Every computer enthusiast is familiar with Cooler Master. This company has been known to produce high quality computer chassis, heatsinks, cooling pads, PSUs, and some other cooling related accessories for nearly 20 years. However, even 6 months ago almost nobody had any idea that a completely new (and quite unexpected judging their previous releases) product would be born – a gaming mouse. Sentinel Advance is a part of CM’s relatively new Storm product line up with a catchy slogan “Arming the Gaming Revolution”. Let’s find out if it lives up to this claim.
A gaming mouse is a special and uneasy product to review. It’s hard to be objective as you cannot measure or benchmark its performance. I will try and make a comparison with an award-winning Logitech MX518 (mine is 5 years old, but still works very well), and perhaps will also mention some other popular gaming mice to give you an idea about the pros and cons of purchasing Sentinel Advance.
Let’s start with some marketing stuff. This is what Sentinel Advance has to offer:
I believe the picture is self-explanatory. I will go into detail regarding each feature later.
The mouse is well protected in its box. The packaging also has a neat feature due to its form: you can put your hands onto the mouse to get a ‘feel’ of its form in case you’re shopping in a retail store.
The accessories are: a set of back up teflon feet (in case those attached to the mouse wear off), a CD containing a driver and a manual and… a special PCI cover plate which works as an anti-theft device in case you’re attending a LAN party, a championship, or your 5 year old son just likes ‘borrowing’ your fancy gadgets.
Sentinel Advance also comes with 5 weights of 4.5 grams each which lets you fine tune the weight of the mouse in range of 0-22.5 grams (which I, personally, find extremely handy comparing to my old trusty MX518 which has no such system).
All right, let’s have a look at the mouse itself!
For a brief moment, I am letting the camera speak for myself. As you can see, the mouse is absolutely gorgeous. Solid black colour is a perfect choice in my opinion. I couldn’t resist turning the LEDs on for the picture, even though they were blinding the camera.
The mouse is made of black plastic with a huge piece of rubber wrapped around it. This is a simple yet an effective solution to keep a firm contact with your hand. However, the left and the right mouse buttons are not rubberised. It may be a drawback for some, but I didn’t see it as an issue, personally.
I’d like to mention the mouse cord. It’s 1.5 meters long, which is plenty in most cases, and features a nice woven coat, which is stiff yet pretty flexible and great looking. A nice touch in my book.
The LED lighting is fully customizable via drivers. You can pick one of eight colours (OctoShade technology at play) in total, you can also make them blink, fade, cycle… do just about anything you want!
As you see, the mouse also has a bight monochrome OLED display – this is something no mouse has had ever before. It displays your logo (you can create your own!), the current DPI settings for both X and Y axis, and helps you navigate among your profiles.
Just in front of OLED screen, there are two buttons for on-the-fly DPI switching. The placement is pretty decent, so reaching them is no problem, plus they are pretty ‘stiff’ so accidental clicks are out of question.
Unfortunately, the wheel design isn’t as excellent in comparison. It’s easy to scroll, very quiet (however, it makes some feedback sound just to let you know that it’s actually working), but… it doesn’t support horizontal scrolling. It may be not a big deal for a gamer (my MX518 doesn’t support horizontal scrolling either), but it is surely a drawback for general use, especially for a modern high end mouse. MX Revolution with its thumb horizontal scrolling wheel is unbeatable in this case.
In front of the wheel you can see a profile switching button. You’ll never accidentally press this one, and it’s not really out of reach, so the designers did a good job once again.
Please excuse my inexpensive camera and lighting…
The thumb rest is quite large (comparing to MX518, a bit smaller than the one of MX Revolution, though), and should fit even quite large hands.
Have a look at the back and forward buttons. Personally, I find the positioning excellent, quite far from the thumb rest spot. They are easy to reach, although I believe you can’t beat the moving back and forward button mechanism of Razer Imperator. Still, I see nothing wrong with the current implementation.
The weight system can be found at the bottom of the mouse.
Talking about the form, the mouse is very comfortable in my opinion. But keep in mind, this is a right handed mouse. It is not symmetrical at all.
Comparing to MX518, I’d like to mention the palm rest, it’s quite noticeably larger, especially the right part of it. This is quite an unusual design, and a very smart one. This is something Logitech mice are missing in my opinion, and it’s perfect if you have hands that are slightly larger than average.
On contrary, the frontal part of Sentinel Advance is more narrow, so my ring-finger ends up hugging the side of the mouse instead of sitting on top of it, and it took some time to get used to coming from MX518. I can’t say that it’s making the mouse more comfortable, but it’s makes a firm grip (which might’ve been CM’s intention).
Both mice have about the same height. However, their forms are very different. Sentinel Advance is slightly bigger but more flat, which makes it some kind of hybrid between Logitech MX and Razer mice.
Sentinel Advance mouse and Razer Lycosa Mirror keyboard make a nice combination.
I am pretty sure that software is the reason why the mouse is called Sentinel Advance. Because, clearly, it’s extremely feature rich, and no other mouse comes close in this department.
Let’s have a look at the first screen:
There are 5 profiles available. They are all stored in on-board 64k memory. Actually, you don’t even need the driver after configuring the mouse, you can uninstall it and everything will work like a charm. Very convenient.
