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Mice/tracker balls

Razer Spectre review

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Razer, the guys who make all sorts of crazy game-logo-festooned computer peripherals, were kind enough to send over a minor trove of StarCraft II kit to evaluate.

More, in fact, than I asked for, including an official StarCraft II Zerg Edition Messenger Bag. Did you know there's an official StarCraft II bag? Neither did I.

So as I'm still working through the game's brilliant (and on brutal, well, brutal) campaign, I thought I'd give this stuff a spin and pass along impressions, since it's just now hitting stores in quantity.

Mouse on a wire

First up, the Razer Spectre Mouse, modelled after the Terran faction in the game, and pretty much jam-packed with programmable StarCraft II-specific features. At £70, it's not the most expensive mouse money can buy, but then it's not your average chain store standby either.

Right away you'll notice it's not wireless and probably wonder why not. I certainly did since that's now almost compulsory for high end gaming mice. And then I noticed that the Spectre wields a 5600 DPI (dots per inch) 3.5G laser sensor, offering what Razer calls its "ultrapolling" (1000hz with 1ms response) technology. So is wireless too slow to keep up?

Not at all, it turns out. I poked around Razer's site and found a Mamba mouse that's wireless and using similar "ultrapolling" technology. In fact Razer calls the Mamba's wireless "gaming grade" (whatever that means), so I'm not sure why they didn't offer it on the Spectre given the enthusiast demographic it's marketed to.

I've been using a cheap wireless Logitech travel mouse the last year or so. Moving a mouse around with a cable protruding north of the two buttons and scroll wheel felt a little weird at first.

And then it didn't. Consider it an acclimation curve that passes once you've used it for an hour or so. The tradeoff's that the battery-free Spectre feels considerably lighter without sacrificing high quality heft and a solid centre of gravity.

The black and silver plastic pieces composing its body have a non-glossy matte finish that's smooth but not slick to the touch, making it easy to grip and mitigating slippage if your fingers perspire under duress (as mine do). The "fingertip grip" frame also tapers slightly from front to back, offering comfortable click-width for anyone with average-sized and slender fingered hands (like me).

The cable itself comes sheathed in a braided mesh that feels more durable than the usual rubber core casing. It takes a bit longer to work out the kinks (from bunching in the box) but it's less likely to tear or snap if someone pulls (or trips) on it accidentally.

As you like it

You get five buttons to program: The usual two up top, a forward/backward pair situated on the left side and the depressible, virtually noiseless scroll wheel.

The mouse ships without a driver disc and, tested with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home, offers instant plug-and-play functionality, but you'll want to download the official StarCraft II driver from Razer's website (both Mac and PC versions are offered). It's about 22MB and includes the configuration utility.

That utility sports the same angular electric blue sci-fi style associated with the Terran faction in the game, and serves as a one-size-fits-all panel for Razer's additional StarCraft II peripherals, including the Marauder keyboard and Banshee headset (more on those soon). The Spectre section lets you change up the five button functions or what scrolling the wheel triggers, then save your choices to profiles.

You can disable the scroll wheel entirely, set buttons to auto-double-click, map single keys and so on. If you're a tournament player, you're probably already wed to StarCraft II's "grid" keyboard profile, but if you could use a button that double-click "selects all" units of a type or shift-clicks to queue movement, the Spectre has you covered.



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