Date: August 6, 2010
Author(s): Rob Williams
When Cooler Master released its first “CM Storm” gaming mouse last fall, we were impressed. For a company not known for mice to come out with such a competitive product was great, and helped pave the way for the future. That future is here, in the form of the Inferno. Can it surpass the quality set by the Sentinel Advance?
Last fall, Cooler Master released its first true gaming mouse, and first peripheral under its “CM Storm” branding, the Sentinel Advance. In typical CM style, the company delivered an above-average product that in the end, left us impressed. The mouse featured a good comfort-level, lots of options, a nice design, and of course, flashy LED bling.
Fast forward to the present day and we have the second model to enter the CM Storm line-up, the “Inferno”. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Compared to the Sentinel Advance, the Inferno looks to amp things up on all levels, and like most high-end mice, tries to become the “ultimate” peripheral in a gamer’s toolbox.
As is standard of CM Storm gaming mice, the Inferno features a couple of unique selling-points that aim to give gamers tons of flexibility. While the Sentinel Advance includes 64KB of internal memory for storing settings, macros and scripts, the Inferno doubles it. In addition, the Inferno adds two primary buttons, “Rapid Fire” and “Macro”. In total, the mouse includes 11 buttons, so we’re inching just a bit closer to the day when a mouse also doubles as a keyboard.
One noticeable feature that’s lacking on the Inferno is the ability to change the color of the LEDs, so in that regard, “Inferno” is appropriate as your only option is red. Fortunately, bling doesn’t make for a better gaming mouse, so for some, that might not matter. And besides, the Inferno still does feature a decent amount of bling. It’s just that it’s only in red.
Like most higher-end gaming mice out there, the Inferno supports a DPI resolution of up to 4,000, and a minimum of 500. You are able to customize each level of the DPI manually, in increments of 1, but whether or not the sensor is actually that precise, I’m not sure. As already mentioned, it also includes 11 buttons, 9 of which are programmable, and as far as performance, the mouse has a polling rate of 1,000Hz and response time of 1ms.
Here’s a quick overview of the specs:
CM Storm Inferno
The overall design of the Inferno is one that aims to contour with your hand, although it’s a little bit on the beefier side, so it’s not likely to fit like a glove unless you have rather large hands. Personally, I find the mouse a little bit uncomfortable due to its design, but I’ll talk about that later. As you can see in the photo below, a third of the mouse is glossy, another third rubbery, and the last third a matte plastic. It’s a little different to pair the textures in the way Cooler Master did, but the pictures don’t do it justice… it looks quite good.
In taking a closer look at the left side of the mouse, you can see the Forward and Back buttons, and also the “Storm Tactics” button. That button controls the macros, which we’ll touch on a bit. You can also see the “Rapid Fire” button directly to the left of the usual left mouse button. Just as it sounds, it acts as a “Turbo” for any regular mouse button you choose.
The numbers (1 – 5) light up depending on your chosen DPI level. For some reason, the #5 wasn’t functioning on my personal unit, but it’s supposed to.
On the opposite side, we can see a much cleaner surface area with no buttons. Like the Rapid Fire on the left, there’s a “Macro” button to the right of the right mouse button, used for a single macro, one per profile.
Here, you can get a better view of the front curvature of the mouse, and also another one of the Inferno’s selling-points… a thick scroll wheel. In all my gaming with the mouse, I came to like this thicker wheel a lot, but unfortunately, that joy was dampened thanks to the fact that it’s tough to push. For almost all FPS titles I play, I push down on the scroll wheel to throw grenades, but it’s so tough on this mouse, I’d just have to resort to another solution.
Underneath the scroll wheel you can see the + and – DPI buttons, and also the DPI switcher. This switcher will change color depending on the active profile. At default, it’s not lit up at all. For 1, it’s green, 2 it’s red and 3 it’s a lighter green (or “yellow”).
Taking a look under the mouse, you can better see the front grated area where LED shines out and onto your desk while in use. There’s really not much to say here.
The Inferno has a good design, but it’s not one that impresses me in any real way. I was far more impressed with the physical design of the Sentinel Advance, and found it to feel far more comfortable during use. This factor is of course subjective and depends on the person, but for me, I found that this design caused my thumb to get sore after a while, and that’s the first time in a while I can remember a mouse of any sort causing me any sort of actual discomfort.
When I hold the mouse, my hand doesn’t quite feel “straight”, but rather the pinky finger is a little out of place, because the front right tip of the mouse is pushed out further than the rest, and as my pinky tends to sit there during gameplay, it forces my hand to be in a less-than-perfect position. It’s hard to explain, unfortunately.
Ten years ago, a gaming mouse was a gaming mouse, and if it fit the hand well, had a good layout, and enough buttons to get the job done right, then it sufficed. But today, in order for a gaming mouse to be called a “true” gaming mouse, it must support macros, scripts and for some people, be able to retain all of the settings inside the mouse itself.
