R.A.T. M Final Thoughts
This review was difficult for me. Over the two weeks I used the R.A.T. M for normal computing tasks, my opinion would seem to switch daily. I would start out frustrated at the 120Hz polling rate (as it introduced a delay I wasn’t accustomed to) then begin to enjoy the tactile buttons and solid construction – only to become frustrated again while trying to play a game or edit a photo. I know there are some that have the opinion humans can’t tell the difference between 8ms and 1ms, but I beg to differ. Your brain is a vastly powerful organ. While your eyes may not be able to perceive the difference between similar frames (that part is important!) running at 60 plus frames per second, your hands and fingertips have a far higher “resolution.” Imagine swinging a bat to hit a ball, then imagine trying the same motion using something like a Kinect sensor for the XBOX. Introducing an extra layer of latency WILL change your experience in most cases, just spend some time reading up on why people are excited for the Oculus Rift and why VR attempts have failed in the past. Sure, your brain quickly learns to adapt and compensate for the difference, but the closer you can get to “real-time” feedback, the more transparent the experience becomes.
Perhaps this is why my opinion fluctuated so much – these sorts of things don’t really matter to the non-gamer (at least not to the same level). In casual use, you just need something that puts the cursor where you point it – the R.A.T. M will do that. I struggled even editing photos with the R.A.T. M though, the perceived latency made small precise movements difficult for me to perform. Removing every last millisecond layer between you and the result you see on screen is something a certain demographic will pay lots of money for. I think my opinion changed so much because I assumed that was the demographic that this mouse was marketed to and intended for.
It became obvious through use that this isn’t a gaming focused device. The R.A.T. M is certainly capable, but there’s other devices that perform this task far better at a much lower price point. Where the R.A.T. M really shines is its build quality, first and foremost. This is just a solid peripheral. The 5D button is great for packing in lots of functions in a small space – just don’t expect to easily activate them in a hectic setting. The default settings are set up great for web browsing, and with a little customization one could easily get this mouse to fly around a desktop. I would suggest this button would be great for gaming macros as well, but it is just too difficult to ensure the right direction is pressed in the middle of a fast paced game. It isn’t a bad mouse, but it should have targeted a different user (or price point). They may have similar dimensions, but the Orochi is a far more focused gaming peripheral. I just don’t see anyone other than those that prioritize the R.A.T. “look” over everything else paying almost twice as much for a barely comparable device.
R.A.T. M Conclusion
The R.A.T. M was a confusing performer. Sure, it tracked well on every surface I tried it on, and all of the buttons have a satisfying tactile action to them. The main “mouse things” are in place. The polling rate leaves a little to be desired though when trying to perform quick, precise motions. Whether you can tell the difference or not, an 8ms polling rate is too low for a mouse that retails over $100 – and marketed as a gaming device at that. The battery life may or may not live up to the advertised claims (in two weeks of typical mobile usage the settings software reports my R.A.T.’s battery to be at 93%, with 335 days remaining), but I would gladly trade battery life for even a 500Hz/5ms polling rate. Not to mention, how about an option to go wired and forgo the battery altogether if desired?
Appearance-wise, the R.A.T. M looks every bit of its price tag. I received the “Racing Red” version, and it looks like a sports car. My three-year old nephew picked it up and began making “vroom vroom” and “fwoosh” sounds with it, so you may find others mistaking it for a miniature Ferrari. Personally, I like the R.A.T. aesthetic. It’s unique, angular, and unapologetic. I’m not convinced shrinking a full-size R.A.T. was the best approach to creating a mobile version, but it certainly looks just as aggressive as its bigger siblings.
Construction is where the R.A.T. M really makes its mark. The comparatively extensive use of metal results in a product that feels solid and sturdy beneath your fingertips. The only weak point is the movable palm rest with a slight wiggle, but this is only made noticeable because the rest of the mouse is built so well. It was probably worth the tradeoff to provide a point of adjustability.
The R.A.T. M packs a surprising amount of functionality into a small package. I’ll talk up that 5D button again – what a great way to fit lots of functions into a small space. I’d like to see this become even more usable though, it needs to be a little larger or “grippier” to make it easier to actuate. There are ten programmable buttons on this thing, and the Bluetooth 4.0 makes it usable with a range of devices… Or perhaps not, as I couldn’t pair it with any current Bluetooth devices I have (Bluetooth Low Energy is not backwards compatible). USB adapters, built-in laptop Bluetooth, even Android phones and tablets – all incompatible with Bluetooth Smart devices. It’s certainly a good thing a Bluetooth adapter is included.
While I wavered in my opinions, there was one area that was pretty constant: there just isn’t enough value here. It can’t be cheap to use premium materials, that is understandable. I’d even be willing to pay that premium for a solidly built device if the rest of the device lives up to that price premium. Construction and appearance? It looks and feels the part. Performance and functionality? Not as much. Forcing consumers to trade performance and backwards compatibility for battery life was the wrong direction to go in my opinion, especially when other manufacturers are producing devices that give you both options for almost half the price. At the time of this review, the R.A.T. M was available online for $122.99 (Amazon | Newegg). This places the R.A.T. M in the precarious position of needing to overcome every peripheral at every price point along the way. Spending over $100 can get you some pretty nice gaming devices, and there isn’t a must-have feature on the R.A.T. M that isn’t offset by some other anomaly.
I think the R.A.T. M is a victim of unfortunate marketing. I felt confused using it – from the packaging, price, looks, and labels it should be a gaming device. The features, software, performance, Bluetooth LE/Smart and battery life place it square into the “general productivity” area. If you can forget about gaming, there’s a lot of good things to discover about the R.A.T. M. If Mad Catz would have presented the R.A.T. M as a premium mobile peripheral, added some Bluetooth backwards compatibility and focused on the 5D button and metal construction, they’d be on to something. Even if that were the case though, they’d still have to find a way to add more value and functionality to the R.A.T. M – remember, almost every other gaming peripheral out there is an option at this price point. It’s really too bad, as the R.A.T. M is a well built and very functional mobile mouse for general use. The enthusiastic pricing places it too far out of range and right in the thick of better options.
+ Solid construction
+ 5D button is a great innovation
+ Positive, tactile button feedback on every button
+ Surprisingly comfortable
+ Great tracking on multiple surfaces
+ Long battery life
+ Included Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter, stores in mouse
- Too expensive
– Precision aim feature not an option
– 120Hz polling rate
– “Wing” button a little hard to press
– 5D button needs a little refinement
– Unfortunate marketing direction
– New Bluetooth technology – no backwards compatibility
– Extended battery life not worth the performance tradeoffs
Final Score: 7.6 out of 10.
COMMENT QUESTION: How would you rate the R.A.T. M Wireless Mobile Gaming Mouse?