By – Mike Bezek
The words “gaming” and “wireless” have been two entities that, until only recently, been nothing more than strange bedfellows. While modern consoles have been integrating Bluetooth technology to maintain reliable connections, PC hardware has been playing catch up, dawdling in the distance with 2.4 Ghz wireless. In todays hardware review, we will be taking a closer look at the MadCatz R.A.T. M Wireless Gaming Mouse, a product bearing those previously dissonant phrases. Featuring selling points such as Bluetooth and 6400 DPI, it appears to be a forerunner on the wireless scene, but some issues may keep it from achieving the figurative crown.
Build Quality & Aesthetics
The R.A.T. M looks like something straight out of a science fiction novel written in the 90’s: small, sleek and full of sharp edges. At first glance, the mouse appears to be built so that it fits the curvature of a childs hand with an initial setup that was no larger than my palm. The small shell situated at its back end is an extendible palm rest with three different lengths, allowing comfort and customizability for individual users. A small wing extending from the lower left of the device was exceptionally comfortable when being used for long periods of time doing continuous sweeping motions in Photoshop. The overall ergonomics allows for prolonged gaming sessions with minimal fatigue due to how your hand is cradled so well.
The mouse wheel reminds me much of the floating wheel seen on a Ducati 848 EVO motorcycle – it appears to be suspended in mid-air upon first glance. The deep grooves of the wheel provide ample grip, assisting the very responsive and satisfying scrolling motion with just the right amount of feedback. Below the wheel resides the DPI cycle button, recessed into the mouse so that it cannot be struck by accident. It required a deliberate depression to engage the next mode in the cycle – a good design choice to those whose hands get a bit crazy in serious matches.
What allows the R.A.T. M to claim such a high DPI (6400 stated) is the “Twin Eye” laser which was designed for serious gaming-level applications. Such a high degree of scanning allows for incredibly quick and precise motions depending on user preference. I took the unit for a spin at 6400 DPI on a hard wooden desk with no mousepad and was pleasantly surprised how accurate the cursor was. In previous tests with mice that stated high DPI, the laser compromised accuracy at high speeds which resulted in the cursor hopping around the screen in an attempt to keep up. The R.A.T. M takes wired mice to task with the silky-smooth movement while not overstating its capabilities.
Boasting a bevy of customizable buttons, the R.A.T. M is no slouch when it comes to pre-programming specific tasks. Software that is obtained through their website provides a relatively simple interface which includes 44 common browsing actions, from forwarding emails to accessing various Windows 8 features. Other software features allow for setting different DPI cycles, sleep timers, and other battery saving utilities.
The mouse features a total a six buttons, one of which can be manipulated in multiple directions. This small, quad-directional button residing above the wing extension is a bit of a misnomer – it requires the user to press upwards with no comfortable way to do so. While pressing down, left or back remained very simple, I was forced to stabilize my thumb on the wing to gain a bit of grip in order to press upwards. This problem may solely reside in the size and shape of my hand, but it ultimately disappointing as I found myself avoiding the button altogether.
If you, like myself, have no integrated Bluetooth support via your motherboard, the M features a small compartment on the underside which hides a USB Bluetooth adapter. Popping the minuscule dongle into a front-side USB 3.0 slot yielded no results, so it was installed on the backside USB 2.0 of the test system. After installing the drivers and software, as the device is not a plug and play system, I took it for a spin on a variety of surfaces. With the front of the package boasting the versatility of the device, I used it on the most common surfaces someone would be using in a mobile (i.e. laptop) setting: bedsheets, notepads, regular mousepads, hardwood, and glass. Surprisingly, the M does remarkably well in almost every setting, barring a bit of discrepancy on the hardwood. It can be attributed the the wood grain throwing the laser off due to the intricacy of its pattern, but it was hardly noticeable.
Testing the unit in a desktop setup yielded some undesirable results due to a lack of direct line of sight from device to dongle. Severe lag issues cropped up when returning to the device after it has gone into sleep mode. Upon waking, I would find my cursor jumping 50% of the post-sleep state where the only resolution was to turn it off and on. Other lag instances were purely random, with no discernible cause. I attempted to decrease the distance of the mouse to the dongle, which sometimes resolved the issue, but not consistently. I do need to reiterate that line of sight may have been slightly obscured, but the fact remains that I was able to reproduce these issues with the mouse less than 3 feet from the receiver.
While these occurrences are all expected faults in wireless technology, the issue I hold is that this mouse of branded a gaming mouse. If I am playing a round of hardcore mode in Path Of Exile, or trying to advance my team in DOTA, suddenly losing my cursor for an indeterminate amount of time, or even worse, experiencing skipping, can result in heavy losses. In my opinion, placing the term, “gaming” on a product means that it will perform at the same level as wired mice within the same price point. I could be taking the term gaming in a “hardcore” direction with my argument, but is that not the audience MadCatz is targeting their product towards?
Is It Worth Your Money?
Wireless Gaming still seems like a non sequitur for most serious gamers as it can be a bit unnerving to place control into a non-analog device. MadCatz brings build quality, sturdiness, and functionality to the table, but its versatility is ultimately hindered. Sitting high in the pricing scale at $129.99, the R.A.T. M is one of the priciest mice out there, making it a tough buy from the word go. While the issues that were experienced during to testing were infrequent, the frustration of dealing with it was duly noted. As a gaming device, it is very hard to recommend due to lag being an unacceptable fault. If anything, the R.A.T. M gives a legitimate excuse to those who blame lag on losing a match.
- Time used – 1 week (40 hours)
- Acquisition Method – Review Unit
- MSRP – $129.99
- Availability – Amazon