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MadCatz's RAT 1 gaming mouse reviewed

Entry-level in a premium market

As a child, I was a fan of esoteric input devices. For my Nintendo Entertainment System, I had a pair of Bandai's Super Controller stick adapters that I used religiously. I later owned a Sega Activator that I didn't use at all. I was one of the first to own one of Belkin's Nostromo Speedpads, and a few years later, I used one of the original Saitek Cyborg mice to pop heads in Counter-Strike: Source.

With that kind of history, I couldn't say no when MadCatz offered to let me try out a couple of models from its new range of RAT gaming mice. Mad Catz's first rodent on the TR test bench is the RAT 1 that I'm dissecting for y'all today. While the RAT 1 isn't a new product, this particular version is a big change from the original.

MadCatz is actually in the middle of a top-to-bottom refresh of its RAT line, and that refresh was announced less than a month before the news that the company had sold what was left of Saitek to Logitech. Saitek was the progenitor of the Cyborg Gaming brand and its RAT mice, and MadCatz took over the brand when it purchased Saitek back in 2007.

Perhaps as a result of that sale, the new RAT mice have dropped the "Cyborg" appellation entirely. This appears to be part of a larger push by MadCatz to simplify the RAT branding. The RAT series now comprises four standard models and two "Pro" models, although some of them—like today's RAT 1—are revised versions of earlier products.

The refreshed RAT 1, like the previous model, is an entry-level gaming mouse with distinctive styling, a bare-bones feature set, and a $30 price tag. It retains the skeletal, almost-wireframe-esque styling of its predecessor, and folks with a 3D printer can use it to print off their own custom palm rests for this particular rodent. The RAT 1 also carries over its predecessor's four buttons and clicky scroll wheel. The original mouse's biggest claim to fame was its 50-gram weight, but the new model is just a touch heavier—a hair over 60 grams without the cord.

So what's new in the refresh? The freshened RAT 1 now sports an edgy black-and-red finish to match its siblings in the new RAT line. It even has an angry red LED sticking out of the top that can be disabled if it's not to the user's taste. Mad Catz is also releasing an updated configuration utility freshly dubbed "Flux" alongside the new mice, which lets users configure six of the mouse's seven inputs. The biggest change from the previous RAT 1 is the new model's sensor, though.

The first RAT 1 used a PixArt PMW3320 optical sensor capable of tracking at up to 80 inches per second with a 3500-DPI resolution. Those numbers aren't going to break any records, but the PMW3320 is a reasonably solid entry-level optical gaming mouse sensor. The new RAT 1 instead uses a PAW3204DB sensor. PixArt says this sensor is meant to be used with ultra-low-power wireless mice, and it's limited to tracking at up to 30 inches per second with a 1600 DPI resolution. This is explicitly not a gaming sensor, and I feel a bit of trepidation about the change.

Still, just like with cameras and monitors, specs aren't everything. I'll talk a bit about the sensor's performance in a moment, but let's check out the mouse it sits in first.