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Cooler Master Storm Sentinel Advance Gaming Mouse Review

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AkG

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Cooler Master Storm Sentinel Advance Mouse Review




Manufacture's Product Page: Sentinel Advance - Cooler Master
Model Number: SGM-6000-KLLW1-GP
TechWiki: Cooler Master Storm Sentinel - TechWiki
Price: Click here to compare prices



Maybe it is just us, but it seems that for ages the ubiquitous mouse did not change much: it had a ball, maybe two buttons and a third button if you wanted something fancy. Then things started to change. The ball was replaced with an optical sensor, more buttons were added to the side and a wheel started showing up on the scene. As things progressed we went from ball based sensors to optical to laser and now we are even seeing dual laser mice. Customizability via software was added and now profiles can even be stored directly on the mouse’s on-board memory. Truly, mice have come a long way even though the basic interface between you and the machine in front of you hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years.

The subject of today’s review is the Cooler Master Storm Sentinel Advance mouse. We know that Cooler Master isn’t a company known for their peripherals but the new Storm series of cases and now mice and mouse pads is supposed to cater to the gaming market. As such, the Sentinel Advance uses a 5600dpi sensor along with onboard memory for storing your custom settings and beautiful OLED screen. On paper this sounds like one potent gaming mouse and if reality is anything like the speculations, this may just end up being the weapon of choice for many people; gamer and non gamer alike. Of course, as we have seen in the past reality has a sneaky way of making a hash of even the best paper specifications so it will certainly be interesting to see if this product can live up to our already elevated expectations!

Since this is a relatively new product it is not widely available from e-tailers and retailers in Canada quite yet but there are some stores that are currently carrying it for around $59.99 Canadian. With its cornucopia of goodies this price is actually reasonable, but “reasonable” is not the same as saying it’s a small pocket change for a mouse. “Gamers” who want a high performance mouse and are used to paying close to $100 for a comparable Razer or SteelSeries product, will probably be pleasantly surprised by the Sentinel’s price. However, if you are used to paying under $20 for a budget mouse, the Sentinel will seem ridiculously overpriced.

The market niche the Sentinel finds itself playing in is dominated by many firmly entrenched manufactures and is probably one of the most hotly contested arenas for Cooler Master could enter. It should be interesting if the Sentinel can carry on with the high quality tradition attention to detail we have seen from past Storm-series products.

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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications



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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


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Ok let’s get something out of the way and then move onto the actual box itself: ninety nine times out of hundred we hate plastic windowed boxes. This is a personal preference that this reviewer has developed over 2 decades of buying, building and using kit and I have literally lost count of the number of times there has been “issues” with a product that was easily traced back to those god awfully protection-less windows. They just don’t provide the protection we would want when shipping an item over vast distances.

Does this mean that we dislike this windowed box? Surprisingly, we love it. The reason for this is mice, unlike many peripherals, really need to be seen and handled before you know if you are going to like it. Everybody’s hands are different and the fact of the matter is every mouse manufacturer trades off size versus ergonomics versus price and builds their unit to fit as many people as possible. On the surface this would mean that they build for the mythical “average human” but the key to understanding things is the fact that the hand placement for a World of Warcraft gamer is probably different from that of a hard-core FPS player. As such, the amount of time and effort companies spend on R&D for their high-end peripherals is astronomical. What this means is that they want you to know the feel of their mouse before you buy it and as such, a form-fitting plastic sleeve is the perfect packaging medium.

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This is where this jumbo sized window comes in handy as not every computer store has demonstration models set up. With a simple grope and squeeze of this box’s window you instantly know what the mouse will feel like in your hand. Absolutely perfect.

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When you do open this box up there really are no surprises as the mouse and its cardboard backing is on full display beforehand; however with that being said this is one striking looking mouse.

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The accessory list which accompanies the Sentinel is surprising full and packed with interesting tidbits. As expected you get the typical mini-CD with the software but this is pretty much par for the course with gaming mice these days.

