The Sensei is a great all-purpose mouse, laden with customisation tools, guised as a gaming mouse and hidden under a rather cheap-looking exterior. It's not the flashiest in its class, but it does what any great mouse does and handles itself gracefully over a desktop, almost absentmindedly to the user under the palm of the hand.
The sensitive laser runs seamlessly on any flat surface, from the glossy to the plain. The mouse glides over surfaces smoothly thanks to the silky Teflon feet that allow the mouse to run perfectly fine with or without a mouse pad. Clicks require just the right amount of force and give a satisfying tick with each push, similar to using mechanical keys on a high-end keyboard.
SteelSeries is known for its gamer-centric hardware, and the Sensei fits the bill once you throw in the customising software. Unlike its competition, the Sensei isn't much for macros, which means there aren't many buttons to turn into hotkeys. It's also limited to two sensitivity settings until you tweak a separate bit of software. When you throw in the SteelSeries Engine software though, the level of customisation reveals itself like a hidden gem.
The simple controls and precision mouse tracking lends this mouse better to multimedia production than all-out gaming. The sensitivity toggle is admittedly limited, with the button sitting under the scroll wheel only housing two settings - sensitive and less sensitive. For a gamer, you may want extra sensitive options on the fly, especially if you're an RTS player or an FPS sharpshooter. If you're working in a program like Photoshop though, the simple switch between sensitive and slow is perfect for touching up extra-fine details on a photo.
What the Sensei does have are two up/down keys on each side of the mouse which aren't too likely to be accidentally pushed like some other annoyingly sensitive mice. These are primarily for going back and forth between web pages and scrolling up and down documents. This symmetrical design also makes it one of the most ambidextrously friendly mice on the market - left handers rejoice. The scroll wheel doesn't work with inertia scrolling where you spin the wheel fast to scroll down vast lists and documents quickly, but it does make most gaming applications (like scrolling through weapons on an FPS) much more friendly.
With the SteelSeries Engine (free to download off their site), the mouse becomes a hotbed of customisation for the more fastidious gamer. This lets users create as many custom profiles as they want saved to their computer, filled with macros that combine keyboard strokes and mouse clicks (making up for the lack of buttons directly on the mouse), colour combos across the array of lights strewn across the mouse and tailored laser sensitivity settings.
The laser settings are the star here, with an adjustable lift distance and programmable sensitivities. ExactAim allows FPS players to slow down their cursor as they decelerate the mouse for more precise aiming. ExactAccel mimics your speed when you quickly drag the mouse cursor across the screen, perfect for RTS players trying to get around their map quickly. ExactSens lets players toggle their sensitivity down to a tee, but unfortunately there's still only two hot-swappable sensitivity settings to jump between with the dedicated mouse button.
There's also another hidden (and mostly pointless) but cool additive on the underside of the mouse. The Sensei hides a small LCD screen that can be customised with any small bitmap image - a perk mainly for PC gamers in the LAN crowd, looking to covertly advertise their team logos. There's a handy tool on the SteelSeries site for creating your own.
The core function of a mouse is to work all that point-and-click action you do on a daily basis, and the Sensei delivers most importantly on that front. The 10.8 megapixel sensor operates at up to 12,000 frames per second and never misses a beat or any lag. Part of this is thanks to the in-built 32 bit ARM processor that does all the mouse's calculations and allows the sensitivity to be pushed so high. This also allows users to save five presets onto the mouse so they can take their settings with them to other computers.
It's the little usability perks that make this a great mouse - everything from the braided fabric cable that tangles with other cables less than typical plastic and rubber cords to the smooth texture and light frame that goes almost unnoticed under the hand. While on the surface it has a bit of a cheap look to it, this little detail (or lack thereof) is a superficial one.