Putting the RAT on the mat
Before I even looked up the specs, read any of the materials, or installed the software, I just hooked up the RAT 1 and started playing. I already knew the mouse's price tag, but I didn't want any further prejudices to affect my thoughts on the mouse. My initial impressions of the RAT 1 were quite positive. In Phantasy Star Online 2, League of Legends, and Doom (both its 1993 and 2016 versions), the mouse performed adequately, if not admirably. It felt a little awkward under the hand, but I figured that was because of the enormous gulf in size, weight, and price between the RAT 1 and my usual Corsair Vengeance M95.
It wasn't until I started playing some good old Unreal Tournament 2004 that I noticed something amiss. Now, I'm no professional gamer, but I'm pretty handy with a shock rifle, and I've played a tremendous amount of Unreal Tournament. I still play UT2K on a semi-regular basis with old friends, and I also load it up for a match or two to kill time when another game is updating or on maintenance. As I was nearing the end of my first round of game testing, I decided to play some UT2K explicitly to tease out any possible issues with the mouse.
Almost immediately I noticed something off. Playing in Instagib mode against a handful of Inhuman bots, I was getting trashed, and that's not the way things normally go for me. I was missing shots by microns that I felt like I should have landed, and I had to back down to Masterful difficulty before I was winning again. Exiting the game, I thought to myself: "surely MadCatz didn't ship a gaming mouse in 2016 with prediction enabled."
The company did just that, though. Testing in Paint.net makes it painfully clear. I have a steady hand, to be certain, but straight horizontal and vertical lines like that don't come from mice naturally, nor with that consistency. Those lines were all drawn in one go, to be clear. To make sure I checked for every factor, I tried multiple USB ports (both 2.0 and 3.0), moused around on multiple surfaces, and even tried futzing about with the mouse's DPI and report rate settings in its included utility. Despite my best efforts, that prediction behavior persisted.
Let me be clear: if MadCatz hadn't branded this mouse as a serious gaming mouse, I wouldn't consider this meddling a huge flaw. As I've noted, the mouse performed admirably with more casual games. Exhaustive testing both with software tools and with the "obstacle test" revealed no built-in acceleration. Not once did I have a tracking fault or any other major malfunction with the RAT 1, and the angle-snapping effect is pretty subtle in normal use. Taking this mouse's entry-level price point into account, I would normally think this feature is pretty forgivable. In a mouse sold explicitly as a gaming mouse, though, it's absurd. Mad Catz's utility doesn't offer any way to toggle the feature on and off, which leads me to believe it may be baked into the sensor.
There are some bright points regarding the sensor's performance. PixArt rates the sensor for tracking at speeds up to 30 inches per second (0.76 m/s), but as you can see above, I've measured it successfully tracking at speeds well past that figure (the peak of the graph lies around one meter per second). Its report rate is a remarkably steady 1000 Hz during rapid motion. Perhaps my favorite thing about this mouse is its extremely short lift-off distance. Resting the corner of the mouse on two stacked CD-ROMs is enough to make it completely fail to track, giving it a lift-off distance of less than 2.4 mm. Not unusual for an optical mouse, but still not bad.