SteelSeries Rival 3 mouse review: A budget mouse with style

By Kenneth Williams


Jun 24, 2022

Reading time: 7 min

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

$25 isn’t a whole lot of money for a gaming mouse, but SteelSeries has put forth a promising option in the Rival 3. The small mouse boasts 1,000 hertz polling and a maximum 8,500 DPI, and a year of use has revealed that both of those features to hold up. However, the mouse does cut some corners to reach its low price point. Here’s our comprehensive review of the SteelSeries Rival 3 after more than 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 core features expected of a quality gaming mouse despite its very low price tag. The sensor is great and the RGB is a considerable step above more competitors. The Rival 3’s shortcomings are its lesser material quality and a general lack of extra features, but it’s still a great choice for gamers with plenty of ambition but not wanting to spend a lot of cash.

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The SteelSeries Rival 3 is great for newer PC gamers

With only a $30 price tag, it’s clear that the SteelSeries Rival 3 isn’t designed for professional esports players like Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. It’s not fair to judge it against flagship ultralights, but it’s not alone in its price range. The Rival 3 stacks up well against 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” meant to stabilize the cursor’s positions during mouse lifts. The sensor polls inputs at 1,000 hertz, which is normal for the price range. The mouse weighs 77 grams without the cable and only comes in black.

The Rival 3’s low price comes with standard features

At $24.99, the Rival 3 is squarely aimed at gamers looking for an upgrade on a budget. The mouse boasts a good sensor with the standard polling rate for considerably less money than most mice with similar features. $25 is a very low asking price for a gaming mouse, and with the unique RGB and good sensor, it makes you wonder if the deal’s too good to be true.

The Rival 3 box takes pride in pointing out its three RGB zones, but the mouse wheel does not light up. Instead, the edge of the base has lighting wrapped around the front three-fourths of it. The Rival 3 is the cheapest mainstream gaming mouse with underglow, so RGB enthusiasts should take note.

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The lighting itself is great with consistent brightness across all zones. Color options are diverse with RGB and hexcode inputs. The mouse is preloaded with several factory patterns including the default rainbow fade. The zones are customizable with SteelSeries Engine software, but like most gaming peripheral software, it’s not always easy to program.

As for a review of the mouse’s extra buttons, the SteelSeries Rival 3 doesn’t have anything beyond a one-button DPI switch. The switch is located on the top of the mouse in front of the mouse wheel. The lack of a recess makes it seem easy to hit on accident, but the forward and back buttons are customizable with SteelSeries Engine. The macro feature is also relatively intuitive. 

SteelSeries specifically recommends this mouse to gamers who use claw and fingertip grips. The Rival 3 is a small mouse, so anyone who prefers to palm their mouse might find their wrist dragging on their mousepad. The mouse is not ambidextrous, so left-handed players may need to look elsewhere.

Rival 3 boasts great sensor and excellent custom lighting

The SteelSeries Rival 3 has a lot to brag about for such a cheap gaming mouse. SteelSeries ported over several features from its higher-end products including the internals. The major pros of the mouse are its great sensor, excellent RGB customization, and an easy macro setup.

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The SteelSeries TrueMove Core sensor is also suited for competitive play with a 1,000 Hz polling and customizable sensitivity. Most modern gaming mice can poll in the several thousands, but 1,000 is enough to suit most gamers. The mouse scales all the way up to 8,500 DPI, which is way more than any gamer really needs. Still, the fact that it can reliably track that fast brings greater confidence at normal DPIs. Our SteelSeries Rival 3 never had any notable tracking issues through around 18 months of daily use. 

Mouse lighting is almost always underwhelming, but SteelSeries took an innovative approach to the Rival 3’s RGB and it pays off. The line across the bottom of the mouse looks great for such a low price. Most other RGB gaming mice tend to light up the logo and mouse wheel, which are almost always covered by a hand. Giving the mouse glow underneath its form makes it actually visible during gaming sessions and even illuminates your mousepad. 

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While SteelSeries Engine has its faults, its macro system is much easier to navigate than most other brands. The menu uses a simple record method where the user inputs their commands manually 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.

SteelSeries Rival 3 cons

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 since it’s the most excusable of the negatives. Aside from the admittedly-great RGB, the Rival 3 has the base minimum for customization. The DPI switch is effectively useless once you have the mouse set up the way you want, making it the only real option for a macro. It’s still possible to set up automated commands on the forward and back buttons.

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

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The molded plastic also tends to rub away in several areas, creating noticeably different textures on high-contact parts like the thumb and palm rest. This is only impactful after heavy and extended use, but it’s still worth considering.

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Last is a problem that SteelSeries itself acknowledges. The Rival 3 is best suited to claw and fingertip grips. Anyone who prefers to wrap their whole hand around their mouse may not consider it a great option.

How the SteelSeries Rival 3 reviews compared to alternatives

Let’s review how the SteelSeries Rival 3 stacks up against some similarly-priced competition. Here’s a quick comparison table for the Rival against the Razer Basilisk v2 and Logitech G203.

SteelSeries Rival 3Razer Basilisk v2Logitech G203
77 gram weight92 gram weight81 gram weight
Logo and underglow RGBLogo and wheel RGBLogo and edge RGB
1,000 Hz polling1,000 Hz polling1,000 Hz polling
DPI switchDPI switchDPI switch

From this chart, it’s clear to see that the SteelSeries Rival 3 outclasses much of its competition in important areas. The mouse is the lightest of the three, and also asks for the least amount of money. The 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 with left-handed grips in mind.

None of the gaming mice above feature top-of-the-line hyperpolling or many extra customization options, but that’s to be expected from budget gaming mice. Gamers who play for cash prizes may want to invest in a more modern sensor. Players willing to shell out 10 more bucks should check out the Logitech G403 or Razer DeathAdder V2. Hardcore FPS players may have more luck with the Zowie EC2.

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

Here’s a quick review of the stronger and weaker points of the SteelSeries Rival 3 wired gaming mouse.

  • Excellent build quality
  • Competition-level sensor and polling rate
  • Excellent RGB customization
  • Very cheap at just $24.99

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

  • Lesser material quality
  • Few button customization options
  • Not suited for palm grip
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The Rival 3 represents a balanced option in the budget gaming mouse market. It’s not the best-made mouse money can buy, but it comes with proven internals that were the absolute standard just a few short years ago. If you’re a claw or fingertip user on the lookout for a new budget gaming mouse, the Rival 3 stands out from the crowd with its excellent RGB customization and simple macro generation.


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