Reviews

Part 2 - This $37 mouse is why you shouldn't spend $150 on gaming mice

Disclaimer: this post has not been sponsored in any way, and simply reflects my real-world experiences. Opinions are my own.

I've never been one to shy away from alternative brands. While there's something to be said for "tried and true," the reality is that few brands ever are. Loyalties shift from generation to generation, and for good reason: innovation brings competition, and sometimes the other guy gets it right. Or, at the very least, gets it cheaper.

In Part 1 of this review, I detailed my quest for a gaming mouse that would match the features I needed without suffering the same flaws as my previous mouse. Now, I say "gaming mouse", but in reality, my use-case is about 90% productivity and 10% gaming. It just happens that high-precision tasks are often best-served by gaming mice with quality optical sensors and extra programmable buttons.

I settled on the GameSir GM300, which regularly retails for $50 and was on sale for $37.50 at the time of my purchase. Despite the budget price and brand, the features contend admirably with much more expensive mice from the likes of Logitech, Razer, and Corsair, and that was enough to get my attention.

So, how does it fare after using it as my daily driver for over a week?

Unboxing

Look & Feel

Design

Let's get something out of the way up-front: this is a mass-market product sold under several brands who had little to no say in its design aside from an illuminated logo on the back. In addition to GameSir, you'll also find the same mouse sold by such "household" names as Delux, CROAD, and Devour.

Still, there's something to be said for what the design achieves. It doesn't look too serious, too playful, or too plain. It's somewhere in the middle: just… comfortable.

This is further aided by the customization options provided by the magnetic wings and weights. As an ambidextrous mouse, you get a thumb rest on either side (or both, if that's your thing) which I found to be perfectly sized for my hand without protruding too far. The two weights are 6 grams each and do make a tangible difference in the mouse's feel, but at roughly 115 grams by itself, it's a little on the heavy side to begin with. Balance is the name of the game here--I found I prefer one weight on the right side to offset my thumb, and it's a configuration I may have a hard time going back from.

Grip

After one week, I've found I naturally settle into a grip somewhere between "palm" and "claw" that produces very little fatigue--something not really possible for my average-sized hands on many large mice. And the GM300 is large, but only just. The body measures 4.75" x 2.8" x 1.5", so expect some pinkie drag if you're not careful. Coming from a Logitech G602, the more modest size is a blessing more than a curse for me, but your mileage may vary.

Whatever your grip, just be prepared for it to be permanently imprinted on the soft-touch plastic covering most contact points. It's not bad, mind you--in fact, it feels good while it lasts. But if one week is all it takes to show wear, I don't expect it to stay soft very long. The price you pay for a budget mouse, I suppose.

Buttons

Speaking of blessings and curses, one concern I had with the GM300 going in was how the ambidextrous side buttons would play out on the daily. On the bright side, I'm happy to report that accidental clicks of the non-dominant side buttons have been few and far between. It's great to have a few extra functions mapped to the mouse, whether that's refreshing web pages or executing special attacks in games.

On the other hand, I wish they were a little easier to press when I want to. Only the forward buttons are really accessible, with the back button on both sides requiring a little extra maneuvering to reach. That's not a problem for regular desktop usage, but in fast-paced games, it limits the extra buttons' usefulness. Shifting them half a centimeter forward would make all the difference here.

At least they're satisfying to click.

Then there's the scroll wheel. I actually really like the tension between steps--not too stiff and not too loose--but there's a stupid little design flaw in the rubber grip that sabotages its functionality. The rubber ridges in the grip don't line up with steps in the mouse wheel, so it tends to rest on a half-step. Next time you scroll, you're liable to accidentally register the opposite direction before going the way you want. Again, it's a minor inconvenience for desktop usage, but for gamers, it could be a real problem when you're out of ammo and trying to switch to your sidearm before the other guy gets the kill.

Performance

Sensor

One requirement for any mouse I buy is wireless connectivity. I enjoy gaming, but I'm no professional, and I'm more than happy to compromise a bit on weight to get rid of an annoying cable. (Latency really isn't an issue anymore.) Whereas other mice charge nearly double for the privilege, the GM300 casually offers both 2.4GHz wireless and USB Type-C in a single model. GameSir claims a 1ms response time on wireless mode, and personally, I can't tell the difference when wired, so for a mouse that seemingly wants to be all things to all users, that's a win.

At the heart of the GM300 is a Pixart PMW3389 optical sensor that boasts a polling rate of up to 1,000 Hz and a max DPI of 16,000. But more is not always better, and while those numbers are certainly impressive, I found the mouse most comfortable at 250 Hz and 1,300 DPI. Going any higher on polling rate will slightly reduce battery life at no tangible benefit to the average user, and DPI is a measure of sensitivity, not accuracy. In the end, these values will depend on you and your tastes.

