Stylish, futuristic, but not practical.
The Level 10M Gaming Mouse is something you would get out of a mad scientist. Developed by Thermaltake, in partnership with BMW’s DesignWorks subsidiary, it is an abomination in design terms, a wacky show of technical prowess, of a design fueled by late night Red Bulls that somehow convinced the higher ups that it could work.
That is not to say the Level 10M does not work, but it certainly makes more sense of MadCatz R.A.T series of peripherals. The design is a result of extreme focus, tuned to deliver features that gamers could use and not just feel good about by reading them behind the box. It does not fully deliver, however, leaving a lot lacking. It bursts at the seam of trying to be different, stylish and useful, but all of those run parallel, never in tandem.
Level 10M’s immediate USP is its moddable state. It allows 5 degrees of height and sideways adjustment that lets you fine tune exactly how you want the mouse to feel in your palm. It’s a great addition to the traditional mouse design, as most mice suffer from being either to belly-ish or too flat, only catering to a particular style of grip. Allowing that to be adjusted gives the user more flexibility to find the desired grip and comfort.
What negates the benefits of this, though, is the overall design of the mouse. Even after a week or so of continuous use, in games and during normal PC use and work, I could not adjust to the length and weight of the mouse. Its bulk and its overtly futuristic design cuts never felt comfortable, and its length added to the uneasiness. I would always feel I am steering something too big for my hands. Of course, mileage varies, those with large hands will have no problem at all, and gamers who have already been using weights in their mouse should feel at home, as well. So this becomes quite subjective, but if you have fairly medium sized fingers and have never used a bulky mouse before, you may face problems coming to grips with the Level 10M (no puns intended).
Another cool feature (no pun intended again!) are the ventilation holes cut onto the surface where your index finger would lie. These are meant to provide some cooling during long gaming sessions, but I would not be able to tell if it does indeed work. I have destroyed many a mouse with my sweaty palm, but I did not notice any less of it using the Level 10M.
The Level 10M is an ambidextrous mouse but it is not optimized for use by south paws. The reason for this is that, despite having two side buttons, the button to change the profile and DPI is located on the right side, requiring some gymnastic with the little finger, which I would assume is not really comfortable. Another design flaw is that the profile and DPI button, which is combined into a single one, is just not intuitive to use. The button jolts out from the side like a joystick – moving up and down will change the DPI setting, and pressing it will change the profile. It is too easy to press the button by mistake while changing the DPI, and in an online match that could end in disastrous results. It would have helped had the button been placed in a comfortable position, but it lies after the mouse button 4 & 5, making it a long stretch to reach it.
In terms of build quality, Thermaltake has imbued the mouse with an overall aluminum casing which not only looks good and posh, but adds that feel of premium quality, something that tells you that it won’t break easily when you hold it in your hands.
Software & Performance
The Level 10M bundles with its own software, sharing the same red-metallic theme of the mouse. I am not too much of a fan of how it looks, but as long as it is functional, it gets the points. The software allows you to customize and store upto 5 profiles, each with its own set of macros, DPI setting and light options.
The buttons can be customized to launch a program or trigger a macro. They can also be assigned to a keyboard key, although the software does not allow a custom key; the user must select from a pre-set selection. This is a limitation if you like to assign the button to a specific key to use in the game, but most games now automatically detect mouse 4 & 5 as such, so it should not be too much of a problem.
The good part about the software is that it does not need to exist in your system tray. Settings will be saved to the mouse, and the same settings can be used on other PCs as well. The only thing you will miss out on are the on-screen prompts whenever you change a setting, but they do not work when a game is on so it sort of negates itself out.
Performance wise, Level 10M offered a standard experience, with smooth movements and the same great precision found on other premium mices. A note of caution though – do not change the lift-off settings in the software to zero, it will make the mouse unusable immediately, and you will need to either remote desktop or plug-in another mouse it make it work.
Level 10M tries too hard to take the stagnant gaming peripheral design to another level (somebody make me stop with the puns!). There are obvious design flaws that could be improved, and the styling also needs to be kept in check to be usable as well. That said this is a great start for Thermaltake and DesignWorks. I am eager to see what they have to offer with their next iteration.