Cooler Master’s Inferno hits all those goals on the mark, and like the Sentinel Advance we took a look at last year, the Inferno offers a wide-range of macro options and the ability to assign up to 24 on the mouse at any given time across three profiles, and then one on top of all that to be assigned to the Macro key for quick access.
Because the Inferno has built-in memory, you can set it up as you like and then take it to any PC you want, without installing the driver again. The only thing the driver CD is good for is to load up the configuration software, and since you need it to adjust anything on the mouse, you don’t want to lose it.
The first time you start the software, it will ask you if you are a casual or professional gamer, and then it sets your DPI levels appropriately. Afterward, you’ll find yourself at the rather attractive “Main Control” screen.
Here, you can control each of the five levels of DPI as you wish, both even on the X and Y axes if you are really that thorough. On the right side you can see all of the buttons, most of which can be altered on the three additional profiles. For the Rapid Fire button, there are three values to input, which in the screenshot are 3-3-1. I am unsure what the last two numbers represent, but the first one represents the number of times the left mouse button is in effect pushed.
On the following page, you can configure how your macros are going to be activated on the mouse. In my example, I had two macros set up, and in order to activate the first in-game, I had to first hit the Storm Tactics button and also the left mouse button, and for the second, I had to use the right mouse button.<
I am not a heavy macro user, so I didn’t test out this feature to a great extent, but I did enough to get a feel for how to create and execute them. Because there are three profiles total, you can see that in this screenshot, I chose to activate the PF#1 macros as I was using the first profile on the mouse. To keep things easy to remember, it’s wise to always assign the appropriate macro numbers to match your profile.
For a couple of reasons, I found the process of assigning a macro a bit (okay, “really”) tedious, and also a bit lacking. In the “Execution” menu, there are literally at least 60 different options, and you can only see five or six at a time. Now, picture scrolling through a list that large. It results in a microscopic scroll bar – one that’s difficult to use. Though it wouldn’t have been as good-looking, a regular windows drop-down would have been great, one that would display 15 or more options at once.
Also, you can create a macro with one or two keys. In my example above, I had Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in mind. Though it seems odd at first, one neat macro I set up was to hit the Storm Tactics button followed by the left mouse button… this reloads my weapon. That macro allows me to essentially not have to lift my finger off the mouse at all, and saves me from moving my opposite hand away from WASD.
The other macro, which requires use of the right mouse button, summons my special weapon, whether it be a care package, sentry gun, predator missile or what-have-you. I do this in replace of hitting the “4” key, because I game in the dark and usually push 3 or 5 by accident. So, this is one more convenience feature.
Now, the buttons available in the drop-down range from 1 – 10 and represent various buttons on the mouse. The only one omitted is the Storm Tactics button as it’s required for triggering these macros. For some reason, the Forward and Backward buttons are not available in these lists, and it blows my mind as to why, as it would make setting macros up far easier. Instead, we are limited to keys that might not be the most accessible when in the heat of battle, whereas those extra thumb buttons would be.
To help make up for that, you can combine two buttons together to activate the macro, such as pushing the left and right mouse button at once. In an MMO I play (it should be mentioned that this mouse is officially designed for MMO’s, but I fail to see the difference), Lineage II, I had the left mouse button, when used in conjunction with the Storm Tactics key, activate a moderate potion, while I had the left and right mouse buttons activate a much more powerful one.
Overall, I’m impressed with the number of macros that can be set up, but not so much impressed by how tedious they are to add to this list. I spent almost two hours on it before I could figure it out. Fortunately, if Cooler Master ever deems it worthy, it could update this software and fix the issues I mentioned, unless for some reason the lack of the Forward and Back keys being available here is a hardware limitation, but that seems unlikely.
Finally, the Macro and Script sections. As I mentioned, I’m not a heavy macro user, so I’m not going to delve too deep into these sections, but what they allow is for you to set up rather robust macros and assign them in the manner that we just talked about. The process here is rather simple, but again, confusing at first.
The most important thing to check first is that you are editing the correct profile, and in this case, I was editing the first one. Then, you must select a “Button”, which you might as well think of as being a “Slot”, because it has nothing to do with the actual buttons on the mouse. I assume they call it button in case you actually want to keep track of what macro is assigned where, but personally, I just find it all the more confusing.
After you select the right profile and “Button”, you need to change the “Execution” to whichever makes sense. The most common will be “One-Shot (Released)”, which means that when the macro is used, it executes once. By default, the execution is for a loop, which I personally find to be a very strange design choice. I accidentally created many macros and forgot to change them from a loop to one-shot, and let me tell you… that makes for some wild times when you use one in game and aren’t expecting a loop.
To create a macro, you need to click “Start Record”, and for keyboard keys to be recorded, you can just keep your cursor in this window and type as you need to. For the mouse, you need to keep the cursor in the above box, and then hit your buttons as needed. Once done, hit “Stop Record”, and then “Save”.
Once you create a macro, you can adjust the delays as you need, simply by double-clicking them and changing the millisecond value. You can’t go below 12ms, but can seemingly go as high as you’d like. Once your done with a macro and it’s saved, you can edit another by selecting a new profile and/or button and then hit “Switch”. Personally, I wish that last requirement didn’t exist at all. It’d be far more convenient if you could simply choose a profile and button and have the macro load automatically, especially if you are needing to create a lot of them.
