Not to be a prick, but I'm a better gamer than probably 80 percent of you. At any given first-person shooter, I will probably kill you more than you kill me, and by a decent margin. The point is, I'm good—but I'm no pro. I've actually always been skeptical about "pro" gaming gear, and the sliver of an edge you might gain by paying a lot more. I put complete setups from both SteelSeries and Razer—using my beloved, well-worn five-year-old Logitech gear as a control—through a rigorous multi-day Battlemodo to definitively answer a single, fundamental question: Will pro gaming gear make me a better gamer?
My old, battle-tested equipment, all Logitech: MX500, Media Elite keyboard, whatever free Logitech headset came with Unreal Tournament 2004 and a free Vista mousepad. Street (or garage sale) value of about $45.
Quick and Dirty Conclusions
It takes more than 20 minutes to get used to a new keyboard and mouse. So I spent a couple days with each set to get comfortable before actual testing with what I've been at almost exclusively on PC as of late: Team Fortress 2. I didn't want readjusting to a game like Battlefield 2142 added to the list of possible variables.
Because of my style of play (mostly heavy/sniper, offensive support), the best indicator of whether or not my game improved is still kill-to-death ratio, even though TF2 is an objective-oriented game. I've taken the results for 15 rounds of gameplay for each set of gear, then averaged them out to a single K-D ratio for each, and accounting for dominations (killing same guy three times).
SteelSeries: 2.6, with 5 dominations
Logitech: 2.42, with 2 dominations
Razer: 1.98, with 2 dominations
What It All Means
Objectively, SteelSeries made me a better gamer. Why? Because comfort level is the bottom line when it comes to gaming (or any) gear you grip or pound everyday, more so than any stupid spec or number proving how awesome a piece of equipment is. Ergonomically, the SteelSeries stuff just felt right, even after using it a short while.
Fans of Logitech's MX500 (me!) or G5 series mice will dig the SteelSeries Ikari mouse, since it's almost the exact same, but with an extra nub for your ring finger, plus it fixes the crappy scroll wheel issue that plagues the G5 and G7. The Razer Lachesis mouse is ambidextrous, and it just never felt right. (I'm not a claw gripper, though.) I kept accidentally hitting the buttons on the right side of the mouse, causing it to reboot to change profiles, which got me killed more than once. The braided cable on the Ikari, like on Logitech's G5 mouse, was a construction plus over Lycosa's thin rubber cord, though they both feel solid. I don't think either is worth the price ($90 for a mouse is insane), though—my MX500 is still just fine.
Keyboard-wise, Razer's Lycosa actually has a better layout (big backspace, small enter) than SteelSeries' 7G. It's also the much sexier of the two. But I'm not too big on its squishy laptop-style keys for gaming, and the keys' rubber coating started out as a plus and grew into a minus as it made my fingers feel weird and sorta chapped after extended sessions. SteelSeries compromises between big clacky keys and soft touch by registering the key press at the halfway point—they're tall keys—so you can go light or really slam them. I wish it had the subtle backlighting like the Lycosa , and maybe some more macro options. But the build quality of the 7G is absolutely bunker-worthy—it's incredibly heavy. I could club a family of baby seals to death with it and go back to gaming (after wiping the blood off). Yeah, it's $150, but it feels like it's going to stick around to the next ice age, so you're actually paying for solid equipment, gaming BS aside. The Lycosa feels more fragile—not crappy, but just above average.
Headsets have the same build matchup—the SteelSeries is heavier and more sturdy—but this time the cheaper Razer Piranha comes out ahead in audio quality (no surprise, actually). Positional audio was much truer, especially rear to front (a necessity to avoid getting backstabbed by a bastard Spy). Besides, as SteelSeries readily admitted to me, the Siberias suck for music.
Mousing surfaces? Whatever. Beyond the basics of non-reflectivity, it's total hype.
SteelSeries made me a better gamer, but the label "gaming gear" is BS. Buy what feels comfortable, because that's what you'll game better with. If you're a fan of Razer ergonomic styles (I wasn't overly) then it might be worth the extra price, but on the construction merits alone, it doesn't necessarily stack up. The SteelSeries stuff felt more substantial and like the build quality was slightly more commensurate with the higher price point (though I still think the 7G should go for like $100, not $150). Most scientific statement I can make: I was most comfortable with SteelSeries and my old gear, so I did better with them. [SteelSeries, Razer]