Review: SteelSeries Xai

Published: November 16, 2011 2:21 PM
By Vincent Alzieu
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
The SteelSeries Xai has a fairly basic, neutral design that's suitable for both left- and right-handers. However, under its rather basic-looking casing, it's actually pretty high-spec gaming mouse. This makes it fairly a unique product, and should make it a guaranteed hit among users looking for a subtle yet high-tech mouse. It's also a top choice for left-handed users (see inset).


This basic shape and subtle design can bee seen as either a strength and a weakness, as while the Xai's understated look will appeal to some, others may find it lacks comfort and looks boring. In our office for example, some people thought it was the best mouse they'd ever used, while others found it technologically interesting but ergonomically disappointing (sticking firmly to their Logitech G500s). Plus, the Mac users among us were left unimpressed by its basic design, big logo and bright white scroll wheel. It's all a matter of taste, though.


Not only can the mouse's body fit comfortably in either hand, but the buttons are also laid out in a way to suit both left- and right-handed users. There are seven programmable buttons in total, with two on each side of the mouse. The Xai has nice big sliders underneath too, as already seen in the excellent SteelSeries Ikari Laser Mouse.

Note that this mouse doesn't have an adjustable weight, but that's not something we particularly missed. For starters, we never really bother using the additional weights even when they're supplied and, on top of that, the weight of this mouse seems perfect as it is—at approximately 100 g it isn't too light and doesn't feel weighed down like heavier models sometimes do. Finally, the Xai's weight is also well balanced across the mouse's body.

As well as its balanced design, this mouse offers high precision tracking and navigation, which advanced users can fine-tune in the driver:


The FreeMove function, for example, will be particularly useful for gamers looking to switch off mouse prediction, which basically helps people draw straight lines onscreen. While mouse prediction can be handy for office computing, gamers will no doubt appreciate the greater freedom of movement.


Limited Edition 'Medal of Honor' model
And from the back.


SteelSeries claims to have used user feedback and input to develop the Xai (and took three years doing so), which has a very different shape to the excellent Ikari Laser Mouse it's designed to replace. The scroll wheel does, however, seem to have been completely overlooked. Taken straight out of the previous model, it's still as noisy and resistant as ever, and is no match for wheels in rival models like the Logitech G500, which can be set either to scroll round freely or in steps. That's a really great feature, which once you've got used to using, can be difficult to give up.

Note too that all models of Xai and the more recent Sensei have a scroll wheel that feels like it should be clickable on the right-hand side but actually isn't at all.
5/5 SteelSeries Xai DigitalVersus 2011-11-16 15:21:00

Pros

  • Subtle design for a gaming mouse / Suitable for left- and right-handers
  • High-end tech specs
  • Feature-rich driver for customising macros, dpi, Hz
  • User profiles
  • Seven programmable buttons

Cons

  • Some users may prefer a fancier, more a ergonomic design
  • Price
  • We've seen simpler macro systems
  • Scroll wheel is noisy and can't be set to scroll freely
  • Sliders are big but not immune to wear and tear (unlike those in the Nova X 600)

Conclusion

The left-handers in our office loved the SteelSeries Xai! Right-handers did, however, prefer the previous model, the Ikari Laser Mouse, not to mention the Logitech G500. Nevertheless, the Xai is a great compromise for hotdeskers and shared workstations.

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