Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 Review

Lighting, Macro’s, Keystrokes and Alienware Control Center

Contents

It seems like everyone is making mice these days and there is nothing wrong with that, it just means they will keep getting better.  Alienware has stepped into that arena and provided that extra something but is it enough?  Today we will be reviewing the Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse, specifically the AW958.

Let’s take a look at the features and specifications.

Features and Specifications

  • Omrom switch
    • 50 Million Click Lifespan
  • 12000 DPI Pixart PMW 3360 Optical gaming Sensor
  • 50G Maximum Acceleration 250 inches per second
  • 1000 Hz Polling rate
  • 512KB Onboard memory
  • 5 on the fly dpi settings
  • AlienFX in game lighting effects
  • 8 Multi Color RGB Illuminated
  • 13 Programmable buttons
  • Set of Magnetic Interchangeable Wings
  • Adjustable Palm Rest
  • Configurable Weight
  • 6 Foot cable
  • USB Type A
  • Weighs .43pounds 197grams
  • 78inches wide (96mm)
  • 12 inches tall/long (130mm)
  • 59 inches deep (40.4mm)
  • Requires Windows 10

With that down, let’s check out an unboxing and see what’s inside.

Quite a few little goodies in here, but what is it all?  Let’s go over them one by one to find out.

Out of the box, we start with the Quick Start Guide.

Opening up the guide, we see how to attach the wings and how to attach the weights, but wait, there’s more.

OK, not much more the back shows you where to download the drivers.  So, it is seriously a Quick Start Guide, but it’s just a mouse right, how hard can it be to learn?

The Safety, Environment, and Regulatory Information document is long and has lots of information but I don’t know how much of it would be useful to most of us, but it’s gotta be in there.

Here we have one of the set of Magnetic Interchangeable wings.  This is a side panel that has 6 mouse buttons.

The other of the set, is just smooth, could it be to just make that side smooth if you don’t like those buttons?

Finally, we have the pair of weights.

With all the extras done, let’s check out the mouse itself.

Continue: Up Close and Personal

Starting at the end of the cable, we find the USB plug.  Nothing out of this world here, just a standard connection.

Working our way up to the mouse itself, we travel on this 6-foot nylon braided cable.  It’s really what you come to expect from high quality products.  Let’s keep going up this cable.

Leading up the cable, we find this oddly shaped craft.  Let’s take a look at the mouse in more detail.

Here we have a bird’s eye view of the Alienware Elite AW958 Gaming Mouse, it is a bit odd looking isn’t it?  Well, it has a lot of features that might not be too obvious so it might bulk it up a bit, so let’s break it down.

Coming up a bit closer, we can see the scroll wheel, that has a few more functions that just scrolling up or down.

As the arrow to the right or left of the scroll wheel show you, you can tilt the wheel left or right to basically go back and forward or maybe turn a page.  You will notice, that the 2 strips centered on the wheel have little grooves to keep you from slipping when you scroll.  The scroll itself detents to keep it from being just a straight scroll, but keeps it essentially on a line per line scroll adding some more precision to the scroll.  Finally, the scroll wheel acts as a button that you can press down as well.

We are used to a DPI button, but this is actually a DPI rocker.  Rocker it to the left to lower the DPI or to the right to raise it.  You have a choice of 5 different DPI settings, all of which are 100% adjustable.  You can go as low as 100DPI all the way up to 12,000 DPI.  I typically prefer 6900.

Coming around the side, we can see what look like the usual 2 buttons on the side, usually known as back and forward… but there is a bit more to this side panel.

Pulling on that side piece, it comes apart to reveal the 3 magnets that hold it together along with the piece that allows it communicate to the side panel.  Next to it, in the picture we find the side panel with the 6 buttons.

Pull this side panel close and it will magnetically bond itself to the mouse and without any sort of configuration, you now have 6 buttons.  Pretty slick if I do say so myself.  I will show you more on this once we focus on the Alienware Control Center a little later in this review.

So, does that mean the other piece goes here, it does fit on the other side?

Here is the side panel on the mouse already connected when it is in the box, and right next to it is the other wing included.  Let’s put it on just like we did with the buttons side panel.

Just pull it off and it snaps back into place like the other side panel with its magnets.  The wider angle gives it a spot for your pinky and ring finger to rest a little more comfortably. The problem here is that with either wing, there is no edge for your finger to catch onto when you are lifting the mouse.  I will go over this a little more later in the review.

On the back of the mouse, these little louver pieces are not louvers that hide its jet propulsion system on the rear of an Alien space craft but they do hide a little secret.

