EpicGear’s Morpha X modular gaming mouse reviewed
TR gerbils may not have heard of EpicGear, a division of Golden Emperor International Limited (better known as GEiL). On top of its various memory offerings, the company sells a full range of gaming gear under that EpicGear brand, including keyboards, mice, and headsets. I’ve got both a keyboard and a mouse from the EG crew in the workshop right now. I’ll be looking at the keyboard soon, but today we’re talking about the Morpha X modular gaming mouse.
“Fully modular” is a weird thing to call a mouse, but it fits the Morpha X more than any mouse we’ve seen before. It’s an interesting design decision. EpicGear already sells gaming mice that should serve most tastes, including models with ambidextrous designs and dual sensors. With the Morpha X, the company seems to want to cater to every taste with one product. This is the second mouse to wear the Morpha name, but it’s company’s first mouse with user-replaceable parts.
Notably, the Morpha X is also the company’s first mouse with the popular PixArt PMW3360 sensor. Ever since it debuted (as the then-exclusive PMW3366) in Logitech’s G502 Proteus Core, mouse enthusiasts have raved about its perfectly precise tracking, completely free of prediction or acceleration. That sensor comes pre-installed in the mouse, while a second sensor module with the well-proven Avago ADNS-9800 laser sensor comes nestled in the box alongside a glossy white outer shell and a pair of EG Purple “pro” microswitches.
So what makes a “gaming” mouse? Is it the high-resolution sensor, the macro functions, the customizable weight, or the RGB LEDs? Whatever the case, the Morpha X has all of those. Actually, here—just take a look at this chart:
|EpicGear Morpha X|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||4.98″ x 2.62″ x 1.57″
(126.5 x 66.5 x 40 mm)
|Adjustable weight||3.24 – 3.95oz (92 – 112 g)|
|Max DPI||12,000 DPI (IR), 8,200 DPI (Laser)|
|Sensor type||Optical (Pixart 3360), Laser (Avago 9800)|
|Switch type||Omron D2FC-F-7N, D2FC-F-K|
|Switch life||20 million or 50 million actuations|
|Buttons||6 programmable + 1 fixed|
|Max polling rate||1000Hz|
|DPI switching levels||4|
Looking at the MorphaX without any other information, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a rather pedestrian mouse. Even when lit up, it doesn’t really stand out visually. With that said, I actually think that’s one of my favorite things about the mouse. It has an understated, almost elegant design, free of the wacky sci-fi shapes and excessive RGB glow of many other gaming mice.
EpicGear includes a semi-gloss grey cover on the mouse, but you can change that out for the included glossy white body just by popping it off. The shells are in two pieces, and the rear half simply lifts away from the body. The front half is held in place by two small plastic tabs and a magnet just behind the four DPI indicator lights. Lift up on those rear tabs, and the front half comes off effortlessly.
All those modular shell bits might sound like they would be awfully flimsy, but they aren’t at all. EpicGear’s design is pretty clever. To keep things sturdy, the front part of the shell snaps into place around the DPI indicator, and then the rear half has two pegs that drop into place in matching holes on the front half. In fact, the mouse feels very nearly as solid as my much heavier—and much less modular—Corsair Vengeance M95.
Removing the rear half of the mouse’s shell gives us access to slots for four five-gram removable weights. You can add or remove these weights to shift the mouse’s mass from 92 grams to 112 grams (without the cord.) Pro gamers seem to prefer extremely light-weight mice, and given the market for this mouse I do feel like the Morpha could have been ten or fifteen grams lighter to begin with. Personally, though, I’m used to pushing around my heavy 15-button Corsair monster. At least for me, using the Morpha X felt very comfortable with or without the weights installed. The symmetrical shape fits neatly against the front of my palm and it glides smoothly on its PTFE pads.
