Date: December 10, 2012
Author(s): Ryan Perry
In 2010, Thermaltake and BMW DesignworksUSA worked together to bring us the inspired, unique and famously expensive Level 10 chassis. The duo have now branched their partnership out to peripherals, with the first product out of the gate being the Level 10 M gaming mouse. Let’s find out if looks will help you kill.
Every so often, we receive a press release announcing the launch of a piece of kit that we just have to look at. For me, the latest has been Thermaltake’s Level 10 M gaming mouse.
For those who don’t know, the Level 10 series started off with a design partnership between Thermaltake and BMW Design Works that resulted in the ultra-high end Level 10 full-tower case. Since then, we’ve seen the incredible (and more affordable) Level 10 GT and GTS full-tower and mid-tower cases, both available in several colors.
Now Thermaltake has moved onto peripherals with the Level 10 M gaming mouse that sports notable features such as an 8200 DPI laser sensor, programmable side buttons, lighting effects and support for profiles and macros.
The Level 10 M is a two button mouse with the clickable scroll wheel in the middle. On the right button are the LED DPI indicators that show which setting is currently active. Behind the left button is a honeycomb design to help keep hands cool by providing ventilation from underneath; further back in the center is an adjustable Allen bolt that allows the top cover to be raised or lowered up to 5mm either way.
From the left side, the unique design of the Level 10 M can be fully viewed. Most of the body has been left open so the top cover can be adjusted and so air can circulate thanks to the vents mentioned earlier. Also found on the left are the programmable A and B buttons in front of the 5 direction (up, down, left, right, press in) Z button that serves as the DPI and profile selector by default.
Over on the right side are the C and D buttons that act like the A and B buttons. There is also another Allen bolt towards the back for side-to-side adjustments of the top cover up to a maximum of 5 degrees either way from the center point.
While belly up we see the laser sensor in the middle surrounded by two large feet in the front and two smaller feet on the sides. The entire bottom plate of the Level 10 M is solid aluminum and makes up the bulk of the weight.
Included with the mouse are some cards showing the different color choices available (red is absent, as it will launch soon), the software CD, the Allen key used to make adjustments to the top cover, and a handy bag when you need to take your not-so-furry friend on the road.
As far as software goes, everything can be accessed from one screen. Profiles can be selected across the top and users can choose between normal and “battle” modes where the lighting effects change with each click when set to the latter. The buttons on the mouse diagrams can also be selected to set custom assignments or macros.
Running on an angle to the right are the buttons that access additional screens. Profile Management does just that and Performance that allows users to change how the mouse will act by modifying settings such as DPI levels or the lift-off rate. The Macro Key screen is where users record custom macros, and the lighting color can be changed or turned off all together on the Light Option screen.
The remaining screens can be accessed with the buttons on the far right. The T-Key, Single Key, Default and Launch Prgm screens become available when clicking on the buttons on the mouse diagrams, while the Air Through and 3D Axis Movement buttons only serve to launch videos that showcase both features. In the top-right corner are the buttons to set the current profile back to default, take you to the Thermaltake eSports website to register and access the help documentation.
Now it’s time to see just how the Level 10 M stands up to some abuse after I got my grubby little hand on it.
Testing out a mouse is like trying on a pair of shoes – they’ll fit each person differently, so please bear this in mind. As always, we strive to find points that everybody will experience, but when it comes down to testing peripherals, it’s nearly impossible to keep personal preference out of a review.
Before getting down and dirty I decided to see if I could tailor the Level 10 M to my grip style. Adjustments were easy using the included Allen key and after about 5 minutes of moving through Windows, I felt comfortable with the setup.
Since this is a gaming mouse, I figured Borderlands 2 should be the soupe du jour. I made several runs through an end game area called Hero’s Pass and then onto The Warrior since the action can be pretty fast – meaning quick reactions will be key.
The tracking was incredible and much smoother than my current daily driver. The laser didn’t fall victim to any sensor problems that are common with other mice I’ve used in the past, even when quickly lifting it off the mousepad over and over.
The feet made it glide nicely over the cloth Thermaltake pad that I’ve been using for the better part of a year. There were no rough spots that caught on the fabric and no fibres that were picked up by the sticker around the sensor after hours of use.
All buttons responded quickly when pressed, but I found them to be almost too touchy. They could almost be considered to be on a hair trigger, which made the A, B, C and D buttons extremely easy to press when lifting the mouse off the mat to reposition it.
Another factor that lead to pressing these buttons is that the open design greatly reduces the area that can be gripped. Gripping too far down or too far back caused me to hit them.
As far as the weight of the mouse goes, I also found this to be a bit much. The extra weight of the aluminum base combined with the touchy side buttons and small amount of room to grip made for some tough gaming sessions.
Finally, there are small things such as the DPI LED indicators on the left button that were almost always covered by my middle finger and the ventilation on the top cover that really didn’t make a difference during my gaming sessions.
I’ll remind you again that there are a lot of subjective points in the testing section based on my hand size, grip style and personal preference. What didn’t work for me might work for you, so with that said, the Level 10 M isn’t a bad mouse.
The guts are top notch and the laser tracked perfectly with no stuttering or dead periods. The 8200 DPI sensor is overkill for most of us, but those using multiple monitors who need a quick response will love it.
All of the buttons fired quickly when pressed, and the included software is solid with an easy-to-navigate interface, which is a welcome change from the multiple tab layout I’m used to seeing.
From a build quality perspective, this is the mouse to beat. Even though the top cover is adjustable, it didn’t feel flimsy and there were no squeaks or creeks to be heard. The aluminum base, while a bit too heavy for my tastes, gives the mouse a very solid, well-built feel.
What I wasn’t happy with the most were the side buttons and grip area. I’d like to see some extra resistance on all buttons across the board and/or have the side buttons repositioned slightly. Even making them smaller would be an improvement since this would increase the amount of room to grip the mouse.
The LED DPI indicators could also have been moved to the left button seeing how they were rarely visible. I found the ventilation idea to be a bit of a gimmick, too. My hands rarely ever sweat when I play, but I know some people who have this problem so it might be a welcome feature.
If the Level 10 M is something that you’d rather test drive yourself, you should be ready to pony up some serious dough because the price premium of higher-end Level 10 products has been carried over here. It’s found mainly on Amazon at the moment, with prices ranging from $90~$100.
This price tag elevates the Level 10 M to a luxury market segment. If you have the cash to burn, I’d say go for it. You’ll get a mouse that’s solid on the inside but one that could leave you unsatisfied on the outside depending on your personal preference.
My opinion? Find a rich friend and take theirs for a test drive first.
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