The real standout is the anti-theft device that is included. On first glance we thought this little accessory was an odd looking wire holder used for shortening the cord length and keeping things neat and tidy. We suppose you could use the anti-theft device for just that purpose but we wouldn’t do it since it’s made of heavy metal and more importantly is shaped like an oddly cut PCI cover plate.

Yes, much like the Storm Guard seen in their Sniper series of cases, Cooler Master has made it so this anti-theft device installs within a free PCI- bracket on the back of your case. You then braid the mouse cord through the device’s openings and it will be firmly locked into place. This is perfect for anyone who regularly attends LANs where high-end gaming accessories tend to go “missing” if left unattended for too long. All in all, it is very cool and intriguing idea and we were impressed with Cooler Master’s forethought and we can't believe that no one thought of this before.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Cooler Master Storm Sentinel

A Closer Look at the Cooler Master Storm Sentinel


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Overall, the look of the Sentinel is exactly what you would expect from a modern gaming-grade mouse. Its looks are subdued with a plain black finish and there aren’t any odd angular flourishes like we have been seeing from the likes of Logitech’s and Microsoft’s competing products as of late.

Wrapping around the Sentinel is basically one large rubberized pad which should provide a ton of surface area to keep your hand firmly in place irregardless of how sweaty your digits get. We should also mention that it is a true right handed mouse and we highly doubt that any left handed user will find it comfortable.


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Speaking of the ergonomics and overall design of this mouse there is a perfectly placed thumb rest on its left side to help position your hand. Honestly, this design reminds us a lot of the Logitech MX Revolution, a mouse which we find extremely comfortable for extended usage so it is good to see Cooler Master incorporating it. This makes the Sentinel more comfortable by allowing it to conform better to the natural curves of your right hand than a traditional mouse.

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Cooler Master has added an interesting design tweak to this mouse as well. The back arch is not what you call very high and is fact fairly flat….just like many Razer mice are. It seems Cooler Master took a look at the competition and then took the best features of many different best in class mice and melded them all together to make the sentinel. Unfortunately, this along with some of its other design features means that it may not be optimal for either the people who like to palm their mice or the “grippers” out there. Indeed, while it could suit either, the Sentinel seems geared towards both types of gamers but this stance could blow up in Cooler Master’s face as neither camp may end up appreciating the hybrid ergonomics.

When it comes to the input buttons of this gaming mouse, Cooler Master certainly went all out in some areas and skimped out in others. As expected it has the typical Forward and Back buttons on the left side of the mouse. These two buttons are perfectly positioned to make pressing either one extremely easy. The thumb rest which helps position your thumb in the sweet spot does go a long way in this area…but it is the little things like button placement which can make or break a unit.

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On the top of the device you have a two small buttons located directly behind the wheel which are used for on the fly DPI changing. They too are perfectly positioned so that you can easily reach them, BUT will accidental pressing of either one should be an extremely rare occurrence. However, it should be noted that the one on the left has a small raised bump to help you know which button you are about to press without having to look down.

The button in front of the wheel changes from one of your preset profile settings to another and thus controls what all the buttons do when pressed.

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All of these buttons are perfectly refined and work extremely well but we found something a bit unexpected about the wheel. In a most unexpected move -and unlike many in this price range- the Sentinel’s wheel can only scroll vertically and cannot do horizontal scrolling by rocking it side to side. For many gamers this is like buying a brand new sports car only to find a tape deck in the place of the CD player or MP3 jack. While it is unlikely that you will need a multi purpose wheel for most games, this minor oversight will be a handicap in more mundane day to day tasks.