Removing the rear half of the mouse’s shell is also a requirement for swapping out the sensor module. Once the shell is removed, a gentle pull on the sensor unlatches it from the frame. (You can remove the sensor without completely removing the rear shell, but it’s more diffcult that way.) The sensor that comes installed in the mouse uses PixArt’s amazing PMW3360 optical sensor. This unit has a native 12,000-DPI resolution and can continuously track at up to 250 inches per second. Both of those values bear little relationship to how people typically use mice, but the point is that this is one of the best mouse sensors in the world.
The other sensor module that EpicGear includes with the mouse is a PixArt ADNS-9800 laser sensor. This sensor was originally designed by Avago, but PixArt purchased that company’s mouse sensor IP when Avago exited the market. The ADNS-9800 is a beloved laser sensor, and it’s been used in numerous successful designs like my own Vengeance M95. It ranges up to 8,200-DPI resolution, and “only” tracks at up to 150 inches-per-second. Of course, both of those values are more than sufficient for human beings, as well.
I think it’s worth noting that you can hot-swap the sensors in the mouse while it’s connected to a PC, but I don’t actually recommend doing so. When you yank the sensor module out of the mouse, the mouse disconnects from the PC after a few seconds. Installing another sensor module causes it to reconnect. This works fine most of the time. I even swapped sensors with the EpicGear Morpha X configuration app open, and it normally handles the changeover gracefully.
However, during my short time with the Morpha X, playing with fire this way caused major problems twice. Once, my hand slipped while removing the sensor module, and caused it to disconnect and reconnect in rapid succession. This seemed to horribly corrupt the mouse’s configuration, so much so that all of the buttons were un-bound and the DPI settings got set to unusable values. I had to use my other mouse to reset everything to defaults. The other time, the mouse got “stuck” on a ~75 Hz report rate. After I changed sensors twice and reset the mouse’s configuration again, that issue resolved itself.
In either case, it seems like the simplest way to avoid these kinds of problems is just to unplug the USB cable from the PC anytime you want to switch sensor modules. Since I started doing that, I haven’t had any further troubles at all. This step clearly isn’t absolutely necessary, but I’m a “better safe than sorry” kind of guy. With that said it seems rather unlikely you’ll be swapping out sensor modules on the regular anyway. More on this in a bit.
Removing the front half of the mouse allows us to get to the microswitches for the two primary buttons. EpicGear helpfully mounted the switches into a plastic “cage” of sorts that encloses them and makes them much easier to remove from their sockets. At least, in theory. In practice, using EpicGear’s plastic switch remover tool is an exercise in frustration. The tool itself is similar to the keycap-puller included with most Cherry MX-based mechanical keyboards, but the “hooks” on the end of the tool don’t grip very well, and the switches are very unwilling to leave their sockets. As a result, it requires an incredible amount of force to actually pull one of the switches.
In a certain light that’s a good thing, because it means the switches are securely mounted. Frankly speaking, I don’t think many users will be swapping out microswitches all that often. For one, it’s a pain, but more to the point, you’ll probably either find that you prefer one switch type over the other or that (like me) you simply won’t be able to tell the difference at all. I’m pretty sensitive to the differences in mechanical keyboard switches, but the switches that EpicGear included with the Morpha X feel identical to me.
Both types of included clickers are Omron D2F-series switches. The EG Orange “medium” switches bear the extremely common D2FC-F-7N model number, while the EG Purple “pro” switches are marked D2FC-F-K. These purple switches are a newer Omron model, and they’re rated for 50 million actuations at a minimum versus “just” 20 million from the orange switches. This seems to be the primary difference between the two switches; the “K” switches have a nominal operating force of 0.6N while the “7N” switches have a nominal operating force of 0.59N. Both switches have a ±0.15N tolerance, making them practically identical in terms of stiffness.