With a gentle push inwards, the little panel pops out reducing the weight of the mouse by 10 grams, depending on how you have these modules loaded.

Taking out the right module we reduce the mouse weight by another 10 grams, again depending on how you have these modules loaded.

If you wanted to scale it back and control the weight a little more you can, by removing weights at a 5-gram interval.  You can individually remove the weights from the module, leaving only one or removing both from one module.  Make it yours a little more this way, but there’s one more thing you can adjust.

Till now, this is the length you have seen, but we don’t all have the same length and width hand, so your comfort level might be a little different than mine.

We, palm rest allows you to extend the length of the mouse, maybe make it more comfortable for you.

Or maybe just a little bit longer.  If this view is a little difficult to see, maybe this gif will help you.

Pretty cool feature right, and it was hidden there all along.  To sum this section up, I have put together this video so that you can see all of the features in action.  Check it out.

In that video, you see all of the features of the mouse while it is not connected.  It also goes over the one thing that bugs me about the mouse, the right side of it.  There is no place or grove in the mouse to let you left the mouse comfortably maybe for additional scroll which can potentially end up in accidentally hitting on of the 2 of 6 side mouse buttons.  As I mentioned though, after a bit, you will get used to it, but you should not have to.

Again, I showed you everything the mouse can do when it is not plugged into a system, but on this next page we will go over all of the functions of the mouse that can be controlled by the Alienware Control Center software suite.

Continue: Lighting, Macros, Keystrokes and Alienware Control Center

With all keyboard and mice that have a ton of features, there is a piece of software that controls them, for this mouse it is the Alienware Control Center.  Starting it up, if you have this mouse you will find this screen.

If you also have the keyboard, the keyboard portion of the software will first come up so you will need to click on the mouse on the bottom of the screen.  I need to add, it is great that one piece of software can control both, which means you don’t need to install separate pieces of software for the keyboard and the mouse, a one stop shop.

Once loaded, you can first change the lighting effects from the RGB color spectrum on the left-hand side.

The first of 3 tabs is Lighting, we will go over that first.

LIGHTING

Selecting the color on the spectrum highlighted with the number 1, will change the color on the prism highlighted in section 2 so that you can see a preview.  Once you have selected the color you like, you click “Update Lighting Presepret” highlighted in section 3.

Don’t worry, we will go over this in a little more detail further in the review.

You can change the brightness of the light by moving the slider up and down, and again clicking on “Update Lighting Preset”.

Clicking on the second button showing the graphical representation of the mouse, gives you a different view of the mouse in a smooth animation.

If you slide your mouse across the color wheel and find a color you like, that might not already be preset on the color bar, you can select the color and press the “PLUS” icon box to save it as a default.

If you want a little more than basic colors on your mouse, you can liven it up a bit and select some Preset Animations, the 2nd of 2 subsections under the Lighting tab.  To do this, just click on the “Preset Animations” icon within the Alienware Control Center.

On this screen, you can select from 5 different preset animations, and then you can also change the colors as well as the lighting intensity.

With the Temp slider, you are able to set the speed of the animation.

Here you can set the color scheme during the animation, one color turning on and off, 2 colors cycling between themselves and a rainbow of colors going through all 16.8 million colors.

Let’s go over what those preset animations are.

 

A steady pulsing lighting effect.

 

 

The light will fade in turning on and then fade out turning back off.

 

 

Will morph into every single color in-between Color 1 and Color 2.  You can only have the Two Color selection for this mode.

 

 

Will change the lighting according to the tempo through every color in the spectrum.

 

 

Will change the color prism on the mouse itself cycling through each color on each spectrum individually rotating.

 

 

Will have a pulsating breathing lighting fading in and out cycling through all the colors, like a firework going off in the night sky.

 

Just remember, after selecting these, make sure to click “Update Lighting Preset” for those changes to take effect.

Now let’s venture off the Macros tab.

MACROS

 

 

 

The 1st of 2 subsections is Keystrokes, allows you to set Macro keystrokes on the 2 or 6 side button wing options.  You can use one of the 8 preset keystrokes they have set for you.

From here, you can click, drag and assign keystrokes to one of those side buttons.

You might have noticed on the bottom of the keystroke window, there were icons with a Plus, Export and Trash can.

The Plus, allows you to record custom Keystrokes to assign to a key.

Pressing the plus, brings up a “NEW MACRO” section with a red Record button.  You can click Record and create your macro.

