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SteelSeries Rival 3 Wireless review: Budget-friendly reliability

The new SteelSeries Rival 3 promises to bring great wireless performance to a budget-friendly mouse and it absolutely delivers.


Wireless mice used to be the bane of any gaming setup, but lately more and more manufacturers have been making the push for wireless even stronger than before. In fact, just recently Razer announced a wireless version of the Naga, one of its most beloved gaming mice, and now SteelSeries is following suit, though in a bit of a different way. Where the Naga looked to offer a premium mouse at a premium price, the SteelSeries Rival 3 Wireless offers a great mouse with a lower barrier of entry thanks to its $49.99 price tag. The result is a solid mouse that holds up well against the competition, but there are a few flaws in the design.

Tried and true

SteelSeries has been one of my go-to gaming peripheral companies for a while. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I wasn’t running either a SteelSeries mouse or keyboard (or even both) on my setup. When I found out about the Rival 3 Wireless, and it’s $50 price tag, I was intrigued to see just how well the more budget-friendly mouse could stand up against the big hitters like the Naga Pro, which I also reviewed recently.

The results were pretty outstanding, to say the least. As a plug-and-play device, the SteelSeries Rival 3 Wireless is one of the easier wireless options for users to set up. All you need to do is pop the USB dongle in your PC or connect it to the Bluetooth you have in your rig, and then pop the batteries in and turn it on. There aren’t any charging cables to worry about finding a space for, and you won’t have to concern yourself with recharging the mouse between gaming sessions either. You can easily swap between what the company calls "gaming grade" 2.4 GHz and Bluetooth using a switch on the underbody of the mouse.

The cost of being simple

This added simplicity does come at a cost, though. While the Rival 3 Wireless is a third of the price you would pay for a mouse like the Naga Pro, the lack of rechargeable batteries means you’re going to have to rely heavily on your own stock of AAA batteries.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially with SteelSeries boasting a broad 400 hours of usage time with the Rival 3 Wireless. The big caveat for that extreme number of usage hours, though, all comes down to High Efficiency mode, which brings the mouse's polling rate down to 125Hz, versus the normal range of 1000Hz when using it in normal mode via 2.4 GHz. I tested it with the lower polling rate and while it was fine for normal usage, those looking to use the mouse for gaming will want to use it in regular mode.

During my tests I mostly used the Rival 3 Wireless in normal mode and had to change out the batteries in my Rival 3 Wireless after just eight days of use. That’s roughly 192 hours of use if I was using the mouse nonstop, 24 hours a day. Obviously, nobody is doing that, so I’d wager it was probably more around 120-128 hours based on work time + time spent playing games and just browsing the internet after hours, with some of that being times where the mouse would enter sleep mode because it wasn’t in use.

Another thing to take note of is the fact that I never powered the mouse down completely. I did this because the mouse has a built-in sleep mode that kicks in after a few moments of it remaining stable and unmoved as well as to test the battery life in a normal usage situation. During our busy lives it can be easy to forget something as simple as ticking off the power button on a mouse, so I wanted to try to capture that feeling as much as possible throughout my tests.

Now, I’m not going to say that the battery life I experienced is par for the course. Obviously, this is bound to change and the batteries that the mouse shipped with could easily have been a pair of duds. 120 hours isn't really anything to scoff at when it comes to a gaming mouse's battery life, though, it is something to take into account if you're trying to decide whether this mouse is right for you or not.

Rapid response

Aside from the battery issues, though, the SteelSeries Rival 3 Wireless does everything you’d expect from a wireless gaming mouse. I never felt like the response time was any less than the wired mouse that I normally use in my setup, and all around it is a very comfortable mouse to work with. If you’re a fan of the typical extra two-button design that SteelSeries usually offers with its Rival mice, then you’re probably going to feel right at home with this bad boy at your desk. The battery issue can also be completely negated by simply investing in a pair of rechargeable batteries, which you can just chuck in a charger whenever they start to get low.

The Rival 3 Wireless weighs in at only 106g when equipped with both batteries, so it never feels too heavy in your hand. Movements are smooth across the board, and the included TrueMove Air Sensor makes for a solid wireless gaming experience. The sleep mode can get annoying at times during gaming sessions, as you often have to click a mouse button to wake up the mouse and get back into the action. Of course, if you're playing more intense games, you're probably not going to give the mouse enough time to pop into that lower-power consuming mode, which should make it less of an issue to even concern yourself with.

If you’re looking for a decent wireless mouse that can handle both your work and your play time, then SteelSeries has a fantastic option available. The best part about the Rival 3 Wireless, though, is the $49.99 price tag, which severely undercuts the more expensive devices you might see in this area. Sure, if you’re looking for a mouse that offers more buttons, then something like the Naga Pro might make sense. But if you just need a solid mouse that looks and feels good without breaking the bank, the Rival 3 Wireless is one of the best you’ll find in the budget-friendly price range.

This review is based on a product provided by the manufacturer. The SteelSeries Rival 3 Wireless is available for $49.99 from the SteelSeries website and participating third-party retailers.

Guides Editor

Joshua holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been exploring the world of video games for as long as he can remember. He enjoys everything from large-scale RPGs to small, bite-size indie gems and everything in between.

  • Lightweight and easy to setup
  • 1000 polling rate
  • 2.4 GHz and Bluetooth connections
  • No cables or charges to connect
  • Battery life can be hit or miss depending on usage
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