Making those preset profiles even more useful is the fact that this unit has 64k of onboard memory. This onboard memory alloys you to have a maximum of four independent and highly configurable preset profiles stored onboard. These presets do not need any software to be installed for them to work….they just work as soon as you plug in the mouse. Of course to set up of these profiles you will need to use some of Cooler Master’s intuitive software interface to talk to the mouse and program the “Sentinel-X” memory.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Cooler Master Storm Sentinel pg.2

Up Close and Personal cont.


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While the button and wheel layout on the Sentinel is ergonomic, the real stars of the show are the OLED screen and LEDs built into the unit. The OLED screen resides just behind the DPI adjustment buttons on the top of the Sentinel Advance. While it may have been nice to have a full colour screen here, this single colour Organic Light Emitting Diode bases screen is big enough to show not only your X and Y DPI setting but also a 32 x 32 pixel logo. The default logo is easily changeable to anything you want it to be via the software which means this mouse can be customized to your liking. As you can tell, we love it.

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Wrapping around the OLED screen is a large mesh area which allows the internal LEDs customizable colour to shine bright for all to see. Cooler Master calls these LEDs “OctoShade Technology” which sounds a lot better than “it makes your palms glow in a darkened room”. Rosy palm jokes aside, there is a very good reason for these LED’s as each preset profile can have its own colour which makes it very easy to tell what presets are in effect.

By holding down one of the DPI changing keys for a couple of seconds the LEDs will start pulsing. Then by using the wheel you can increase or decrease the DPI sensitivity. Just remember the default is to change both X and Y at the same time, but by pressing the forward and back buttons on the side you change do X and Y independently.. Unfortunately, it will only do this in fairly rough 25DPI increments.

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As many hard core gamers prefer wired mice so it comes as no surprise that the Sentinel is corded. The Sentinel Advance’s cable is not only long measuring a nice 6 feet but the whole length of the cable is finished in a tight and low friction material braid. Making things even better is the fact that the wire is also very thin; not “fragile” thin but much thinner than many we have seen. This means it will suffer from much less cord snagging issues than its competitors.

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It seems to us that Cooler Master didn’t skimp on the size, placement or number of low friction feet. When you get into the higher sensitivity range any stutter or imprecise movement will be magnified so this is a big deal. All in all, Cooler Master uses two large feet on either side, a smaller one in the front and a nicely sized one at the back. To us this is the kind of setup we like to see but with that being said we wish the two main (long) feet were wider as they are a little bit on the narrow side.

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A little bit forward of center is where the dual lasers and sensor reside. The use of two laser in theory should help increase the precision of this unit and help keep it from having tracking errors on less than optimal surfaces. The sensor itself is rated for an extremely high 5600DPI and a max tracking speed of a massive six meters per second. Both of these numbers are certainly overkill and we highly doubt most of Cooler Master’s potential customers will ever max the capabilities of this mouse out.

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As with many good gaming orientated mice, the Sentinel Advance has the ability to fine tune its weight and feel. This is accomplished in a fairly standard manner with the back of mouse housing having a removable door in which small 4.5 gram weights reside. In grand total you have five of these weights allowing for an additional 4.5, 9, 13.5, 18 or 22.5 grams. While we would have liked the ability to add a bit more weight, these options should fit the majority of people’s needs just fine.

After a close examination of this mouse we are almost certain that Cooler Master has a winner on their hands since its amazing customizability really does impress us. Everything from the layout of the buttons, to the OLED screen to the multi-colour LEDs really are well thought out and not garish. Sometimes, less is more; but in the case of the Storm Sentienl Advance….more is always better! Cooler Master has obviously done everything humanly possible to make sure that no matter what you want in a mouse this one can deliver and we certainly. Now lets see if they put as much though, effort and money into the software; after all, even the best piece of hardware can be laid low by crappy, buggy and bloated software.
 
