SteelSeries Rival 3 mouse review: A budget mouse with style

The SteelSeries Rival 3’s specs look great on paper, and over a year of use reveals another side to the budget gaming mouse.

$25 isn’t a lot of money for a gaming mouse, but SteelSeries has offered a promising option in the Rival 3. The little mouse offers 1,000 hertz polling and a maximum of 8,500 DPI, and a year of use has revealed that both of these features hold. However, the mouse cuts a few corners to hit its low price. Here’s our full review of the SteelSeries Rival 3 after over a year of use.

If you’re looking for a quick review of the SteelSeries Rival 3 wired gaming mouse:

The SteelSeries Rival 3 has most of the basic features expected of a quality gaming mouse despite its very low price. The sensor is excellent and the RGB is a considerable step above most competitors. The Rival 3’s shortcomings are its lower hardware quality and a general lack of extra features, but it’s still a great choice for gamers with a lot of ambition but not wanting to spend a lot of money.

The SteelSeries Rival 3 is ideal for new PC gamers

With a price tag of just $30, it’s clear that the SteelSeries Rival 3 isn’t designed for professional esports gamers like Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. It’s not fair to judge it against flagship ultralights, but it’s not the only one in its price range. The Rival 3 compares well to the similarly priced Razer Basilisk v2 and the Logitech G203.

The Steelseries Rival 3 has an 8,500 CPI TrueMove Core sensor. SteelSeries’ proprietary optical sensor includes “tilt tracking technology” to stabilize cursor positions during mouse movements. The sensor polls inputs at 1,000 hertz, which is normal for the price range. The mouse weighs 77 grams without the cable and is only available in black.

The Rival 3’s low price comes with standard features

At $24.99, the Rival 3 is aimed directly at gamers looking for a budget upgrade. The mouse has a good sensor with the standard polling rate for a lot less money than most mice with similar features. $25 is a very low asking price for a gaming mouse, and with the single RGB and a good sensor, one wonders if the deal is too good to be true.

The Rival 3 box prides itself on highlighting its three RGB zones, but the mouse wheel does not light up. Instead, the base edge has lighting wrapped around the front three-quarters of it. The Rival 3 is the cheapest mainstream gaming mouse with underlighting, so RGB enthusiasts should take note.

The lighting itself is excellent with consistent brightness in all areas. The color options are diverse with RGB and hex code inputs. The mouse comes preloaded with several factory patterns, including the default rainbow fade. Zones are customizable with SteelSeries Engine software, but like most gaming peripheral software, it’s not always easy to program.

When it comes to the review of extra mouse buttons, the SteelSeries Rival 3 has nothing but a one-button DPI switch. The switch is located on top of the mouse in front of the mouse wheel. The lack of a recess makes it feel easy to hit accidentally, but the forward and back buttons are customizable with SteelSeries Engine. The macro function is also relatively intuitive.

SteelSeries specifically recommends this mouse for gamers who use claw and fingertip grips. The Rival 3 is a small mouse, so anyone who prefers to hold their mouse in the palm of their hand might find their wrist dragging on their mouse pad. The mouse isn’t ambidextrous, so left-handed gamers might have to look elsewhere.

Rival 3 has a great sensor and great custom lighting

The SteelSeries Rival 3 has plenty to brag about for such a cheap gaming mouse. SteelSeries has ported several features from its high-end products, including internals. The main advantages of the mouse are its excellent sensor, excellent RGB customization and easy macro configuration.

The SteelSeries TrueMove Core sensor is also suited for competitive gaming with 1000Hz polling and customizable sensitivity. Most modern gaming mice can query several thousand, but 1000 is enough to suit most gamers. The mouse scales up to 8,500 DPI, which is way more than any gamer really needs. Still, the fact that it can reliably keep up with that speed brings more confidence to normal DPIs. Our SteelSeries Rival 3 never had any noticeable tracking issues for about 18 months of daily use.

Mouse lighting is almost always disappointing, but SteelSeries has taken an innovative approach to the Rival 3’s RGB and it pays off. The bottom line of the mouse is superb for such a low price. Most other RGB gaming mice tend to light up the logo and the mouse wheel, which are almost always covered by a hand. Giving the mouse a shine in its form makes it really noticeable during gaming sessions and even brightens up your mouse pad.

Although SteelSeries Engine has its flaws, its macro system is much easier to navigate than most other brands. The menu uses a simple registration method where the user manually enters their commands and then assigns it to a button. The macro can also activate only when a certain program is launched, but leaving the game open in the background will keep the macros active.

Cons of SteelSeries Rival 3

The main issues with the Rival 3 are its poor build quality and lack of extra features.

Let’s start with the lack of features because that’s the most excusable negative point. Aside from the very good RGB, the Rival 3 has the basic minimum for customization. The DPI switch is effectively useless once you’ve configured the mouse the way you want it, making it the only real option for a macro. It is still possible to configure automated controls on the front and rear buttons.

The biggest potential issue with the Rival 3 is its build quality. Right out of the box, the mouse can feel flimsy compared to some more expensive mouse options.

The molded plastic also tends to fade in several areas, creating noticeably different textures on high-touch parts like the thumb and palm rest. It only has an impact after heavy and prolonged use, but it’s still worth considering.

The last is an issue that SteelSeries itself acknowledges. The Rival 3 is best suited for claw grips and fingertips. Anyone who prefers to wrap their whole hand around their mouse may not consider this a great option.

How SteelSeries Rival 3 reviews compare to alternatives

Let’s see how the SteelSeries Rival 3 stacks up against some similarly priced competitors. Here’s a quick comparison chart for the Rival against the Razer Basilisk v2 and the Logitech G203.

Steel Series Rival 3 Razer Basilisk v2 Logitech G203
$24.99 $31.99 $29.98
right-handed right-handed Ambidextrous
weight of 77 grams weight of 92 grams weight of 81 grams
Logo and RGB underlight RGB logo and wheel RGB logo and border
1000 Hz polling 1000 Hz polling 1000 Hz polling
PPP switch PPP switch PPP switch

From this chart, it’s clear that the SteelSeries Rival 3 outperforms a lot of its competitors in important areas. The mouse is the lightest of the three and also requires the least amount of money. RGB is a matter of personal preference, and 1,000 hertz is the normal rate for budget gaming mice. Keep in mind that the Basilisk is much better suited to a palm grip and the G203 is ergonomically designed for left-handed grips.

None of the gaming mice above offer high-end hyperpolling or many additional customization options, but that’s to be expected of budget gaming mice. Players playing for cash prizes may want to invest in a more modern sensor. Gamers willing to shell out $10 more should check out the Logitech G403 or the Razer DeathAdder V2. Hardcore FPS gamers may have better luck with the Zowie EC2.

The Rival 3 prefers style over substance, but it’s still good

Here’s a quick look at the strengths and weaknesses of the SteelSeries Rival 3 wired gaming mouse.

  • Excellent build quality
  • Competition level sensor and polling rate
  • Excellent RGB customization
  • Very inexpensive at only $24.99

As a budget gaming mouse, the SteelSeries Rival 3 also has some downsides.

  • Lower quality of materials
  • Few button customization options
  • Not suitable for grip

The Rival 3 represents a balanced option in the budget gaming mouse market. It’s not the best-designed mouse money can buy, but it comes with tried-and-true internals that were the gold standard just a few years ago. If you’re a claw or fingertip user looking for a new budget gaming mouse, the Rival 3 stands out from the crowd with its excellent RGB customization and simple macro generation.

About Dianne Stinson

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