Looking like a severed hand from our future robot overlords, the wireless M.O.U.S. 9 from Mad Catz is the latest attempt to expand their array of gaming merchandise into everyday use. Based on the R.A.T. range of mice, the design has been simplified to cater for users who may not be able to tell their Counterstrike from Call of Duty. Not that you would know it. Featuring an impressive ten programmable buttons, two scroll wheels and an adjustable palm rest, the M.O.U.S. 9 is packed with things to play with and can be adapted to all forms of use from gaming to business. In many ways it could be the perfect solution for anyone who spends their day mixing with music production software or grappling with graphical programs but also likes to spend their nights gaming.
At a price tag of around £100 you would expect some level of pizazz in the packaging, but the M.O.U.S. 9’s container feels rather underwhelming at first glance. Encased in a simple clear plastic shell, it gives the impression that inside could be any middle-of-the-road peripheral. It certainly lacks the bold marketing plastered all over the products of their main (at least in the gaming realm) competitor Razer. Yet this clear packaging allows the mouse itself to make a statement, and with its distinctive design this was clearly Mad Catz’ intention. As a bonus this small clear case acts as a sturdy carry case for those that wish to travel.
Included within the casing is the mouse (with the USB dongle neatly placed in a slot on its underside), a soft carry bag, a wad of literature and fortunately a AA battery. Ignore the instructions at your peril as there a few important setup steps required in order for the device to work. Firstly, since the mouse is wireless, it requires power and it is not immediately obvious where the battery should be inserted. Unlike regular mice, which house the battery in a slot on the underside, the M.O.U.S. 9 has a cylindrical cap beneath the palm rest which must be removed to insert the battery. With its shiny plastic cover this cap is surprisingly awkward to rotate and remove so in that rare pressured moment where the battery needs to be replaced this could certainly be an issue.
Next, if your machine does not support Bluetooth Smart technology, the USB dongle must be popped out of its slot and inserted into a spare port. Switching the power on with a switch on the underside of the mouse, it should be ready to go and on the Windows test machine, after the drivers were automatically installed, this was the case. While the mouse works at this point, it must be noted that the software required for the programmable buttons must be downloaded from the internet before they can be adjusted.
Let us move on to examine the mouse in full detail starting from the top. Towards the front of the mouse lie the standard left and right buttons, each of these are slightly concave with lips on the edges to ensure the finger lies in the correct position. This is actually a feature that is rather unique to the Mad Catz range and it is surprising how much the hand benefits from being held in the correct position.
Between these two buttons lie the vertical scroll wheel, which is ridged to provide a sense of feedback when spun. Users of smooth scrolling, particularly on a Mac computer, may find this wheel a little uneasy to use however as there is a surprisingly large gap between each incremental spin which may break the smoothness of the scrolling. On a standard Windows setup however this is not an issue. The wheel also acts as three separate buttons as it can be nudged to the left, right or pressed downwards. Each of these actions is programmable once the software is installed and can be used for a multitude of purposes, which we shall come to later.
Two more buttons lie on the top face of the mouse. One lies between the left and right buttons, above the scroll wheel, the other to the left hand side of the left button. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the position of these buttons as the finger easily drifts to find them without considerable thought, almost as if the mouse is willing it. It should also be noted that all the buttons on the mouse are weighted fairly heavily which ensures that the user must apply some degree of force to get a response and each press also results in a satisfyingly loud click.
This is a double edged sword however as while this does ensure that the buttons are never accidentally pressed, it does have issues for those with any form of RSI from overuse. These users may be better off investigating mice with a softer response.
On the left hand side is where we find the rest of the mouse’s features. Here we have two slim buttons just above where the thumb rests which are used as standard to navigate back and forwards on the web (but can obviously be programmed to the user’s wishes). Above these buttons sits the horizontal scroll wheel which the thumb can slide over with surprising ease. As with all other buttons the settings on this wheel can be adjusted, however we found some issues with the default horizontal scrolling which failed to work in many programs. Setting it to the keyboards left and right buttons helped in many situations, but some programs would simply fail to scroll.
The final button, which lies just in front of the thumb resting position, is perhaps the most interesting. By default when this button is held it changes the sensitivity of the mouse allowing for more precise control of the pointer. This is useful when manipulating particularly fine controls such as selecting specific pixels within an image or adjusting levels in a music production suite, or for the gaming inclined lining up that perfect headshot.
