Top positive review
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One of the Best Ambidextrous Mice with only a few flaws.
on February 11, 2013
This is an updated review for the SteelSeries Sensei MLG Pro mouse. My original review awarded only 2 stars. Since that time a significant problem for left-handed users has been solved and I'm very happy to raise my rating to 4 stars and edit my review accordingly.
This is SteelSeries' top-of-the-line mouse and, as far as I know, it is the second generation of this mouse. The original Sensei is still available and a "bare bones" Sensei RAW model is also available.
When my previous Logitech mouse began to "die" after barely a year of use, I launched into an exhaustive search for a replacement and I looked at every mouse I could find that had a chance of satisfying the following requirements:
1 - High quality -- Able to handle heavy (but gentle) use for at least 2 years.
2 - Either left-handed or ambidextrous design.
3 - Comfort for a large hand using a "claw" grip.
4 - RF wireless computer connection -- This requirement was dropped later (see below).
I couldn't find a non-gaming mouse that could satisfy the first two requirements. So most of the mice I examined were gaming mice. This created an unwanted side-effect: poor wireless choice. The reason is twofold: First, in order to be very fast and support high polling rates, most gaming mice are wired. Second, the few high-quality wireless gaming mice that exist have relatively poor battery life owing to their higher speed operation and computer connection. In the end I had to give up my fourth requirement.
Here are the models that made it onto my "short list" (in alphabetical order):
* - Cooler Master Storm Recon (wired)
* - Gigabyte Aivia Krypton (wired)
* - Gigabyte Aivia M8600 V2 (wireless)
* - Razer Deathadder Left-Hand Edition (wired) - out of production but still available
* - Razer Ouroboros (wireless) - unvailable when I needed to make my purchase
* - SteelSeries Kana (wired)
* - SteelSeries Sensei (wired)
* - SteelSeries Sensei MLG Pro (wired)
* - SteelSeries Sensei RAW (wired)
Noticeably absent is Logitech, a major maker of gaming mice. This is because I couldn't find a left-handed or ambidextrous model with sufficient quality. I've been using personal computers a lot since 1982 and I've had more failures of Logitech mice than any other.
Why I chose a Sensei
1 - I liked the overall design (the mouse shape and button arrangement)---for an ambidextrous mouse it's quite good. Of course, it's no match for the ergonomics of a dedicated left-handed mouse but the only left-handed mouse I found that approached the kind of quality I desired was the 2010 Deathadder and I don't think its switches are nearly as good as the Sensei line.
2 - The Sensei "tournament-grade" switches seem to work exceptionally well---I liked their light touch and positive tactile travel. Plus Button 1 and 2 seemed to be fairly forgiving as to where you press to activate them which aids comfort. (Some mice require your finger to be on top of the underlying switch and this may not be the most comfortable position for your finger with an ambidextrous design.)
3 - The Sensei line seemed like the "safest" choice because it had been subjected to some of the most rigorous testing by gamers, seemed to have many happy users, and was made by a company with an excellent reputation.
4 - The fact that every button is fully customizable, was another plus.
5 - The many adjustments available to the user were enticing, such as: the lift distance, sensitivity, motion correction, acceleration and precision.
6 - Finally, the larger-than-normal glide pads provide a very smooth movement.
Why I chose the Sensei MLG Pro
7 - It is a second-generation Sensei mouse.
8 - Up to four custom profiles can be stored in the onboard memory so they can be used when the mouse is connected to a tournament computer not running the SteelSeries Engine software. The Sensei RAW models do not have this capability.
9 - Although I would have preferred a wireless mouse, the braided cord on the Sensei MLG Pro is one of the best I've seen. It allows the mouse to move freely and resists entanglement. It seemed better than the rubber cords on the Sensei RAW models.
10 - I liked the "gun metal black" finish (actually, gun metal GREY). In addition to its good looks, it also seemed show the least fingerprints, oil and dirt.
11 - Generally, I dislike company logos on my gear and I find the stippled or dotted version of the SteelSeries logo on the other Sensei models to be unattractive. The "MLG" logo on this model isn't much better---but at least it is smaller and less obtrusive when it's backlight is turned off.
12 - Finally, I liked the ability to customize the color and brightness of the three backlight color zones of the mouse. The other second-generation models, the Sensei RAW mice, use monochrome illumination that has only two settings: on and off.
Now you know why I chose the Sensei MLG Pro. Next, I'll explain my impressions and rating.
I had high expectations for the Sensei MLG Pro. After all, it cost nearly a hundred US dollars! I ran into a few problems when I began---one was serious. But in the end, the mouse lived up to many of my expectations. Most of the "problems" were not actually the fault of the mouse and were easily rectified.
When I started to use the Sensei MLG Pro, I couldn't get the left-handed mode to work unless the SteelSeries Engine sofware was running. This seemed to contradict SteelSeries' claim that this is a "tournament mouse" and can be used with a tournament computer without SteelSeries software. Yet whenever I tried to use one of my left-handed profiles that I stored in the memory of the mouse, the main left/right buttons would always revert back to a right-handed orientation.
