Date: July 5, 2012
Author(s): Rob Williams
It’s been close to three years since we took a look at Cooler Master’s Sentinel Advance gaming mouse, and now, we have its successor to test out. We’re dealing with a much improved sensor, have more internal memory to fill, and finally get a Storm Tactics button to make use of, so let’s see if CM’s latest is worth your $60.
It sure doesn’t feel like it (to me), but it has been nearly three years since I took a look at Cooler Master’s Sentinel Advance gaming mouse, one of the first products to be released under the company’s then-new CM Storm sub-brand.
Thanks both to its features and comprehensive software, I felt the original Sentinel Advance was a good contender to the other gaming mice of the time, although I do recall the macro side of things being a little headache-inducing (literally). Will the Advance’s sequel remedy that and bring enough to the table to warrant your $60? That’s what we’re here to find out.
If you take a look at our review of the original Advance, you might be surprised to see that it looks… well, identical to the Advance II. I found the original to be pretty comfortable and didn’t have any qualm about its design, so I don’t fault Cooler Master for sticking to what works. So what is it that the Advance II introduces, then?
In a nutshell, the Advance II features an improved sensor, one that Cooler Master isn’t afraid to mention by name on its website. That’s the Avago ADNS-9800, capable of handling a DPI of up to 8000, and known to be a bit more stable than all other mice sensors on the market. A “TX” button (Storm Tactics) has also been added. Finding out exactly what that’s for on Cooler Master’s website is like finding a specific transistor on a CPU, but we’ll tackle it on the next page.
Another notable update is that the in-mouse memory has been given a boost to 128Kb, from 64Kb, allowing more macros to be kept on the mouse (it continues to baffle me why we can’t get even 1MB of memory in our gaming mice).
Despite the Advance II looking so much like the original, since it has been a while, we’ll take a quick tour and see just what it is the mouse offers.
Unfortunately for lefties, the Advance II is a right-handed mouse only. Hopefully Cooler Master will one of these days realize that left-handed people do in fact exist, because its line-up looks a little ridiculous without an ambidextrous model. For right-handed folks, the Advance II is contoured for ultimate comfort regardless of how you hold it.
With a closer look at the left thumb area, we can see the typical back and forward buttons that most gaming mice now have. On this mouse, however, the back button can be substituted for “Storm Tactics”. As mentioned before, we’ll get into details about what that is on the following page.
The opposite side of the mouse is rather clean, with little more than the CM Storm logo gracing the right-side of the mouse body. The below shot is our best look at the center of the mouse, which features LED lighting underneath the hole-plastered hood.
At the front of the mouse, we can see all of the buttons the Advance II has to offer, aside from the left thumb buttons. In addition to the scroll wheel being clickable (of course), there are DPI switches beneath it, and a profile switcher above it. Every button on the mouse can be reconfigured for any other function or key, except for the profile switcher (which is probably fine as it’s the hardest button to reach).
Underneath, a small door can be removed to reveal five 4.5 gram weights that can be removed if your goal is for a lighter mouse. I’ve personally never found a need to remove or reconfigure weights in gaming mice, but since the combined weight of the included weights here totals 22.5g, or roughly 20% of the entire mouse, you may find that removing them results in a more comfortable experience.
Up next, it’s time to see if the software bundled with the Advance II is less headache-inducing than the original.
When I first opened the Advance II’s software, I got hit with a huge dose of deja vu. What is it about this software that seemed so familiar? After deep contemplation and then a realization that I should just look back to the original Advance review, my question was answered.
Yes, it seems that the software that gave me headache long ago made a triumphant return, because aside from the added menu up top for “Storm Tactics”, the GUI and options are almost identical. Because it’s been a while, I once again found myself scratching my head about how to pull off some simple tweaks, all of which were explained in the manual that came with the driver. While that’s all fine and good, I never believe a manual should have to be referred to for mouse software. Please, please, please Cooler Master and others… stop producing software that causes people to scratch their heads.
The “Main Control” portion of the software is the first section you’ll see after starting it up. Here, you can configure any one of the keys on the mouse (aside from the profile switcher as mentioned before), tweak DPI levels, OS sensitivity (a nice feature), double-click speed and button response time. You’re freely able to switch between any of the five profiles the mouse can hold with the buttons at the bottom.
On the second screen, “Color Control”, you’re able to adjust both the front LEDs hidden underneath, and also those inside the belly of the beast. These are fixed colors, so you’re not able to fine-tune to your liking. Like other gaming mice with similar LEDs, there’s an inherent purplish tinge here, so if you choose the white option, it’s not going to be perfectly white but instead really light purple (or blue, depending on your interpretation of color). As before, you’re able to adjust whether the LEDs are always lit, if they pulsate or if they only turn on when you click a button.
