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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tt eSPORTS Level-10M Gaming Mouse

Review: Tt eSPORTS Level-10M Gaming Mouse

By: Christopher “Synther” Wilson
Let’s imagine for a moment that BMW made a luxury motorcycle.  The type of bike that had all the options: a heated leather seat that was adjustable up and down for the rider’s comfort, custom gauges and lighting to the owner’s preference, Bluetooth wireless stereo surround sound to the rider’s matching helmet, and horsepower with handling that would make a crotch rocket blush.  Makes you hot, doesn’t it?  Oh wait…they probably do actually make that.  Then just imagine that a similar kind of luxury could be found in a PC gaming mouse, also designed by BMW.  Thanks to ThermalTake’s Tt eSPORTS, they make that too.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve wanted to get my hands…err…hand on one of these mice since I first heard about it last year and saw the early prototype design pictures.  I literally wrung my hands and drooled at the prospects of this mouse.  And I’ll be honest; I’ve read some of the other reviews out there.  “People expect the Level-10M to be the end all of mice," says Shannon Robb of Tt eSPORTS. "But that's really not the case. You're either going to love this mouse or you're not. There is no in between."  This is pretty evident in all of the other reviews I’ve seen.  Knowing this ahead of time, I opted to plug the mouse in and use it extensively for a few days before writing this review so that I could get and give an accurate feel of what the average end-user is going to deal with.
The packaging for the box is nothing short of striking.  This looks more like a box that a fine, if large, piece of jewelry would come in.  Everything about the packaging is designed to show off the aesthetic look of the mouse.  Upon opening the box fully, you will not be disappointed with the actual product.  The design of the Level-10M is about as innovative as one could imagine for a product that we’ve literally been using and taking for granted for the last 40 years.  It doesn’t just look like a mouse.  It looks like you have a freaking sports car for your hand sitting on your mouse pad.  The three cards that are included in the box are not advertising; they’re post cards.  Nice touch!
The Level-10M is designed with a completely open body.  You might think that this would look strange or awkward, but the reality is that it just looks plain sick (in an OMG that’s freaking awesome kind of way).  The top palm portion of the mouse is designed with an hexagonal grid of holes that serve two purposes: 1.) It allows air to pass through the open frame of the mouse and thus keeps your hand from being overly sweaty and 2.) To show off the LED Tt eSPORTS Battle Dragon logo underneath that calmly pulses with life.
Similar to Shannon Robb’s completely humble attitude towards such a product, when looking on Newegg, or even the box, I found that Tt eSPORTS seriously sold themselves short on showcasing some of the more pertinent features of this mouse.  Continuing with my aesthetic motif of the mouse, let’s be sure to let you know that it includes three separate multi-color LED lights.  Not one.  Three.  And each can be set to a different color.  The Battle Dragon logo can be set to one color, while the standard left click button can be set to another color, and the mouse wheel can be set to yet another color.  Go crazy.  I did.  While this may not be a huge selling point, I think that they have highly underestimated the fact that the gaming community, at the least, prefers this kind of customization.  Say it loud and proud!  Do I hear it?  No?  Ok…let’s move on.
Getting down to the mechanics of the mouse, I immediately noticed that the box didn’t mention the number of buttons.  Meanwhile, Newegg lists the mouse as a 7-button mouse.  Really, this is a misnomer.  It’s not a 7-button mouse.  In reality, it’s an 11-button mouse!  If you take it at its stock configuration and do not reassign the DPI buttons, you can claim it is a 9-button mouse.  Tt eSPORTS is forever humble in their description of this mouse!  “We’re just trying to be honest,” says Shannon Robb.  The buttons obviously include the now standard left, right, scroll wheel, and wheel click buttons.  The left side of the mouse has two buttons that, by default, are the typical Forward and Back buttons for your favorite web browser.  In addition, the left side also includes a 5-way rocker switch that, for some reason, is called the Z button (I don’t know why they called it this…perhaps it is an inside joke).
Pressing the rocker “in” changes the profile of the mouse with up to five different, and very specific, profiles stored onboard the mouse.  These profiles can include macros, DPI settings, and specific LED colors.  Pressing forward will lower the DPI of the mouse, while pressing back will raise it, as per the DPI settings you specify in the driver (DPI can be set as low as 100dpi to as high as 8200dpi).  The up and down position are set for macro key or command settings, by default.  On the right side are another two buttons that exactly mirror the left side.  These buttons are blank and set to macro or command settings by default.
This button configuration may lead one to believe that the mouse favors a “claw grip” style for gaming, as opposed to the “palm grip.”  I always chuckle when bringing up the typical gaming grips…they sound so Kung-Fu.  In this case, the Level-10M actually promotes a hybrid of the two.  It does this by allowing a 3-dimensional adjustment of the palm rest, with 5mm up/down and 5 degrees left or right via an included hex-key.  This may not sound like a lot of adjustment, but let me tell you right now: It’s huge.
I’m a palm grip style of player.  My initial reaction was to raise the grip all the way up and all the way to the right, since I’m a right handed player.  Just for giggles, though, I tried adjusting it all the way to the left while at max height.  I actually found a much more comfortable grip to my palm.  Looking at it, and thinking about it, this sounds illogical.  But the hand doesn’t lie and it likes what it likes.  It is exactly this kind of customization that makes the Level-10M shine.  If you are willing to fiddle with it, you can find the comfort level that is just right for you.  Not some lab test monkey intern, but you specifically.  And this is why I wanted to play with the mouse for a few days before writing a review; I’d seen many reviews where the reviewer took it out of the box, messed with the adjustments for five minutes, and declared the mouse as uncomfortable.  This simply isn’t the case.  Like a brand new car with leather seats, you’re going to be adjusting the steering wheel and the seat for a few days after owning it to find that perfect, “I’m cool, but not too cool ,” look and feel.  Because, you know…this mouse is going to get you chicks.

