The SteelSeries Rival series, within its price bracket, is almost without rivals (pun intended). As we've now received the second edition of the wired top model - Rival 710, heir to Rival 700 - there is much that remains the same, and with good reason. Many basic elements run through the entire Rival series, including the fact that it's relatively cheap.
SteelSeries has looked to change this with the Rival X50 series, in the shape of Rival 650 Wireless, which offers better performance while also being a lot more expensive than other Rival models.
All of them offer great ergonomics and curved design, and generally offer a well thought out construction. Cosmetically speaking there isn't much of a difference compared to the Rival 700, as there's still an OLED screen next to the left mouse button. It's there, and it looks a bit fancy if that's what you're after. There's is also RGB lighting in the logo, which you can see when you're not using the mouse, and in the scroll wheel. It's very nice and subtle, and not as loud and obnoxious as it is in other products on the market.
There is still tactile feedback vibrations that work wonderfully, with the caveat that you need to program it yourself. You can do this with the Steel Series Engine software, but we would like to have at least the biggest and most popular recent games pre-installed. It's simply too much hassle for regular users, and it's a shame as the feature itself is really useful. We're aware that you've got access to a few games via "Engine Apps", but this feature could have a much broader appeal. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is really the only major title that supports tactile feedback out of the box, and that's a shame.
The only major difference compared to the Rival 700 is that instead of the slick surface it is now dressed with a rubbery overlay that offers brilliant grip. There's also the new TrueMove3 sensor that replaces the classic Pixart 3360.
And here we run into a slight dilemma. First of all, the whole point of Rival 700 was that it was modular, and it still is. You can therefore buy a replacement module with a TrueMove3 sensor for around £20, or you could replace it with a laser module for roughly £10. In the same way, you can buy new rubber side panels and replace the top part of the mouse. You even get the smooth and rubber-clad "soft touch" overlays in the same package.
What is the actual difference between a Pixart 3360 and TrueMove3? Not much. It is Pixart who develops the TrueMove3 sensor, and in reality, it's just a 3360 sensor with custom firmware that reduces the digital noise when you have the sensitivity dialed into more than 3500 CPI/DPI. So for folks who mainly play shooters, it won't make much of a difference.
But are there any shortcomings and things missing from Rival 710? Yes, in fact, there are. First off all lift-off doesn't work optimally here; you can really tell a distinct difference between the 710 and the Rival 650 Wireless that has a dedicated sensor for this purpose. Sure, it's more expensive, about 25% more than the Rival 710, but reasonably most of that premium is because of its fancy weight system and that fact that it's wireless. This is something we feel SteelSeries could have included, as this is a premium model after all.
In addition to this the mouse wheel is a bit weak. It clicks nicely, but as you scroll there isn't the resistance you typically find in mice of premium build quality. On a more positive note, the side buttons are neat and they even have their own sound to aid you. The buttons themselves are of the double shot type and SteelSeries calls them "Split Trigger". They are mechanical switches, as you know them from keyboards, and are said to last 60 million clicks.
The best part of the package is its heavy feel, the resistance the mouse offers you when used. Combined with great ergonomic attributes and with a weight of 135 grams, it's a mouse that may be too heavy for some, but for others it offers just the right amount of physical resistance.
We're not completely happy with the switches beneath the mouse button, or rather, their ability to revert to their original position upon activation. It's not a major delay, but as you play mainly with semi-automatic weapons, and click and double-click a lot with the left mouse button, the difference is obvious. Clicking the button in the first place feels responsive and solid, but it's that slight slowness as it returns that's the problem.
Is Rival 710 a major upgrade compared to the old model that really motivates you to pick it up? No. It's still heavy, offers great precision, and ergonomics. The OLED screen is still just a gimmick, and the tactile feedback works well though it is simply too cumbersome. That said, SteelSeries should hire someone to program the feature for the most popular games over the last couple of years. The switches for the buttons could have also been quicker to register double-clicks, but the soft touch coating and the soft rubber panels on the sides make Rival 710 really nice to use over long periods of time. The price has been raised, but it is still by far the cheapest top model from a premium manufacturer.