More so than ever, gamers on a budget are now spoilt for choice when it comes to excellent affordable peripherals. We’ve already seen excellent budget mice in the form of the Razer Viper Mini but this time we’re taking a look at the latest budget mouse from Danish eSports veterans SteelSeries – the Rival 3.
Is it a contender amongst the hallowed halls of the best gaming mouse roundup? You’d be surprised. For a retail price of $29 / £35, the SteelSeries Rival 3 has mass-market appeal, a packed specs sheet, and plenty of high-end appointments that might just fool you into thinking it’s a much more premium mouse.
The SteelSeries Rival 3 follows the fairly ubiquitous ambidextrous-like designs (although the two side-buttons favor right-handers) generally preferred by most PC gamers these days but with a few angular aesthetic choices here to add a little bit of interest. Aside from the flutes at the top and a nice RGB skirting, it’s a fairly stripped-down, classy affair.
Overall, it’s fairly low profile, but with an ever-so-slightly pronounced back hump that’s a little bigger than the Logitech G203, and roughly equivalent to the Razer Viper Mini – the two main competitors at this price point. It’s a safe design, and one that’s likely to prove comfortable for the majority of claw and fingertip grip users. As expected, palm grip users may want to avoid this one, unless you’ve got fairly diminutive hands, as the Rival 3 is definitely on the smaller side overall.
With a slightly textured plastic shell, the Rival 3 breaks away from the usual rubberized and smooth plastic and has a nice tactile feel in the hand. It’s smooth to the touch but has a nice non-slippery surface, and most importantly – doesn’t feel cheap.
Clocking in at 77g, the Rival 3 comfortably sits around the lower to mid-weight ranges for a wired mouse. It’s definitely light but doesn’t quite reach the feather-like weight of the Razer Viper Mini for example, which hits a lean 61g. That said, when picked up it balances perfectly, and a quick jiggle to check for any loose buttons doesn’t yield any suspect rattles – normally a dead giveaway on budget mice.
For such a low barrier of entry, the SteelSeries Rival 3 boasts an impressive array of features. DPI, RGB, polling rates and even key mapping are all customizable via the fairly plain, but easy to use software you’ll be prompted to install upon initially plugging your mouse in.
Mapping the two onboard DPI profiles (which are switchable via a button on the top of the mouse) for example, is easily done and you’ve got plenty of wiggle room all the way up to 8,000 DPI. That might seem like a fairly DPI low count compared to most premium mice but in reality, most users won’t go higher than 3,000, and anyway, It’s not how high your DPI is, it’s how you use it.
With the RGB lighting, you’ve got three distinct areas on the mouse you can customize, with a whole plethora of options. In general, the RGB lighting is handled fantastically for a mouse at this price point. The colors have a nice saturation and brightness to them and you’d easily be fooled into thinking this mouse is more premium than the fairly modest price tag would suggest. So much so, in fact, it’s an easy recommendation for those who value the overall aesthetic of their setup as much as out-right performance.
Jumping into a few games of CS:GO and Escape from Tarkov I couldn’t help but be impressed by how smooth this mouse’s sensor felt. Cheap gaming mice in general, it seems, have come a long way in the past few years and it’s safe to say the Rival 3 performs almost as well as a premium option with a few caveats (we’ll get onto those).
Both wide and precise movements tracked well with the Rival 3 and there was no sign of the acceleration or stuttering that you’d normally find on budget mice. That said, lift off distance isn’t great, with about 6-7 millimeters of clearance. Compared to the best mice on the market, that’s definitely on the high-side, and for some people it’s going to take some time before they’re fully adjusted.
The action on the main buttons is fairly light but with none of the sponginess that you’d normally find on cheaper switches. Single and double-taps alike were rattled off time and time again in CS:GO without effort and with a good level of consistency. The mouse wheel also has a nice tactile click, and being low profile makes for a nice seamless transition for both index and middle fingers.
However, the two side buttons, while fairly inconspicuous in their placement and therefore resistant to misclicks, suffer from a kind of mushiness that’s hard to describe. In short, they have significant travel before a click is registered, and their thin, angular design makes them difficult to use – not ideal for gaming and especially bad for web browsing.
Overall – should you buy the SteelSeries Rival 3?
Minus the side buttons and high lift off distance, the Steelseries Rival 3 looks and performs fantastically for the price. It’s built solidly, has a safe design that’ll appeal to most, and features some of the best RGB lighting at this price point. For $29 / £35 it’s an easy recommendation.