When I find something that fits just right, I tend to stick with it. With running shoes, it’s New Balance’s 1060, whose model number has reliably ticked up once a year since I started wearing them. After five years, I’m now onto the 1064. For jeans, I have a few pairs of Levi’s Straight Loose cut. They sit nicely on my hips without needing belt, the crotch doesn’t hang around my knees, and there’s enough room to pedal my fixed-gear bike around town comfortably. On that and just about all of my steeds, I have seats made by Wilderness Trail Bikes. What can I say? WTB’s designs fit my undercarriage, and that’s a crucial point of contact for someone who thinks a six-hour ride is a perfectly relaxing way to spend a Sunday.
A proper fit is crucial for comfortable or competitive cycling, and I love that bikes offer all sorts of adjustment potential. Over the years, I’ve been able to tune my riding position carefully, settling on just the right seat height, stem length, handlebar angle, and grip tape. Such meticulous fiddling might seem obsessive, but it makes a big difference given how much time I spend perched on the pedals.
So, how much time do you spend with a mouse in hand? If you’re a PC enthusiast, probably quite a lotif not at work, then certainly at home. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mouse with a custom fit? That’s what Cyborg Gaming, a subsidiary of Mad Catz, has created with its Rat 7 gaming rodent. The Rat has all the fixings one might order with a premium gaming mouse, such as an insanely precise sensor and loads of programmable buttons, plus one very special trick: users can modify the mouse’s size and shape to suit their hands.
As someone whose own apish mitts are notoriously difficult to fit, I was immediately intrigued. Then I saw the Rat and, well, I had to give it a try. I think you’ll understand why:
Meet the Rat
Just look at it. Never before have I seen such a distinctive mouse. The exposed screws and sharp lines give the Rat an air of mechanical stealthiness. From some angles, the it’s barely identifiable as a PC peripheral. I half expect one day to hear the iconic Transformers sound and look down to find a tiny Decepticon perched on my desk. Presumably, it will then attempt to strangle me with the mouse’s nicely braided USB cable. The Rat looks entirely too menacing to be a friendly Autobot.
A black, almost satin finish nicely complements mouse’s radar-deflecting surfaces. The matte treatment is smooth but not slippery, and unlike a glossy or polished coating, it won’t pick up fingerprints and smudges. Excessively greasy fingertips will leave behind some residue, and you’ll definitely want to keep this puppy away from the Cheeto guy who seems to show up at every LAN party. The Rat’s blacked-out aesthetic and exposed internals make it easy to see the little flecks of dust, food, and dandruff that are sure to accumulate over time.
Certainly, it would be a shame for bright orange particulate sully the Rat’s brooding exterior. This mouse has lived on my desk for more than a month now, and there are still times that I pause for a moment just to admire it. I’m not just lusting after its brutally gorgeous lines, but at the function that defines this mouse’s striking form. The Rat looks like the combination of a bunch of different pieces because that’s very much what it is, and you can swap and adjust most of those individual elements.
To illustrate the range of adjustment options, I’ve put together a handy side-by-side image of the mouse in its most compact and expanded forms. The palm rest can be extended aft by up to 15 mm, and there’s 10 mm of forward-and-back range in the thumb rest. Users can also change the angle at which the thumb rest pivots out from the main body.
Over on the right, an optional wing provides a resting place for one’s pinky finger. I didn’t find this particular attachment to be all that comfortable, perhaps because it’s home to some of the mouse’s most aggressive edges. Fortunately, the Rat comes with a couple of flat panels for the right side. You can’t move the thumb rest to accommodate wrong-handed lefties, though.
A second palm rest is 4 mm taller than the standard unit, allowing users to add a little arc the mouse’s profile. When combined with the front-to-back adjustment range, the Rat can easily grow to cradle larger palms and provide extra reach for lengthy fingers. Users are limited to moving the palm rest between four notches along the mouse’s spine, though. There are no such restrictions associated with adjusting the thumb rest, whose angle and position can be tweaked less than a millimeter at a time.
From this angle, we get a nice look at the Allen bolt that holds the mouse’s side panel in place. If you don’t want the pinky wing, you can choose between smooth and rubberized side plates. Similar choices are offered with the palm rest: the taller module is only available with a smooth finish, but shorter palm rests are included with the same surface treatments as the side plates.
The rubberized coating offers a little cushioning and extra grip, and I prefer it for gaming and general desktop use. Although it doesn’t seem like much, the hint of extra padding does make a difference, especially after a long day.
Despite loads of exposed edges and angular surfaces, the Rat 7 is remarkably comfortable to hold once you’ve got the fit dialed in. I’ve yet to use a more comfortable mouse in day-to-day desktop tasks… even when those tasks extend well beyond the normal working day and into 10- and 12-hour territory. That said, during multi-hour gaming sessions, I did develop a bit of a sore spot where my hand touches the bottom-left edge of the palm rest. For what it’s worth, the fingers on my other hand felt considerably more crippled after hammering away at the WASD keys for the same amount of time.
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.