When we first looked at the CM Storm Sentinel Advance 18 months ago, it was as part of a look at the first range of gaming peripherals from the CM Storm branch of Cooler Master.
Today we're taking a look at a slightly upgraded version, the CM Storm Sentinel Z3RO-G.
Slightly old school use of a 3 for an E aside, has this refresh kept it up at the top of the pack, or has it lost some of its charm? There is only one way to find out, so come with us now as we delve into the finer points of the Z3RO-G.
The specifications of the Z3RO-G is identical to the original Sentinel. Both have a twin 5600DPI sensor, the OLED screen and variable weighting. In fact it's difficult to see where the mouse differs from its predecessor just by looking at the specs.
|Available Color||Black and Grey|
|Material||Rubber Grip / ABS Plastic / Mesh Bezel / Metal Plate|
|Dimensions||(L) 135 X (W) 83.5 X (H) 40 mm / (L) 5.3 X (W) 3.3 X (H) 1.6 inch|
|Net Weight||161.5 g / 0.356 lb|
|Sensor||5600 DPI Storm TacticalTM Twin-laser Sensor|
|Form Factor||Right Hand Ergonomic|
|Weight System||Yes, 4.5g X 5 pcs|
So if the pure specifications don't give the game away, maybe a closer look will bring things to light.
Packaging is up to the normal high standards of the CM Storm brand. There is no doubt that the inclusion of the Shattered Horizon game is writ large upon the artwork, even if it's not strictly true. But we'll get to that later.
The front has a Velcro flap which enables you to get to grips with the mouse prior to purchase and also has various highlights of the features of the Z3RO-G. Included in the package is the driver CD, code for the aforementioned Shattered Horizon game, and some extra feet.
An here she is, resplendent in a combination of black and gun-metal grey. This colour scheme makes a nice change from the near all-black high-end gaming mice around, and also helps differentiate this from it's forefather.
The cable comes wholly fabric braided, which is a wonderful addition and really helps set the tone that this is a quality product. The fiscal difference between a plain plastic coated cable and a braided one can't be that much, but it's surprising how few manufacturers go the extra mile.
In case you're wondered what Shattered Horizons is, or where CM Storm got the Z3RO-G name from, a couple of screenshots will answer all those questions. Built by Futuremark (of 3D Mark fame) back in 2009 it's an online space FPS. Zero G. Geddit?
Visually the only way to tell this apart is the colour. Otherwise it's identical to the Sentinel Advance. It's one of the lowest profile mice we've seen come through the OC3D offices, on a par with the Roccat Kova. So this should suit those of you with smaller hands. However it wont suit those south-paws in the audience, as once again it's a dedicated right-handed mouse with sufficient curvature to make left-handed use impossible at worst, and an utter faff at best.
The Back and Forward buttons are nicely placed right underneath where your thumb sits, minimising the need to reposition your hand to hit everything.
From the top-down perspective we have the 'drilled' area that provides lighting and surrounds the OLED screen. Just in front of that are two buttons for moving up and down the DPI settings that you've entered in the software (on the next page). They can also be held down which the allows the scroll wheel to adjust DPI, should you want some finer adjustment. In front of the scroll wheel is the profile button which switches between the five available profiles. One of them is locked off, but four user-profiles should be enough for all but the most demanding user.
Upside down we see the 'Storm Tactical Sensor', a 5600DPI twin-laser that is the heart of the Z3RO-G. Behind that is a flap that contains the weights for adjusting the inertia of the Z3RO-G.
22.5g of extra weight come as standard, housed in high-density foam. These weights are really hanging out the back of the Z3RO-G and could do with being far more central. Firing the mouse up we see the Shattered Horizon logo on the OLED display.
There are more customisation options that you can shake a stick at. With five profiles built in, the first one is dedicated for Shattered Horizons and allows DPI adjustments and little else. The Motion Sensitivity slider actually changes the mouse speed within Windows separately to the DPI. Although you can adjust mouse-polling and the button response time, why you'd want them to be anything other than as responsive as possible is a mystery. Still the option is there.
Colours are part of the 'CM Storm Octoshade', although for the purposes of this nomenclature we have to accept 'off' as a shade, which I'm not convinced it is. One of the most outstanding features of the old Sentinel was the ability to upload a logo of your choosing, and that option remains in the Z3RO-G. Although it's rendered wholly pointless as the Shattered Horizons logo takes over the display within about a second of you changing the DPI and so you only ever see your logo when switching DPI, which you only tend to do during gameplay.
As you'd expect each profile has a raft of customisation options available where you can set each button to be a single button, a combination press, or run one of the macros you have recorded.