For clans, or those who simply want to customize their mouse, you’re able to upload an image on this screen that will replace the CM Storm logo in the OLED screen.
When you configure button #7 (“TX”) to be used for Storm Tactics, this screen will open up, allowing you to tweak its function to your heart’s content. The idea is that when you hit the TX button and then a button combination on the mouse, an action will occur. This could be something as simple as rapid firing to something more complex like running a script or macro. In the example below, I configured it so that when I hold TX and then left click my mouse, it rapid fires 10 times in a row.
Something that manages to drive me batty on this page is finding the appropriate action in the mini-menus given. These menus, despite having a ton of screen real-estate to use, only show three items at a time, in a list of about 30. This is nonsense, and needlessly adds to the level of tedium when customizing your mouse.
Creating macros on the Advance II is fairly straight-forward. Saving and understanding how to run the macro is another story. For my simple macros, I chose the key that I wanted to assign it to (Storm Tactics 3, for example, which in my case represented the scroll wheel), saved it, and then went over to my Storm TX page and assigned #3 to that Macro. It sounds simple enough, but when you actually go to do it, you might find yourself a bit lost. The macros I did test out ran fine, contrary to the experience I had with the original Advance. I didn’t get too deep into testing, as patience can wear thin when the software sucks the fun out of things.
For those looking to create more robust macros, the “Scripts” section is for you. Your options here are a little more advanced, but for the most part the creation and saving process is no different than a macro. In fact, this is no more a script than macros in general, so it should really be called “Advanced Macro”.
On the Library page, you’re able to swap which macros and scripts are stored on the mouse, and also backup the ones that are there to the PC. This would be less of a problem if mice would include more than a piddly amount of memory, but alas, that doesn’t look to ever look to be a trend that will catch on.
To quote my original Sentinel Advance review: “For the most part, I quite like the software here. It’s not only the most robust mouse software package I’ve used, but it’s also the best-looking. To make it even sweeter, you don’t even have to install it on your PC if you don’t want to. This is because all of the settings are stored right inside the mouse, so no driver is required. This also means that if you hop on a computer other than your own, your settings don’t move.“
That all still applies. But once again, I found dealing with macros to be a chore. Three years sure didn’t fix that issue.
For its $60 price tag, Cooler Master’s Sentinel Advance II is an attractive gaming mouse. It’s not perfect (especially when moving over from my SteelSeries Sensei, which has proven to be my favorite mouse to date), but it sure does pack a punch without breaking the bank.
First, the mouse is comfortable. While Cooler Master continues to ignore left-handed gamers with its gaming line-up, the Advance II, like the original, is still one of the most comfortable mice I’ve ever used. It’s bulkier than the Sensei that I’ve become used to, but it nowhere close to being “too big”, where if feels like you are gaming with a loaf of bread in your hand.
The software, like most of Cooler Master’s that I’ve used recently, is good for the most part. It’s attractive, feature-rich and applies your changes very quickly. However, saving macros and assigning them to specific keystrokes can be more tedious than it should be, which stems mostly from the fact that Cooler Master doesn’t explain the abilities too well. It’s more of a live and learn sort of deal, and if you have patience, the sky’s the limit.
A major improvement of the Advance II is the move to an Avago sensor. The original Advance risked the chance of skipping a beat in the heat of action due to its lackluster sensor, but I didn’t have that problem with this mouse. There were occasions where my cursor would develop a mind of its own, and move around my screen, but I’m still in the process of figuring out why that is. Both Cooler Master and others have told me that’s usually a sign of subtle vibration, and as I just moved to a new place, I can’t discredit that right away. Since my SteelSeries Sensei features an identical sensor, I’ll be seeing if I experience the same issue with that mouse over the next couple of weeks.
The biggest problem with the Advance II is that it has the tendency to gather dirt and result in a sticky cursor, totally unrelated (I believe) to the sensor. The area around the sensor bulges out a bit, and that’s likely the biggest problem. This is not an issue I’ve had with the Sensei, where the area around the sensor is completely flat. There isn’t even a problematic plastic ring that so many other mice vendors like to toss in.
What I do like about the Advance II is that you’re able to set four different DPI levels on any profile and adjust them easily, thanks to the dedicated buttons. I move between Linux and Windows quite often, and also different games, so I’m often switching my profiles and DPI on-the-fly and appreciate that the ability to do that is made easy on this mouse.
For those looking for a solid gaming mouse at $60, Cooler Master’s Sentinel Advance II is well worth your consideration.
As a side note, Cooler Master sent along its Speed-RXL mousepad to test the mouse out with, though I didn’t ultimately use it too much. The biggest reason is that the pad itself was far too large for my desk, and secondly, it had a bit more “grip” than I personally like. If you like a mousepad with a bit of drag, then it should be right up your alley… I just happen to like things a little glidey. My Ratpadz XT has forever spoiled me.
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