A while ago I had to help out a friend with no money, no job and a ton of student debt (hi Joseph!) who broke his mouse. I sent him a Steelseries Xai, the same mouse he managed to break. With this new mouse he won…a Steelseries Xai. A couple of weeks later this mouse was delivered to me, and here’s my review of it. This mouse has been on the market for about 2 years now, but I had no intention of getting one before, so please excuse this rather late review.
The last few years Steelseries has emerged as a ‘big’ manufacturer of gaming peripherals, offering mice, keyboards, headsets and mousepads. Like any other manufacturer of gaming-related peripherals they offer some great products and some totally crap ones. After the review you’ll know in which category I judge the Xai to be.
The Xai is equipped with the Avago A9500 sensor, capable of over 5000DPI and tracking speeds in excess of 3m/s (possibly even more than 6 m/s). This sensor is quite popular and also used in the Logitech G500, G9x and many other mice. The way the sensor is configured in the Xai minimizes lift off. The lift off distance was small on all surfaces I tested.
The sensor isn’t without problems though. The main issue is some positive acceleration. All mice using the sensor suffer from it and no firmware update has been released or announced to fix this. I’ve also noticed a few lockups of the mouse cursor during games. Once this was solved by getting a hair from the sensor, but the other times there was no clear reason why the cursor stopped or suddenly slowed down during movements. Some online forums make me believe cloth pads and the Xai sensor aren’t best of friends, claiming the A9500 sensor has much lower maximum speed on cloth pads and/or starts jittering much quicker on cloth pads when a tiny bit of dust gets on the sensor.
Lefties rejoice, the Xai is ambidextrous so you can use it without any issues. The body is slightly smaller than the Deathadder and Zowie EC2, especially in height, making it slightly easier to really throw it around during fast action moments in games. The entire mouse is covered in a nice rubber-like material. Unlike the Zowie EC2 and Deathadder, the sides of the mouse are also covered with this rubber.
Underneath there are 3 large teflon glidepads, allowing the Xai to glide effortlessly across your mousepad. The cable is a nice braided one.
Buttons and scrollwheel
The main buttons need slightly more effort to push than the ones on the EC2 and Deathadder. Even with your finger near the top of the button, it still takes more effort to push than those other mice. Possibly because of this the Xai has a more distinct ‘clicky’ feel.
The scrollwheel is excellent, especially compared to the EC2 which has the most horrible scrollwheel I’ve ever felt in a gaming mouse. It’s fast and accurate and also has a good clicky feel to it.
On each side there are 2 buttons, these have a similar good click. They are a bit small, so you might have some trouble reaching them. Both the Deathadder and EC2 have much bigger buttons, but unlike the EC2 the side-buttons don’t feel like mashed potatoes when you press them. So if your fingers are of the right length and in the right position, the ones on the Xai will feel much better.
I was easily able to use the buttons on both sides, but I rarely do so it’s not a great plus for me.
Below the scrollwheel there’s another button. This one is typically used to quickly switch between DPI settings. It’s easy to reach (looking at you Razer Abyssus, Zowie EC2!), works instantly and is confirmed with a little light on top of the mouse.
The weirdest thing about the Xai is the LCD screen on the bottom. It’s a backlit, low-res LCD that displays the Steelseries logo. When you press and hold the DPI toggle on top for 1.5 seconds, you get a little menu.
In this menu you can configure a lot of things about the Xai. DPI (both for LED on/LED off), polling rate (anywhere between 125 and 1000Hz), acceleration and angle-snapping/prediction. This is absolutely lovely to use and means you can adjust nearly all Xai functions without installing the firmware.
Unfortunately the settings you make this way aren’t saved, so powering down/unplugging means you lose your settings. To make these settings permanent you need to set them using the (Windows-only) drivers. A minor annoyance.
Overall I’m quite pleased with the Xai. The only important problem is the sensor. The buttons on the Xai are absolutely lovely and going back to the EC2 and Deathadder makes them feel mushy in comparison. After using a Zowie EC2 for months I’d forgotten how nice it is to have a proper scrollwheel. The one on the Xai is miles ahead of the one on the EC2 and even the Deathadder.
I used to recommend the original 1800DPI Deathadder to all my friends, but I don’t think the Xai can take that place. The acceleration can be a problem depending on the aim-style you use, so I’d recommend someone to try the Xai first before deciding to get it, especially if you like to play on cloth pads. Apart from that, it’s the most pleasant mouse I’ve used in years.