Review: SteelSeries Ikari Optical Mouse

Published: July 21, 2008 11:00 PM
By Vincent Alzieu
We were very impressed by the laser version of SteelSeries' Ikari mouse, but some readers have been wondering why we hadn't included the optical version.  According to the manufacturer, it's the same shape as the laser mouse, but cheaper and with better precision. 

Unfortunately, we found that these claims weren't true--you just can't get a better product for a lower price, it seems.  Firstly, the materials used have changed, and the grainy surface of the laser Ikari, perfect for keeping your palms dry, has made way for a glossy, smooth body.  As well as being less attractive, this finish retains more of the heat from your hand, leading to clammy palms. 

This isn't the only difference between the two models:
  • The optical version is a ligher grey than the laser, although this is a question of taste.
  • The laser Ikari could glide smoothly over every surface we tested it on, but this optical version needs a smooth, flat mat.  Put it on a more challenging surface and it won't detect any movement at all.
  • Underneath the laser version was a small LCD screen giving the current resolution, but that's no longer there.
  • Some people have suggested that optical mice perform better when you lift them off your desk, but we found that both Ikaris stop working at all when they were more than 2 mm above the surface.
  • The laser Ikari has a maximum resolution of 3200 dpi, while this optical version is capped at 1600 dpi, which is more than enough.  1600 dpi is already very fast--too fast, for many users in fact.  Move the mouse just 3 cm across your desk at 1600 dpi and the cursor will travel from one side of a 24'' screen to the other.  Even when we have two 24'' monitors side by side, we only ever use 1200 dpi.

The optical mouse is touted as a model without a driver, and no CD is included.  For those, like us, that find the 1600 dpi resolution too high and the alternative, 400 dpi, too low, you have to download a driver, install it and then unfortunately discover a rather limited version of the program.  The sensitivities offered are not variable and you have to choose from just three combinations, including 1600/800 dpi, a configuration which, bizarrely, SteelSeries themselves don't recommend because latency is too high at this level.  We were disappointed to have to settle for 800/400 dpi, which seems a shame given how sensitive this mouse is.


In the end, despite what aficionados of the optical version may think, the difference in price between the laser model isn't only justified by the different sensor.  The laser Ikari wins out on all fronts, and its higher quality materials and more rounded software tools really have an impact on user comfort.
3/5 SteelSeries Ikari Optical Mouse DigitalVersus 2008-07-22 00:00:00

Pros

  • Long shape, good ergonomics for the hand
  • Change of resolution on the fly
  • Slides perfectly

Cons

  • Driver is too basic
  • Lack of freedom in resolution
  • Material used in body is inferior to that of the laser model
  • Thumb buttons should be placed one after another like on the Microsoft SideWinder

Conclusion

On paper, the optical Ikari from SteelSeries has a lot going for it, but it doesn't live up to the hype. It's not that it has hidden faults, but rather certain features which are available on its laser cousin just aren't there, making it an inferior choice.

OUR SCORE 3/5
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