Max DPI: 18,000
Size: 5.1 x 2.7 x 1.7 inches
Weight: 3.1 ounces
The SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless is a novel experiment — and like many novel experiments, it doesn't fully succeed. This is the first time that a major manufacturer has tried to engineer a honeycomb mouse specifically for massively multiplayer online (MMO) games. While that's a clever idea, the final product feels a little too cramped and unintuitive to fully deliver on the creative premise.
From a design perspective, there's nothing terribly wrong with the Aerox 9 Wireless. It's not going to change anyone's mind on the honeycomb aesthetic, but it's easy enough to hold. It performs well in-game, offers pretty RGB lighting and lasts a long time on a single charge.
Still, the primary purpose of the Aerox 9 Wireless is to offer a whopping 12 side buttons, and those buttons are simply too difficult to use. They don't feel distinct from one another, and it's unbelievably easy to hit the wrong one by accident. At $150, the Aerox 9 Wireless simply costs too much money for a peripheral that doesn't do what it's supposed to. Read on for our full SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless review.
SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless review: Design
The first thing you should know about the SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless is that it's a honeycomb mouse. If that term means anything to you, then you probably already know whether or not you might want to buy this device. If not: "Honeycomb" is a peculiar mouse design template that started cropping up about two years ago. Instead of a solid chassis, a honeycomb mouse has holes all over its surface. These holes theoretically make the mouse lighter, cooler and more aerodynamic, although the benefits mostly seem to be a matter of user preference.
While I'm not a honeycomb advocate, the fact that major companies such as SteelSeries have adopted the design speaks for itself. Still, I do have a tough time recommending it for the average PC gamer. When I held the mouse, I felt the holes digging into my fingers during long play sessions. My hands still sweated, and at 3.1 ounces, it's not radically different from non-superlight wireless mice, such as the 3.5-ounce Corsair Harpoon RGB Wireless. The overall shape isn't terrible, though, with an ergonomic profile that curves around the sides and elevates toward the back, favoring players with claw grips.
What sets the Aerox 9 Wireless apart from other honeycomb mice, however, is not its overall design, but rather its button layout. On the face of the mouse, there's a right button, a left button, a clickable scroll wheel and a dots-per-inch (DPI) sensitivity adjustment button. On the side, however, you'll find 12 thumb buttons, all numbered, in three rows of four buttons apiece.
This 12-button panel is the unique selling point of the Aerox 9 Wireless. However, it's also the mouse's weakest feature. Each of the 12 buttons is small and has precisely the same shape. Only the 5 button has a small bump to differentiate it from the rest. In theory, this bump helps users orient themselves. In practice, however, it's not large or distinctive enough to help navigate the buttons during the heat of in-game battle. Even after a few days with the mouse, I could barely tell where any button was, save for the four at the outermost edges.
SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless review: Features
The SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless runs on the SteelSeries Engine software, which is pretty good, as these programs go. You can adjust RGB lighting, customize DPI, reprogram buttons, create individual game profiles and so forth, all with relative ease.
My one quibble is that the Engine software has been a bit wonky at determining battery life lately, which was also an issue with the SteelSeries Aerox 5 Wireless. In my testing, the battery level would sometimes jump up or down about 5% for no discernible reason. On the other hand, the Aerox 9 Wireless' battery can last for 180 hours, depending on your lighting options, so you don't really need down-to-the-minute accuracy.
You can connect the Aerox 9 Wireless to your computer with either a USB dongle or Bluetooth connectivity. Both methods work well, and can be useful if you transition between a desktop and a laptop throughout the day.
The most distinctive feature of the Aerox 9 Wireless is, of course, its 12-button side panel. But that didn't work as well as I'd hoped, which we'll cover in the next section.
SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless review: Performance
Generally speaking, the SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless works well in-game. I tested the device with Age of Empires IV, Doom Eternal, Spellforce 3 and Final Fantasy XIV, and found that the mouse parsed every command quickly and correctly. I had no trouble building up medieval armies, gunning down demons or equipping new gear on a small band of adventurers in the first three games.
I paid special attention to Final Fantasy XIV, however, as the Aerox 9 Wireless is primarily an MMO mouse. This is where I ran into some trouble. While the mouse performed just fine when I was pointing and clicking, using the thumb buttons was another story.
In Final Fantasy XIV, you build up a wide range of skills, which the game automatically assigns to the number keys on your keyboard. I thought that having access to 12 thumb buttons would simplify my skill rotation, but it actually just made things more complicated. As mentioned above, it's not easy to differentiate any of the buttons, because they all feel about the same. I was able to eventually memorize the locations of 1 and 5, and feel my way around for some of the buttons on the outer edges. Everything in the middle was a bit of a jumble, however.
It's fair to say that the mouse has a steep learning curve. I'm sure that dedicated players will eventually figure out where each button is, and maybe even feel comfortable enough to assign multiple shortcuts to each key. But even after using the Aerox 9 Wireless for a few days, it was harder to play FFXIV with the mouse than without it. Compare and contrast to a mouse like the Razer Naga Pro, which lets you customize the number of buttons on the side panel.
SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless review: Verdict
The SteelSeries Aerox 9 Wireless is a difficult mouse to recommend. Its most distinctive feature works against it, while the rest of its features work just fine in simpler, cheaper mice, such as the Aerox 5. For the same price, the Naga Pro is a considerably better wireless MMO mouse, while the Logitech G502 Lightspeed is a considerably better all-purpose wireless gaming mouse.
If you adore honeycomb mice and MMOs, and want to buy a mouse from one of the best manufacturers on the market, I'll give the Aerox 9 Wireless a tentative recommendation. To the best of my knowledge, it's the only mouse that matches those particular criteria.