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SteelSeries Rival 3 review

An excellent gaming mouse for just $30

Editor's Choice
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

SteelSeries' $29 Rival 3 is one of the best values in gaming mice, thanks to its accurate sensor and great looks.

For

  • Accurate, responsive sensor
  • Comfortable design
  • Attractive RGB lighting
  • Affordable price

Against

  • No adjustable weights
  • Cheap rubber cable
  • Not ambidextrous

The cost of a gaming setup can add up quickly. First, you need a laptop or desktop with a discrete GPU. From there, you'll want to invest in headphones, a mechanical keyboard and, perhaps most important, a gaming mouse. That's where SteelSeries' affordable Rival 3 gaming mouse comes in. This $30 wired mouse packs a modern optical sensor in an attractive design with customizable RGB lighting. 

We put the Rival 3 through its paces and were impressed with the responsiveness of its sensor and its comfortable, stylish design. Short of a few desired additions — a braided cable and swappable weights — the Rival 3 is the perfect gaming mouse for those on a budget.

Design

I was struck by how premium the Rival 3 looks and feels after placing my hand on its smooth body. It might not have the soft-touch finish of the Sensei Ten, but the Rival 3's minimalist shape combines with tasteful RGB lighting to create an aesthetic that's every bit as attractive as more expensive models.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The Rival 3 has a traditional "tear-drop" shape that conformed nicely to the shape of my hand and gave me flashbacks to using the Sensei Ten. That's a great compliment when you consider this $30 model costs less than half as SteelSeries' flagship 10th-anniversary mouse. 

Claw- or fingertip-grip gamers will feel right at home using the Rival 3. However, the low-profile design makes it tricky to grasp with a palm grip, or one where your entire palm contacts the mouse. And although it might look like one, the Rival 3 isn't an ambidextrous mouse (sorry, lefties). 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The Rival 3 looks similar to the cheaper Rival 110 but adds a few design elements you don't normally find on such an affordable mouse. Colorful and customizable RGB lighting outlines the bottom of the mouse and matches a glowing SteelSeries logo on the palm rest. The rainbow glow identifies the Rival 3 as a gaming mouse and gives it a certain cool factor. On the subject of cool, indents in the center and edges make the mouse look more aggressive than the Sensei Ten. 

At 2.7 ounces (without cable), the Rival 3 is a very lightweight mouse. It's also on the small side, at 3.8 inches long and 2.6 inches wide. The Rival 3 was the perfect size for my medium-size hands but folks with large paws might feel cramped using it.  

There are six buttons on the Rival 3: standard left- and right-mouse clickers, two left-side buttons, a top DPI switch and a clickable scroll wheel.  

Features

At the heart of the Rival 3 is SteelSeries' TrueMove Core sensor, which supports a CPI (counts per inch) between 10 and 8,500 at a 1,000-Hz-per-millisecond polling rate. 

IPS( inches per second) is set to 300, which means the Rival 3 can accurately track at 25 feet per second. That should be plenty unless you're swiping across your mousepad like a madman. If that's the case, go with the Sensei Ten because of its 450 IPS. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

You can find a wider CPI range on pricier mice, but few people apart from esports competitors will need to extend beyond the Rival 3's highest sensitivity. Therefore, we suggest you ignore other mice that claim to have a greater sensitivity — trust us, 8,500 CPI is plenty. 

Despite its lightweight frame, SteelSeries promises the Rival 3 is made of "high-grade polymer" that will last for years and that its click switches are rated at 60 million clicks. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

SteelSeries' Engine 3 software has all the features one would expect, organized within clean interfaces. There are two primary tabs in the Engine 3 software: Settings and Illumination. In the former, I changed the mouse's default CPI of 1500 to 2,000 and the maximum to 3,200. You probably won't need to tinker with the other adjustable settings — angle snapping, polling rate or acceleration/deceleration — but they're nice to have for more advanced users. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

As one might guess, the illumination tab is where you change the Rival 3's RGB lighting. There are three zones you can adjust and 16.8 million colors to choose from. Can't decide? The three available lighting effects — Steady, Colorshift or Multi-breathe — look great. 

Performance

The Rival 3 sets a new performance standard for affordable gaming mice. I was thoroughly impressed by the TrueMove sensor as I played through some of my favorite games, including StarCraft II and Overwatch. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Employing the Rival 3 as my weapon to obliterate Zerg scum was a delight. The mouse did an excellent job tracking the pinpoint movements required to select marines and siege tanks and move them to an exact location across the map. I'm glad the CPI button on top of the Rival 3 is easy to press because I found myself needing to increase the speed of my gameplay midway through a round when I was nearly overrun by a hoard of Zerglings and Hydralisks. 

I similarly had no problems firing arrows at enemies as Hanzo in Overwatch, and even nailed some impossible shots thanks, in part, to the Rival 3's accurate sensor. Overwatch is a famously fast-paced game, but I never felt like the Rival 3's sensor couldn't keep up. Nor did I notice any input lag during my session. Best of all, my hand didn't feel any discomfort after about an hour of playing. 

SteelSeries did a good job keeping the Rival 3's price down, but a braided cable would have been a big improvement over the mouse's 6-foot rubber cord, which feels cheap and is prone to bending. That said, the lightweight cable didn't create any annoying drag.

I've read user complaints about the Rival 3 having a poor Lift-Off Distance, or the height a mouse continues to track when lifted off a surface. SteelSeries must have addressed this issue in an update because the cursor stopped tracking whenever I lifted the Rival 3 any higher than a few centimeters off my mousepad. 

Bottom Line

The SteelSeries Rival 3 is an excellent gaming mouse for anyone looking to save money without compromising on quality. As far as sensors go, the one in the Rival 3 is as good as it gets at this price. Yes, there are mice with better specs (including some of SteelSeries' pricier options), but the Rival 3's performance should satisfy all but the most competitive gamers. Combine the great sensor with a comfortable, attractive design and just the right amount of RGB lighting, and it's easy to see why the Rival 3 punches way above its price. 

SteelSeries is close to making the perfect budget mouse, but there is still room for improvement. Swapping the rubber cable with a nylon one would be a welcome upgrade, even if it means a small price hike. I also wish there was a way to change the Rival 3's weight. But even if those changes are made, the mouse wouldn't be for everyone, as it doesn't have an ambidextrous design. 

Overall, the Rival 3 offers excellent performance for a $30 mouse, making it one of the best values available today.