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AkG

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Storm Tactic AP Software Overview

Storm Tactic AP Software Overview


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To use the Tactic AP software that comes with this mouse, actually don’t need to install it since it can be run directly from the CD. This software is a simple and easy way of interfacing with the hardware on the mouse (and its 64k of storage) and telling it what you want to see on the OLED screen, how you want it to react to the various mouse commands and what LED colour (if any) to turn on. As with some of the other high end mice out there this lightweight program does not need to be running (or even installed) for you to have access to the advanced features of the mouse, once you have loaded your customs settings onto it.

To put it bluntly this is a fire and forget piece of software which probably won’t be used too much as the Sentinel is a pretty smart mouse which does not need any bloatware running in the background to interpret the various actions and relays that information to the OS. It may not be the first to implement this and turn a “dumb” peripheral into a little powerhouse but the Sentinel is one of the first mice we have used that takes a good long, hard look into how software is supposed to function.

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The main control panel (which is what the program opens by default) is fairly self explanatory, as this is where most of the main functions are located. On the left hand side is the button assignment where you chose what each of the 8 buttons actually does. Across the bottom are the profile options which allow you to set up each custom profile and by extension buttons’ functions as well. You will have to set up each profile separately as the default is to have setting is to have all the buttons act the same (i.e. the default commands shown in the picture above).

By default the USB report rate is set to 1000hz, which is nice as this is one less step you have to do…unless you want to use a custom profile to have a lowered report rate that is. Meanwhile, in the top right hand corner you have the four default DPI levels which you can go through by pressing the DPI up or down buttons on top of the mouse. As with many other high end mice you can independently set the X and Y levels and can do so with a lot more precision than the mouse itself offers. The lower right hand portion of this main screen is concerned with double click speed, button response time and motion sensitivity; all using the ubiquitous slider.

All in all, this is a busy screen but it allows you to have many of the Sentinel’s functions right at your fingertips.

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The second tab is the colour control tab, which allows you to set the various LED colours and you can actually set the front LEDs to a different colour from the top ones. All in all you get 8 colours to choose from (which explains the whole pretentious “OctoShade” bit) and can also set the LEDs to different styles. The full colour mode means that they stay on at their fullest intensity while “breathe mode” sets the LEDs to slowly increase in intensity until they reach full brightness and then they slowly dim till they are off. Rinse and repeat and you have this setting. Rapid fire….rapidly blinks the LEDs every time you click a button can be seriously annoying but to each their own. The last possibility is “disabled” which as the name suggests turns off the LEDs.

As with the mouse buttons, the LED’s actions and colours can be set up individually for each of the preset profiles. This allows you to intuitively know which profile the mouse is set with just a visual check.

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The next tab is the macro editor and this is where we ended up being bit disappointed as it “only” allows for up to 43 actions…which really means it is limited to a mere 21 keystroke/ mouse click commands as each click is registered as a depression and then as a separate release (to allow for multiple keystroke commands like Cntrl+Alt+Delete for example). This is much less than the 254 you get with the Gigabyte “Ghost” GM800 (for example). However, this slight limitation does explain how Cooler Master was able to cram in two extra profiles into the same 64K of space the Ghost had. However, it appears you are not limited in the number of these macros you can create, just how many you can load to the mouse. We should mention that we think 43 actions is more than enough of all but the most demanding professional gamer.

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In a very interesting move, the Tactic AP software also allows for scripts to be stored onboard and activated just like a macro via pre configured mouse button click. This is the fourth tab and much like the macro tab, setting up a custom script to run every time you press a button is extremely easy. In grand total each script can be a maximum of 86 actions…or 43 key / mouse commands (as once again a depression and release is considered two actions. Also like the macro controls you can also have the script set to loop (if you keep the mouse button down) and even how fast it should do so. As with the macros, you can have a darn near unlimited amount stored on your system but “only” a realistic max of seven per profile (and 35 total) stored in the on board memory of the mouse.