One can re-assign every mouse button’s function (but profile switch one), if necessary. Also, the software lets you set the DPI level for each of four ‘quick switch’ modes. Setting USB polling rate might come handy if you have issues with the default 1000Hz setting.
There is also a usual motion sensitivity slider which is, in fact, a motion speed setting from Windows Control Panel. I haven’t personally touched double click speed and button response time settings, the defaults are fine for me. It’s nice to have an option to tweak everything for yourself, though.
Colour control. A colour set for the frontal LEDs can be different from the colour set for the top ones. There are also 4 modes: you can have a solid light; ‘breathing mode’ means that the LEDs will slowly get brighter until they reach their maximum value, then they start slowly dimming until they are off, rinse and repeat; “rapid fire” means that the LEDs will light up each time you click any button.
You can also upload your custom logo for the OLED screen here. It has to be a black and white image 32×32 pixels in size. A lot of them can be found on CM forums, you can also create your own that matches your team’s one, for example.
Macro tab. You can create macros (chains of actions assigned to a specific button) up to 43 actions (read: clicks / key strokes) long. There is no limitation on the number of macros you can create (as long as you have some free on-board memory). The progress bar indicates the on-board memory space taken. There are also a few execution modes, plus you can set delays for each action. This functionality should be sufficient for 99.99% macro loving gamers.
The script tab is very similar to the macro tab. Once again, you can have up to 43 actions (now with a command option added) per script, and as many scripts as can fit into the on-board memory.
The library tab is designed to let you save the macro and script libraries on your computer and upload them to your mouse if necessary. I’ve never seen any mouse software feature anything similar before.
Additionally, you can use the Sentinel software to update the firmware of the mouse. However, I haven’t had to use that option yet.
It took me around two days to get used to the form of the mouse coming from MX518. Sentinel Advance proved to be very comfortable in the every day use (however, I still consider the form of MX Revolution better, but that mouse has its own flaws).
I found the weight system very convenient. At first, on my soft mouse mat I used 3 weights out of 5 for every day work and games. However, when I switched to the hard mouse pad the mouse started gliding better so I used all 5 weights to slow the mouse down some. This is what I ended up with.
The sensor precision is excellent. It is much better than MX518 in this regard and I can not complain. However, there is a big draw back (eyebrow raising, I’d say): the mouse is very picky to the surface it is working on, and the best-in-the-world 5600DPI dual laser technology does not help.
Using a soft mat is a bad idea. Whenever you click any button on a soft mat, the cursor on the screen moves one pixel away in a random direction. This is terribly annoying for any graphics related work.
Not all hard mats work either. Some of them have a ‘drifting’ issue: even when moving in a straight line the cursor may randomly drift to a side at some point (and sometimes up to 10 pixels away) for no reason.
There is actually a thread on CM support forums regarding the choice of a perfect mouse pad. From my experience, I can say that a normal wooden table or a white sheet of paper works perfectly, so perhaps some mouse pad designers are over-engineering their products.
This seems to be a software issue, though, because some of the drifting issues were fixed with the software updates, plus there is a firmware update fixing the behaviour of the mouse on Razer mouse pads.
There are also some quirks with the drivers. Some installs don’t go well and mess up the settings badly. In case you’re affected, there is a driver install guide on CM forums (for those experiencing issues). I have not had to resort to that, though.
The polling rate setting in the drivers can also cause issues. The mouse creates some kind of cursor ‘deceleration’ effect, not moving far enough when you are, for example, trying to select something with a frame. It can get so ridiculous that if you’re just trying to select 4-20 pixels with a frame the cursor can actually move in the opposite direction. The fix is simple, though, change the polling rate a few times and it will go away. But it often comes back if you decide to open the drivers to change some setting.
Version 1.3 drivers brought another issue. Whenever you start the driver the motion sensitivity setting resets to 30% or so. That means you have to use 4000DPI setting instead of 1400, unless you decide to set the slider to the middle position again. And CM recommends not to touch the motion sensitivity slider at all since it may cause drifting issues. Driver version 1.2 is free of this bug.
I also had a very weird problem with static charge shocks coming from the grille around the OLED screen each time I touched the mouse after a break from work at the computer. CM representative told me they were not aware of such issue and told me to RMA the mouse, so I did. However, I know two more people with the same problem, so there is a pattern. Hopefully it is just a defective batch. Anyway, the issue doesn’t seem to be common at all.
Cooler Master Sentinel Advance creates a mixed bag of feelings. On the one hand, it looks really awesome, its form is very comfortable (so is the button placement), it has a great sensor and a very feature rich software. On the other hand, it requires a fitting mouse pad (and can drive you insane if you have one it doesn’t like), it does not support horizontal scrolling, and the software is still somewhat buggy (it may also be responsible for the mouse pad issue). CM is working on the software version 1.4 that should be out soon, but there is no change log or ETA yet.
Sentinel Advance gets 4 points out of 5 from me. Perhaps I am being generous, but once you work everything out the mouse works excellently.
Would I buy it again? Yeah, probably.
Thanks for reading.