Accessory Review: Mad Catz RAT 8+ Gaming Mouse
The RAT 8+ gaming mouse comes from a line of high quality gaming mice designed by Madcatz. Mice for the more involved gamer to get the best experience and set up out of their most essential accessory. If you think that reads like a PR note, well it’s not – it’s an expectation. Particularly if you are spending a large amount of money on an accessory with fancy bells and whistles, you first want the product to be well designed overall, and also for those fancy bells and whistles to have a point and to make genuine contributions to your gaming and general PC user experience.
The reason I drive this home is because I’m not the sort of person that really cares about top of the line accessories. In fact, I have used the same basic keyboard and mouse for 5 or 6 years on my main PC. They have lasted that long for a meagre 40 pounds in total (props to Novatech) and I’ve rarely wanted to refine my ‘mouse experience’. But sometimes you don’t really know what you want until someone shows it to you (or gives it to you for a review in this case), and after using the RAT 8+ I can definitely appreciate its quality and how it elevates my experience. I’m still not the core target audience for a product like this, but I certainly know people that are, and I feel that this product has a multitude of features that will impress if you are looking for a new complex gaming mouse.
The feel of a mouse and how it fits your hand, particularly when playing competitive titles and games that require speedy reactions is very important for any setup, and everyone has different preferences and requirements. The RAT 8+ offers some solution to this by providing customisation options for your mouse. Within the box I received came 4 additional parts that can be fitted/removed to the mouse as you see fit. These included two additional palm rests and two pinkie rests (one of each being rubber coated).
The Pinkie rests are the only significant additions out of these – with the palm rests being on top of the one already fitted on the mouse (and therefore only affecting the texture) – however it’s nice to have the option to change things up, and for myself its certainly the first time I’ve considered this as an option beyond buying a mouse that’s already set up the way you like it.
The pinkie rests and pre-installed thumb rest are additions that I struggle to see how some do without for so many years – most mice are at least designed in a way that provides a curve for your thumb to rest, however the pinkie can be neglected, and like with my old mouse, despite its curved design, some more support was left wanting. This support is better provided with the RAT 8+ design as I’d describe these rests more as wings than anything else, with their long flat surface leaving little room for your thumb or pinkie to slip off. It’s not that exceptional really, and those already inured to gaming mice in general may roll their eyes at being enthusiastic about such a thing, but having a proper surface for your thumb and pinkie allows for more comfortable and smoother use – no longer does your thumb and pinkie have to rub across the coarse fabric of a mouse mat, and your hand can rest at ease instead of gripping in to initiate movement.
In addition to these extra rests, the mouse itself has a few surprise customisation options. You can remove multiple parts of the mouse to your liking – even leaving it virtually a skeleton, if for some reason that’s what you want to play with. The palm rest can be clicked in and out to change its length depending on how long your hands are, and you can even adjust removable weight rings to make the mouse heavier or lighter. I must say, the last thing I’d consider when using a mouse is how heavy it is, but having played with it sans weights and fully loaded, it’s interesting the sort of difference it makes.
The quality of the mouse in this respect – with its customisability and general feel – I think is quite impressive. It’s certainly of high quality, with the mixture of hard plastic and metal components giving the mouse a very sturdy feel, despite being quite easy to take apart. I feel like if I dropped it, it might clatter apart, but you’d be able to put everything back together again as new (I’m not testing that though, not even for the review). The aesthetic may be an issue for some, however. Personally I think it looks quite cool, but I have had a couple of people comment on it looking too robotic – like something out of a sci-fi movie, you expect it to start squealing and fire a laser through your monitor – but this is obviously subjective and you can decide what you think of its appearance from the screenshots.
Now we’ve talked about the easy stuff, it’s time for the techy business. I won’t pretend to understand all the features boasted about by the company, but below I’ll post the list they have on their website.
