The Box and Goodies -
Although most people do not purchase products in the store these days packaging is an important part of any product. Even if the first time you see your new purchase is when you get it in the post you can get a lot of information about product quality by the effort put into the box. Thermaltake has learned this with their top end products and has gone the extra mile with their packaging.
The front of the Level 10M Hybrid mouse is interesting. It has a very “game” look to it. The clear window surrounded by the red outline brings images of Cyrsis to mind. Right away the impression is that this is a mouse for gaming. TT also threw in some basic marketing just to be sure the message is hammered home. Of course TT also wants to make sure you know that the Level 10M is a mouse that makes a statement visually. The tag line below the mouse is simply “born to be seen” and like its older brother it certainly is a very unique looking mouse.
Flipping around to the back again we are reminded of in-game graphics with the technical drawing of the Level 10M. It is a subtle, but impressive effect which when combined with the story (pronounce that legend) of the Level 10 adds up pretty quickly. Thermaltake is building a mythology around the level 10M in a very smart way.
Inside the outer shell is a very sturdy inner box that holds the Level 10M and all of the goodies that go with it.
In this case there you get a carrying bag, an adjustment tool, a cable for charging/corded use, a couple of stickers, an extension cable for the wireless dongle and even a post card (just to rub it in to one friend). Now let’s take a look at the Level 10M Hybrid.
The Level 10 Hybrid Mouse -
We first encountered the Level 10M Hybrid during our visit to the Thermaltake suite at CES 2014. Kitty Mach showed us this new product and explained that it was the next evolution to the original Level 10M. At the time our thought was that this could be a very popular product if Thermaltake was able to balance the ease of wireless with the performance gamers want from a wired mouse. The design was clean and, as we have said, unique. There was not another mouse on the market like it or its brother. So let’s start our walk around by comparing the two siblings together and then taking a look at some of the differences that make the Level 10M hybrid stand out.
For starters both the Level 10M and Level 10M hybrid share the same basic styling (thank you BMW). The length is almost identical when you compare the bodies of the two mice, but the 10M hybrid has a little more on that awkward front extension.
The Level 10M Hybrid also removed the buttons on the right side of the mouse and replaces them with a finger rest. This was probably done for both comfort and balance to the mouse. In fact when you flip both mice over you can see that Thermal take extended the bottom pad of the Level 10M Hybrid to make is a little wider and also extended the Teflon pads on the side to give it a smoother feel.
In the lighting department the Level 10M Hybrid loses the light dragon logo and replaces it with a red version of the dragon. It is still visible through the honey comb opening on the top.
There is a lot to show and talk about with the Level 10M Hybrid almost too much to write about, so let’s show you all of the features.
Software and Extras -
To get to all of the features and settings on the Level 10M there is a drive/software utility that you need to install. As with all of the control software we have seen for advanced gaming mice this one a little over done. Still the good thing is that it is still easy to use so we will forgive Thermaltake for this.
One of the first things that we noticed is that there are to different modes that jump out at you. One is normal and the other is battle. These relate to the illumination on the Level 10 M. When running Battle mode the illumination will change depending on how fast you click the mouse buttons. We were not all that impressed with Battle Mode, but we can see where some might like it. In our opinion it might have been better for battle mode to perhaps allow rapid alternating colors between the primary and red or another color if you are using red as your default.
Speaking of illumination that is the next place we are headed. By clicking on the illumination option you can independently change the light color of the left mouse button and the scroll wheel. There is no option for the dragon logo as it is not illuminated. Instead of simple color choices like you had in the original Level 10M you can now produce almost any color you want using the sliders.
Of course there is more to your mouse than just lights and Thermaltake made sure they added those options in for you. You can find these under performance. When you get here you will find options for DPI settings (including setting the four levels you can adjust on the Level 10M hybrid manually). A nice feature here is that you can adjust the DPI of the X/Y Axis lasers independently so control for excess movement horizontally or vertically as desired.
Other options under performance are cursor speed, scroll speed, double click speed, and lift-off adjustment from low to high. Be careful with this setting, if you run the slider all the way down it is likely that your mouse will stop responding to any movement. We found that the lowest we could get down to and still have the Level 10M is about .5. At that height the Level 10M hybrid was responsive to movement, but did not stutter or jitter when we moved the mouse to another spot on the pad. The last option on the Level 10M hybrid under performance is the USB polling interval. For most people you can set this to 1,000Hz and leave it, but if you have any issues with performance you can adjust this down to resolve them.
To further enhance the programmability of the Level 10M hybrid you can change the function of just about any button on the mouse. You have options for single key settings, T-Key (Macro), launch program and of course default. There are also two help videos that show you how to make use of the side buttons (Thermaltake calls them air through) as well as the 3D Axis Movement. You can store these programs in five live profiles that are stored on the Level 10M hybrid, but you can also export different ones that you might not want to keep on the Level 10M hybrid, but do not want to get rid of.