Fortunately, the problem was not the mouse or its profiles. The problem was with Windows' default mouse driver. When the Sensei MLG Pro is used with a Windows computer WITHOUT the SteelSeries Engine software, the native Windows setting for the main left/right mouse buttons will override the settings of your profile in the mouse. I tested this on PCs running Windows 8 Pro (64-bit), Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) and Windows XP (32-bit).
The solution is fairly simple: Configure the left/right buttons with Windows' own mouse settings. The rest of the Sensei MLG Pro mouse settings seemed to obey the on-mouse profile. Only the main left/right buttons (Button 1 and 2) were overriden by Windows own settings.
By the way, the SteelSeries Engine software is not included with the mouse. (No software disc is included in the package.) The software is free and you must download it from SteelSeries' website. Version 2.6.2760 is a 39 MB download.
*--Selecting an On-Mouse Profile--*
The SteelSeries Engine software is required to create and install a user profile onboard the mouse. This is fairly easy to do---the engine software has good instructions built into it. But selecting the profile once it has been downloaded to the mouse, caused me a bit of trouble at first because the instructions were not clear and the LCD display on the bottom of the mouse is not intuitive for first-time users.
When you scroll through the available profiles onboard the mouse, the current selection will be marked with an asterisk (*) to the right. This will show you if your selection has been implemented.
Here are the steps:
1 - Press and hold the triangular CPI button for 2-3 seconds.
2 - Turn the mouse over so you can see the LCD display and release the CPI button.
3 - Roll the scroll wheel to select the desired profile.
4 - Click the scroll wheel (push and release it like a button) to select the profile.
5 - A list of settings for the profile will appear beginning with "ExactSens".
6 - Roll the scroll wheel down the list to "Set as current".
7 - Click the scroll wheel to execute the "Set as current" command.
8 - Click the CPI button once to return to the profile list at the top of the menu.
9 - Your profile name will appear with the asterisk to show that it is now active.
10 - Click the CPI button a second time to exit the on-mouse menu.
Notes: The scroll wheel is used two different ways. First, your roll it to scroll up or down a menu list. Second, you click it to make a selection in a list. The pdf version of the Sensei mouse manual (which can be downloaded from the SteelSeries website) is wrong when it says you need to press and hold the CPI button for 5 seconds to activate the mouse's menu. You only need to press it for 2-3 seconds.
If you can't remember what profile is currently selected, use steps 1-2 above to view the mouse menu. Then roll the scroll wheel to see which profile has the asterisk (do not click the scroll wheel). To exit the menu without making any changes, click the CPI button once. Afterward, if the mouse seems to respond differently, you probably clicked the CPI button too many times and change the CPI setting. Just click it once more to toggle the CPI setting.
By the way, although you cannot change the backlight settings directly from the mouse menu, the on-mouse profiles that you create with the SteelSeries Engine software will execute the backlight settings you configured from the software. I used this feature to create a "Dark" profile which turns off all of the backlights so my mouse isn't so easily recongized by bystanders.
The only switch on the Sensei MLG Pro that I do not like is the scroll wheel. It does not spin smoothly. I expected the detents to be more subtle when rolling the wheel. Instead, the wheel has a rough, imprecise feel as you spin it. Plus, there is too much play in the actuation of the wheel switch. For example, you can roll back and forth between detents with no discernable action.
*--Failure to Turn On--*
When you restart your computer (a warm boot), the mouse will momentarily turn off. The problem is that it sometimes fails to turn back on. As far as I can tell, there are two ways to get the mouse working again. (1) You can unplug it from the computer wait a few seconds and plug it back in. Of course, this procedure will aggravate you if your mouse is plugged into the back of your computer in a hard-to-reach location. (2) You can shut your computer off, wait a minute, and turn it back on (a cold boot). This will aggravate anyone who is in a hurry.
I don't remember ever having the Sensei MLG Pro mouse fail to turn on when doing a cold boot. I think the problem only happens when doing a warm boot.
A "trick" that might work is to move the mouse while the computer is warm booting. I have to reboot often (I'm a software developer) and gently moving the mouse while the USB ports of the computer are initiliazed seems to prevent the mouse from hanging on reboot.
For unknown reasons, SteelSeries seems to hide its Sensei MLG Pro warranty. According to SteelSeries' support website, the warranty in the US and Canada is only one year. The rest of the world gets a two-year warranty. As a pro-grade mouse, I expected a 2-year warranty in the US. Perhaps SteelSeries should pay attention to its competitors like Gigabyte who provide 2-year warranties in the US for similar peripherals.
Overall, I think the Sensei MLG Pro is a very good mouse and came the closest to satisfying my tough requirements. In my opinion, its positives outweigh its negatives by a wide margin. But it doesn't earn 5 stars. The scroll wheel, turn-on problems and mediocre warranty combine to cost 1 star.
It lives up to its tournament pedigree as a worldclass gaming mouse with powerful on-mouse processor, memory and profiles, plus myriad features. It's high-quality constuction should provide greater longevity than most other mice. If you want a pro-level ambidextrous gaming mouse that you can carry to tournaments, this may be a good fit. It has my recommendation.
I purchased my SteelSeries Sensei MLG Pro mouse at Amazon and used free shipping.