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First Looks: SteelSeries Kana Mouse

By James Lu - 9 Apr 2012
Launch SRP: S$88

First Looks: SteelSeries Kana Mouse

A Legend Reborn

Many people, ourselves included, were disappointed when Microsoft discontinued its legendary IntelliMouse Optical 1.1 mouse. With new old stock becoming increasingly rare, many gamers have had to resort to other manufacturers for their own versions of the IMO 1.1. SteelSeries’ own Sensei mouse is one of the best IMO 1.1 replacements out there but still, many hoped for a more faithful (and affordable) reproduction.

Fortunately, our prayers have been answered. Due to popular demand, SteelSeries have decided to launch the Kana, an almost perfect recreation of the IMO 1.1, with the addition of some SteelSeries upgrades to bring it up to date.


The closest thing to a Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical 1.1 yet!


Unfortunate name aside – at least, in this part of the world – SteelSeries have done a great job with the Kana, which replicates the feel of the IMO 1.1 very well. The smallish ambidextrous shape that made the original so popular with claw and fingertip grippers is spot on, and the light weight too, is close enough to make it feel pretty much exactly the same in hand.

The mouse comes in two flavors, a glossy white one with textured sides, and a matte, rubberized black one with bright orange scroll wheel and DPI button. The colors have been labeled the White 1.1 and Black 1.1 respectively as a nod to the original. While we preferred the feel of the black version, the glossy white one looks and feels closer to the shiny, white, finish of the original IMO 1.1. Both versions come with braided 2m cords.


Like the IMO 1.1, the Kana is a 5-button mouse with two prominent side buttons, one on each side, positioned fairly high up, above the profiled thumb grooves. Each side button is quite clicky, with a deep travel distance and a bit of force required to actuate. This is a nice improvement over the IMO 1.1, which suffered from loose, mushy buttons.

Buttons on top are fairly long, reaching back about halfway down the mouse with a firm click, similar to the original. The scroll wheel is fast and smooth, with shallow indentations, quite different from the more rigid scroll wheels SteelSeries usually favors, and more in line with the one found on the IMO 1.1. For a bit of extra style, the scroll wheel on both versions light up. As a nice design touch, the intensity of the light corresponds to the current level of DPI.

Below the scroll wheel, a new sixth button for DPI adjustment can be found. While not a feature on the original IMO 1.1, it’s a useful quality-of-life addition and its low profile shape prevents it from getting in the way.


Underneath, the Kana utilizes three feet in the same positions as the IMO 1.1. Each is a bit larger than the 1.1’s feet, with a more pronounced curve following the shape of the mouse. Unfortunately, the feet seem to be made of plastic - while they’re smooth, glide is still quite slow, especially on a cloth mat. In SteelSeries’ defense, the original IMO 1.1 used plastic feet too, although an upgrade to Teflon here would have been much welcomed.


Specifications have been given a nice upgrade. The IMO 1.1 utilized an ancient 400 DPI optical sensor, whereas the Kana has been fitted with a 3200 DPI optical sensor that does 3600 FPS and 130 inches per second. The mouse can be switched between 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 DPI, although 3200 DPI is interpolated and, as such, is not as accurate as lower DPI settings. At 800 DPI, performance was perfect and very stable across a multitude of different surfaces. The sensor has about 2mm of lift, with no prediction or acceleration.

Final Thoughts

We're not too sure about the bright safety orange scroll wheel on the Black 1.1.

SteelSeries have done an excellent job bringing back the IMO 1.1. Fans of the mouse who have had to settle for the Sensei or Xai in the past, or weren’t prepared to shell out over $100, should find a good replacement in the Kana.

For claw or fingertip grippers without experience with the IMO 1.1, but looking for a reasonably affordable, small-medium sized, ambidextrous 5-button mouse with a superb optical sensor, the Kana should also be one of the first considered.