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Yes, it's a mouse
The first thing anyone will notice about the RAT 1 is its outlandish design. The RAT series has always been notable for weird-looking mice, but the baby RAT takes first place. Its skeletal form comes apart in three pieces: the frame, sensor module, and the palm rest. All three parts are made entirely of plastic, and simply snap together with little difficulty.

All of the electronics for the mouse are packed in the sensor module. In fact, MadCatz says that one could use the mouse with just the sensor module, perhaps for maximum pack-along potential. Having done so myself, I can say that there's very little reason to even consider doing this. It works, to be sure, but even with my short fingers, gripping the mouse and pressing the buttons is an exercise in digital gymnastics. Also, the smooth surface on the sides of the sensor module made it prone to popping out of my sweaty fingers during intense gaming. (It's still warm down here in Texas.) Besides, the frame and palm rest don't account for even a quarter of the mouse's weight, so I'd just bring the whole thing along if I ever got the urge to game on the move.

Because of its design, all of the RAT 1's weight is concentrated right at the front. That weight distribution makes the mouse feel downright bizarre when you first begin using it, at least compared to my usual Corsair Vengeance M95. Despite the initial weirdness, it didn't take me long to adjust to using the RAT 1. That might be because the mouse's 60-gram weight makes sliding it around on its PTFE feet an effortless operation. It can't be overstated how light this thing is, and while the thin plastic construction makes me wary of its long-term prospects for survival—heavy-handed palm-grippers need not apply—it's held up fine to my abuse during our tests.

Weight distribution aside, the RAT 1's ergonomics are much better than I expected from the pictures. I use a claw grip, and my hand easily slides into place on the mouse. The smooth plastic of the frame makes for a convenient resting point for my thumb and ring finger. The RAT's sharply-curved palm rest tucks neatly into my hand in a manner more like a game controller than a typical computer mouse. Users with larger hands than mine will doubtless be more comfortable snapping off the palmrest and moving it to the rearmost position, an operation that takes just a few seconds.

Speaking of the palm rest, one of the more unique features of the new RAT mice is the ability to 3D print and attach your own custom pieces to your mouse. For the RAT 1, MadCatz provides CAD files for the attachment bracket, three palm rest designs, and three grilles to snap into those designs. The company encourages users to create their own palmrests and 3D print them. I don't have the required CAD experience nor a 3D printer handy, so I couldn't try out this feature. In any case, I'm pretty happy with the existing palm rest, at least in its forward position.


Some of the 3D schematics MadCatz provides for the RAT 1

The two primary buttons use TTC switches. Right out of the box, at least, they actuate with little pressure and have a sharp, satisfying response. The mouse wheel uses a Kailh switch underneath, and it too has a very sharp click to it. It feels especially great compared to the extremely mushy wheel switches on many other mice. Rotating the rubber-coated mousewheel is effortless and smooth, but the gentle detents are solid enough that accidental inputs should be rare. In any event, the wide surface at the front of the mouse gives plenty of room to avoid hitting the wheel accidentally.

In fact, the only times I did hit the wheel accidentally were when I was reaching for the two-position toggle switch behind the mousewheel. This switch serves as the fourth and fifth mouse buttons. It works reliably, but I found that I could only easily hit it with my index finger. Of course, shifting my finger around left me unable to shoot (or use mouse button 1, in any case) for an uncomfortably long time. Given that I—like many players—use the fourth mouse button for push-to-talk, I definitely would have preferred a different placement.