Gaming Gear Reviews
ASUS ROG GLADIUS II
Let's get started in the big leagues. At $119, the Gladius II is Asus’ entry into the premium mouse market. Its key selling point is the ability to swap out the Omron switches thanks to the ROG ‘Switch Socket’. Sure, they’re rated to handle 50 million clicks, but after a few thousand they lose that responsiveness, so MOBA folks will make the most of this feature. Or you could always go for a different feel, as this mouse supports the Omron D2F Series switches: D2F, D2F-F, D2F-01, D2F-01F
And Omron D2FC Series switches: D2FC-3M, D2FC-F-7N, D2FC-F7N(10M), D2FC-F-7N(20M).
There’s three thumb buttons, one of which is for DPI, yet once again it’s limited to just two preset DPI profiles. The sensor can handle 12000DPI, and is apparently using the newer Pixart 3988 Optical sensor. Asus’ Aura lighting is in full effect, with three different light zones.
The ability to swap Omron switches combined with the excellent sensor make this a mouse worthy of note. And yet, when it comes to Asus’ mice, we still think they have a lot to learn from the competition.
Great sensor and super slippery feel, but lacking buttons and programmability.
ASUS IMPACT STRIX GAMING MOUSE
This mid-range mouse from Asus also requires the same software of the mouse above, and once again it’s limited to just two DPI presets. Considering many gamers use three, it’s a strange omission. At just $60, we can’t expect the removable top of the Strix Evolve, nor much else to be Frank. The physical design is relatively short, at just 120mm, making it fine for claw gamers. There are a mere three buttons – the usual left/right, as well as a DPI switcher. Both main switches are Omrons, rated to handle 50 million clicks, while the sensor within is an optical sensor that can do 5000dpi. Asus hasn’t mentioned what type it is, but the industry consensus is that it’s the Pixart PMW3360, which is rather average. At least the mouse is nice and light, at 112 grams, but the feet don’t feel as slippery as the Strix Evolve. Lefties will be happy with the ambidextrous design, but it’s facing off against some stiff competition at this price point.
Not quite enough to compete with other $60 mice.
ASUS STRIX EVOLVE GAMING MOUSE
Why must manufacturers force us to install software just to use a mouse? Asus aren’t the only ones guilty of this, but to fully unleash the usability of this mouse you’re going to have to. At least you don’t have to give them your email details.
Heading into the software reveals that only two levels of DPI can be set, but it also allows for angle snapping, speed of hand movement (?) and even button response times, though why you’d want to set it to 32ms is beyond us. The hardware itself is super slippy on a hard mouse pad, yet the sensor feels extremely accurate. Asus doesn’t reveal which sensor it uses, but it’s an optical model with a 7200 DPI and 1000ms polling rate. A total of eight buttons are included, but most impressive is the removable top, which changes the overall ergonomics of the mouse, from quite high to low.
It’s accurate, nice and light, moves smoothly across the mouse pad and has a great sensor. We just with we could set more than two DPI levels and it’d be perfect.
A good all-rounder with a solid set of features.
COOLERMASTER MASTERKEYS PRO S
The focus on this keyboard is totally quality over quantity. Forget blingy lighting schemes, though it does have that, this mechanical keyboard is all about a solid, reliable piece of hardware. The Cooler Master software is incredibly easy to use, allowing you to map each of the keys to one of 16.7 million colours. Rather than use Macro keys, simply hitting the FN key plus another one will switch profiles, record macros and do more. For a keyboard of this price, it’s no surprise to see Cherry MX switches, and it’s nice and small thanks to the tenkeyless design.
It may not be the most affordable mechanical board on the market, but the attention to detail and build quality is obvious the moment you take this keyboard out of the box. Highly recommended. VERDICT
This keyboard just feels right; with a heft and solidity that suggests it’s not going to have any issues over long-term use.
ASUS ROG PUGIO OPTICAL
I’m a little surprised that this mouse is $10 more expensive than the ROG Gladius II, because at face value it’s lacking many of the features that make the Gladius the better mouse. There is the fact that it’s ambidextrous, but other than that I’m not sure what the deal is. It’s a slightly lower form factor, better for claw and tip gamers, but it’s got one button less. And yes, you guessed it, you’re stuck with two DPI presents.
At least the software opens up the calibration feature for difference surfaces. It’s also got the ability to swap out the main L/R Omron switches, supporting the same range as the Gladius. As for the sensor, it’s a 7200 DPI, optical sensor, but we couldn’t find out which one it is; going by the price we’re assuming it’s the same Pixart 3988 as seen in the Gladius. VERDICT
At $10 more than the Gladius, we’d go for the Gladius instead, although your mouse style might change your mind.
How does Epicgear manage to fit twin sensors into a mouse at this price? It has both laser and optical, as well as HDST, where both work together. This gets around the limitations of both technologies, and means you can use it on both a hard or soft mouse mat. It also feels great in the hand, though the larger size means its best for palm gamers. The software interface is a bit garish, but at least doesn’t take long to figure out how to bind the seven different buttons. Max laser DPI is 6030, and this can be set to one of four presets, while optical maxes out at 3200 DPI.
It feels great in the hand, and the fact it’s so versatile makes it a steal at this price. The perfect mouse for those who want the benefits of both laser and optical. VERDICT
Optical and laser sensors in the one mouse? Ingenious.
