Mice—they’re something we PC enthusiasts tend to take for granted. After all, once you’ve specced out your new rig with a blazing fast processor and a video card the size of a VCR, what’s it really matter what we use to move the pointer around?
It’s recently become popular for major PC game releases to be accompanied by their own line of branded peripherals, custom designed by big-name peripheral makers like Razer and SteelSeries. Frequently, these products are no more than a reskinning of a popular model, as is the case with the Call of Duty: Black Ops Stealth Mouse, which is essentially a rebranded Cyborg R.A.T. Other times, the tie-in is more substantial, as with the SteelSeries WoW mice, which feature unique, game-inspired designs as well as features and software intended to help you play the game better.
So, when we got the complete set of StarCraft II custom peripherals in for testing from Razer, we were curious to see whether they would be more like the former or the latter scenario. What we found out was surprising.
The first product from the line that we tested, the Spectre, almost immediately raised some red flags. From a design standpoint, the Spectre is a big departure for Razer. It forgoes the company’s trademark ergonomic, curved construction for a flatter and smaller-than-usual design. With hard, angled edges and a low profile, it’s surprisingly uncomfortable for a product from a company with a lot of experience making mice that feel good to hold.
We've seen some funky looking mice before, but nothing quite like Mad Catz's Cyborg R.A.T. lineup first introduced at CES earlier this year. If you've been waiting for one of these contraptions, they're now available for pre-order.
There are several models to choose from, including the R.A.T.9 built around zero-latency 2.4GHz wireless technology. According to Mad Catz, their flagship gaming rat boasts a 1ms response time. It also comes with two custom built lithium-ion battery cells, one of which powers the rodent while the other charges in the dock.
Taking a cue from Logitech, the ninth rat also includes five 6-gram weights so you can make it as heavy or light as you see fit. Other features include a 5600 DPI, four custom DPI settings, five programmable buttons, and interchangeable pinkie and palm rests.
You won't find many serious gamers attempting to frag their opponents with $10 rodent, and one of the main reasons why is because these blue-light specials just don't offer the high DPI sensitivity that gaming grade mice do. But do you really need an ultra-high DPI?
"Technology has progressed to a level where you can move your mouse, say, one inch on your desk, and your cursor will move 2 or 3 times your screen length," said Kim Rom, the CMO of SteelSeries. "That doesn't make you more precise or accurate; I would argue that it does exactly the opposite. A higher DPI in a mouse doesn't offer a lot of value, and it is not a benchmark for how precise or awesome the mouse is. It's simply a measure of sensitivity."
Rom's comments ruffled a few feathers, including those at Razer.
"I think gamers care about DPI and I do think the term makes sense for today's mice," said Robert Krakoff, President of Razer. "We pioneered this industry back in 1999 when we came out with the first gaming mouse offering 2000 DPI -- at that time gamers were told by our competitors that 800 DPI was enough. Now people are saying 1600 DPI is enough, just like there were 'purists' who believed in silent movies, black and white TV, or perhaps film rather than digital cameras. By the way, I could discuss CD versus vinyl for days."
So could we, but maybe another time. The issue at hand is how important a high DPI really is, and while Razer sees it as very important, Krakoff does acknowledge that "one size does not fit all," meaning some prefer a higher sensitivity while others want a lower DPI.
So who's right? Is there even a right or wrong answer? Hit the jump and sound off!
Say what you will about Microsoft, but they’ve always made pretty good mice in our book. The Redmond giant’s new BlueTrack technology has made for some fairly lust-worthy pointing devices. Though, the pricing has been high thus far. Their newest offerings though, are priced at a mere $30 or less.
The Wireless Mouse 3500 is a smaller mouse aimed at notebook users. It has five buttons and the hand-contorting form factor common on notebook mice. The going price is $30. The Wireless Mouse 2000 is a more generously sized standard mouse with five buttons and a tilt wheel. This one also retails for $30. Finally we have the Comfort Mouse 4500. This unit is basically just the 2000 with a wire instead of wireless technology. This model will run only $25.
If you aren’t sold based on the price alone, the new BlueTrack mice are available in an assortment of colors to brighten your work station. Microsoft has gotten some kudos for the BlueTrack technology, and these new mice make the technology more accessible than ever. You might see these inexpensive mice in your office soon.
It’s all the rage these days to have multitouch technology baked into software. Now Microsoft is letting us know that having multiple pointers could be cool too with the new MultiPoint SDK. The new v1.5 release is available for download and will allow developers to create applications that use multiple mice simultaneously. The SDK could allow groups to work collaboratively on a single PC.
Having a single computer interpret commands from multiple pointers could be a boon to education, says Microsoft. Many schools have fewer computers than students, and sharing PCs doesn’t always work because only one person is really able to interact with it at a time. In the recent demo on MSDN’s Channel9, some beta applications were shown off using three pointers.
While Redmond seems to be pushing education as the big sell, there could be other uses. There are times when a single computer with two independent mice could work just as well as two computers. The SDK is compatible with Windows 7 and Server 2008. Make sure to check out the video demo. If you’re the developer type, the SDK can be found here.
At first glance, Logitech’s new G500 mouse looks like yesterday’s model. Its chassis is almost identical to the classic G5, which was in turn a slight redesign of the MX510/518 series. The G500 takes the classic hump design of the MX510/518 and updates the sensor with one similar to the sensor used in the newer G9x line of mice. That’s very nice.
When we say the same laser sensor as the G9x, we really mean that Logitech included an ever-so-slightly upgraded version of the G9x’s sensor. The G500’s adjustable sensor lets you select a setting from 200–5,700dpi, while the G9x limits you to 200–5,000dpi. This isn’t really a significant upgrade, as even the 5,000dpi setting is unplayable outside the small subset of games that let you set an incredibly low sensitivity. Still, we love the silky-smooth action of this mouse.
Microsoft’s latest Sidewinder mouse, the X8, combines a wireless design with the latest in optical sensor technology. Sporting a proprietary BlueTrack sensor, the X8 will work on most any surface, including granite and marble, which are problems for mice with more traditional optical and laser sensors. This is also Microsoft’s first wireless Sidewinder mouse—it utilizes the traditional 2.4GHz band, but updates more times per second than most wireless Microsoft mice.
We love the button placement and scroll wheel on this mouse. All of the buttons are easy to find and quick to press and the scroll wheel is quick and responsive. The top and bottom thumb buttons are especially praiseworthy. Unlike other mice equipped with a pair of thumb buttons aligned in a fore and aft configuration, the Sidewinder’s thumb buttons are aligned vertically, with Mouse5 placed above Mouse4.
Like the Razer Mamba, which we reviewed last month, the X8 features a play and charge cable. Using a magnetic power adapter that quickly and easily snaps into place, you can convert the X8 from battery power in mere seconds, should your battery die. The X8’s connection system is a marked improvement over the Mamba.
There’s really nothing worse than an otherwise wonderful product with one fatal flaw that brings its whole score down. The Razer Mamba is a wonderful wireless gaming mouse, with an absolutely devastating power problem.
For the Mamba, Razer tweaked the kick-ass shape of the now-classic DeathAdder design—perfect for palm-grip mousers—to sneak in a pair of sensitivity adjustment buttons. The changes paid off: The Mamba is eminently comfortable for long-term gaming sessions, and the sensitivity buttons fix our only complaint with the DeathAdder, which offered imprecise on-the-fly sensitivity adjustments using the mouse wheel.