All kidding aside, the first couple of hours that I actually used this mouse for gaming, my brain was so focused on making the mouse physically comfortable that I forgot what buttons did what.  As per my standard gaming usage, I’ve coupled the Level-10M with the Tt eSPORTS Gaming Glove (a review of which can be found here.).  One game that I absolutely love is Mechwarrior Online.  I found that my aim went up using the Level-10M.  I suck at Mechwarrior Online; I make no boasts of being an excellent pilot.  I have a 25-ton Commando that I’ve decked out with literally everything available.  I die a lot.  But with the Level-10M, I was able to kill a 100-ton Atlas Assault mech on three separate occasions.  Maybe I was just having a good night or maybe it’s because this mouse is freaking sweet.  I then tested the mouse out in my other highly regular game, Dungeons & Dragons Online.  I immediately took a huge shine to the macro keys with my Rogue of the larcenous persuasion.
I like to play with upwards of 10 quick bars (or more) on screen and having the macros set to Search and Sneak for the two right buttons worked beautifully (in this case that macro would be CTRL+1,1,CTRL+3 and CTRL+1, 2, CTRL+3 with CTRL+3 bringing me back to my standard bar of thieving and Shadowdancer abilities respectively…just to show you that I know what macros are).  I’ve yet to come up with any spectacular use for the up and down position of the Z-Button macro keys, but time is a beast and my mind is a steel trap.  It will happen.

As a side note: At 184.8 gram total weight, not including the cable, I did not feel the need to “adjust” the weight of this mouse during gaming.  There was never a need to add more weight, nor take any away.  And the habit of lifting the front end of the mouse is almost alleviated completely (what remains is habit and will be easily remedied).  Personally, for weight, it’s exactly perfect.  Casual users may find the mouse to be heavy, but I find it to be exactly right.
As I stated, the mouse actually has five profiles onboard.  To test this out, I setup my personal five profiles, complete with custom DPI, LED lighting, and even gaming buttons.  For the Default Profile, I’ve selected Copy to the D button (back right side button) and Paste to the C button (front right side button).  I then unplugged the mouse, grabbed the Hex-key, and plugged it into my 62 year old left handed mother’s computer.  As expected, the profiles remained completely intact, even though her computer did not have the driver software installed.
To be fair, I know that she is a palm grip and left handed, so I set the mouse for that position.  Like me, she found it uncomfortable.  Her small hands had a hard time reaching buttons and her thumb could not reach the back/forward buttons.  Switching it to a “right hand” configuration and lowering the palm a bit allowed her to fully use the mouse and reach all of the buttons.  “Wow…this is really comfortable!  It’s so nice!  I love the colors!  How much does one of these run?”  I told her what the Diamond Black model was going for on Newegg.  “This is like getting a brand new car!  I’d need a couple of days to mess around with it to get it comfortable.”
Exactly my point.  Please note, that while my mom is not a gamer (she’s absolutely devastating at Bubble Witch Saga on Facebook), she has proven my point precisely.  You just gotta ease your butt…err…hand…into this mouse. 
Being one for extremes, I like to mess with the software for the mouse too.  The first thing I’ll say is that the interface is “cluttered” but not unusable.  The question mark icon at the top is supposed to open a help document that, to be honest, is no help whatsoever.  But, while cluttered, the whole thing is not terribly complicated to figure out if you’re a gamer: we’ve all seen it before.  If you’re a first time user or a casual user…Tt eSPORTS could seriously work on this part of their implementation.
The software works extremely well overall, but could use a few tweaks here and there.  For instance, it allows you to create a macro as shown in the following picture.  But that macro then has to be attached to a new profile, which in turn then has to be attached to one of the five onboard profiles.  This is great, but it still leaves you having to manually activate the profile via the Z-Button on the mouse.  If it was me, and obviously far greater minds have created this stuff, I would give the option for the new profile to automatically start with the executable file for which it was created.  In my previous example I had stated that I had created macros for DDO.  If I had created a new profile, attached it to Profile II, and told the profile to start automatically when dndclient.exe was started, this would cause the mouse to automatically function and save me a mouse click or even having to remember to do anything at all.  Unfortunately, this is not present in the current version of the software.  Insert frowny face.
The last two options on the software, Air Through and 3D Axis Movement, are completely pointless and should be omitted from the software entirely.  They’re nothing but videos showing me how great the mouse is.  I already own the mouse; you don’t have to keep proving to me how fantastic it is!  As Fry would say, “Shut up and take my money!”  Except you already took my money…so, stop.  And the driver would likely not be so large of a download, either.  Wait…the mouse isn’t going to get hammered into my hand, is it?  Does that cost extra?  Shut up and take my money!
So, we now come down to the rub of it.  Should you go out and burn a hundred bones on this mouse?  That’s why you’re reading this review, right?  I’m giving the Tt eSPORTS Level-10M a solid 9 out of 10.  So, yes, you should go get one.  If they tweaked the software just a bit, they’d get a solid 10/10 from me.  I’ve been using computers for almost 35 years and this is, without a doubt, the best and most comfortable mouse I’ve ever used.  If you’re on the fence, you should go get one.
And yes…it did get me chicks.


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