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Posted by Chris Scott Barr on Mar 12, 2013

Review – Thermaltake Level 10 M Mouse

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A few years ago, Thermaltake made waves when they teamed up with BMW for their Level 10 case. With completely separate chambers for your motherboard, power supply, hard drives, and optical drives, it was something that the world had never really seen. They ended up expanding their “Level” series by making a variety of different cases, with similar themes. However, last year, they decided to take things further by collaborating with BMW on the new Level 10 M Mouse, which we’re taking a look at today.

First Look

Just like the first case to earn the Level 10 name, this mouse will definitely catch your eye. The mouse comes in one of four colors: black, green, red and white. Regardless of which color you select, the metal base will remain silver, and in the case of the black or white mice, the metal strip down the center will also be silver. However, on the red and green versions, that strip will be black. We’re going to be focusing on the black version of the Level 10 M, as that is the one we were sent for review.

So what really stands out about this mouse? The better question is “what doesn’t?” The contrast of silver metal with the matte black of the rubber-coated top is striking at first glance. But then details like the rows of hexagon-shaped holes in the top, and the pulsing dragon icon really draw you in.

On the top you’ll find your traditional left and right mouse buttons. On the left is a rectangle that is lit by an LED. . On the right button there are four small lights, which are used to indicate which DPI setting you are currently using. Between those buttons is a scrollwheel, which is the third and final place you’ll find an LED. The scrollwheel only moves up and down, there is no side-scrolling function on this mouse.

Aside from the metal strip in the center, the top of the mouse is coated in a rubber-like material which produces a nice surface to grip. You will also find the same coating on the two function buttons found on each side of the mouse. On the left side, in addition to the function buttons you’ll find a four-way button that is used to select your DPI. You can also press in on the button itself to cycle through the five available profiles.

At the top of the mouse is an odd little protrusion with the dragon logo on it. I’m not terribly sure what this is for, other than simple aesthetics. This is where the braided mouse cable comes out, but I can’t see any advantages to having it come out here, instead of where it would, without the extra piece. At the other end of the braided cable is your gold-plated USB connector. It actually comes with a cap that is attached to the cable, so as not to get lost. This too, is mostly for looks, as it’s pretty hard to damage a USB connector.

There are two hex screws that can be found on the mouse. One is on the top, while the other is on the right side, toward the back. Much like the R.A.T. mice that we’ve seen in the past, these are used making physical adjustments to the mouse. These aren’t drastic changes, however. The one on the top can be used to modify the height by up to 5mm. By adjusting the side screw you can change the angle at which the top of the mouse sits by 5 degrees, either direction.

As for things not actually attached to the mouse, Thermaltake gives you a carrying bag for your mouse

Comfort

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If a mouse can by physically altered to better fit your hand, then you’re probably going to have somewhat high expectations for the level of comfort. To this day, the R.A.T. 7 remains one of my favorite mice, for that exact reason. So how does the customization on the Level 10 M stack up?

To be honest, the ability to slightly modify the height and angle of the top of the mouse doesn’t really do much to change how comfortable I find the mouse. My biggest issues tend to be with the sides of the mouse, and the positioning of the extra buttons. Thus, the two areas that can be adjusted have no bearing on the things I want to change.

My first issue is with the sides of the mouse. The mouse doesn’t appear to be that wide, however, when my hand is resting on the mouse, my thumb and ring finger sit just under 2 ¾ inches apart. To make sure I wasn’t crazy, I went ahead and measured about a dozen other mice that I’ve got here in the office, and aside from Logitech’s G600, (which is a strange mouse to hold, anyway), it’s got the widest grip of any I tried. Now I’ve got large hands, and I found it uncomfortable, so I can only imagine how those with smaller hands would feel.

On each side of the mouse are two function buttons. The front button is smaller than the rear on both sides. I found that the smaller button was significantly more difficult to press on both sides. Also, the DPI switch is positioned very close to the rear button on the left side. It also sticks out considerably further than the other buttons, and takes very little pressure to activate. This means that it’s very easy to accidentally change your settings when trying to press that other button, or just when you’re moving your hand from the keyboard to your mouse.

For a mouse that touts customization, I’m disappointed that there is no way to adjust the weight on this mouse. The Level 10 M is definitely a heavier mouse, due to its metal frame, and while I personally don’t mind the weight, there are definitely plenty of people out there who are going to wish it were lighter.