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While the other tabs are impressive what we REALLY liked was the abilities offered by the library tab. Here you are able to quickly and easily import macros and scripts from the PC to the mouse and vice versa and even back them all up to an external file which can be read by the software. This means if you make a bunch of macros (for example) on one computer you can save them on a flash drive and load them as needed on a different computer. This ability to share your custom scripts and macros with other Storm Sentienl Advance users is simple amazing and really goes to show that Cooler Master listened to what the gaming community wants.

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The last tab is simply a way to get updates the software and your mouse via the internet.

Overall we really like the software which comes with the Storm Sentinel since it is fairly easy to use while being extremely versatile. It incorporates everything we could possibly want in a piece of software. The fact that you don’t have to have it running all the time in the background is a nice bonus and something we have come to expect from high end mice. The only thing we really don’t like about it is the overall cluttered look of every interface. Maybe a customizable skin should be in Cooler Master’s cards for their next update.
 
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AkG

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Subjective Impressions and Testing

Subjective Impressions and Testing


General, Everyday Usage



Unless you are an extremely hardcore gamer, a paid professional or a World of Warcraft addict, the majority of any peripheral’s daily usage will consist of more mundane things than saving the world. To this end as good a mouse made for gaming also has to be comfortable for long-term “normal” uses like surfing the Internet, manipulating photos in Photoshop and even more general “boring” tasks like manipulating your on screen pointer in your OS of choice. Over the course of two weeks where this mouse was used as the lone human interface device, this is what we found.

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In daily tasks, two or three of the 4.5 gram weights added to the base of the unit and a reasonable 1250-1500DPI seemed to be near perfect for most situations. It was just as comfortable at the end of a marathon Photoshop and Excel chart making session as it was at the beginning. Only occasionally did I find it necessary to up the weights to the maximum for precision work in Photoshop. It was during this occasional blip that I wished for even more weight since I had to resort to lowering the DPI (in addition to all 22.5 grams installed) to get it “perfect”. Luckily, this was one of the few times I needed to do this and with all the distinct profiles customized for CS3 and Excel it was extremely easy to switch between a Photoshop macro laden profile and a Excel laden profile to get the job done. This is actually were the different colours of the OctoShade LEDs actually came in handy (especially the forward facing ones) as with just a quick glance I could instantly know what profile was being used.

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When it came to Internet usage it did become apparent that 5 profiles really is enough as even with two profiles set for Photoshop and Excel it left one profile “free” for more mundane uses like surfing the web and creating/editing/sending emails. With many mice, for long term surfing I usually have to resort to setting the mouse at a 45° left leaning angle to keep it comfortable, yet surprisingly I didn’t have to do this with the Storm Sentinel Advance. Even after hours of research on the web (and remapping the right mouse button to COPY), I can say this mouse made research note taking down right easy. This may sound odd, as most people can use a mouse for hours without problems, but when you have bi-lateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, long-term comfort is hard to come by so this is high praise indeed.


Gaming Impressions


General usage is all well and fine but for a product labeled, marked and designed as a “gaming mouse”…using this product for purely mundane tests is like using a tank to crush a rat. Basically, it’s overkill. So, with unrestrained glee we let loose the hounds of war and subjected the Sentinel to everything from a Crysis gaming marathon to classic StarCraft. When the dust settled this is what was found out about this essential peripheral.

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When all was said and done, I walked away with mixed yet mainly positive feelings when it comes to the tech-laden Sentinel. The wrap around rubber grips work well for most situations but with enough grease and sweat it can get slippery. The rubber Cooler Master has opted for reminds us a lot of the rubber used in Logitech gaming mice, so it could use a few dimples to help increase a sure grip. The same cannot be said about the top two mice buttons as they are not rubber coated and the slippery plastic caused a few key shots to miss in FPS games. This is a pet peeve of mine since many gaming mice on the market today pay attention to good palm grip surfaces but the input surfaces are sadly neglected. If you use a more palm grip approach we doubt this will be an issue as your whole finger will be depressing the button. However, if you use a grip approach the tip of your finger may slip and you too may suffer the indignity of being fragged without ever getting a shot off.