That’s not a bad thing, though. As Omron itself points out, most of the world’s top gaming mice use some variety of D2F switches. Both switch types feel great, with a well-defined click and rapid reset. It’s simply a little puzzling that EpicGear decided to include two essentially-identical types of switches in the box. I will say that it’s very cool how the switches are “socketed”, so to speak. It makes replacing them very trivial, so if you happen to ruin one of your clickers playing too much Diablo, you can just swap it out and be ready to go again immediately. Lots of mice seem to meet an early death thanks to switch failure, so the Morpha’s modularity in this regard could extend its useful life.
Assuming direct control
EpicGear’s software is straightforward, lightweight, and doesn’t have any onerous requirements (like an online login). It isn’t the most intuitive thing in the world, but it’s easy enough to use—particularly if you are someone who will understand the meaning and purpose behind all the knobs and buttons it presents. Even as someone with a great amount of experience using gaming peripherals, I was actually quite surprised and pleased at how function-dense the utility is.
This is the main page of the “Morpha X GUI”, as it calls itself in the Windows Start menu. Down at the bottom there are selectors for the five profiles. You can set each profile to a custom color, which will be displayed on the mouse’s RGB LED logo and around the mouse wheel. You can also disable profiles. These selectors remain across this page and the Performance page, and every single setting on those pages is saved on a per-profile basis.
That even includes the four separate DPI settings you can create per-profile, which means that if you were so inclined you could define up to twenty different DPI settings. Over on the right side of the Main Control page you can set those four DPI settings, and then cycle through them using one of the mouse’s buttons. Unusually, you can actually define the X and Y resolution separately for each preset. I can’t really imagine why someone would want to do this, and it’s a little weird that there’s no option to lock these sliders to 1:1. I think it’s cool that the option to set them separately is there, though.
The DPI settings seem to be stored in the mouse or possibly even in the sensor module itself. Whatever the case, the DPI settings are unique to each sensor and saved when you swap them. That means you can set up however many DPI settings you want on the PMW3360 optical sensor, then swap to the ADNS-9800 laser sensor and create a whole other set. The ADNS-9800 allows you to adjust resolution in 50-DPI increments, while the PMW3360 only allows 100-DPI increments, but I suspect either one is more than sufficient for most purposes.
On the left side of the main page, you can assign each button’s functions. The “Profile Select” button right behind the mousewheel is not actually configurable, and you are required to have at least one button set to Left Click. That’s reasonable enough, I suppose, although as someone who tends to “set and forget” I would have preferred the ability to re-bind the profile select button. The best you can do for my play-style is to simply disable four of the five profiles, but that still leaves you with a useless button. You also can’t re-bind the scroll-up or -down functions at all, although you can adjust their sensitivity.
The available functions for the buttons that you CAN bind include the standard five mouse buttons, DPI control functions, profile switching functions, and a sniper button function. I use the sniper button on my Corsair mouse quite a bit, so I was pleased to see this function available. However, I couldn’t get it to work. Moreover, to assign a sniper button, I had to give up one of the mouse’s other buttons. I’m someone who uses all of the inputs on my mouse in most games, so giving up, say, Mouse 4 in exchange for a Sniper Button wasn’t a particularly appealing prospect.
Stepping over to the Performance page, you once again have some general settings on the left side and then sensor-specific settings on the right side. On the right-side, you can configure the installed sensor’s lift-off distance, angle snapping amount (including “off”), acceleration, and “AFM Ambient Lighting.” That last option is simply a matter of controlling whether the mouse begins to cycle through colors when idle.
The left side of the page has options to select the USB report rate, the scroll wheel speed, the double-click rate, and “pointer acceleration”. To be honest, I’m not completely sure what that last slider does. It isn’t true non-linear acceleration. Instead, it seems to be a linear scalar applied to the mouse’s sensitivity. Setting it to the minimum setting makes even a 12,000-DPI sensor feel sluggish, while setting it to the maximum setting makes even a 400-DPI mode un-usably fast. I decided to leave this slider alone.