Obviously it would be impossible to cover all the potential script and macro options, suffice to say that if you can record it, you can assign it.
Thankfully the software has an update button, and one of the new features on the very latest version of the Z3RO-G control software has added a checkbox to remove the incredibly annoying Shattered Horizons full-screen logo, so the OLED reverts to its Sentinel Advance behaviour, permanently displaying your current DPI setting and logo of choice.
There is a lot to like about the CM Storm Sentinel Z3RO-G. There is also a swathe of niggles and missed opportunities.
Let's start with the good stuff.
The Z3RO-G is a really comfortable mouse. As someone with large hands some smaller mice can feel a little cramped in the hand. This is not an issue with the Z3RO-G as, despite it's fairly low profile, it's got everything exactly where you'd expect it to be, and the thumb rest is neither too shallow nor as extreme as mice such as the Logitech Revolution MX.
All the buttons have a lovely tactile feel when you click them. The scroll-wheel is deserving of special praise as it's not as smooth as some, but have a lovely notchiness to it that makes switching weapons a joy. Scroll-wheels are always struggling for the delicate balance between the smoothness needed for document scrolling and the positive click needed to make sure you don't suddenly end up with the Impact Hammer when you wanted the Redeemer. It's also one of the quieter ones we've tested which makes speedily scrolling down webpages more enjoyable than some of the "playing card in spokes" affairs of other mice.
The software is a vital part of modern mice with their swathes of customisation and the Z3RO-G is no exception. There is a wealth of options available although sadly it's lacking some of the pre-built profiles that we've seen from Roccat or Razer. To make the most out of this you've really got the put the time in as the documentation is very good, but without any pre-built ones to give you an idea of the power available there is a bit of poke and hope involved.
Indeed the software is one of the areas in which the Z3RO-G really niggles. Installing the software is a phenomenally buggy affair. The installer that creates all your directories doesn't actually bother to copy any of the content off the CD and so all your shortcuts are blank and, besides some extra empty directories you haven't actually come away from the install with anything new. Browsing the CD finds all the setup wizards and autoruns one would expect, so you just have to copy these across manually. In fact they don't even need to be installed at all as the Z3RO-G configuration software and the Firmware updater are standalone products.
The much lauded inclusion of "Shattered Horizons in the box" sounds good, but in actuality what you get is a redeemable code and a long download that leaves you with a sparsely populated online shooter that's nearly two years old. Coupled to the default softwares inability to let you turn off the logo on the OLED so you can see your own personalised one and the default mouse profile being locked to that particular game and you'll quickly grow to loathe it more than enjoy it. It's certainly by no means a deal-maker or breaker, and whilst it's free so we shouldn't grumble too much it actually lessens your enjoyment of the mouse itself. Shot themselves in the foot there.
Thankfully the latest software update allows you to switch this logo off but that does lead to the obvious missed opportunity of having a screen on your mouse. Why can Shattered Horizons take up the whole screen, but our personalised logos are limited to 32x32? Why can't we replace that logo with our clan one? Or site one in our case. If CM Storm can do it, so should we. Equally if we have a screen that can display any information we choose, why is it locked to just showing DPI? Why not CPU Temperature or a thousand other possibilities. We've got the ability to assign colours to each profile so we can tell at a glance what our DPI is or which profile we've chosen. So really the screen sits and does nothing useful at all.
The final design quirk comes from the placement of the weights. They are right at the back of the mouse and whilst we might like big butts and we cannot lie, it does tend to make any movements of the Z3RO-G be more of an arc than a straight line. Especially as it comes with 22.5g in the back end by default. Sure you can remove them to lighten it considerably, but then you can't tune the mouse as you'd like because you have to leave most of them out to maintain accuracy, which is what gaming mice are all about.
It's a testament to the comfort and precision that the Z3RO-G has that it is capable of still standing tall despite those many issues. The sensor is amazing and tracks well over a host of surfaces. But the screen isn't used to barely 5% of its potential but with all those things aside it's still the great mouse it's always been. It's definitely a tiny evolution rather than a wholesale fix of the original Sentinel Advance. It's priced very well at around £45 and you do get a hell of a lot of mouse for that money. If you have a yearning to fly around in space shooting people online it's almost a no brainer.
Free up the screen and fix the software issues and this would be an easy gold. As it is a few niggles and a lack of real changes (Shattered Horizon inclusion and branding notwithstanding) from it's Sentinel Advance brother mean we can only award it our Silver Award.
Thanks to CM Storm for providing the Sentinel Z3RO-G for review. Discuss in our forums.