If you are experienced with creating robust scripts for a keyboard or mouse, then you know a lot more than I do. I didn’t touch this feature at all due to an absolute lack of knowledge, so hopefully you can read into its features simply based on the screenshot above. If you’d like me to test something out, please feel free to post in our article thread.
Because the mouse has internal memory to store all of your settings, you can easily export and import the data as you please to your PC. But be warned, as the data will take up a staggering 128KB of memory on your hard drive! (To be safe, for those unaware, 128KB is “nothing”).
Finally, here’s an expanded view of the software:
On the left side, you can choose your profile and also the motion sensitivity, double-click speed and button response time.
It goes without saying that Cooler Master’s software here is incredibly robust, and it really does allow you to do a lot only with your mouse. If you have patience, the software shouldn’t be a problem, but I really hoped for an easier-to-understand interface, because after I was done configuring my macros and settings, I had a headache… and mouse software shouldn’t go quite that far.
Long before I received the Inferno for testing, I had high hopes. In pictures, the mouse almost looked ideal, from its design to its feature set. It offers a copious number of buttons, and an incredible amount of flexibility with macros. Unfortunately, though, the mouse falls flat in some areas, makes life tedious in others, and has some innate issues that must be addressed.
The first thing that bothered me about the mouse was it’s actual shape, as I didn’t find it all too comfortable. It seems to me that over the past couple of years, gaming mice have increased in width, and also height, and that undoubtedly is going to lead to a different sort of feel. When Logitech focused on the design of the G5 (and similar mice), I loved it, because those felt good, were light, and didn’t strain your hand. For whatever reason, this one does, but only after a couple of hours of use.
As I mentioned before, the right-side of the mouse, towards the front, is pushed out too far for my liking, as my pinky is situated there. Because of how my hand is placed, I end up not with a sore pinky, but a sore thumb, as strange as that sounds. When I hold the mouse, I don’t feel like I’m holding it correctly… my hand isn’t straight, not really that comfortable.
There doesn’t exist the “perfect” mouse for everyone, though, and it might be that some people will use this and love it. In talking to a friend who also has the mouse, he didn’t have the comfort issues I did, so it could be that I’m an oddball in that regard. We should know more soon enough once these mice hit the retail market. Until then, I can’t really call this an “issue”.
The second problem is the software. It looks great, but handles terribly. Once you understand how to use it, it’s a little bit better, but still unbelievably tedious to use, especially when dealing with the drop-down menus that display 60 some items but only display five with each scroll. Small issues like these aren’t only the fault of Cooler Master, because I’ve never used macro software that was fun, but this is the most tedious I’ve used.
Again, once you understand how things work, the process is not quite as bad, but it still could be made a lot easier. The two primary things I’d fix would be A) The drop-down menus, B) Loading a macro automatically when its profile is selected and C) Allowing the forward and back buttons to be used for macros. It makes no sense to me that they aren’t available, since it would make both setting up macros and using them easier.
Finally, I’ve been talking to my good friend Wes Compton over at LanOC Reviews for the past couple weeks about some issues that the Inferno has with its sensor. Between the two of us, there are issues our units share, and also some unique ones on the side.
First, as the mouse is picked up and set back down, either in a certain way or multiple times over and over, the cursor on the screen will jolt to a rather noticeable degree. For me, I didn’t have any issues while in game, and didn’t notice it, but Wes did, and found it to be fairly frustrating.
He also found he was unable to push the mouse along a straight surface and have it retain a straight (or almost straight-line) on the monitor. For me, I had no such issue. But one that we did share is that if you rub your finger around the sensor, and place it on the mousepad, the cursor on the screen will remain locked for up to three seconds. Obviously this is a strange test to perform, but that issue doesn’t exist on any other mouse I tested here, and in the end, it helps prove that the sensor here needs tweaking, or to be replaced.
For me, the sensor issues aren’t enough to keep me from using the mouse, because I don’t experience the show-stopping issues during gameplay, or at least haven’t yet. Oddly, though, I did experience small cursor movement at the desktop, when the mouse wasn’t being touched, which I’m sure is related to this issue.
I’m waiting on a response from Cooler Master regarding the sensor issue, and to see if anything is going to be done about it, but for now, I can’t recommend the Inferno to those who it was designed for… professional gamers. The goal of a mouse is to offer extreme precision, not hiccup at the most inopportune time. Though I didn’t experience a severe issue in a game, it seems likely that depending on the gamer and situation, the issue will rear its ugly head on multiple occasions.
Up to this point, I haven’t had a lot of time to use the mouse in gaming (~5 hours across StarCraft II, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Lineage 2), but despite the issues, I’m going to continue using it for the weeks to come. I’ll follow-up to this article as I gain more long-term usage experience and relay any new discoveries or thoughts that might develop. I’ll also update the end of this review once Cooler Master responds to these issues.
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