This is sort of a UI nitpick, but I really think EpicGear should have put the left-side settings from the Performance page on the Main Control page. That way, the DPI settings could move over to the Performance page, and that whole page could be sensor-dependent. As it is, having to toggle back and forth between pages while testing various DPI and acceleration settings is a little obnoxious. This is a small complaint compared to the real problems I’ve had with other companies’ configuration utilities, though.
Remember me complaining a couple of paragraphs ago about giving up a button for the sniper function? This problem is compounded yet further when you throw macros into the mix. The macro editor for the Morpha X is actually pretty fantastic. It isn’t as easy to use nor as flashy as MadCatz’ Flux software, but it’s still quite powerful. You can define custom delays between events, manually insert events, and even use keyboard keystrokes in your macros. Unfortunately, the EpicGear software still can’t define mouse motions as part of a macro, but that’s a rare feature from any mouse.
The extremely high quality of the macro editor makes it all the more frustrating that the mouse has no extra dedicated macro buttons. Assigning a macro on the Morpha X means giving up one or more of your standard buttons. Now, it’s true that some games don’t support mouse buttons four and five. It’s also true that some people simply don’t use those buttons, or even mouse button 3. In those cases, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the Morpha X’s powerful macro editor.
For my part, I’ve grown quite accustomed to using a number of macros on my Corsair mouse. I decided to make use of the mouse’s multi-profile options so I could assign some macros. I configured one profile in the standard layout for browsing and playing games that make use of all five buttons, and then another profile for Phantasy Star Online 2, an MMORPG where I only use three mouse buttons. That allowed me to configure the thumb buttons with macro functions. This was a lot better than forgoing macros entirely, but I normally use five macros in this game and that simply isn’t possible on the Morpha X.
The sum of its parts
So with all of that said, how is the Morpha X to use? Quite nice, really. I’d expect nothing less given the hardware on offer, but it lives up to every expectation. I use a “claw” type grip, somewhat between a full-on “palm” grip and a hands-off “tip” grip. EpicGear says the Morpha X is suitable for both palm and claw grippers, and I agree. Tip-grippers may find the mouse a little hard to use because the back end is pretty fat.
The Morpha X has textured rubber pads on either side, and they’re both comfortable to hold and extremely grippy. I suspect they’ll be a pain to clean, but that’s the price you pay for the excellent traction on offer. I found the mouse very comfortable to hold with my usual grip: thumb over the side buttons, one finger on each primary button, and my ring and pinky fingers curled around the right side. The mousewheel is similarly grippy, although the detents are a bit loose and make me concerned about the wheel’s long-term longevity. It hasn’t given me a problem yet, though.
As I mentioned before, the Morpha X is significantly lighter than my usual M95, even with the weights installed. The Corsair tips the scales at 161 grams, but the Morpha X tops out at just 112 grams. Pro gamers seem to prefer ultra-lightweight mice, but I have to say that I like a bit of mass under my hand. This is almost entirely personal preference, though, and the Morpha X is pretty similar in weight to other popular gaming mice. The 20-gram range of its customizable weight is fairly generous, too.
My single complaint with the shape of the Morpha X concerns the small smooth area between the left mouse button and the furthest-forward side button. That side button sits nearly flush with the frame of the mouse around it. It could be that I’m used to my M95 and its plethora of side-buttons, but more than once I found myself annoyed after trying to press on the smooth non-button area on the side of the mouse. I feel like the surface is too similar to the surface of the thumb buttons, or perhaps the thumb buttons are too far back. Either way, it’s not a major complaint, but I do think I’d like it if the side buttons were further forward.
After installing the software and checking the default settings, the very next thing I did with the Morpha X was play a few games. I loaded up Overwatch, Doom (2016), Doom (1993), and Blacklight: Retribution. Throughout each game, the mouse performed flawlessly. While the mouse’s body feels quite different from my daily driver, I can’t honestly say that using the PMW3360 sensor felt better or even really different from the ADNS-9800 in my Corsair M95. It certainly wasn’t worse.
