SteelSeries Rival review: Name-brand performance on a budget

Gaming on the cheap

SteelSeries Rival 100
At a Glance
  • SteelSeries Rival 100

    PCWorld Rating

    The SteelSeries Rival 100 is a solid option for budget-minded gamers, but some odd design flaws hold it back.

PC gaming doesn't need to be expensive. Sure, you could throw down $70 on a Mionix Castor or $80 on Logitech's G502 or a whopping $90 on the Razer Diamondback. But you don't need to.

One thing I like about SteelSeries (and Logitech too) is that they have a habit of shoring up their peripherals lineup with some lower-cost alternatives. Damn good alternatives, for that matter—just missing some of the bells and whistles.

Alternatives like the $40 Rival 100.

Entry-level

Despite sharing a name with the Rival 300, the two aren't really that much alike. This isn't just “The standard Rival with a slightly worse sensor.” It is, as far as I can tell, a different product—slightly different shape, different thumb buttons, different feel.

I joke about the DeathAdder being a stripped-down gaming mouse, but the Rival 100 really is bare bones. It's a six button mouse—Left, Right, and Middle, plus a DPI switch and two thumb buttons on the left edge.

SteelSeries Rival 100

SteelSeries claims this is a right-handed mouse, but it's really subtle. In fact, only the missing thumb buttons on the right edge clued me in, initially. It feels, for all intents and purposes, like an ambidextrous mouse. The right edge is already cut flat and textured, like an ambidextrous mouse, and I'm baffled they didn't simply go all the way on that aspect. Even the Rival 300 has more of a “right hand shape” than this.

But whatever. Point is, it's geared towards right-handers but, given its almost-ambidextrous shape, accommodates all grip-types with a minimum of hassle. Palm-gripping and claw-gripping are equally welcome here, though I'd say claw gripping is a bit more comfortable due to the narrow width. Palm gripping gave me hand cramps after a bit of use.

It's a solid entry-level mouse, with a 4,000 DPI optical sensor and the usual SteelSeries soft-touch texture. And it even has SteelSeries's usual RGB lighting on the scroll wheel and logo—surprising, for a product at this price tier.

Pressing my buttons

My biggest complaint with the Rival 100 is the thumb buttons. The Rival 300 has very nice, oversized (almost DeathAdder-esque) thumb buttons, with great ergonomics and a satisfying tactile feel.

The Rival 100 has two thin, cheap-feeling thumb buttons that are obnoxiously loud and clicky. This is the only mouse I've ever used where clicking the thumb buttons is louder than the main Left and Right Click functions.

SteelSeries Rival 100

To make matters worse, they're pointy. Instead of meeting in the middle, there's a small gap between the two thumb buttons. The edges of the buttons in this gap form a small pyramid-point that jabs into the pad of your thumb. Adjusting your thumb back-and-forth across the two buttons ranges from unpleasant to downright uncomfortable.

It's a shame, because it's the one feature that I think undercuts what's otherwise a solid gaming mouse at an amazing price point. But these thumb buttons should never have made it past testing—the edges should've been rounded more, or brought closer together.

Bottom line

The Rival 100 is a solid choice for people on a budget, but honestly the jump from low-tier to mid-tier to high-tier is a lot smaller in mice than in other peripherals. Most of the time you can find the Razer DeathAdder on sale for only ten to fifteen dollars more, and it's a huge improvement. Or the Rival 300, which lists for $60 but can typically be found for less—and is, again, an improvement over the Rival 100.

But if you absolutely can't stretch the budget further, the Rival 100 is a pretty good option. It gives you the bare necessities for a gaming mouse (an accurate sensor, moderately high DPI range) without compromising too much on comfort and style.

Just take a bit of sandpaper to those thumb buttons.

This story, "SteelSeries Rival review: Name-brand performance on a budget" was originally published by PCWorld.

At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The SteelSeries Rival 100 is a solid option for budget-minded gamers, but some odd design flaws hold it back.

    Pros

    • Name-brand quality on the cheap
    • Decent sensor

    Cons

    • Thumb buttons are oddly pointy
    • A bit more money would get you a much better mouse
    • Almost-ambidextrous shape, but without the ambidextrous perks
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