found that six was just about enough for every game I played, and more if I used Shift or Control modifiers. The mouse has a good weight to it and was veritably glued to my hand with that rubberized finish. And it looks so good. Apart from the occasional mis-click on those bottom paddles, and the odd omission of a braided cable, my time with the Rival 500 was almost flawless. It may have taken a while for Steelseries to make a true MMO mouse, but the Rival 500 makes for an excellent debut.