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On the positive side, on the fly DPI and profile changes for quick transitions from (low DPI) long range head shots to (higher DPI) mêlée combat was down right easy. However, I did find it faster to set different profiles to different DPI levels than mess with the onboard DPI changing tool. This combined with a few short scripts on a couple of the profiles made the game almost too easy. I am sure that with enough practice this mouse could really be an essential tool in any gamer’s arsenal.


Response Rate Testing


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As usual, we measured the response rate with the extremely small and resource light program called DX_Mouse_Timer. The Sentinel Advance advertises response times as low as 1ms and it seems to do this right out of the box. The above results were taken right after we plugged this mouse in for the first time and thus we did nor have to mess with any software to get this. As you can see it easily gets better than 1ms and we got a peak response of 0.97ms or 1028Hz. This may not be the highest we have ever seen….but it is still impressive and more importantly just proves that Cooler Master was being slightly conservative in any boasts their PR department may have made about the sensor’s power.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


When I first heard about the Cooler Master Storm Sentinel, I had some mixed thoughts. The cynical half of me thought that adding “fluff” like a LEDs, and an OLED screen was a lot like putting lipstick on a pig….sure the bacon will taste just as good but did it NEED the lipstick? The tech geek side of me drooled at the thought of all those high tech goodies and wondered if this was going to be as good as it sounded. I can honestly say that after looking at, holding…fondling….caressing and using this mouse my tech geek side bested every other though since this is one hell of a mouse. Is it perfect? No. But pretty darn close since opinions regarding what constitutes the perfect peripheral varies from one person to the next. As such, I can only give you my educated opinion regarding this product.

Over the years I have used many so called “gaming mice” and most are OK for playing games, but usually fall flat when it comes to the other 85% of my computing experience. Heck, many gaming mice are epic failures at mundane tasks like photo editing, surfing the web or even editing spreadsheets. In my opinion, a mouse has to be comfortable for long periods of time and be flexible enough to handle a variety of tasks while still holding its own when gaming. The Cooler Master Storm Sentinel Advance is one of those few mice that I liked enough that I would not only see myself buying but also recommend to my friends. That is high praise indeed.

The Sentinel has so many top-notch aspects that it is next to impossible to point to just one and say that it stood out. However, it is the OLED same OLED screen that we had initial doubts about that makes this mouse so darn flexible. The ability to scale from extremely low DPI to extremely high DPI without the need for any software may not be unique but knowing what DPI you are changing it to and being able to independently adjust the X and Y axis by just using the mouse controls is a godsend.

While the onboard memory may not be a unique feature, Cooler Master’s take on it is interesting to say the least. I personally love having the possibility for a ton of profiles and being allowed to only load the ones I need. This makes it infinitely more flexible and adaptable to any situation than nearly every other mouse I have used.

Is this mouse the perfect mouse we have all been looking for all these years? No, it is not but like I said before: it is pretty darn close in my opinion. For its kick ass performance, its flexibility and its good ergonomics we feel fully justified in giving our highest accolade: the Dam Good Award. As for its amazing and useful implementation of technology (the OLED screen and properly implemented onboard memory) we also feel justified in saying it is pretty Dam Innovative as well. Congratulations Cooler Master for getting it so right the first time out. We expect even better things in the future from the “Storm line” and can hardly wait to see what you have in up your sleeves for the enthusiast community next.


Pros:

- Comfortable
- FIVE OctoShade LED’s….which can be turned off
- On the fly DPI change
- Sub 1ms polling rate
- 5600DPI sensor
- FIVE useful onboard profiles
- Can adjust DPI (X and Y independently) using just the mouse
- Lightweight software interface program
- Powerful customization options
- Adjustable weights


Cons

- No Horizontal Scrolling
- Weights only come in one size, and there are only 5 of them
- Really needs grips on left and right buttons (can be slippery when abused)

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