Export, allows you to export custom keystrokes you have create to maybe share with a friend or keep for safe keeping in case you reformat your machine or maybe buy a newer Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse AW958 for another machine in your house and want to use that profile there.

Dragging and dropping these custom profiles to the trash can deletes them.

And above this section, you will find a “Load a custom keystroke”, this is the portion that allows you to load that profile you just exported.

I will go over all this in the video later in the review as well.

KEY MAPPING

The 2nd of sub tabs in the Macros tab, is Key Mapping.

Clicking “Map this button” drop down provides you with 5 different presets to map.

Forward, Backward, Middle, Tilt Left and Tilt Right are your options.  You can assign the keys on the mouse with these, there are no additional custom options here.

Don’t worry, if you don’t like the custom macro or keystroke you created, you can simply right click on the blue highlighted mouse button and click “Delete Macro”.

What’s under the Settings Tab?

SETTINGS

 

The 1st of 2 sub tabs is Settings.

Polling Rate Delay, allows us to raise or lower the Polling Rate, you can go from 1 to 8.

Enable Mouse Acceleration, allows you to enable or disable Mouse Acceleration.  Mouse acceleration allows you to increase the mouse movement if the mouse is moved quickly over having it disabled.  The default is disabled, but I enabled it by placing a check in the check box.

Switch primary and secondary buttons, allows you to invert the left and right clicks.  For most, this is a horrible option, but for lefties (there are very few of us) this helps make the mouse a little more regular for us.  Growing up in a right-handed world, I have learned to adapt though.  I write, draw/paint and use the mouse right handed, everything else I am lefty.  It’s odd.

Sleep Timer, allows you to set the time when left idle that the mouse will go to sleep.  You can select from 10 to 90 minutes.

Tilt, allows you to use the tilting wheel to scroll left or right faster or slower on word documents, photos and more.

Double Click, allows you to change the rate at which double clicks function.

LOD*, allows you to see how many millimeters off of the mouse pad you will need to raise the mouse before it stops tracking.  I have found its default to be best at +1mm, but you can raise it to +3mm.  To mention, the * captions the footing of “Lower Lift-off Distance”

Scroll, allows you to change how fast the mouse wheel scrolls, usually that is setup in lines but they make it so they know best I guess.  You can select from Slowest to Fastest with 3 options in between.

You may have missed it, but at the bottom of those settings, there was a “DPI Settings” selection.  Let’s click on it to see what is in there.

You can see here there are 5 different DPI profiles, adjustable by clicking on DPI1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 and raising or lowering the slider.

The sliders each have their own DPI setting, for example DPI setting 4 has a DPI of 9,000, but I like 9,600.

I circled it in red so that you can see the value is not static, the slider lets you adjust it by even 1 point.  Sadly, you cannot adjust it in the numeric field or by clicking on the slider then using the arrow keys on your keyboard to make the value go up or down in 1-point intervals.  The slider works fine, but it can be a little difficult to get the exact value you want, it is possible but difficult.

Also, as you change the profile, the color of the lights changes as well.  If you noticed, DPI4 had yellow as its color and DPI 5 has red for its color.  Don’t worry though, you can still change that color if you like.  You will also notice that DPI5 has a setting of 11,900, though it can go to 12,000.

If you are feeling a little adventurous, or just know what you like you can also separate the X/Y Values.  This allows you to change the values on the X-Axis or Y-Axis individually.  A great feature for some of us out there.

The 2nd of the 2 sub sections is Surface Calibration, and I love this one.

Here under Surface Calibration you can calibrate the Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse to work better on your mouse pad, I am currently using the HyperX Fury S Pro Gaming Mouse Pad X-Large.  You can leave it under “Automatic Surface Calibration” and the mouse will work well, but there is a very noticeable performance improvement using the “Manual Calibration”.

Alienware Control Center for the Alienware Elite Gaming mouse already comes set as “Automatic Surface Calibration”, but if you click “Manual Surface Calibration” you will get a screen like this.  As the message reads, we will proceed to click on the left mouse button and holding on to it and the screen will quickly change.

It will ask you to start moving the mouse in a counter clockwise direction constantly, just for about 30 seconds as the “Keep moving” progress meter counts up to 100%.  When you are done, you will instantly see a difference in the way the mouse moves, it kind of feels like you are free.

Aside from the instant freedom in movement of your mouse, you will receive the “Completed” message along with the check completing your calibration successfully.

On the top right-hand corner of the window, you will this cog or gear to click on for more options still.

