Alienware is infamous for gaming rigs and laptops, but did you know they also do peripherals like gaming mice, keyboards and headsets? They recently loaned me the Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 alongside the Alienware m17 for review.
This is the first gaming mouse I’ve ever used, primarily because I’m not a PC gamer and use a MacBook Pro for pretty much everything. Between the excellent touchpad and the fact that nobody games on a MacBook, I’ve never needed one.
So did the AW958 impress a first time gaming mouse user?
Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 Review
While I have never used a gaming mouse before, I’m not ignorant of some of the things a good one should have. A great optical sensor for pixel-perfect accuracy, programmable buttons, great fit and feel in the hand. Here are the specs:
- Sensor: Pixart PMW 3360
- Buttons: 13
- DPI: 12,000
- Memory: 512Kb on-board
- Speed: 250 IPS, 50G acceleration
- Connection: USB cable — 1.8mm braided
- Color: Black/ Silver
- RGB: AlienFX 16.8million colors
- Dimensions(WxDxH): 9.6 cm x 4.04 cm x 13 cm
- Weight: 197g
The AW958 checks all the basics. Starting with the optical sensor, a Pixart PMW 3360 which I’ve read rave reviews about. This sensor gives the AW958 up to 12,000 dots per inch(DPI) of accuracy. This isn’t class leading as I’ve seen other mice go up to 16,000DPI. That said, I found the 12000DPI to be much more than I needed for anything.
Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 — Design and build
The first thing that struck me about the AW958 was its size. At 9.6cm wide and 13cm long, this is one of the biggest mice I’ve ever used. I’m a hybrid Palm/ Claw grip and even my long fingers could never find a comfortable fit for this mouse.
Alienware has included a 3-position adjustable palm rest and hot-swappable side wings that make the AW958 more flexible to a wide range of hand sizes and grips. The wings attach to the main body using powerful magnets and are easy to swap out.
But even after several days of use, I couldn’t get comfortable with its large size. So if you have small to regular size hands, the AW959 might not work for you, even with its adjustability.
Which is a shame because the AW958 feels exceptionally well made. A sturdy plastic makes up the main chassis which is crowned with the silver anodised aluminium right and left click buttons. These use Omron switches which are rated for a lifetime of 50 million satisfying clicks.
Sitting in the middle is a gorgeous metallic 3-directional scroll wheel. It’s got two notched rubber rings for tactility and the whole design reminds me of an expensive platinum wedding ring. You can nudge the scroll wheel left or right making it flip document pages or go back and forth in web browsing. It can also be pressed down as a button.
Moving towards the rear half of the AW958, the palm rest is a nice soft plastic and is adjustable to three positions. Alienware’s signature triple converging lines cut through the middle of the palm rest, symmetrically dividing the mouse into front and aft sections. These are RGB lit and can be customised to a variety of modes and up to 16.8m colours.
Finally, we have a USB-A cable that is a generous, 1.8mm long braided nylon. It’s light but durable and won’t be fraying anytime soon. Alienware doesn’t offer a USB-C variant so MacBook users are out of luck.
Overall, the AW958 is a really well built and handsome looking mouse. I just wish it was 20% smaller — that would be perfect.
Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 — Pixel perfect
The AW958 has everything a person needs for a performant mouse. Starting with the PMW3360 optical sensor that has a 12,000DPI which is way more than the average player will ever need. I found my sweet spot around 250-500DPI with anything higher than that leading to really wild movement of the pointer.
The AW958 allows you to have five different DPI settings and switch between them on-the-fly using the dedicated DPI switch that sits behind the scroll wheel. A nudge left or right will cycle through your preset DPI’s which can be configured in the Alienware Command Center.
Your profiles are saved onto the mouse itself thanks to the 512Kb onboard memory. This means you can safely use the AW958 on another PC but still have your custom settings available to without needing the Alienware software.
The AW958 also has a whole heap of other great tech inside. A polling rate of 1ms means literally no lag time in response to your actions while a 250 IPS married with 50G acceleration make it insanely responsive to movements.
When playing Destiny 2, I could see immediate and noticeable differences when I switched between DPI levels. Zooming was tighter and lining up headshots so much easier. However, the higher DPI levels were so ridiculous that at first, I thought the mouse was broken.
My pointer was moving too quickly that I’d miss shots at the slightest hand shake. However, in Diablo III I enjoyed the higher DPI to precisely and quickly point my attacks and move about the screen much faster.
Now, if you have arms the strength of He-Man and find that the 197g weight of AW958 too light, flying off the desk with each move, have no fear. At the back of the mouse are two empty spaces where you can slot in the included weight bars.
Each bar contains two smaller 5g silver bars which you can slot in to give the AW958 more heft in hand. With all the weights in place, I found the AW958 ridiculously heavy and unpleasant to use.
Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 — Even more buttons
We’ve already covered half the buttons on the AW958 but there’s more. The right wing where your thumb rests has the remainder. The wings are made of a pleasant soft-touch rubber that’s both comfortable and grippy for when your fingers get sweaty.
You get two of these thumb wings in the box; one with two buttons and the other with six. Each of these buttons can be assigned to a function or a macro using the Command Center. I found the six-button wing to be quite impractical as there was just no comfortable or easy way to get my thumb across those tiny buttons.
I stuck with the two-button wing and suspect most people will too, seeing as Alienware recently updated the Elite mouse to have only two and three button options. Swapping out these wings is really easy though. They attach to the AW958 using strong magnets which keep them really snug.
Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 — Verdict
The AW958 was my first gaming mouse and it left me with a lot of mixed feelings. It’s got a striking design I love with a build and finish that’s top notch. The performance was great and the Alienware Command Centre makes it easy to customise.
However, it’s freakishly large and heavy. I simply couldn’t get comfortable with it even with several days of use. The six button wing is impractical for gaming as it’s hard to get your thumb across each of them without great strain. And it doesn’t help that Dell has replaced this model with the newer and improved(slightly) AW959 which retails for AUD $176 at Dell.com.
For these reasons, I’d pass on the AW958. There are definitely better mice to be had at much lower prices.
The Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 was provided to PowerUp! by Alienware Australia for the purpose of this review.