The final comfort issue I have is with the standard left and right mouse buttons. They tend to feel a bit stiff, and even after spending a considerable amount of time using the mouse for both gaming and everyday functions, I never really got used to it. This is obviously a personal preference, but it does affect my enjoyment of the mouse. Also, while this isn’t technically a comfort issue, I was disappointed to find that after a week or two of use, the left button started squeaking very badly. Now, almost every time it’s clicked, you’ll hear a sound that’s not altogether unlike the rodent that bears the same name as this device. That extra function has grated on my nerves since it began.

I have been harping on the negative side of things, but it’s not all bad. The ventilation holes do seem to have the desired effect of keeping my hand somewhat cool. It’s a passive form of cooling, so don’t expect a cool breeze on your palm, but due to the overall shape, and the holes, it helps.

The two levels of adjustment on the mouse can be nice, especially since it is an ambidextrous mouse. A lot of right-handed mice sit at more of an angle, which you can start to replicate due to this feature. And since you can adjust the angle both ways, left-handed users can have that same feeling as well.

Software

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Thermaltake and BMW spent a lot of time and effort making sure that the Level 10 M looks good. In that, I think they accomplished their goal pretty well. However, the same cannot be said for the software. Like so many pieces of accompanying software that we see, they appear to have tried too hard to make it look flashy and cool. Instead, we’re left with an ugly piece of software that feels the need to advertise the very mouse that we’re using it with.

You might look at the picture above, and blame some of the jagged lines and such on compression. Definitely give it a click so you can see it in its original size. As you can see, the edges on the slanted “Macro Key”, “Light Option”, “Profile management” (not sure why the ‘M’ isn’t capitalized here) and “Performance” buttons have very jagged lines. Also the hex-shaped buttons at the top right look terrible where the background is transparent.

The obvious answer is that it’s simply a matter of poor compression on their end, in an attempt to keep the software’s footprint as small as possible. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. See the buttons that say “Air Through” and “3D Axis Movement”? If you click on either of those, a video opens up, which is essentially an advertisement for those features on your mouse. After tracking down the location of the files on my computer, I found that combined, they take up 37.4MB of space. The entire download for the software is only 44.7MB. If they were really worried about keeping the download small, they’d have left out those two videos.

Once you’ve opened up the software, you’ll see tabs for five different profiles, and the option for “Normal” or “Battle” modes. This affects the overall lighting of your mouse. Normal keeps the lights at whatever colors you’ve set it to. However, “Battle” mode will have LEDs pulsing blue. However, if you press your mouse buttons often enough, the mouse will stay illuminated, and cycle through all 7 different colors. Once you slow down, it will go back to pulsing blue.

Programming the buttons is a fairly simple ordeal. Just click on the picture of the button you want, and then click on what you want it to do. I don’t really understand why they call macro keys “T Keys” under key assignment. But if you click on that, it brings up the option to assign macros you’ve created. You can also select a specific keystroke that you want it to produce, or have it launch a program.

Another annoyance I have with the software is that if you click on any of the four primary option buttons, it opens a new window. Want to adjust the lighting? New window. Save a profile? New window. It’s a small issue, yes, but it’s just one more annoyance with this already clunky software.

Going back to the lighting, I’m disappointed that there are only seven different colors you can choose from. You also can’t control the intensity of the lights, or make them pulse, outside of Battle mode. You can, however, set all three lighted ares to different colors, if that strikes your fancy.

The other functions of the software are pretty easy to use, such as programming macros and setting your DPI levels and such. I was happy to see that they do allow you to modify the lift off distance, which can be essential, depending on your mousing habits.

I have one final complaint for the software, and that is the on-screen display that they enable by default. Every time you press any of the function buttons on the left side (provided you’ve left them set to their defaults), you’ll be greeted with an on-screen display, letting you know what you’ve done. This means a symbol for “back” and “forward”, or a banner describing the DPI, and which level that is. If you open the software in an attempt to disable this option, you will be disappointed. The option is only found by right-clicking on the system tray icon, and selecting “Disable OSD.”

While the software isn’t particularly difficult to use, it’s ugly, unintuitive, and bloated.

Conclusion

Thermaltake teamed up with BMW to make a stylish mouse that would catch your eye, and perhaps even be a conversation piece. In that, the definitely succeeded. I love the overall look of the Level 10 M. While it’s not a radical design, it still looks great sitting on my desk. Unfortunately, I think they failed when it comes to comfort, which is far more important than looks, when it comes to a gaming mouse. With the MSRP sitting at $100, there is very little other than sheer looks that would make me interested in purchasing this mouse.

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