In The Gaming Mice Market, The Smallest Flaw Can Be Fatal

In The Gaming Mice Market, The Smallest Flaw Can Be Fatal

The gaming mice market is so saturated these days — and so well served — that even reasonably good products can be absolutely cut down by the smallest flaws.

I’ve been thinking about this while reviewing two mice that come from very different calibres of brand and reputation. The first is the inaugural entry from one of the oldest gaming mice brands into the ultralight weight mice market, Steelseries, while the second is a relatively new competitor that’s steadily been getting better.

That brand is Glorious, a company with the most unashamedly obnoxious PC Master Race branding. And that’s not a joke: the Glorious website URL is literally pcgamingrace.com.

But if you can put that aside, and all the imagery that follows, Glorious’s latest offering is something that legacy brands like Steelseries — which made their name on the kind of disruption that Glorious is doing right now — could really learn from.

Image: Steelseries

You can split ultralight mice into two categories: wired and wireless. Steelseries’s latest offering, the Aerox 3, comes in both. Glorious, meanwhile, have been making wired products for a few years. The Glorious Model O Wireless is basically a redux of one of their original mice: the Model O, which we looked at last year.

There’s a few tweaks and changes on the software end, with the introduction of Glorious Core. It’s an all-in-one launcher for Glorious mice and their keyboards, and it does the job while looking relatively clean. I’d prefer a better descriptor for how much battery life you have — I’ve never liked vague icons, and Steelseries’ software has this problem too  — but there’s not much to complain about.

Interestingly, both these mice come in at around the same price point. The Aerox 3 wired version — not the wireless, which is basically the same shape with Steelseries’ wireless sensor — costs around $119 locally, although I couldn’t find any stockists at the time of writing.

The Model O Wireless, meanwhile, costs only $129 in Australia. It’s only available through PC Case Gear, and won’t ship until January 8, but that makes the Model O Wireless super competitive in the local market.

Image: Kotaku Australia

And when you go beyond the $100 price point in Australia, things get really competitive. It’s not just enough to have a good product that stands alone, because practically everything is a pretty good product at that point. It should be! You’re buying a damn mouse for the cost of some SSDs, or other hardware that would also tangibly improve your gaming experience.

So every little flaw matters.

Both the shapes between the Glorious Model O Wireless and Aerox 3 are fairly similar. They’re ambidextrous-centric mice, with the Aerox 3 a lower profile mouse that’s not quite as tall. It’s a redux of the Steelseries’ Rival 300 shape, and the Sensei series before that, and it’s well suited for the lightweight, honeycomb trend that’s going around right now.

The Aerox 3 even has water resistance, which is a cute feature but not one you’d ever want to really use. It’s a 57 gram mouse with the cable attached, and it’s mostly built out of relatively thin ABS plastic. The RGB lighting is pretty prominent throughout the base of the mouse, so if you like having your peripherals light up, the Aerox 3 does real well in that department.

The Model O Wireless is in a similar boat. It’s largely the same as the older Model O: same shape, about the same weight (69 grams vs 67), RGB strip, same DPI button placement, and same amount (and size) of holes through the chassis. It’s still heavier than some other ultra lightweight mice, particularly the Logitech G Pro X Superlight which launches in Australia next year.

While Steelseries has been in the gaming mice business for a long time — about as long as Razer — the Aerox 3 is really their first crack at the superlight trend that’s been going through the industry. And it shows, because there’s some simple errors that will really start to wear over time.

Take a look at the rear of the mouse:

Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku Australia)

You can see pretty clearly how much lint build up there is around the mouse feet. And that’s partially because the mouse feet are astonishingly thin, so much so that you’ll actually feel the Aerox 3 drag across your mouse pad if you apply even a small amount of force from the top down. (If you grip your mouse with your fingertips, this isn’t likely to happen, but it will for claw or palm grip users, where the hand applies more force.)

The Aerox 3 also sacrifices a lot more build quality than other honeycomb designs. Anything that punches holes into the chassis is going to experience some kind of creaking — that’s the tradeoff you make. But the Aerox 3’s buttons wobble and creak a lot more than Coolermaster’s MM710, HK Gaming’s Mira M series, the Xtrfy M4 and, astonishingly, even Kogan’s lightweight gaming mouse.

That’s not a good look for a premium brand. But critically, and when so many good wired gaming mice are available in Australia for under $100, it’s also just difficult positioning. Similarly, there’s other issues that I couldn’t look past: the Aerox 3’s left and right mouse clicks have significant pre and post-travel, which is the amount of distance or movement from clicking a button to the click actually being registered by the computer.

I want to be clear here: there’s no lag at all with the actual clicks. But that actuation distance leads to a mouse that feels less sharp, less crisp than pretty much any other mouse I’ve tested at this price point.

Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku Australia)

It’s a big enough problem. And when you can get mice as good as the Model O Wireless for practically the same amount — and it’s wireless! — it’s effectively the final nail in the coffin. It’s not as if the Aerox 3 doesn’t have some great attributes. Steelseries’ chassis shapes are excellent, and it’s why they’ve remained largely unchanged over the last decade. They feel good in the hand, they’re comfortable, and the sensors are top notch. The Aerox 3 also has a detachable USB-C cable, which also doesn’t have any proprietary designs that would stop you from using it with other devices (something Logitech seriously needs to stop doing).

That’s not to say Glorious doesn’t have room to improve, though. The Glorious Core software has a bizarre function where, for whatever reason, it interferes with Windows shortcuts elsewhere in the desktop. For instance, I’m writing this story into the CMS right now. If I’ve got Glorious Core open, I can’t use any of the traditional Microsoft Word/Google Docs etc. typing shortcuts — Glorious Core flat out just blocks those from working. There’s no button, feature or preference indicating why this would be the case, but as long as I close the Glorious Core software, everything works as per normal.

The debounce time on the Glorious Core mice is also maybe a little bit low for its own good. At the default 2ms setting, I had some occasional issues with clicks in games and around the desktop either not registering, or registering a little too quickly. (To help illustrate what I mean, imagine trying to tap an AK-47 in Counter-Strike, but instead of single bullet taps, the gun occasionally fires a burst of two or three bullets instead of the single tap you wanted.) This was resolved by changing the debounce time to 4ms in the Glorious Core software, however, and I think Glorious should probably just make that the default setting via a firmware update.

But beyond that, it’s really hard to fault the Model O Wireless. If holes are a problem for you, then that’s always going to be a dealbreaker — although Razer, Logitech and ROCCAT all offer some really good lightweight gaming mice with enclosed internals. The ROCCAT Burst Pro is looking really good too, although from a wireless perspective the G Pro Wireless and Razer Viper Ultimate are still excellent devices. The G Pro Wireless has fallen a ton in price, too.

Even those are still more expensive than the Model O Wireless, though, which really just illustrates how disruptive Glorious’s products are right now. $129 for a wireless gaming mouse with a tried-and-tested shape (especially for fans of the Zowie FK series) and a wireless sensor that’s as good as just about everything else on the market, with decent mouse feet, no significant chassis issues, a good mousewheel and software that doesn’t require a login or have to stay installed?

That’s pretty damn hard to beat. That’s the sort of value proposition Steelseries used to offer, and it’s one they’ll need to offer again if they want to claw back some market share. The mice game is real contested these days, and there’s no room for even the tiniest of flaws.

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