Back in August, Valve released the latest extension to its Counter-Strike franchise, Global Offensive. To mark the occasion, SteelSeries issued a trio of branded gaming products; Siberia V2 headset, Kana mouse and QcK mousepad. We’re taking a look at all three at once to see if this is a bundle any CS: GO fan should get in on.
Before setting out on this mini-review, a bit of a confession: Techgage actually received this trio of SteelSeries goodies in early September, but a bit of force majeur forced your reviewer to push this article to the back-burner. Now, a couple of months later, we’ve finally had a chance to live with – and play with – SteelSeries’ Counter-Strike: Global Offensive-themed Siberia V2 headset, Kana mouse, and QcK mousepad.
Let’s have a look at each of these in turn, shall we?
As the name suggests, the Siberia V2 is the second iteration of the Siberia headset. But this is no mere re-dressing of the original; the V2, which debuted in 2009, is largely an all-new design compared to the first Siberia which was introduced way back in 2004 (Techgage reviewed it in 2005 when it earned an Editor’s Choice award). Featuring bigger (50mm) drivers and a nifty retractable microphone (as opposed to the original’s clip-on mic), it’s certainly got uprated specs. The fact that it’s still around – indeed, it’s been issued in so many different editions it makes my head spin – is a testament to the V2’s success.
Ironically, one of the few things that has gone unchanged throughout the Siberia headset’s evolution is its headband design. It just plain works. The Siberia V2 is the most comfortable headset that I’ve ever had perched onto my melon. For one thing, it’s super-lightweight. Moreover, the headband does not pinch your ears or head excessively. This, allied to earcups that are a good size, ensure a comfortable fit that also allows the headset to stay on your head through all but the most forceful head movements. Short of headbanging through a tune like Metallica’s classic One, the Siberia V2 is going to stay in place.
One of the Siberia V2’s signature features is its retractable microphone. The pick-up is at the end of a flexible stalk that retracts into the left earcup. I don’t know about any other headset which has a similar feature. It’s an elegant solution. You want to cruise around with your Siberia V2 hooked up to your media player? The mic stays in, and no one’s the wiser. You want to start pwning people in CS: GO? Pull the mic out, jump into a server with your buddies, and you’re good to go.
The CS:GO edition of the Siberia V2 features a camouflage pattern on both earcups as well as on the outside surface of the suspension headband. There is some branding on the inside lining covering the drivers as well.
In terms of performance, the Siberia V2 does not disappoint as long as you keep in mind that these are designed primarily for gaming. In FPS games, audio clues are just as critical as frame rates and responsiveness from your peripherals. In whatever FPS I tested this headset on – all of the Crysis games in single player, the first two Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games, the first CoD: Black Ops, Battlefield 3 – I could hear even the subtlest sounds as well as place them relative to my character with no difficulty. Big boomy sounds like explosions sound as big and boomy as they should. In movies, you can apply the same commentary. Though these are “just” stereo speakers, you can still follow sounds along as they travel from one speaker to the other.
The Siberia V2 only really trips up when you use it for listening to music. No matter what genre you use these with, there is a thinness to the sound – it’s like everything you hear is in low bit-rate MP3 format. Almost 95% of my music is in either FLAC or ALAC format, and I can easily tell when something I’m listening to is in a lossy, compressed format. With the Siberia V2, unfortunately, every piece of music in my library sounds like a big chunk has gone missing all across the range. It’s a disappointing finding, but hey, these are not really optimized for music.
The Kana gaming mouse occupies that oh-so-sweet spot between far-too-basic minimalism represented by the company’s Kinzu and the full-fat all-singing-and-dancing über-configurable Sensei (both the original and the [RAW] versions received rave reviews here on Techgage). Indeed, I see the Kana as a scaled-down version of the Sensei [RAW].
Like the Sensei, the Kana is an ambidextrous mouse. It is perfectly symmetrical when bisected longitudinally, so that its left and right halves are mirror images of each other. It features five buttons: left and right click, two long lateral buttons that sit right above where your thumb would rest naturally, and a scroll wheel that features a click function. And just like the Sensei, it has a button for selecting one of two sensitivity settings (high and low). Very basic, but also undoubtedly the epitome of fool-proof functionality.
Another thing the Kana shares with the Sensei is that it is configurable using the same SteelSeries Engine software. With Engine, you can designate functions to all of the buttons; you can change things like the mouse’s polling rate and its sensitivity. You can also save settings to profiles, which is a handy convenience feature if you’re the type to customize your hardware for specific games or applications.
The CS: GO Edition of the Kana is covered with a textured graphic depicting the dark blue-and-white logo of the Counter-Terrorists team set against a gritty black-and-white background. I have to admit that I had to look that information up; I don’t play Counter-Strike. (Yes, yes, I deserve some good-natured abuse for that disclosure.) However, fans of the series, especially those who are ardent players of CS: GO, would immediately know the graphic on the mouse.
The graphic, though, does endow the CS: GO Kana with an interesting side benefit: it’s textured, so it’s very grippy. I don’t know about you, but I prefer some texture on my mouse. I may not know what that graphic is on it, but I certainly do appreciate how good the CS: GO Kana feels in my hand.
That textured surface helps me in another way as well. The Kana is a little bit smaller than the Sensei [RAW] (my daily driver mouse), but because of its textured graphic I have no issues keeping the Kana under control at all times. Usually with smaller mice, I tend to lose my grip on them unless I compensate by holding on to them a little bit more tightly than I normally do. This induces muscle strain, which is never comfortable. The CS: GO Kana, though, never gave me any problems. In this particular instance, size matters not.
I have to admit that I’m finding it a bit challenging to talk up a mousepad. I’ve used the same mousepad (a discontinued OCZ model) for at least three or four years now, and although I’ve had easily half a dozen different mice glide atop its surface in that time, I’ve never given much thought to replacing it.
It is just a mousepad, right?
The QcK has given me serious thought about replacing my trusty old OCZ warhorse. For one thing, perhaps mostly due to its newness, it feels so soft and smooth beneath the heel of my palm. It’s not a significant factor – heck, as long as the mousepad isn’t covered with prickly thorns like some kind of cactus, it’ll do me just fine – but you take your comforts whenever and wherever you can get them. More importantly than anything else, though, this mousepad just feels like it’s a high-quality item. Your mouse won’t catch or snag on it. It’s equally adept when used during gaming as it is when, say, you need to do some extra-fine cropping of a photo with your mouse.
Like the other two CS: GO-themed items, this QcK has a Global Offensive graphic emblazoned proudly on its top surface. Everybody who sees your CS:GO Edition QcK will have no doubts whatsoever about what your favorite MP FPS title is if you have one of these sitting on your gaming desk.
The CS: GO Editions of the Siberia V2, Kana, and QcK are reissues of familiar favorites from SteelSeries’ product catalog. As such, they don’t offer any performance enhancements over the originals. If you already own any of these items, you’re not getting anything new beyond the branded aesthetics.
However, if you’re just a rabid fan of the Counter-Strike franchise and you’ve been itching to own a themed Siberia V2, Kana, or QcK, then this scratches that oddly specific itch. SteelSeries has traveled down this particular road before, reissuing some of its offerings in game-specific editions. So why not do the same with Counter-Strike‘s newest spin-off? It’s a tried and true formula, one that allows a game’s most ardent and passionate fans to extend their enthusiasm to a plane beyond just playing the games they love. You can think of owning a CS: GO Edition Siberia V2, Kana, and/or QcK as owning a piece of CS: GO itself, all the while using any of these to pwn your competition.
If nothing else, it’s very intelligent marketing.