LOGITECH G213 PRODIGY
At this price it’s obvious this keyboard doesn’t use mechanical keys. Instead it’s based on Logitech’s proprietary ‘Mech-Dome’ keys. According to Logitech, they, “are specially tuned to deliver a superior tactile response and performance profile similar to a mechanical keyboard.” Each require the full 4mm height of other keys, yet a mere 50 grams of force to actuate. Better still, they’re silent, but whether or not you like the feel will be a matter of taste; we thought they felt a little soft.
RGB lighting is included, but it’s per zone, not key, while the keyboard is also spill resistant. Full media macro controls are included along with two-level stands. Whether you go for this board will entirely depend on your reaction to the key type. If you like the feeling, it’s a ripper, but it’s definitely not the same as a mechanical board.
Well-rounded keyboard, but your decision will ultimately come down to how you feel about the Mech-Dome keys.
If you haven’t tried a Steam Controller yet, now is the time to do so. It’s finally available locally for just $90, and after spending a week getting used to it, we fell in love with it. The twin touch pads are exponentially more accurate than analogue sticks, but they do require plenty of practice. The community-created profiles that automatically load every time you fire up a game is a stroke of genius, as it does take a lot of fiddling to really get the Controller set up right. There are literally hundreds of different settings that can be tweaked. Luckily if the community hasn’t created a few dozen different options, then Valve or the game’s developer usually has. At less than $100, this is one of the most impressive shake-ups of the game input we’ve ever seen. Just give it a week or so to get used to.
With practice, this thing almost rivals a mouse for accuracy.
ATEN PHANTOM S
The Phantom S is something of a solution looking for a problem. It’s a small emulator that allows users to connect a keyboard and mouse to a console for more precise control in FPS games. It works quite well for what it is, with a combination of plug and play connectivity and fine control and customisation available through a connected PC or console controller, the former having in-depth drivers allowing for individual key mapping and the like, and the latter giving users the ability to change mouse DPI on the fly. Some PC FPS feel a little odd playing with a keyboard and mouse given the fact that they are optimised for a less accurate control method, but by and large the experience is analogous to PC play with the exception of the lack of analogue movement controls, leading to having to boost the mouse DPI crazy high to turn quickly, or to be forced to constantly have to lift your mouse and reposition because you run out of mousing space.
A solid solution to a rare problem.
CORSAIR K70 RAPIDFIRE
This is our favourite keyboard around. It’s expensive, features a numpad and no dedicated macro keys, as well as a secret weapon – Cherry MX Speed Silver Switches. These have an actuation point of just 1.2mm, almost half that of a normal Cherry MX key. This means you can literally cut down your reaction time by 50%.
There’s also the fact the key has a frameless design, making it easy to blow clean. It’s wonderful to see a nice big rubber wrist rest for those who type all day, while the RGB lighting can be programmed in thousands of different ways. There’s limited media keys but we really like are the super responsive keys, which makes the K70 our pick of the litter.
Super-fast reflexes give this keyboard the edge.
It might be getting a little long in the teeth, but we still love our Kova. It was one of the first mice to include an ‘EasyShift’ button; click this in and every other key has a different function. The Ambidextrous design includes three thumb buttons on each side, as well as a DPI rocker in the middle. The white and black design is slick and easy to hold, while five contact zones make it smooth as silk on a pad. Due to the age, it’s built around the PMW3320 IR optical sensor, which has been digitally boosted up to 7000DPI and a 1000MHz poll rate. It feels perfectly accurate in use, great for shooter and MOBAs alike. Best of all, it’s damned cheap – oh yeah, the software is also masterfully designed. For $70 you can’t beat the Kova, it’s as simple as that.
Got $70 for a mouse? Then get the Roccat Kova.
STEELSERIES RIVAL 300
This is another slightly older product, and as such uses a slightly older sensor, the Pixart PMW3310. This can handle 6500 DPI, and SteelSeries claims an astonishing tracking accuracy of 1:1. The chassis is designed for Palm or Claw, and there is a total of six buttons on the mouse. The main L/R are Omron, rated for up to 30 million clicks.
It feels a little chunky in the hand, thanks to the 130 grams of weight, and its height of 70mm and height of 133mm. Unfortunately it’s for right handers only, but at least it comes with a nice long two metre cable – many of the other mice come with cables that we felt could be a big more generous in length.
Sadly this mouse is outdone by the Roccat Kova at this price, but it’s a close second.
We’re noticing a trend by now – optical mice are in, digital are out. The XM300 is just the next in the growing range of optical mice; a year ago it’d would have been hard to find one. It’s based around the new Pixart 3988 Optical sensor, delivering up to 6400 DPI. Having said that, it’s actually limited to 3200 DPI, but uses digital enhancement to increase this. It’s a little lacking in the button department, with just two thumb buttons and twin DPI switches, and it’s also only designed for right handers. But it does feel good in the hand, with a rather comfy design. It’s definitely built for palmers with its wide base and support for your entire hand.
At just $50, this is a bargain. The sensor is excellent, and it just feels right. It’ll be hard for other mice in this price range to match the comfort and accuracy of the XM300.
Great value for $50, with both excellent accuracy and comfort.
STEELSERIES APEX M500
We’ve long been fans of Steelseries products, as they tend to function on quality over bling, and the APEX M500 follows the same trend. Want RGB lights? Too bad, you’ get blue LED illumination and that’s it. Want a bucket load of dedicated macro keys? Suck it up buddy. Hell, it doesn’t even have USB pass through.
What it does have are Cherry MX switches (ours came with red) and excellent software that can be used to macro your standard keys. It’s also got a very solid build quality, and the keys just feel perfectly lined up and laid out. If you value substance over style, the APEX M500 is a prime contender.
Beautifully built but with minimal features, the focus here is on quality.