We tend to think of some PC components as having a longer shelf life than others. A video card gets out of date faster than a motherboard, which gets out of date faster than an optical drive, for instance. Some people think that a mouse falls way down at the bottom of that list, somewhere between a power supply and the screwdriver you use to put the whole thing together, but those people have got it all wrong.
Eeny, Meeny, Miny Mouse
Your mouse has a huge effect on how effectively you use your computer, and mouse technology evolves every year. Last year’s killer feature becomes this year’s baseline. Performance that was once top-of-the-line starts to make an appearance in the bargain bin. So if you’re still using the same crusty old mouse from half a decade ago, or if you’ve never made the jump to a true gaming mouse in the first place, you owe it to yourself to take a look at what’s on the market right now.
To help you out, we’ve rounded up six premium gaming mice spanning multiple price points and niches and put them to the test in an attempt to find the best gaming mouse. Each one has been rated based on its features, build quality, performance, and software support. Some of these mice are among the best we’ve ever tested, so read on and find out how you’re going to control your next PC.
Is it time to cut the cord?
A lot of gamers still have the idea that a true gaming mouse can’t be wireless—that wireless mice lag and are unreliable and will totally wreck your K/D in Call of Duty. Fortunately, that idea has been proven wrong repeatedly recently, as multiple companies have released high-quality wireless gaming mice. With the G602, Logitech has pounded another nail in that myth’s coffin.
The G602 is a wireless mouse with a solid, all-purpose set of features. It has plenty of buttons, including a bank of six bindable keys accessible to your thumb, which allows it to work fairly well for MMO or FPS gameplay.
It’s long, with a high-arched design that will work best for those who prefer a full-palm grip, and the construction is top-notch. A rubber pad on the palm makes the mouse easy to hold on to, and the textured plastic around the sides of the mouse feels very durable.
The G602 isn’t rechargeable, but it is designed for extreme longevity. Logitech claims that in gaming mode, a single set of two AA batteries will last for 250 hours. During our testing, we weren’t able to make a dent in the battery meter, so we’re not inclined to disagree.
In order to provide longer battery life, Logitech went with an optical sensor. We found the tracking to be quite good, though the maximum 2,500 dpi and 500Hz polling rate might be too low for some gamers. Logitech’s software is usually solid, and the G602 is no exception.
The Logitech G602 features plenty of thumb buttons.
If you’re looking for a wireless-only mouse with plenty of features for any type of gaming, you won’t be disappointed by the G602.
A super-small mouse with some full-size problems
You’ve got to hand it to Mad Catz—the company is not afraid to try new things with its peripherals. This derring-do was apparent with the über-customizable R.A.T. 7, which was truly innovative. With the R.A.T. M, Mad Catz tried something new again. This time, however, it didn’t work out so well.
The R.A.T. M is a gaming mouse designed for portable gaming. It’s wireless, powered by two AAA batteries, and absolutely tiny, so you can throw it in your laptop bag. It can be used as a Bluetooth mouse, though it also comes with a low-profile USB dongle that stows away under the mouse when not in use. As is usually the case, we found the USB mode to be more dependable than Bluetooth. A laser sensor provides great tracking on nearly any surface.
Unfortunately, for all its portable conveniences, the R.A.T. M just isn’t comfortable to use. The palm rest on the mouse extends, increasing the overall length, but even at its very longest, the mouse is still quite small, leaving your hand in a cramp-inducing extreme arc. Worse, the palm rest doesn’t lock into place, so during the course of normal use it would almost constantly get shoved back into its shortest setting, rendering the mouse incredibly uncomfortable to use for more than a short while. There are plenty of buttons on the R.A.T. M, but most of them are quite difficult to hit, due again to the mouse’s small size.
With the R.A.T. M’s palm rest extended, the mouse is almost big enough to comfortably use.
A portable mouse is always going to be a compromise, but at $130 MSRP, the R.A.T. M asks too much, and offers too little.
