If you ask the everyday computer user the difference between computer mice, they will likely reply that they are all the same aside from some basic, physical differences. Gamers on the other hand know that this is completely false and there is in fact major differences that can be found between the various computer mice on the market, both in performance and effectiveness. I am not a huge PC gamer, only dabbling in some of the popular FPS games from time to time; I do a majority of my gaming on consoles. It wasn’t until recently that I grew to understand the difference a mouse can make in your game and now that I have discovered the benefits of “gaming” mice such as the Steelseries Xai Laser Mouse, I don’t think I can ever go back to using a “regular” mouse, for gaming or even general usage.
One of the first things that you will notice about the Steelseries XAI is the simplicity in its design. Visually, it has a “no frills” symmetrical design. There is nothing fancy on the surface of this hardware; the mouse is sleek, comfortable and designed to function regardless of which hand you use. The visual is as simple as any mouse on the market. While there are seven buttons and a scroll wheel, they are all laid out in a fashion that feels natural to your normal hand position. The mouse is designed to be ambidextrous, allowing easy use regardless of which hand you favor. The Xai has a 6.5 foot braided cord with a gold-plated USB connector which eliminates the problem of tangling. The cord is a good length and allows you unrestricted movement even with my tower which is located a good distance away from my physical desktop. The simplicity and effectiveness of these design features, along with the fact that the Xai does not require any specific drivers makes for a wonderful experience to even a casual user.
This mouse isn’t designed for the casual user though; behind the modest facade lies a bevy of useful features that will allow hardcore gamers to take their performance to the next level. Even though the package doesn’t include any drivers or software, you will want to visit the Steelseries homepage and download the configuration software which will allow you to customize nearly every aspect of the mouse’s performance. Within the software, you will be able to reassign buttons, adjust sensitivity and path correction settings, and manage stored profiles depending on your purpose at any given time. The Xai allows you to store up to 5 distinct profiles on the mouse, including some that are available for download from the creator’s website, which tailors the settings of the mouse to different functions or games. On the Steelseries page, there is a variety of Counter Strike profiles available for download which have been designed by some of the top professional gamers on the competitive scene. If the professional profiles aren’t to your liking, you can set up your own in the free software that is offered.
In creating your profiles, you have the option of not only rearranging the button assignments but also to create up to 8 individual macros to assign to button combinations. Each of the programmed macros can contain up to 200 keystrokes making the options almost endless. The profiles are actually stores on the mouse itself, allowing you to take them with you wherever you go;v the software is only needed for loading or customizing them onto the mouse. There is actually a small LCD screen on bottom surface of the mouse which allows you to navigate the various setups and profiles if you happen to be on a computer that lacks the customization software. This is a very convenient feature that ensure that you will be at the top of your game wherever you go.
All of these features and abilities are nice, but how does it perform? Quite well actually. The mouse is extremely quick and has the ability to accurately track on any surface. I am used to having problems when I don’t use a mouse pad on my work desk due to the glossy finish on the wood. Most optical mice have difficulty accurately detecting movement for things such as gaming. The Steelseries Xai had absolutely no problems at all. The mouse moved smoothly and accurately across the wide variety of surfaces that I tested including glossy wood, glass, and even cloth (tablecloth on a kitchen table). The performance differences between the surfaces was almost nonexistent and the Xai was a pleasure to use on all of them. Another nice benefit of the mouse is that the sliders located on the bottom can be replaced if they wear and the movement begins to become difficult. Let’s face it, extended use is going to rough up the bottom and cause the smoothness of its glide to deteriorate over time; thankfully, the three small plastic glides can be replaced with ease and cheaply, restoring the mouse to its peak performance.
The only complaints that I have about the mice lie in the physical material used in its design. While I like the look of the matte black finish used on the plastic, it really picks up smudges and oil from your hands, looking well used after just a brief period of usage. Granted, the performance isn’t effected by any means, but it ends up looking like it has been run through the ringer a lot sooner than any other mouse I have ever used. I have been using the Steelseries Xai for about 2 weeks now and it looks, physically speaking, older than the standard mouse I have been using for the past seven years. This really isn’t a big deal since a majority of the time that you are using the mouse it will be covered with one of your hands, but sitting idly on my desk it looks a little rough at this point. I was able to restore some of the gloss and shine to the mouse using something like an antistatic wipe which I had handy for my computer’s monitor. An occasional wipe-down of the mouse has definitely made it look more appealing int he long run, but most gamers likely won’t be as picky about this as I am.
The Steelseries Xai is a great little mouse that performed way beyond my expectations. The mouse is simple but extremely effective. The customization options included with the help of the maker’s software makes this the perfect solution for gamers who are always on the go to LAN parties or gaming events, even on the professional scene. The fact that your personal settings and adjustments are stored on the mouse itself, you can carry one of your most important gaming tools with you and be at the top of your game any time and anywhere. If you want a solid gaming mouse with great performance, you don’t have to look any further than the Steelseries Xai.
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