Review – SteelSeries Kana

There are times when I think to myself how great it is to be a PC gamer in this day and age. Ten years ago the closest thing to a gaming mouse you’d find was one with a pair of side buttons. These days there are mice to fit ever gamer, regardless of your preferences. Steelseries has made a name for themselves by listening to real gamers, and making products that people want. Today we’re going to look at the Kana, a mouse that’s meant to fall somewhere between the Sensei and the Kinzu.

First Look

The Kana comes in two flavors, White/Blue and Black/Orange. We have the Black/Orange version, which definitely has a Halloween look to it. You’ll also notice that the mouse is symmetrical, something that has become common for the company. The top of the mouse is a rubbery black surface, which gives you just a little extra grip. You’ll find the orange scrollwheel with a single LED inside. Just below the scrollwheel is your orange CPI switch.

On each side you’ll find a single button coated in the same black rubber. The buttons are much larger than you would normally find, measuring roughly an inch and a half in length. The sides of the mouse are a plain black plastic, which serves as a slight contrast to the rubber.

Underneath, you’ll see a translucent orange plastic base, which glows just slightly around the edges when sitting down. You’re also going to see the three teflon mouse glides, which cover roughly 16% of the base. Finally, the braided USB cable features the same black and orange color scheme that you see on the rest of the mouse.

       

Software

Steelseries has done a great job of making sure that you only need a single piece of software to manage virtually all of their products. The SteelSeries Engine if fairly polished, though for this particular mouse, there aren’t a lot of features to use. As with any other mouse that the company makes, you can remap all five of the available buttons (that excludes the CPI switch). These can be single clicks, or macros. They’re using the same tried and true macro editor that we’ve seen in the past.

The settings tab is where you’ll find my disappointment. You can change the CPI and LED intensity for two different settings, which are controlled by the CPI switch. You can adjust the CPI from between 400-3200. Some people might say that 3200 isn’t quite enough, but that’s not where my complaint lies.

When you attempt to adjust the CPI, you are only given four choices. 400, 800, 1600 and 3200. The jump from 1600 to 3200 is pretty steep. My comfortable everyday mousing speed falls somewhere in between those two, so this lack of customization was pretty disheartening. This is definitely something you’ll want to keep in mind when considering this mouse.

In the Properties tab, you’ll find the ability to switch mouse profiles when you launch certain programs. I generally have a different layout for FPS than I do for RPGs, so when I open Battlefield 3, I’m not still stuck on my settings from Skyrim until I can get a chance to hop out of the game to fix it.

Finally, the statistics page can give you an idea of how much you use certain buttons over a period of time. This isn’t really all that useful, except for satisfying your curiosity.

       

 

Comfort And Performance

The first thing I’ll mention here is that this is a very light mouse; probably the lightest I’ve used. For me, it’s not something I’m fond of. I prefer a mouse with a good bit of weight, and this one only comes in at 72 grams. that’s less than ¾ the weight of the Sensei. I won’t say that this is detrimental, but weight is something you should consider when looking at a mouse.

The overall size of the mouse is slightly smaller than the Sensei, but is still fairly comfortable, even for someone with relatively large hands. It took a little time to get used to the two side buttons, and I still can’t say that I’m terribly fond of them. My complaint here is that I would prefer two buttons for my thumb, rather than one. That said, they handled the execution of the single side buttons wonderfully.

The Sensei had two buttons on each side, which seemed like a great idea. However, without fail, I accidentally hit one of the left side numerous times throughout the day. It’s bad enough that I’ve actually disabled them completely. The reason that they’re so easily hit is because they stick out just a bit. When I grab my mouse, I tend to put pressure on my thumb and ring finger. My ring finger rests high on the side, which is where the buttons are. More often than not, grabbing my mouse results in a click.

The buttons on the Kana are considerably different. These are flush with the sides, with a small area cutout around the lower edges. Since they don’t stick out at all, I’ve not experienced any issues with accidental clicks. The buttons are also rather long, which makes hitting them much easier. I’ve never had trouble with my thumb buttons, but left-side buttons still aren’t terribly common, so my ring finger doesn’t get much practice with that. Being an inch and a half long, my finger is resting on the button, no matter which way I grip it.

The teflon mouse glides work just as well as you would imagine. Whether you’re using a stiff teflon mousing surface, or a cloth mousepad, it’s going to glide smoothly. Being as light as it is, one might argue that it moves too easily over some surfaces.

Conclusion

With a retail price of $50, this can be considered just on the high end of budget mice. Overall, I’d say that the Kana is a solid piece of hardware for the price, as long as you keep a few things in mind. First, this is a very light mouse. If you like your mice to have some weight to them, you’re not going to be happy. Also, you’re restricted to four CPI settings. As long as you’re happy with those things, then you should enjoy this mouse.

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The Good

  • Ambidextrous design
  • Well-placed side buttons
  • (Mostly) Great software

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The Bad

  • Only four CPI choices
  • Only a single side button
  • A little expensive for the features you get

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