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CM Storm Sentinel Advance Gaming Mouse

Date: September 16, 2009
Author(s): Rob Williams

Cooler Master has just released its first gaming mouse under the CM Storm branding, and it happens to be quite good. Targeting more serious gamers, there’s the ability for robust macros, all of which will be saved right on the mouse itself. To add to the cool-factor, there’s even color-varying LEDs and an OLED display.



Introduction

When Cooler Master contacted us a few weeks ago and asked us if we’d like to take their new gaming mouse for a spin, I was a little taken back. Here, CM, already with a slew of chassis’, cooling products, power supplies, notebook products and more, now have a gaming mouse? Well, despite it being their first such product (as far as I’m aware), it’s actually quite good.

A few months ago, Cooler Master unveiled a new brand: CM Storm. Essentially, if you have a CM Storm gaming product, it’s considered that, and not a Cooler Master product. The reasoning behind this comes down to marketing. With the company’s CM Storm chassis’ already on the market, the Scout and Sniper, and now this mouse, it’s obvious who their main focus is: hardcore gamers.

Bill took a look at both of those chassis’, and it became clear quick that they were targeted at gamers, and that gamers would be thrilled to own one. After all, Cooler Master went through the effort to implement LAN-party-specific features, such as a keyboard and mouse lock. So, they’re not just targeting gamers, but they seem to be doing their homework as well. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I have been using a CM Storm Sniper for the past few months and love it.

But okay… Cooler Master already knows how to create quality chassis’… we know this. But a gaming mouse is an entirely different ballgame. So is it be possible that the company could actually have their very-first gaming mouse win over gamers? From my experience with it so far, I’d have to say that yes, they certainly should attract some attention with this one.

Closer Look

In order for a gaming mouse to be even remotely considered by someone who has a real passion for gaming – especially fast-paced gaming – you need to have the right blend of features that makes sense to them. Given today’s top-end resolutions, the 5600 DPI sensor makes all the sense in the world, and so does the default 1000Hz polling rate.

I usually hate straight-posting specification lists since it seems like a cheap way to lengthen a page, but I feel inclined to do it here, given that it’s a gaming mouse and it’s far easier to sum up its worth in one fell-swoop. So, here it is:

Of all these features, the two that really make this mouse unique are both the 64KB on-board memory, and of course, the OLED display. We’ll touch on these more in our software section, but for now, let’s take a tour of the mouse and see how it’s designed.

The Sentinel Advance is a right-handed-only mouse, and it’s contoured to fit comfortably in your hand. Compared to most other mice I’ve used in recent memory, this one seems just a smidgen longer, but it could also be an illusion since the thumb rest isn’t quite as receded as on other mice.

In the above photo, you can see absolutely every button the mouse has. Aside from the obvious left and right mouse buttons, the three main alternate control buttons include the mouse wheel (by clicking and rolling) and also the two thumb buttons. The three buttons surrounding the wheel have only to do with the DPI and profile settings.

Thanks to the fact that the Sentinel Advance has some on-board memory to work with, there are a total of five profiles that the mouse can have, and each profile can have four sets of DPI settings (which of course are completely configurable). The button right above the mouse wheel controls the profiles, while the buttons below it control the various DPI settings for that profile. When in a game, you can quickly press either one to get the desired effect.

Similar to other gaming mice, this one allows you to customize the back-end weight to a certain degree. It includes a total of 22.5g worth of weights, and some or all can be removed depending on your preference. This, to me, has been nothing more than a gimmick, but hardcore gamers might see it a little differently. It would have been nice, though, that given the $69.99 price tag on the Sentinel Advance, that extra heavier weights would be included.

If you’ve read Bill’s review on the Sniper chassis, you might recognize this bracket. It’s designed for those who frequent LAN parties. It plugs into one of your available slots, obviously, and allows you to thread both your mouse and keyboard around, so that when you go move away from your machine, you don’t have to worry about lost peripherals. Unless of course, someone is really dedicated.

Finally, the Sentinel Advance comes complete with two areas that exude LED lighting – the absolute front and the top. Each can be configured with seven possible colors. Because the mouse targets serious gamers, and those on teams, it’s the hope that given the available color choices, you’ll be able to customize the mouse to match your team as close as possible. The OLED screen can also be customized to display your team’s logo.

In this long-exposure photo, the front is dark blue and the top is white. The color choices are none, red, green, dark blue, yellow, purple, light blue and white. You can also customize how the lighting functions. You can either leave it on all the time, or have it pulse. Or, for an even cooler effect, it you only light up when you click a mouse button.

With that tour out of the way, let’s go straight into a look at the software, and then wrap up with my usage notes and final thoughts.

Sentinel Advance’s Software

For true gaming keyboards, robust software packages are pretty-much expected. After all, customization is the key. For mice, though, options are far more limited. We have only a few buttons to deal with, and really, mice have far less to do than our keyboards. But, Cooler Master outdid themselves with the software package here, because there isn’t a single thing I can find that’s not taken care of.