As we have come to expect from Mad Catz, and indeed from any mice in this price range, the build quality of the M.O.U.S.9 is superb. Beneath the shiny plastic exterior lies a solid metal skeleton which holds the devices’ crazy robotic form together. It is clearly designed to survive those perilous journeys inside laptop bags and with no wires to pull there is no ripping out the cable and ruining the entire mouse.
Which brings us to the biggest bone of contention regarding this, and indeed any, mouse at present. The M.O.U.S.9 is wireless which for many users will be boon but for others will be a flaw. The lack of wires of course brings with it convenience and, in the way already mentioned, a form of durability, however this is countered with less reliability, the need for a separate power source and marginally slower response times. During the short period of use with this mouse we have suffered a few very short disconnects, with the mouse picking up connection again a few moments later. It is nothing major, but in intense moments of gaming it could prove to be ruining. There could of course be many reasons for these, admittedly very sporadic, disconnects, but they were never experienced on a wired mouse running on the same machine.
Mad Catz are touting the M.O.U.S.9 battery life as lasting for up to one year of use. While we do not doubt in certain situations this may be the case, within a fortnight of use the battery metre, which is displayed in the downloadable software package, is stating that there is sixty percent of life left. If these figures are correct then it suggests the battery may last no longer than six weeks, a long way short of the marketed figure. Admittedly this may be after rather intensive use and the supplied battery may be rather cheap, so the precise figure may vary, however we would be very surprised if the single AA battery would survive a year of standard use. Some other features designed to save battery life may irk the user such as its sleep mode. When the mouse is left unused for a short period of time it falls asleep and is simply awoken when touched again. However it takes a second for the computer register this, which can sometimes lead to a very short period of frustration or worry that the mouse has failed.
It is easy to forgive these wireless shortcomings when the mouse is in use though. The device glides gracefully over any surface and indeed, as per the marketing, does work on difficult surfaces such as glass. The weighting is precise with a solid bottom heavy feel, which allows for more sensitive adjustments and this, combined with the button that adjusts the sensitivity, means that your pointer is always where you aimed for. The clever ergonomics of the M.O.U.S.9 with its concave buttons, winged edges and solid thumb rest (something it shares with the R.A.T range) also ensures that your hand does not wander from the intended position, giving you a strong sense of assurance that your fingers are always in the right place and pressing the correct buttons.
Finally let us take a look at the software that must be installed to use the programmable buttons. As already mentioned this must be downloaded from the Mad Catz website and is not included with the device. While it is not essential to use the mouse, it does open it up to become something far more useful. It must be noted here that after downloading the platform specific program we had some trouble installing the software on the Windows test machine and it took several attempts before it was fully working.
This is perhaps a sign of the quality of software programming at Mad Catz. The system certainly does not have the sheen of the Synapse 2.0 software that Razer supplies (which has its own issues) and looks rather basic in comparison. It also relies on an entirely drag and drop approach which ends up feeling incredibly counter intuitive. For example if you wish to assign a keyboard press to a button then you have to find the picture of that key in the list then drag it to the slot which assigns the function of the intended button. If that seems complicated it is because it is, why you cannot simply press the desired key to assign it is beyond comprehension.
Perhaps more important than the rather fiddly system is whether the software works and does everything required, and in that respect it certainly passes. As well as the ability to assign key presses or specific Windows functions to ten different parts of the mouse (including both directions of the horizontal scroll wheel), custom commands can be created that can combine multiple presses. This is particularly important for those that want to use the buttons on the mouse to replicate complicated shortcuts in their programs. However those who dabble in the arcane art of macros and timed events will find this system has shortcomings compared to Razer’s as time gaps between presses can not be implemented, which may be a bit downside for some. Perhaps more useful is the ability to create profiles for any situation specifically tailored to the shortcuts that any program requires. These profiles can then be switched manually or even linked to a program executable so it changes on activation and then can be saved and shared online so fellow users can benefit.
The M.O.U.S. 9 certainly accomplishes its task of taking the sharp stylistic design of Mad Catz’ R.A.T series of mice and opening it to a wider audience. It is very easy to recommend to any computer related professional who requires a elegant and durable device that can also be tailored to suit their needs and is willing to pay for it. It also doubles as a very capable gaming mouse easily standing up to some of the gaming targeted devices available. By far the greatest dividing issue will be due to its wireless nature. The battery life, strange disconnects, slower response times, lack of an adjustable DPI and timed macros will perhaps put the more gamer centric users off, but for anyone outside the top tiers of gaming or prefers a wireless device this will not be an issue. The Mad Catz M.O.U.S. 9 continues the brand’s drive to make bold statements by design and following this up with a very capable product available for those not necessarily of a gaming nature.