With those thoughts in mind I swapped out the optical sensor module for the laser sensor. After a bit of fiddling in the configuration app (to make sure DPI, lift-off, prediction, and acceleration settings were all configured correctly), I dove back into the games. To be honest, I expected to feel a significant difference in the sensors. I didn’t. In fact, I had to double-check and make sure that I had actually changed out the sensor.
The main reason people like laser sensors is that they offer more reliable tracking on unusual surfaces. I tested both sensors on a variety of surfaces, including both glossy and matte plastic, paper, cardboard, several mouse pads, and the glass surface of my desk. The only surface where there was a notable difference between the two sensors was the glass desk. There, the ADNS-9800 still sort-of worked, while the PMW3360 was completely stymied. It wasn’t great even on the laser, though, and I obviously wouldn’t recommend anyone to play games on a clear glass surface.
Likewise, some people recommend against laser sensors because in certain conditions they can be prone to problematic jitter. This is generally most pronounced on rough surfaces, like coarse cloth. I never observed this problem on my Vengeance M95, and I couldn’t reproduce it on the Morpha X, either. I did experience some jitter when testing with the glass desk, but again, that’s hardly a typical usage scenario.
So saying, then, I have to wonder about the point of engineering in the complexity of a modular sensor in the Morpha X. Going by the specifications and the praise of the community, the PMW3360 is the superior sensor. I suppose some folks might like the ability to change out the IR LED sensor for a laser sensor to alleviate tracking issues. The ADNS-9800’s 150 inches-per-second maximum tracking speed is inferior to the PMW3360’s 250-IPS rating, but it’s still more than sufficient for even the most amazing pro gamers.
So in the end, I have more-or-less the same feelings about the swappable sensor modules that I do about the interchangeable button switches. Put simply, I think it’s a cool feature, and it’s perfectly implemented here. It’s just really hard to see the value for users like me that are likely to find the configuration they like and stick with it. If you’re someone who likes to fiddle with their setup constantly, this mouse gives you more bits to play with than any other, though.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, how does the Morpha X stack up? Well, don’t be fooled by my nitpicking. I really like this mouse and especially its software. Particularly if you are someone who doesn’t use mouse buttons 4 and 5 in games, the Morpha X is a comfortable, customizable, and capable weapon. Its robust programmability and top-shelf sensor performance—whichever sensor you choose—befit a high-end product like this one
And a high-end product it is. EpicGear asks $129 for the Morpha X. That’s pretty dear for any mouse. SteelSeries’ Rival 700 gaming mouse has an OLED display on the side and all the programmability of the Morpha X, and it lists for a hundred smackers. The Rival 700 doesn’t include all of the modular components that the Morpha does, however, even if it does support quite a bit of customization.
The Morpha X’s price isn’t so much of an issue as of this writing, however. Both Amazon and Newegg have the Morpha X available for $90, and Newegg will knock off $10 more with a promo code. That’s a deep discount, and it makes the Morpha X a better value relative to other high-end gaming mice on the market.
Make no mistake, the Morpha X is a fantastic mouse. It’s easy to understand why EpicGear has priced the Morpha X the way it has, because few other mice on the market offer this level of customization. The shape and design of the mouse are good, and the performance is stellar. In fact, if it just had a couple of extra buttons it would be my new daily driver. If EpicGear dropped the modularity and simply offered a version of the original Morpha mouse updated with the PMW3360 sensor, I think it would have a real winner on its hands.
Ultimately, I think the Morpha X is a cleverly-designed and well-executed product. It isn’t for users like me who find one perfect setup and stick with it, but I can certainly see the value for a gamer who likes to tweak. If that’s you, and you’re willing to give a new player a try, we’re willing to call the Morpha X TR Recommended so long as its price doesn’t rocket back up. If EpicGear can continue to execute this well on its gaming hardware, I think we’ll be seeing its name around for a long time yet.