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The center button and LED over it are used to control the LCD screen on the bottom of the mouse. They also let you change the DPI settings on-the-fly to one of two settings that you can configure. You can toggle profiles using the LCD and adjust mouse settings without accessing the software -- as would be the case while gaming. This menu is accessed simply by holding down the center button for a few seconds. After releasing the button you can then scroll through the options with the scroll wheel and make your selections by pressing the scroll wheel button.
The mouse itself features an extremely soft, silk-like top while the sides have more of a rubbery feel. Although I had my doubts at first, the combination does provide a nice solid grip and an excellent overall feel.
Windows installed the drivers for the Xai automatically, but in order to get the most out of your mouse you'll need to download and install the latest software from SteelSeries' website. Our sample didn't come with any documentation so it took some time learning the ins and outs -- like how to access and navigate the LCD menu. Once we cranked up the Xai software we were able to adjust every aspect of the mouse. Users can create and store up to five profiles, create macros and select left / right handed mode from within the software, just to name a few features.
One unique feature that SteelSeries offers is the ability to download profiles created and used by professional gamers. I tend to create profiles based on my own preference, but if you want to try your hand using a pro's personal settings the option is there. The bottom mounted LCD screen allows you to switch between these profiles and change other settings on-the-fly. It works well but is a bit cumbersome having to flip the mouse over and fiddle with the screen while gaming. If the screen were mounted on the top of the mouse, it might make things easier but would sacrifice the overall clean look.
While the software is pretty thorough, SteelSeries complicates things a bit by renaming some common features across other products. For example, DPI is known as CPI and the whole process itself is called ExactSense. Another example is ExactRate, commonly called polling rate. While I appreciate SteelSeries trying to be different and unique in its marketing, this only led to more confusion on my part, further compounded by the lack of a manual or user guide.
The Xai provided a very pleasant experience during use. Once your hand begins to warm up the mouse definitely feels grippier and I had no issue with tracking or other movements both in game and in Windows. The feet used on the Xai are extremely slick and presented very little friction when sliding across my mouse pad. The clickable scroll wheel is easy to depress and scrolling provides a nice tactical feel.
As with the Kova, I found that my right ring finger would continually press the button on the right side of the mouse when I used my thumb to press the left side buttons. This is likely a personal issue that I seem to experience with all mice that feature buttons on both sides, though.
In terms of aesthetics the Xai is a simple looking, no frills mouse. The braided cable looks nice and the lack of an LED lighting system comes down to personal preference. The SteelSeries Xai retails for $89.99 at Newegg.
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