SteelSeries Sentry review

Eye-tracking technology has been around for a number of years but we've not seen it in many consumer products until now. SteelSeries has partnered with Tobii Technology to produce an eye-tracker for gaming so here's our SteelSeries Sentry review.

SteelSeries Sentry review: What is it?

Since the Sentry doesn't fit into any regular category of gaming accessory we thought we'd give a quick explanation.

This slightly odd looking bar sits below your monitor (or laptop screen) in order to track your eyes while you play games. It uses three infrared micro-projectors to scan your eyes 50 times per second so it know exactly where you're looking at all time.

This means you can not only analyse your performance, but enhance you're experience with things like the ability to look around in a game without moving your mouse. It's also for the Twitch and YouTube streamers out there, allowing viewers to see where you're looking while you play which is pretty cool.

That's the idea anyway and we've been testing the Sentry to see if it can live up to expectations. See also: Xiaomi Wireless Bluetooth Gamepad review.

SteelSeries Sentry review: Price

It's somewhat understandable that new technology like this comes at a price and there's nothing else on the market like this. The SteelSeries Sentry will cost you €199 so it's a lot more than most gaming peripherals like controllers or headsets. There's no UK price in sterling so that's around £145.

The price is a quite high and therefore a barrier. We can't argue too much since there are no rivals to the Sentry, but at the same time we can hardly brand it as good value for money. It's a luxury purchase and that's the way it is.

SteelSeries Sentry review

SteelSeries Sentry review: Hardware and performance

After a little while of setting up the Sentry – you need to stick a magnetic plate to your monitor, and we didn't think the process was very clear – we were up and running with the Sentry. The IR sensors glow red so it's a little off putting at first but we soon got used to it. You can set the Sentry up for different players and it has no problem if you wear glasses.

You can use the Sentry to analyse your gaming which is quite cool. You can get real-time details such as Time Since Last Look at Mini Map, Time Spent Since Last Region Look, Average Time Spent Looking in Each Region, and a Match Summary Table. This is quite intriguing as a casual gamer but the novelty soon wears off and is really a feature aimed at professionals.

What's far more exciting is what the Sentry can do when you're playing. We tested the Sentry with Assassin's Creed Rogue mainly and in a third person game like this you can look around simply by moving where you look on your screen. The further you move your gaze to the edge of the screen, the faster the camera pans.    

You'd normally do this with your mouse and the ability to do this with eye-tracking is so futuristic it  is a little odd for a while. We soon got used to it, though, and it does free up your mouse for other elements of the game. The idea works well in a fairly slow-paced game like AC Rogue but we're not so sure about a fast a furious FPS but you can use your mouse as normal if you feel the need.

A bit like Samsung's Smart Stay feature on its smartphones, the Sentry knows when you are and are not looking at the screen. This means that if you look away for whatever reason, perhaps you're watching sport at the same time or someone kindly brings you a cuppa, the game will automatically pause when you do and resume when you look back. We did find the odd bug, though. For example, while playing Assassin's Creed Rogue the Sentry would keep pausing the game, opening the menu, even though we were still looking at the screen.

Apart from a few little things that need ironing out, the technology works really well – it's the kinds of new and exciting technology that makes you smile and think wow. You'll want to show it off to your mates, for sure.

SteelSeries Sentry review game analyser

SteelSeries Sentry review: Compatible games

Although we love what the Sentry can do, the fact that it's a new technology is very much apparent when you look at what games you can use it with.

This list is dramatically small with Assassin's Creed Rogue, DOTA 2 and StarCraft 2 the main three titles. The latter two are the only ones which support the live gaze overlay for streamers which is a shame and that's all they do – we imagines we would be able to move the map around instead of using the mouse.

Other lesser known games which are supported are Hunter: Primal and Son of Nor. So all in all, that's not many games for the price you're paying for the Sentry and the software makes it appear like you can add other titles easily.

For example, we tried to add Heroes of Newerth (another MOBA like DOTA 2) and while it was added to the library, the eye-tracker did nothing so SteelSeries needs to be more clear about which games are supported and what the eye-tracker does in each as it varies (in Son of Nor it's more like a cursor for aiming rather than for moving a camera).

SteelSeries Sentry: Specs

  • USB 3.0
  • 3x IR sensor
  • USB 3.0
  • 3x IR sensor

OUR VERDICT

The SteelSeries Sentry is an impressive piece of kit and we found the eye-tracking futuristic and exhilarating. However, at this early stage the device is expensive for most gamers and there just aren't enough games which support it which is a real shame. We hope the situation improves soon.

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