And there's more
Hard-core gaming mice have come with removable weights for a while now, and the Rat 7 has a collection of its own buried within the frame. There are five metal donuts in all, each of which weighs 6 grams. A spring keeps the weights securely anchored if only a couple are in use, and a handy rubber container is provided to store the ones that aren't. The Allen key used to turn the mouse's various bolts is even slicker; it screws directly into the weight shaft and should be very difficult to lose.
Without its auxiliary weights onboard, the Rat tips our fancy new scale at 154 grams. That's a little on the heavy side for a wired mouse that isn't bloated by the weight of a battery, and I suspect it's the penalty one pays for the prevalence of metal components over plastic. Given the Rat's sturdy feel and excellent build quality, I don't mind a little extra heft. In fact, I actually prefer running the mouse with all five weights.
Tweaking options permeate nearly every aspect of the Rat. Just above the mouse wheel sits a DPI rocker that lets you click through four pre-defined sensitivity settings. The extra button over to the right is a mode switcher that toggles between three button-mapping configs. A logo set into the button glows different colors to indicate which mode is in use, while a set of four LEDs on the left edge of the mouse light up to identify the current DPI setting. Best of all, none of the lights blind, blink, or otherwise exhibit the garishness usually associated with gaming hardware.
The wheel has a rubber tread with plenty of traction for one's fingertip. This is a clicky unit as opposed to one that offers smooth scrolling, which makes sense given the Rat's gaming aspirations. Logitech's latest gaming mouse can switch its wheel between clicky and friction-free scrolling modes, though. As it turns out, the Rat doesn't have every adjustment option under the sun.
Traditional left and right mouse buttons flank the wheel, and they're nice and large. Both buttons offer excellent tactile feedback and strike with a sharply audible click.
While the Rat's wheel lacks tilt functionality for side scrolling, you get a second scroll wheel that's really more of a thumb knob. No rubber this time around, but the knob's metal ridges offer enough grip that rolling in either direction requires little more than a flick. Unfortunately, this thumb knob can't be configured to side-scroll like a tilt wheel, although it is open to all kinds of other programming via Cyborg's software. More on that in a moment.
First, I must point your attention to the adjustable thumb pod and its three buttons. The two along the top edge are conventional forward and back buttons. To their left is a "precision aim" button that cuts the mouse sensitivity if you want to switch quickly from twitch-shooting from the hip to something that's a little more manageable when zoomed in through a scope.
Flipping the Rat onto its back reveals a thick metal base and several very slick pads. With the aid of a "twin eye" laser, the Rat can track at resolutions up to 5600 DPI and speeds as high as 6 meters per second. My aging reflexes are far too sluggish to take real advantage of this kind of precision, but competitive gamers should appreciate it.
I should mention that the Rat seems almost too sensitive at times. About once a week, a piece of dust or a strand of cat hair manages to work its way into the sensor's path and briefly mucks up tracking. Blowing on the sensor instantly solves the problem, but I've not encountered this issue with other mice on the exact same desk.
If the Rat feels a little too twitchy, it's easy to tone down the sensitivity by adjusting the DPI via Cyborg's Smart Technology programming app. Each of the four predefined levels can be set between 25 and 5600 DPI in gloriously granular 25-DPI increments. A similar level of control is offered over the precision aim percentage, which can be changed in 1% steps.
Five of the Rat's buttonsthe forward and back thumb buttons, both directions on the knob, plus middle-click on the mouse wheelare subject to programming. The options on this front are extensive and frankly a little daunting for someone who spends most of his time playing first-person shooters that don't require a lot of custom macros. Each button can be bound to a single keystroke, multiple concurrent keystrokes, or a complex sequence that combines both to speed your shopping spree in between Counter-Strike rounds. Grenade spammers will no doubt appreciate a "latched" mode that allows a single button press to trigger a rapid-fire repeat of a single keystroke. Press once to activate the repeat and a second time to turn it off.
Three modes give each configuration profile an added measure of on-the-fly adjustment. Multiple profiles can be created and saved, of course, and switching between them requires little more than right-clicking the Rat icon in the system tray.
I don't play games seriously enough to exploit all the programmability and precision built into the Rat 7. However, I have been using the mouse exclusively on my desktop for the last several weeks now, and that included a number of extended gaming sessions with everything from Mirror's Edge to Battlefield: Bad Company 2 to Alien Swarm. The verdict? It's awesome.
Let's start with the fit, which is better than any mouse I've ever used. Considering the range of adjustment options, that should really be a given. The Rat is more than a one-trick pony, though. It effortlessly glides across my desk and offers plenty of precision for detailed photo editing and more than enough responsiveness for my best attempts at twitch gaming. I did return to my Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 to do some side-scrolling in Excel, but the tryst didn't last. After using the Rat, the old mouse felt cheap, flimsy, and slow. I missed my tailored fit, and more than that, the fact that the Rat feels more like a precision instrument than a conventional PC peripheral.
Good tools rarely come cheap, but the Rat is reasonably affordable, all things considered. A couple of months after it debuted with a $100 suggested retail price, several online retailers have already knocked the Rat down to $80. Expect to pay closer to $130 for the Rat 9, which is identical save for a 2.4GHz wireless interface and extra weights. If that's too rich for your blood, Rat 5 and 3 models are also available with lower DPI ratings and fewer adjustment options. They have less of what makes the Rat 7 special, though, and this formula gets considerably weaker when it's watered down.
Besides, $80 really isn't that much to spend on a mouse. This isn't the sort of component you upgrade often, and if the Rat is as durable as it looks and feels, it should provide years of reliable service. We don't often bust out our Editor's Choice award here at TR, but the Rat 7 embodies all that it's meant to reward: excellent performance, innovative design, and solid value.
69 comments — Last by kamikaziechameleon at 10:24 AM on 01/07/11
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