Once I had mine dialed in, the GM300 was a joy to use. I've used other optical mice before, but the PMW3389 was a new experience entirely. From gaming to simply navigating the desktop, everything was buttery-smooth and pin-point accurate--or, well, pixel accurate. One time, I even had to double-check that mouse acceleration was turned off because it handles so darn well in both snap-turning and hair's-breadth adjustments. Technically, you get five DPI profiles to choose from at any given time, but you'll probably only need one. Which is good: reprogram that DPI button to something else!

Benchmarks

BenQ mouse rate test results According to BenQ's mouse rate test, those specs are no lie, either. At each level, the polling rate averaged very close to the advertised speed.

HumanBenchmark test results Furthermore, two rounds of Human Benchmark's reaction time test averaged 235ms--more a reflection of my skills than the mouse itself, but proof that it's certainly not holding me back. For reference, I achieved the exact same result on a Logitech G602.

Last, but certainly not least, the GM300's built-in battery reliably lasted a total of 5 days' heavy usage on a charge. That's with the RGB LEDs off, but since they're only placed in the logo and scroll wheel, you're not missing much anyway. Unfortunately, measuring how long the battery takes to charge again is much harder since there's no indication of battery level beyond a flashing red light when running low. GameSir claims only two hours, so make of that what you will.

I wish I could say that's a good result. But there's a huge caveat to battery life that I'd be remiss not to mention: sleep mode. As any mouse should, the GM300 sleeps when not in use. But when I say "sleep", I mean it goes into a coma. More often than not, input is required to wake it back up again, and that can be a problem depending on what your cursor happens to be hovering. I've gotten in a habit of scrolling the mouse wheel to avoid any disastrous input, but it's a habit I shouldn't have had to form.

Naturally, if you opt to use a wired connection instead, you can avoid sleep mode entirely.

Software

As evidenced by said sleep mode, software can often make or break the hardware experience. And if there's ever a weak point of off-brand gaming mice, it's the desktop software… usually.

G-Core desktop software

While the G-core configuration suite isn't a massive departure from other Chinese mice, it takes a few important steps in the right direction. The interface is clean and well-organized, and manages to be stylish without feeling like it jumped off a 13-year-old's desktop from 2008.

Just about everything you'd expect from high-end gaming mice is here: you've got independent X/Y DPI settings, polling rate, mouse speed, and acceleration options, programmable buttons, macros, and RGB settings. You're limited to three profiles, but the tradeoff is that they're stored directly on the mouse itself, so they come with you to any PC you choose. If you require more profiles, you can save configurations to your PC and slot them in and out in a couple of clicks.

The downside to all this is that the software has no way of watching for certain applications to take focus and automatically apply different profiles for different programs, nor can you assign a hotkey to switch profiles on the mouse. This is further compounded by the bizarre inability to rename configurations, so you're stuck with such memorable titles as "Configuration2_1". Using a hex editor like HxD, I was able to modify my exported profiles to the titles I wanted and re-import them, but that's a step the average user should never have to take. At the very least, I'd have preferred profiles exported to plain text.

The other big omission is any kind of battery indicator. As mentioned previously, the only way to tell when battery is low is to watch for flashing red LEDs on the mouse itself. Trouble is, if you turn off RGB via the software, this warning is disabled too. Instead, you should leave RGB enabled and simply set the color to black. This effectively turns it off to save battery, but still allows the warning to display. It's an obtuse workaround for a problem that shouldn't exist.

Despite its flaws, I don't actually hate the software. It's much lighter than other suites (currently sitting at just 1MB of RAM usage on my PC) and what it does, it does well enough. I just wish GameSir had taken the time to customize more than the logo to fix some rather obvious user experience issues.

GameSir GM300

Conclusion

There's something to be said for "tried and true". But there's also something to be said for competition. At one-third the cost of comparable mice, the GameSir GM300 is by any name a strong competitor for budget-conscious buyers. Aggressive sleep mode, a counterproductive scroll grip, and lackluster software are minimal compromises for the average user, and there's even plenty of appeal for more serious gamers. It's just an extremely comfortable mouse to use, whether for gaming or productivity--though its weaknesses do reveal themselves more in the former use-case.

When trying to be something for everyone, there's always a risk that you'll end up being nothing to no-one. That's far from the case here, and you should definitely consider the GM300 before automatically turning to Logitech or Razer. It all depends on what hurts more for you: shelling out 3x the cash for something only slightly superior, or settling for the compromises a lower price tag brings.

For me, and no doubt many others, it's nice to have that alternative.