Mad Catz R.A.T. M
Click the next page to read about the TT ESports Theron and Roccat Kone Pure.
Aside from some flashy lights, does this newcomer bring much to the table?
TT ESports is the peripherals division of Thermaltake, and one of the newer entrants into the increasingly crowded market. While the Theron isn’t the flashiest mouse we’ve seen, it’s a very solid piece of hardware, and a sign that the company’s serious about competing.
The Theron is an especially boxy mouse, with very wide, flat buttons and a nice clicking action. When powered up, it emits light from the scroll wheel, dragon logo, and from three LEDs located around the bottom, lighting up your desk under the mouse.
The mouse features the sort of “soft-touch” rubberized surface that’s popular on a lot of gaming mice. Though it feels nice to the touch, these coatings have a tendency to make your hand feel sweaty quickly, and the Theron’s in particular started to show grease and fingerprints right away.
On the underside of the Theron is a hatch that opens up to reveal a bank of five 4.5 gram weights, which allows you to substantially alter the overall weight of the mouse. It has two additional thumb buttons, one pinky button, and two DPI buttons. All are bindable, though the DPI buttons are placed far enough back from the thumb wheel that there’s no real hope of hitting them in the heat of battle. Our only real complaint about the construction of the mouse is that the scroll wheel felt a little flimsy in its socket—otherwise, the Theron is quite solid.
Like a souped-up street racer, the Theron features customizable underlighting.
The Theron doesn’t do much to stand out among the other mice in its price range, but it’s hard to find specific things to fault it for. It’s an all-around respectable option.
Tt eSports Theron
Sometimes beauty is more than skin deep
“Pure” is a good name for this version of the Roccat Kone gaming mouse—it’s all about pure performance. It doesn’t have a billion buttons, or removable weights, or any other extraneous features. Instead, the Kone Pure focuses on doing a smaller number of things well.
For one, the Kone Pure offers great tracking, with a top-notch 8,200 dpi laser sensor. The mouse’s lift-off distance can be customized, if you like to really fiddle with your mouse’s performance. It also features half a megabyte of onboard memory, and a 32-bit processor, so you can store your profiles and macros directly on the mouse, and use them anywhere.
Because the mouse is a little on the shorter side, we recommend it most for those who hold their device with their fingers bent, or who have smaller hands. The Color Edition we were sent for review is treated with a breathable matte finish and bright “Cool Blue” paint job. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to our eyes this thing is absolutely killer.
The Kone Pure’s software is a little cluttered, but generally up to the task of accessing the myriad ways you can customize the mouse. The mouse features four buttons in addition to the standard three, but one of the thumb buttons acts as a shift key, effectively doubling the number of keys or macros you can bind.
The Roccat Kone Pure comes in an array of limited-edition colors.
The Kone Pure’s the real deal. It may not be perfect for everyone, but for most folks it’s a great option.
Roccat Kone Pure Color Edition
Click the next page to read about the Corsair Raptor M40 and Razer Ouroboros.
What a difference $10 makes
The Raptor M40 occupies a curious space in Corsair’s too-dense lineup of gaming mice. With an MSRP of $60, it’s priced right at the bottom end of what we’d normally consider the premium gaming mouse market, yet it’s feature set is more in line with what you’d find in a budget mouse.
It is, essentially, a stripped-down version of Corsair’s M65 gaming mouse, which has an MSRP of $70. The two share the same overall shape and design, but the M65 features an aluminum baseplate, a useful DPS-switching sniper button, and, most importantly, a laser sensor. The M40, by comparison, is all plastic and has an optical sensor.
We experienced a noticeable performance dip switching to this M40 from the other mice in this roundup, including tracking problems on some of our test surfaces. Without many other features to speak of, the optical sensor is a strike against the M40.
Otherwise, the M40 is perfectly decent. The software is a little clunky but serviceable, and offers profiles with multiple DPI settings and user-defined macros. Under the mouse, three separate weight chambers allow you to customize how the M40’s weight is distributed, which is a nice touch.