- SENSOR – PIXART PMW3389
- DPI RANGE – UP TO 16000
- USB REPORT RATE – UP TP 2000HZ
- TRACKING SPEED – TYPICAL 400CPI
- ACCELERATION – 50G
- FRAME RATE – 16,000
- LEFT AND RIGHT MOUSE BUTTON – UP TO 50M CLICKS
- PROGRAMMABLE BUTTONS – 11
- WEIGHT – 145G WITHOUT CABLE
Essentially this means it’s versatile, fast and accurate. Being entirely honest here, I think specs like these are a little overblown. I’m not a professional gamer, nor a particularly competitive one, but I have made do for over a decade of gaming without being overly concerned about my mouse’s DPI range and tracking speed. I’m sure these become more of a factor the more involved you are in competitive gaming, but for the rest of us I don’t think there’s much point in concerning yourself with these specifications. That’s not to say I haven’t noticed marked improvement in the speed and fluidity of use with this mouse in comparison to my old one, but that’s not exactly difficult, and I’m sure the difference in how this compares with other gaming mice on the market in these specific ways is negligible.
What is more impressive though is the point about programmable buttons. 11 is a little misleading, as this actually includes three functions for your middle scroll button – scroll forwards, backwards and click – but the point is that the mouse is highly programmable. If you go to the Madcatz website you can download their software that lets you programme and play around with EVERY aspect of the mouse. Having programmable buttons on gaming mice isn’t that unique, and neither is the software, but the RAT8+ software is still impressive and, importantly, easy to use in allowing you to create various profiles. What this enables you to do is set up different preferences for different games and situations. So you can have, for example, one for FPS, one for strategy, one for general PC use such as browsing, and so on. This can include profiles with high or low sensitivity, profiles that make use of all the buttons for games like MMOs, and even profiles that contain functions like copy and paste all on your mouse for quick editing or working.
Other little features that I found intriguing include a side-scroll which can be used, for example, to scroll along abilities or items in games, but also scroll across the screen if you have tabs open that are in windowed view. There’s a button dedicated to precision aiming – so when you hold it down, the sensitivity lowers, allowing you to have a profile for fast paced FPS games without sacrificing accuracy when you aim down your sights. And lastly, and of course most importantly, MODIFIABLE PRETTY COLOURS. Okay, so this isn’t exactly the most important aspect of a gaming mouse, but it is pretty cool. And with the software you can modify your preferences and profiles with this just as much as anything else. You can have them flashing, pulsating, switching colours, so on and so forth. It’s a nice touch and I think the way the mouse is designed aesthetically is suited to where the colours show.
So would I recommend this? Currently the mouse isn’t available in the UK, but the company have informed us that they are looking to have UK distribution set up very shortly. But judging by the pricing in euros you can extrapolate the price point that this is likely to release at – currently €99.99 – so it’s erring on the more expensive side, certainly, but still more affordable than some. Whether this is worth it to you is going to depend on A: how well you understand those specifications, and B: how likely you are to make use of the various options for profiles and customisations. From an objective standpoint, I think the quality of the mouse is clear once it’s in your hand, and personally I think the RAT 8+ is worth the investment, but there are obviously cheaper, probably better suited options available to the average PC gamer than this.
Having said that, like a good whisky, shelling out a little more for that slightly improved refinement can make all the difference, and with its customisability and programmability, the RAT 8+ casts a wider net than some of its competition, and I (as someone who doesn’t usually look to upgrade my accessories unless I absolutely have to) am very glad to have been introduced to it. They don’t make it entirely simple to understand (as I said, those specs are meaningless to me unless I have a proper explanation) and I only found out about the software from their website (which in turn showed me all of the buttons and their potential functions), so one would hope that when this does release in the UK, some proper instructions and a more fleshed out user manual might come shipped with it; but when I did get things going and started to play with this properly it’s quality and potential showed through. This is a high quality mouse with many variations for preferences and a clear intention towards making your mouse suitable for you as an individual (again, I love that you can change parts of the mouse itself so easily), and I think this could be an ideal upgrade for many looking for something a bit more serious to play with.