On this screen, you can see the version of the Alienware Control Center, and firmware versions of the Alienware Elite Gaming Mouse – AW958 and if you have it the Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard – AW768.  If they are out date and have newer versions, you can click on the buttons to the right that now say “Up to Date” to update to the latest version.  Newer versions will provide improvements in features and functions in both the keyboard and mouse and even the Alienware Control Center.

Looking closer that the buttons, you see it says “Restore Factory Defaults”.  This is a little misleading because you might think to means to restore the firmware to factory version but this is in fact a great little feature.  If in your calibration, configuring macros and other customizations you mess something up and your keyboard or mouse doesn’t quiet work like it did before, clicking here will restore its lost performance and function while keeping the firmware you just updated to.  A nice little feature but I think needs to be re-worded or maybe moved.

Moving on, on this scree we also see an “About” tab.

From here we have the FAQ icon.

Which itself does nothing, but to the right, we find the “Launch Help” button.

Clicking here will launch a help menu.

I didn’t find the menu very helpful, but who knows maybe you will.  I also recorded a video going through the software to help better illustrate how nice this software is.  Check it out.

In that video I go over all of the features and functions, some of those functions of course being the lighting control and the surface calibration, which again I love.  As much as I love it though, there are some things I have mentioned that I don’t love about it but I will talk about them on the next page, Final Thoughts and Conclusion.

Continue: Final Thoughts and Conclusion

We all know Alienware for building high end PC’s, some may say overpriced and some say just right but they do PC’s.  Alienware jumping over to building keyboards and mice, selling them not only with their PC’s but separately as well is a nice move that many will love.  They are very useful and sexy, but the mouse does have 2 issues that bug me a bit.

The first issue, and it’s not as big though it usually is for me is the price.  When it first came out, it was $99.99 but it seems to have dropped now to $69.99, which is about right.  There are other mice in the same category that much more than this mouse and of course some that are better priced.  When I initially started righting the article, I was going to deduct 1 entire star because the price was way too high, but at $69.99 it is much more reasonable.

The thing that makes me the most upset about this mouse, like they never tested it.  The issue that I mentioned already was that the right wing needed a grove of some sort, it is too smooth and being that there is no grove, it makes it hard to life the mouse making you at times click on the left buttons.  There needs to be some sort of indentation for your ring finger and pinky to be able to latch onto to make lifting the mouse possible and not having to figure out ways around it.  I have gotten used to it, but you shouldn’t have to.

With that, let’s go over the Pros and Cons.

Pros

  • Sturdy build
  • Great for larger hands
  • Braided cable
  • Customizable RGB LED lighting
  • Offers 6 modes of lighting
    • And tons of optional lighting options in-between
  • All keys are programmable
  • 5 Programmable Macro Key combinations
  • Optional Software Install: Does not require software to utilize all of the features
    • Alienware Control Center is a feature rich piece of software
  • Adjustable Palm Rest
  • Clever and Adjustable Left and Right Wings
  • Great DPI Adjustability
  • Up to 12,000 DPI
  • Surface Calibration is Amazing
  • Highly Customizable
  • DPI Selector rocker is nicer than most
  • Highly customizable weight system cleverly hidden
  • Software is setup nicely and does not require separate installation for the mouse if you already have the keyboard

Cons

  • Hard to hold
  • Priced slightly high, but price is coming down

A ton of Pros and only 2 Cons, but one of the cons hurt the final score tremendously.  I like to give the points in the following manner.

  • Form
  • Fit
  • Function
  • Price
  • Durability

Each represent a star, it’s got the form and the functions, but the fit is totally off with the wing, if you can’t properly use a mouse… is it worth it?  Mind you, I was able to work around it and make it work trying to justify the cost but even though I did find a way to use it, it’s not optimal.

The durability feels right on, it’s a solid mouse and the price now is decent, but is it?  For that price, you want a mouse you can 100% use though it is very nice looking.  With tall this said, I give this mouse a rating 3.5 stars.  1 major knock on the fit and only have a half a star hit on the price.

Do you think I graded it too harshly, let me know what you think, if I should raise it to a 4 star review and why?

Back to: Intro

Iggy Castillo
I have spent many years in the PC boutique name space as Product Development Engineer for Alienware and later Dell through Alienware's acquisition and finally Velocity Micro. During these years I spent my time developing new configurations, products and technologies with companies such as AMD, Asus, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA and more. The Arts, Gaming, New & Old technologies drive my interests and passion. Now as my day job, I am an IT Manager but doing reviews on my time and my dime.
Iggy Castillo
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