Wireless Gaming Mice Are Pretty Damn Good These Days

Wireless Gaming Mice Are Pretty Damn Good These Days

One of the nice things about the last few years is that PC peripherals have largely standardised. You get a lot less weird designs as a result, but on the plus side, it means it’s really hard to buy a bad mouse.

That’s what came to mind recently when playing around with a few wireless mice from brands I haven’t spent much time with recently. One of them was from ASUS, whose gear I’m well familiar with — but more in the monitor, motherboard, and laptop space. The other is from ROCCAT, whose stuff I haven’t played around with since they released the quirky wireless gaming lapboard a few years back.

The mice in question are the ROCCAT Kain 200, an ambidextrous wireless mouse from the German manufacturer. There’s the Steelseries Rival 3, one of the more affordable wireless gaming mice in the Australian market with a supposed 400 hour battery life. And if you want something on the chonkier side, a mouse that really fills up the hand, there’s the ASUS ROG Chakram.

As you’d expect, all three of them rely on 2.4GHz wireless connections via a wireless dongle that comes in the box. Each of the manufacturers have different ways of including their dongle — Steelseries ships theirs inside the mouse itself, which is cool except for the fact that the manual and box doesn’t tell you where the dongle is stored (or that you can remove the front cover to install the batteries). It does mean Steelseries’ packaging is smaller than what ASUS and ROCCAT have used, though. A nice eco-friendly touch.

wireless gaming mouse
The Rival 3 Wireless is the same shape as its wired cousin, but you can remove the front cover to reveal the wireless dongle and the battery inserts. Image: Kotaku Australia

But otherwise, all of the mice work exactly how you think they would. Over a month or so of testing — more so for the ASUS and ROCCAT, as I’ve had those mice for longer — I couldn’t tell any discernible difference in performance between the new wireless mice, gaming-centric wired mice (like the Razer Viper Mini, Model D- or CoolerMaster MM710) or other gaming wireless mice (Logitech G Pro Wireless, Razer Viper Ultimate).

Other performance tests have shown that wireless mice are just as fast as their wired alternatives, although that’s over the 2.4GHz and not BlueTooth. The ROG Chakram and Rival 3 Wireless both support BlueTooth, if you want to hook it up to a PC or laptop without using the wireless dongle, whereas the ROCCAT Kain 200 is 2.4GHz wireless only.

Each of the devices has their own in-built software for profile customisations, and they’re all pretty much about the same. I didn’t have any glaring memory or CPU issues with any of the software, and if you’re getting the ROG Chakram, chances are you’ll have some of the ASUS software already (probably for your motherboard, or GPU).

wireless gaming mice

Where the mice mostly differ is in the shape and price. There are slight performance differences with the sensors used — the ROCCAT Kain 200 uses a PMW3335 sensor instead of the PMW3381 or the PMW 3361, which is ROCCAT’s version of the popular PMW 3360 optical sensor that you’ll see in mice like the Glorious Model O/D series, the G-Wolves Skoll, FinalMouse’s Ultralight offerings or the excellent HK Gaming Mira line. The ROG Chakram uses the PMW3335 sensor as well, while the Rival 3 uses Steelseries’ in-house hardware.

And there are slightly different features, although whether they mean anything to do you depends on your needs. The Chakram features a little analog stick on the left-hand side where your thumb rests, as well as a nice rest that jots out for your hand. The stick has a nice balance between rigidity and being light enough to move that it shouldn’t cause fatigue, but in my experience the stick was more useful in productivity tasks than actual gaming. (If you are playing a game where you do need an extra button input on the mouse, however, you can use the ASUS ROG software to bind the joystick to that.)

The Kain 200 and Rival 3 Wireless are more affordable offerings than the Chakram, although the Chakram’s premium is for a justifiable reason: the entire mouse is modular. ASUS has adopted a magnetic button design for the chassis, which means you can literally just pop off the top cover and swap out the mouse switches if they’re broken, or not to your liking. (You’ll need to buy those switches separately, mind you, and even the most hardcore mouse enthusiasts I know don’t have spare switches lying around.)

