Alienware AW988 Wireless Headset And AW959 Elite Mouse Review
Alienware AW959 Elite Mouse
Alienware does not have a large stable of mice—the AW959 Elite is one of just two models that it currently sells, the other being the AW558 Advanced. The AW959 Elite is the more expensive of the two at $84.99 (MSRP), and the more fully featured.
The shape of the AW959 Elite appears ambidextrous, but Alienware designed this model with right-handed gamers in mind. Well, unless your left hand has two thumbs, one on each side, in which case you could still take advantage of the thumb buttons on the left of the AW959. You probably don't, though.
Just as the AW988 headset strikes a similar theme to Alienware's desktops, so does the A959 mouse. It sports a two-tone color scheme with matte black palm wrest and gray buttons, and the same style of accent lighting separating the two sections. This rodent would look right at home next to an Area-51 or Aurora PC, as Alienware obviously intended.
The similarities between the headset and mouse don't stop there. Once again, Alienware dipped into its stash of soft-touch rubber and applied it liberally the AW959, both on the palm rest and the sides of the mouse. This gives the mouse a nice feel, though the rubber coating doesn't extend up to the buttons as it does with mice like Mionix's Naos 7000.
While there is a fair bit of plastic in the construction, anodized aluminum plates comprise the primary buttons, underneath which sit Omron switches rated for up to 50 million clicks. Aluminum buttons presumably make them more sturdy than plastic, but they also have the added effect of feeling cooler underneath your fingers.
The outer rim of the scroll wheel is also made from aluminum. Right beneath it is a DPI selector to cycle through up to five pre-configured sensitivity settings on the fly, configurable from 100-12,000 DPI.
Here is where things get a bit more interesting. Alienware went with the modular approach, and the process of changing the shape and functionality is done excellently on this rodent. Out of the box, it's a narrow mouse with two thumb buttons on the left side. However, you can swap out the left wing for one with four buttons, and the right wing for wider one if you want a place to rest your pinkie finger.
These attach magnetically and pop off with ease. It's about as easy as it gets to customize the shape of a mouse. Our only real complaint is that you can't add buttons to the right side of the mouse. If you're a left-handed gamer, this is not the mouse for you. Normally we wouldn't ding a mouse for catering to right-handed players, because the majority of mice are shaped that way. But in this case, it seems like a missed opportunity. On the left side, however, you can choose between two buttons or four buttons (shown above).
You can also extend the length of the AW959. The palm rest pulls out and clicks into two longer positions to accommodate bigger hands. Alienware's implementation is not quite as elegant as the magnetic wings—it takes a bit more force to adjust the palm rest, and it leaves an unsightly gap between it and the mouse buttons—but it's there if you need it.
Buying a mouse can be a weighty experience...literally, in some cases. You could say it's not something to be taken lightly, unless that is what you want, of course. Okay, we're done being punny (maybe). Out of the box, Alienware's AW959 Elite Mouse weighs 190g (0.42 pounds), but it comes with four 5-gram weights if you want more heft.
This is a cinch, compared to some mice. Rather than having to unscrew the base or pop off any panels, as is the case with Logitech's G502 Proteus Spectrum, there is none of that nonsense here. Two weight holders simply, uh, slide into the butt of the mouse and click in place. Simple as that. Each of the holders can have one or two 5g bars.
Summing up the design, Alienware nailed how a modular mouse should be, for the most part. We wish the palm rest extended more elegantly, but swapping out the wings for a wider base with more buttons and adjusting the weight is incredibly easy.
Alienware Control Center
We didn't have any trouble getting the AW959 Elite recognized in the Alienware Command Center like we did with the AW988 headset. Actually using the software and programming the mouse, however, is a bit more cumbersome than it needs to be.
Using the software, you can program macros, keystrokes, and shortcuts to the left buttons. Even just inputting keystrokes requires that you first create a macro. Once saved, you can drag it over to the button you want to bind it to.
Making adjustments to the DPI settings is easier. There are five different settings you can adjust, each with a handy slider. Those extend to 10 sliders if you want to configure the X and Y values separately.
While the configuration part is straightforward, using the DPI selector on the mouse leaves a little to be desired. There's no indication on the mouse that lets you know at a glance which DPI setting you're currently using. It's no big deal if you're cycling through drastically different sensitivity settings, but otherwise it can be hard to keep track of, similar to switching gears on a motorcycle—are you in fourth or fifth gear? Click up and find out!
Beyond lighting, macros, and DPI settings, Alienware affords you control over a few other settings, such as the lift off distance (LOD) and the ability to switch primary and secondary buttons. There is also a surface calibration option.
In our testing, this all came together to offer a responsive input experience, whether it was navigating Windows and manipulating productivity documents, or playing games. Picking off players in PlayerUnknown's Battleground (PUBG) or tossing explosives in Apex Legends was as it should be with a gaming mouse, and if you're a sniper, dropping down to a lower DPI setting is effortless.
The shape of the AW959 is a bit flat, though, so if you prefer a raised back, that's one adjustment you can't make. We also found the side buttons on the 4-buttoned wing to be a little crowded.
Overall, it's a serviceable mouse with modular options done the right way, and a highly sensitive sensor (more than you need for competitive gameplay). It's also comfortable, in terms of the soft-touch rubber, we just wish it had a bigger arch.