SteelSeries Kana Gaming Mouse Review

It seems like every month that we are looking at a gaming peripheral from a company targeting the gaming sector.  Even though some of these companies have created very impressive products like the new Corsair Vengeance range, many gamers will opt for a tried and tested brand instead, such as SteelSeries.
Today we are looking at their latest gaming mouse, the Kana which is positioned in the middle of their range between the Sensei and Kinzu V2 (although much closer to the Kinzu V2).
SteelSeries has been producing an varied range of gaming peripherals for quite some time now and, unlike a lot of manufacturers, this is all they do.  This means that all of their company resources are available for the development of innovative new gaming peripherals.
While the slight size and colour differences between the three Steelseries models might appear to be the only differences, there are also a number of changes on a technical level.
Kana Specification
  • Counts per inch: 3200
  • Frames per second: 3600
  • Inches per second: 130
  • Acceleration: 30G
  • Lift Distance: ~2 mm
  • Buttons: 6
  • Cable: 2 m / 6.5 ft (braided)

The packaging that SteelSeries have used for the Kana is very similar to what we’ve seen them use for other products in the past.  The mouse itself is encased within a form-fitted sheet of plastic which is part of an internal tray.  The outer box is constructed from thick cardboard to provide a good level of protection.  The front of the box has a simple design which features a large image of the mouse.  The front of the box also acts as a door which can be opened to reveal the mouse within.

Turning the box over reveals a lot more information about the Kana.  SteelSeries have illustrated some of the key features using two small pictures of the mouse which are annotated with certain numbers which correspond to the feature list below.  There is also a list of the key specifications of the mouse.  All the information on the box is repeated in a number of different languages.

As we have come to expect with SteelSeries products, the bundle is very small indeed.  In fact, the only item they include with the mouse is a quick start guide which details the system requirements and points us towards the SteelSeries website, to download the mouse software.

It’s clear that SteelSeries are trying to be a bit more adventurous with the aesthetic design of the Kana than they were with their previous models such as the Xai.  The mouse is finished almost exclusively in black with the exception of the mouse wheel and DPI switch which are both fluorescent orange.  These orange areas are illuminated during use.  This colour combination is unlikely to appeal to all gamers so it’s a good thing that there is a less offensive black and white version available.

SteelSeries have chosen to give the mouse a rubberised paint finish which helps you to grip the mouse securely during use.  It is also very soft to the touch which makes the mouse feel great.  This kind of finish is usually far more resilient to marks, scratches and other damage.  The build quality of the mouse seems excellent and it feels just as well built as the other mice we’ve tested in the SteelSeries range.

The actual form of the mouse is almost identical to all the other mice in SteelSeries’ range.  The Kana features an ambidextrous design which means that it can be used easily with both left and right hands.  Despite the simple shape of the mouse, it fits perfectly in the hand and is well suited to most gripping styles.

One of the only obvious features that differentiates the Kana from the rest of SteelSeries’ range is the button arrangement.  The browser forward and back buttons which feature on either side of the Xai have been replaced by two XL side buttons for easy rapid-fire.  These can be disabled or reassigned in SteelSeries Engine if necessary.

We are quite impressed by the mouse wheel on the Kana as SteelSeries have found the perfect balance between resistance and precision.  The mouse wheel provides just enough resistance that it is easy to flick just one ‘click’ on the wheel accurately but the wheel can be flicked through a number of clicks if required.

SteelSeries has followed the path of most high-end gaming peripheral manufacturers and has given the USB cable a durable cloth braiding which should improve the longevity of the mouse.  Rather than use a boring black braid, SteelSeries has used a black and orange braid which looks much more interesting and ties in nicely with the orange mouse-wheel.  The cable is 2m in length and terminates in a gold-plated USB connector.
Rather than include a software CD with the Kana, SteelSeries direct us to their website to download the software.  While this may seem to be a cost cutting measure, it ensures that you have the latest version of the mouse software installed when you get the mouse.  SteelSeries now use one piece of software for all their products which is called ‘SteelSeries Engine’.  It is available for both PC and Mac users.

The first page of the software handles the button assignments.  It lets us assign any of the mouse buttons to a number of different functions including custom macros.  The second page can be accessed using the menu at the top and lets us adjust the sensitivity and polling rate of the mouse.  You can adjust the sensitivity for two levels which are switchable using the button behind the wheel on the mouse.

On the third page of the configuration utility we are able to set up the software to automatically activate specific configuration profiles when certain games or applications are launched.  The fourth and final page gives us access to statistics that show us how often we press each mouse button.
The Kana fits very nicely in the hand thanks to the ergonomic shape that it shares with the rest of SteelSeries range, making it quite comfortable to use.  It is slightly narrower than the Xai which makes it perfect for those with smaller hands.  The Kana doesn’t glide anywhere near as smoothly as the Xai, though, and it has a slightly scratchy feeling as you move it around the mousepad.  Otherwise, performance is exactly as we would expect.  The 3200 DPI sensor tracked flawlessly throughout our tests, registering every movement accurately with no lapses at all.

SteelSeries haven’t exactly pushed the boundaries of aesthetic design with the Kana as it looks almost identical to all the other mice in their range.  The bright orange mousewheel and DPI button induce some excitement into the design but we can’t imagine that they will appeal to everyone’s tastes.  There is a black and white version available too, though, which will appeal to a wider spectrum of users.
Build quality is impressive, though, and the rubberised finish feels great in the hand.  We do question SteelSeries’ choice to use a single large button on either side rather than traditional browser forward and back buttons as it can be difficult to activate the one on the right hand side with your little finger.
Cost is also an important consideration for most gamers and, at a price of about £35 at Lambdatek, we feel that the Kana is a little expensive for an optical gaming mouse.  This said, it offers a number of interesting features which aren’t available on some models including the SteelSeries Engine configuration utility.
Pros
  • Rubberised finish.
  • Configuration utility.
  • Impressive build quality.
  • Good performance.
Cons
  • Glide could be smoother.
  • Colour scheme will divide opinion.
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About Yomal Malinda

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