Under the M40, you’ll find three separate weight chambers.
Ultimately, the M40 isn’t bad, it just doesn’t offer a great set of features at this price. If you like the design, we strongly recommend paying the extra $10 for the M65. Otherwise, you can get more mouse for $60 elsewhere.
Corsair Raptor M40
Razer redefines ‘top of the line’
The Ouroboros takes a page (or maybe even a whole chapter) from the Cyborg R.A.T., the mouse that introduced the idea of a fully customizable device. Like that model, the Ouroboros’s length can be adjusted, and you can swap out the mouse’s side-plates, choosing between flat panels and flared wings. You can also fine-tune the angle of the palm rest, giving the mouse more or less arch as you desire. Somewhat surprisingly, the Ouroboros does not offer any sort of weight adjustment—a feature that’s started to pop up in a lot of high-end mice.
The design and build quality on the Ouroboros are both excellent. It’s got an aggressive, boxy look and lacks the swoopy lines of Razer’s other mice. It’s also perfectly symmetrical, so it works equally well for left-handed gaming. A detachable USB cord allows the mouse to be used wired or wirelessly, with a small recharging station that doubles as the wireless receiver.
Razer’s software is reliably high-quality, and the Ouroboros is no exception. As with all products using the Razer Synapse software, you have to sign up for an account to use it, which is silly, but once you do, you get access to pretty much every customization feature you could ask for in a mouse. Button bindings, macros, profiles, the works—in a slick, easy-to-use package.
The Ouroboros can be adjusted to fit any size hand.
The bottom line is that this mouse is top of the line, and it’s priced to match. If you want a mouse that can do it all, and don’t mind spending a bundle, this is a great choice.
There’s a lot of jargon used in marketing material for gaming mice. Here are definitions for some of the most common terms.
DPI Short for “dots per inch,” dpi is the measure of a mouse sensor’s maximum sensitivity. A higher dpi value lets you move the pointer faster without sacrificing any accuracy. Dpi is important, but note that dpi values higher than 2,000 only really matter if you prefer very fast, “twitchy” pointer movement. Anything much higher than 4,000 or so is unlikely to actually come up in real-world use.
Polling Frequency This is how often the mouse sends new location information to your PC. A higher frequency means a quicker response time, though, as with dpi, it will be difficult for you to perceive differences in polling rates above 500Hz.
Onboard Processor/Memory These features allow you to store profile information and performance settings directly on a mouse, so they’ll work on any computer the mouse is plugged into. This is useful, but some marketing materials oversell the utility of having a processor in your mouse.
Grip Style Razer marketing in particular likes to describe each mouse as being best for one particular grip style or another (see image). The major thing you should be aware of is whether you like to lay your palm and fingers flat on the mouse, or raise them up in an arch, so only your fingertips and the bottom of your palm touch it. The former favors a long mouse, with a higher, ergonomic arch.
In Windows, there are really only three important mouse settings, and they are all located in the Mouse Properties panel. You can access this panel by opening the Control Panel, clicking Hardware and Sound, and then Mouse. Here’s what you need to know.
Pointer Speed This slider adjusts how fast your pointer moves, of course, but the real secret is that you shouldn’t ever need to use it. Any modern gaming mouse will allow you to set custom dpi levels, which adjust how sensitive the mouse is. Higher sensitivity will make the pointer move faster. If you instead keep the mouse sensitivity set low, and increase the pointer speed in Windows or in a game, your mouse accuracy will suffer.
Mouse Acceleration Mouse acceleration causes the mouse pointer to move farther based on how fast you’re moving the mouse. So, quickly jerking the mouse over an inch will move the pointer farther than slowly dragging it that same inch. Many people find that this feels natural, but for some types of games where extreme mouse precision is required it may be undesirable. To disable it, uncheck the box labeled “Enhance pointer precision.”