First person shooters are highly competitive battlegrounds and the type of mouse you use can literally mean victory or defeat. Most shooter fans can agree that using a performance mouse is the foundation of success. In a crowded market with an assortment of gaming mice, what is the R.A.T. 9 offering to be considered a contender?
If I didn’t know what a R.A.T. 9 was, I might have mistakenly assumed it as a Transformers toy. Closer inspection of the underside reveals the mouse’s aluminum exoskeleton and attached to it a 5600 DPI laser sensor. The frame is covered in soft plastics that offer a good grip but is somewhat prone to fingerprints. I recommend a good hand scrubbing before starting with the headshots. The mouse operates wirelessly in the 2.4 GHz spectrum so no messy cables are in the way. Two proprietary batteries are included providing up to 9 hours of juice each. The USB dock provides a multifunctional purpose which includes a wireless receiver, battery charger and a holder for unused weights via a cartridge.
Many high-end gaming mice are somewhat customizable but Mad Catz went the distance with the R.A.T. 9. The mouse includes an assortment of palm and pinkie rests of varying sizes that are also interchangeable. The thumb rest can’t be swapped for another but it does feature an adjustable angle and length for maximum comfort. Up to 42 grams of weight can be added or removed depending on the desired heft. I spent an hour just customizing the device to my liking; the result is a comfortable mouse designed for the shape and size of my right hand. Unless you happen to be ambidextrous, lefties are out of luck as this mouse is for right handed use only.
My day job requires me to sift through pages of Excel worksheets at times and it would be nice to use a free scrolling wheel which sadly the R.A.T. 9 does not have. With interchangeable batteries, I expect a fairly painless process in swapping batteries; however, the battery in its compartment is quite snug which makes it difficult to grab and remove. An ejection system would have been nice for quick swapping.
Mechanically, the R.A.T. 9 packs tons of features you would expect to find in a high-end product. Mad Catz bundles their basic but functional Smart Technology Programming Software that enables the user to define how each wheel and button (if programmable) operates. Mac gamers are out of luck as the software is currently Windows only.
The thumb wheel can be used for horizontal scrolling like selecting weapons or switching abilities. Having used the main scroll wheel for years for weapon selection, I found myself forgetting to use the thumb wheel as reaching it is slightly awkward.
The precision aim button located on the thumb rest allows on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment which helps steadies your aim when shooting. I tested this feature in Team Fortress 2 while playing as a sniper and found it immensely helpful at reducing mouse sensitivity on a whim. Using this button felt much more natural and quicker than moving the index finger to the DPI switch for the same effect.
Below the scroll wheel is a user-defined DPI switch; a fairly standard feature in gaming mice. I can certainly say that most people won’t be using their R.A.T. 9 at 5600 DPI as it’s difficult to use. In fact, I found myself using the default 800 and 1600 DPI levels the majority of time.
Lastly is the three-mode button allowing user-definable commands via the programmable buttons. Gamers can program macros for frequently used commands or re-map favorite actions to suit a specific play style. Programming is fairly easy as you simply link together the key and button presses for a maximum of 3 profiles per game. Unfortunately there is no onboard memory like the Logitech G9/x to store your profiles and is instead stored at the software level. For gamers who use their gaming mouse on multiple computers, this might be annoying.
My test suite of games included Team Fortress 2, Left for Dead 2 and StarCraft II. The mouse tracked the cursor confidently with no noticeable lag despite it being wireless. Compared to my Logitech G5, my current weapon of choice for PC gaming, the R.A.T. 9 exceeded all my expectations. As someone who prefers a light mouse when gaming, I found the R.A.T. 9 a bit hard on the wrists after an hour of sniping even with no weights installed.
It’s hard to convince anyone they need to spend the MSRP of $149.99 USD on a computer mouse. However, gamers seeking to free themselves of wires will be hard pressed to find a high performance solution as good and customizable as Mad Catz’s Cyborg R.A.T. 9.