That’s probably a degree of customisation that’s well beyond most people, though. And $274 or more is an awful lot to pay for any mice, which is the Chakram’s biggest issue. The Kain 200, on the other hand, is on sale at JB Hi-Fi for $127. The Rival 3 Wireless is going for a little bit less at $119, although both have their own caveats.

Being entry-level wireless mice, you’re not going to get some of the nicer additions that you might find in, say, Logitech’s G Pro Wireless or Razer’s wireless offerings. They’re not going to be as lightweight, for one, particularly the Rival 3 since it relies on AA batteries instead of an internal rechargeable battery. (You can reduce the weight slightly by using a single AA battery, or getting lithium-ion batteries, but you’re still looking at 96 grams or 106 grams in total.)

The Rival 3’s shape, however, is excellent for those who like ambidextrous mice. And the outer surface has a nice light texturing with relatively light mouse clicks, which is vastly better than the textured plastic used on earlier models.  The Rival 3 mirrors the rounded designs Steelseries has been using since the release of the Sensei, while the Kain 200 sits higher in the palm (like the G Pro Wireless does). The side buttons on the Rival 3 are long and thin, but stick out enough that you shouldn’t have any troubles.

The Kain 200 is a bit heavier too (105 grams) and you can’t remove the front cover to store the wireless dongle, which is worth noting if you take a wireless mice while travelling/commuting with your laptop. Ergonomically, however, it’s really well designed. The Roccat’s side buttons are also a bit fatter and squarer, much like the mouse chassis itself. The exterior has that soft plastic, similar to the G Pro Wireless, but it’s worth noting that that type of material often wears down fast, particularly in hotter climates (like Australian summers). The Kain 200 doesn’t have as long a battery life at roughly 45 to 46 hours (with RGB lighting disabled) — which is close enough to ROCCAT’s claims of 50 hours.

But you’re also not having to buy separate batteries to keep it charged, so that’s worth keeping in mind. It’s worth adding that there’s an ultra battery life option in the Steelseries software too, but at a maximum quoted battery life of more than 400 hours, you probably don’t need it.

wireless gaming mouse
The ASUS ROG Chakram (L), Rival 3 Wireless (C), and Roccat Kain 200 (R). Image: Kotaku Australia

I’ve got enough competitive experience across multiple games to put any mice through its paces — decades of Counter-StrikeStarCraft 2 experience and about 30 years of gaming — and there’s no perceptible difference between any of the mice in terms of responsiveness. I didn’t have any issues with acceleration, rebinding keys through each of the mice’s supplied software, and there were no problems with the mice’s scroll wheels, clicks or rattling.

So which one should you consider? It’s hard to say without a physical test, because the shape is the most importance difference: everyone’s hands are different, and so what’s comfortable will change from person to person.

I tend to prefer lighter, smaller mice, so the Rival 3 is what I’d use out of the three. I’ve never gravitated towards bulkier offerings like the Chakram only because I like mice in games that I can flick around very quickly — and you generally want a smaller mouse for that. But the Chakram performs just fine in games, and if it gets discounted to the same levels as Logitech, Corsair or Razer’s offerings, then it’s worth a look.

Plus, ASUS deserves a bit of credit: while most of the PC market is largely doing variations of the same thing, at least ASUS are continuing to try new stuff and be weird, which is always a plus even if it doesn’t pay off. I’m also not a huge fan of the Kain 200’s charging cable — the Kain 200’s chassis design is too narrow to use just any micro-USB cable for charging, and it would have been nice if micro-USB had been dumped for USB-C instead.

All three mice are good at what they do, but the affordability of the Rival 3 and Kain 200 is a special standout. I’d personally opt for the Rival 3 out of the three just because the chassis design fits my hand the best, and not having to think about charging your mouse for literally months is a pretty strong selling point. The only reasons why I wouldn’t consider it at all would largely be the weight — it’s still 30 to 40 grams heavier than other wired or wireless gaming mice.

Still, that’s the tradeoff for having a cheaper mouse to begin with — the same way the ROG Chakram’s premium is justified by having a level of customisation that other mice don’t offer. Which one is right for you? That I can’t answer, but as far as gaming goes, all three mice do the job well. There’s no real difference between wireless or wired in performance — it just comes down to how much you want to pay, what features matter to you, and what feels good in the hand.

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