A couple months ago, we took a look at Cooler Master’s SF-19 notebook cooler, a product from Cooler Master’s CM Storm line of gaming-oriented peripherals. Today, we’re going over their new Sentinel Z3RO-G gaming mouse, an updated version of CM Storm’s older Sentinel Advance. With all the trappings of a very serious performance mouse—a 5600-dpi twin laser sensor, adjustable weights, and 128kb of onboard memory—the Sentinel Z3RO-G looks very promising. In addition, Cooler Master is cross-promoting the mouse with Shattered Horizon, a game by famous PC benchmark software studio Futuremark, and has included a copy of the game with the Sentinel Z3RO-G. So, has Cooler Master’s gaming skunkworks built a legitimate contender? Find out after the jump.
The Z3RO-G’s matte gray, semi-soft-touch body is contoured very well for right-handed use (lefties, once again you’re out of luck). The main bulk of the mouse is shifted farther back than on other mice; thus, the mouse’s high point sits not under your knuckles but wedged firmly against the heel of your hand. Although this position feels awkward initially, it becomes increasingly natural as you use it. The two main mouse buttons have a decent amount of resistance, making for a very satisfying and communitive click. I did, however, notice a minor degree of lateral looseness and movement on the part of the main buttons; although it doesn’t affect performance at all, it does make them feel that little bit less sturdy.
Between the two main buttons, a glossy panel houses the scroll wheel, two buttons to change DPI, and another small button in front to cycle through profiles on the fly. The profile button is well out of normal reach so you won’t accidentally swap functions in the middle of a heated match. I would have preferred a more substantial scrollwheel: the Z3RO-G’s is too shallow and too tapered, although the action is faultless. The usual back/forward buttons are on the left side, directly above the thumb indentation and well within easy reach. On top, you’ll find a small monochromatic OLED display, which by default shows the Shattered Horizon logo but also displays your current X- and Y-axis DPI when you change it. The DPI is displayed alongside a 32×32 pixel logo (by default the CM Storm swirl) of your choice. The somewhat-irrelevant Shattered Horizon logo can be turned off, so that the display shows your DPI and personal logo at all times. The top of the mouse is also lighted, with your choice out of 8 colors (“off” being a color, apparently) shining through the holes in the top plate.
The underside houses CM Storm’s 5600DPI “dual-laser” sensor, a pair of LED headlights (programmable just like the light on the top), and the 5×4.5-gram weight system. The weight system is disappointing: the watch-battery-shaped weights are embedded in hard foam, and it’s very difficult to get enough grip on the slippery surfaces to actually pull them out. Also, all the weight is added at the back of the mouse: good weight systems should be located roughtly around the mouse’s center of mass so as to avoid unbalancing it. In the case of the Z3RO-G, the rear bias when all five weights are in throws off horizontal movement, predisposing the mouse to move in an arc rather than a straight line.
CM Storm’s software is pretty intuitive in use and allows you to customize up to five different mouse profiles. Each one of the mouse’s 8 buttons is customizable, as are the DPI increments on both the X and Y axis. The mouse also supports CM Storm’s Storm Tactics function, through which you combine two buttons for a third function, increasing the number of effective buttons to 17. Each button can be either a preset function or a saved macro or script. Because of the 128kb of onboard memory, the Sentinel software doesn’t have to constantly run in the background, saving your computer a little bit of trouble (especially at startup). However, I do have one gripe about the software: every time you start it up, it resets the mouse sensitivity—independent from the DPI and the same as if you changed it through the Windows control panel—to an extremely low setting. There is no explanation for this behavior, and I found it very irritating.
The other major piece of software included with this mouse is its namesake game, Shattered Horizon, by FutureMark. It’s an FPS set on what appears to be a bit of space scaffolding, unique in that it allows complete freedom in all directions—there is no set “up” or “down,” “east” or “west”—the zero-gravity (Z3RO-G, get it?) environment makes for very original and very disorienting gameplay. To be honest, this sort of multi-dimentional chaos doesn’t work all that well on a two-dimensional screen, where depth perception, roll, pitch, and yaw cannot be communicated properly. It’s a fairly interesting and fun game, and it’s a great way to get to know your new mouse, but it’s not much more than that. Even when they’re making games, FutureMark is still making benchmark software.
Insofar, the Z3RO-G looks like a bit of a mixed bag. It’s built very well out of high-quality materials, but there’s a few glaring oversights that appear to hold it back. However, in use, the mouse is excellent. The high-resolution sensor is a fine piece of work. The mouse is responsive, precise, and completely lag-free. Liftoff distance (how high you have to pick up the mouse before the sensor stops tracking) is practically negligible, further aiding precision placement. With most of the weights removed, the mouse is very well-balanced and tossable, and the high back end supports your palm and wrist and negates fatigue. You’ll never second-guess your movements. Profile switches are seamless and immediate and allow you to swap functions in milliseconds, although five profiles can be a bit many to cycle through in the middle of a heated deathmatch. I thoroughly enjoyed using the mouse, both for intense gaming sessions and just for everyday use.
Although it’s got a few rough spots—the jiggly main buttons and the off-balance weights being the most noticeable—the Sentinel Z3RO-G is a very solid performer. Its soft-touch body and braided cord make for a premium feel, and the collection of lights and the OLED screen on top make it visually very impressive. In its price range you’re looking at the Razer DeathAdder, Mad Catz’s R.A.T.5, and Logitech’s tried-and-true MX518, and I’d venture a guess that the Sentinel Z3RO-G handily beats each one of those.