From the very first page, you have a wide range of options. You can customize the polling rate, mouse sensitivity, double-click speed, button response times and so forth. It’s also on the first page of the software that you can customize your DPI settings to your heart’s content. For most gaming mice, adjusting your DPI affects both the X and Y axes, but here, you can control both individually.

At first, you might question why that would ever be important, but if you take things a bit more seriously than the rest, then it can have huge advantages. One example is flight sims, where you may want your x axis to be far more sensitive than the y. Or, in 3D shooter games, when you take over a ground-mounted machine gun. There are many scenarios when such customization would come in handy, so if you’re willing to put in the tweaking time, it might just pay off.

Finally, notice in the below screenshot, the five profiles listed at the bottom. Each allows you to have a completely different set of options, and as you can see, I gave four examples of games where you may want different profiles. The first profile, “CM Storm”, cannot have its name adjusted, but everything else can be tweaked just fine. When choosing a different profile on the mouse, the name is displayed on the OLED screen. After that, the current DPI figures are.

On the second page of the Sentinel software, you can customize your color profile. Once again, this is on a per-profile basis, so you can customize with the same colors for all, or different depending on the game. Note also the “Upload Logo” option, which allows you to upload your teams logo to be displayed on the monochrome OLED, or anything else you may want.

No gaming peripheral software would be complete without the ability to create some macros, and not surprisingly, that feature is here. In fact, there’s not just macros, but “Scripts” also, which allows you to get a little more advanced (simple popular coding commands are allowed, such as IF, GOTO, etc). For macros, you can create entries up to 125 bytes long, and for scripts, it’s boosted to 250 bytes. In some ways that sounds limiting, but it seems unlikely that anyone would need one longer. After all, this is just a mouse. If you did need a rather long job done, you could simply loop it.

To create a macro or script, you can begin by hitting “New” and then “Start Macro”, at which point you can put your cursor inside the small box so you can simulate your mouse clicks. Note that motion is not part of this… it’s only button-clicks. The same might not be true for Scripts, but due to time, I wasn’t able to dedicate much time there.

On the second-to-last page (the final is just web links), the Library allows you to save and restore your macros and scripts. From here, you can either bring macros saved on the mouse to the PC, or vice versa. If you like, you can also export the scripts as a file for backup purposes (or for sharing).

For the most part, I quite like the software here. It’s not only the most robust mouse software package I’ve used, but it’s also the best-looking. To make it even sweeter, you don’t even have to install it on your PC if you don’t want to. This is because all of the settings are stored right inside the mouse, so no driver is required. This also means that if you hop on a computer other than your own, your settings don’t move.

Usage, Final Thoughts

As you can probably tell, Cooler Master didn’t want to go too lightly on their first gaming mouse release. In fact, their first release is in some ways more robust than mice from other companies who have been producing such product much longer. Combined with both the blingy, but not too overwhelming, design, and the robust software that covers pretty much everything, this is definitely a mouse set out to accomplish goals.

At first, I didn’t really care much for the actual “feel” of the mouse, and by that, I mean how it felt to hold and use. For the most part, I felt like the mouse was controlling me, not that I was in control of the mouse. Maybe it was practice, I don’t know, but as I use the mouse now, it doesn’t feel too bad. In fact, I quite like it, and wouldn’t hesitate to use it in any of my gaming.

One slight complaint I have, and this might effect only me, is that the surface material of the mouse does little for retaining great control when you’re sweating. I find this to be less of a problem with glossier mice, such as the Logitech G5. Here, I found I had to kept wiping my heads on my clothes because they were getting too sweaty. Gross, but that’s how it is. Again, this may vary from person to person, not to mention the temperature in that general area.

Although I really enjoyed this mouse overall, the last thing I’d complain about is the fact that the software isn’t entirely intuitive, at least when it comes to Macro and Scripts. As it is right now, I’ve never actually had a macro function on the Sentinel Advance, even though I have clearly had some loaded on there.

I don’t quite know the reason, but when in game, and on the proper profile, my macros simply would not work. I began to wonder if macros may have required a special key-press on the keyboard, but it sounds doubtful. Either way, the manual available on the CM Storm website doesn’t help clarify the issue any. I plan to find out from Cooler Master what I did wrong, and it could be I am simply overlooking something that’s probably simple. But after 45 minutes, I got nowhere.

The Sentinel Advance is set to retail for $69.99 USD when it his various retailers (I’ve yet to see one selling the mouse at the time of publishing). At first, I thought that $70 was a bit much to ask for a mouse, but I think back to the gaming mice I’ve purchased in the past for $50 – $60 that had far less features. In some ways, the asking price is somewhat reasonable.

What it comes down to is this. If you’re a hardcore gamer, then this mouse isn’t going to be a bad choice, for very obvious reasons. The level of customization is intense, and the bling features such as the LED lights and OLED screen are a definite plus. For those who don’t take gaming too seriously, there are lesser-expensive models out there. It comes down to both wants and needs. All I can say is that after using it, I’d have no problem using it for all my gaming needs.

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