These profiles allow you to setup macros, illumination color, DPI levels and more so that you can just swap them out when you want or need to. To switch between profiles from the Level 10M you simply need to push the DPI adjustment joystick like a button. You will see the profile change at the bottom of your display, moving this joystick back and forward will move you between the different DPI levels you have established in your profile.
In all the software that comes with the Level 10M hybrid is pretty solid. It allows you to access some nice features to make sure your mouse is configured the way you want it to be.
To test the performance of the Level 10M Hybrid we stacked it up against a Logitech G5 laser gaming mouse, the original Sentinel, the CM Storm Spawn and, of course, the original Level 10M. I played through several levels of Batman Arkham Asylum, Modern Warfare 3, and Call of Duty Black Ops 2 and BioShock Infinite. I played each of these for one hour using each mouse to gauge hand and wrist fatigue and also accuracy and ease of use. I then sat down for some detailed Photoshop CS5 editing. These tests would be using the eraser tool and the cloning tool to edit and clean up small details in images. Unfortunately as these tests are all subjective I can only offer you my experience with it at this time.
As with the original Level 10 M the hybrid took a little bit of time to get used to. Right out of the box the Level 10M hybrid was not exactly right for my hand and style of use, just like the original. Many people will need to spend a couple of minutes adjusting the height and tilt before it is comfortable. The placement of the buttons is great. On many multiple button mice these can be put in the way and cause you to accidentally activate a button when you did not want to. This was not the case on the Level 10M or the hybrid; the buttons are within easy reach, but not in accidental reach (right under your fingers). Our gaming time was very enjoyable, we setup a few macros for Black Ops 2 and for Arkham Asylum and found them simple to use.
As the Level 10M Hybrid has both a wired and a wireless mode we wanted to test both of these during our gaming. The wireless mode was fairly responsive and provided a solid gaming experience although we did run into a few times when the mouse would just seem to slow down for no reason. Picking up the Level 10M and putting it back on the mousing surface would quickly correct this though.
The larger Teflon pads also gave the Level 10 M hybrid a smoother feel on both normal surfaces and mouse pads even over the original Level 10M.
Photoshop Editing and Day-to-Day Use -
Photo and video editing require precise movement and good controls. It is not enough just to have a high DPI laser on your mouse; you must also make sure that the movements of the mouse are controlled and feel natural. We have run more than a few mice through our outline test (we use a mouse to outline a complex image and crop out the background) and most of them are not up to the task. Sure you can do it, but the results are not as good and you end up with cramps just to keep things controlled. Once again the Level 10M works very well for photo and video editing. You can really dial in the accuracy to gain control over the movement of whatever tool you are using. We had solid performance in both wired and wireless modes although we did see the same lag in wireless mode we saw in gaming.
Like the original Level 10M the Hybrid is also great for Day-to-Day use the, you can setup the air through buttons to launch commonly used applications or establish macros to complete simple tasks with ease. It is probably one of the best mice that I have ever used.
Although the Level 10M Hybrid can be adjusted to fit your hand it does not have the same height range as the original Level 10m. This makes it a little less customizable than the original. It does not make it any less comfortable though. Once I had everything dialed in it was like an extension of my hand and not something that I had to push around my desk. I was very pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to use and how comfortable it was even after long periods of use.
The Level 10M Hybrid is not an inexpensive product. It will cost you around $90 from most etailers which seems like quite a bit for a mouse until you start looking at the competition and what the Level 10M Hybrid actually brings to the table. Comparatively, the Level 10M Hybrid Gaming mouse is one of the best deals that we could find when you start comparing actual feature sets. On top of that we could not find any mice in this price range that were both wired and wireless. Simply put, if you are looking at DPI range, manual height and tilt adjustments, programmable buttons, and Macro recording you are not likely to find another mouse with these options in the under $100 range. Now we are only talking feature sets here, when you look at the performance levels (comfort ease of use etc.) then there is almost no comparison.
Until we picked up the Level 10M gaming mouse we had a favorite mouse that we have used through multiple challengers, this was the CMStorm Spawn. The original Level 10M replaced this mouse with ease. Now the Level 10M Hybrid has supplanted the original Level 10M as our daily use and gaming mouse. It is simply too handy not to take with us on the road and still use back at the lab. The additional option for a wireless mode is perfect for the way we use a mouse and the performance does not suffer The larger left click button allows you to hold the Level 10M very comfortably no matter your hand size without making the mouse too large or too small. Thermaltake has done an exceptional job in the design, build and marketing of the Level 10M Hybrid in the same way they have done with the whole Level 10 line. Our thoughts on the Level 10M Hybrid are almost the same as for the original: “It is an exotic and beautiful piece of hardware and we are very happy to have in the lab”. The Level 10M Hybrid is a beautiful and well-designed mouse with exceptional functionality and a feature set that will make other mice jealous. To top it off Thermaltake managed to get this all to you for about $90.
After our time with the Thermaltake Level 10M Hybrid we are happy to award it our Editor’s Choice and Must Have Stamps of approval.
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