Those who check out my gaming rig invariably ask me the exact same question: why use an entry-level gaming mouse such as the Razer DeathAdder when you've spent Rs 7,000 on a mechanical keyboard and another 1500 bucks to mod it? Unfortunately, this brand of ignorance is the bane of a large chunk of gamers, whose perception of quality and performance solely depends upon the price of a product. If that logic had any merit, guns and knives would have been fashioned out of gold and not steel. Good engineering, you see, is the pursuit of the simplest and the most efficient solution possible. In the world of gaming-grade mice, the best solution also happens to be the cheapest—optical sensors.
The smart money's on optical
Although every single gaming hardware manufacturer pimps laser sensors, I have yet to find a single laser mouse that's perfect for gaming. From the catastrophically bad Philips Twin-Eye (PTE) sensors used in high-end Razer mice to the inherent tracking inaccuracy of the Avago A60XX/S60XX sensors found in Logitech GX series of laser mice—they all have serious flaws. Even everyone's favourite laser sensor, the Avago ADNS 9500, is plagued with negative/positive acceleration that kills low-sensitivity precision.
The build and material quality is impeccable
The best gaming mice in the market are all powered by Avago's S3XX8 (infrared LED) and A30XX (regular LED) optical sensors, which are similar designs differentiated by firmware enhancements. Even optical rodents such as Logitech G400 and Roccat Kova are excellent, but they are marred by pronounced jitter and tracking issues at certain resolutions. The Razer DeathAdder has pretty much flawless tracking precision-wise. Unfortunately, it is let down by recurring reliability issues.
All these optical mice, however, lack the bells and whistles found in more expensive mice. All that tracking quality comes at a cost of features such as LOD (Lift-Off Distance) customisation, advanced lighting controls, and other gimmicks found in high-end laser mice. However, all that is about to change with Cooler Master's CM Storm Recon, which packs in premium features in a relatively inexpensive optical platform.
Clever design and premium build quality
The Recon has been cleverly designed to cater to a wide gamut of gamers with different playing styles. The body, for example, is ambidextrous and mirrors the thumb-activated buttons on both sides. This works well for southpaws, but that also makes it easy to inadvertently press the buttons mirrored on the opposite side. However, that's an issue found in all ambidextrous mice, and you can always disable the switches on the pinky side through the driver suite. It's theme of maintaining balance is evident in the size and shape of the mouse as well. It is small enough to be suitable for the claw grip, while its pronounced hump makes it feasible for the palm grip as well. The weight is just right—not too light for the palm style, without being too heavy to be used with the claw grip either.
Its ambidextrous design plays well with claw as well as palm styles
The plastics employed are top notch, which is palpable thanks to their soft feel and a reassuring lack of shine. The top surface is rubberised and feels great to touch. The sides are equally soft, but fashioned out of a grippy matte material that makes it easy to anchor the mouse even with sweaty fingertips. Build and material quality wise, you will not find anything better in this price range. My only gripe is the lack of a braided cable. The mouse cord's rubber construction, although surprisingly tangle resistant, tends to grip and snag against the desktop as well as the mouse pad. This annoyingly introduces drag unless you leave enough slack in the cable.
The rubber-coated mouse wheel is large and chunky, while providing a positive tactile feedback tuned for reliably cycling through your weapons. The hollow, plasticky sound made by it is a letdown though. Just to the south of the wheel, a pair of DPI switching buttons come in handy for adjusting sensitivity on the fly. The Recon incorporates high-quality Omron micro-mechanical switches that sport a delightfully light minimum actuation force, without compromising on tactile feedback. The mouse feet are the slickest I have seen in this price range, and provide a considerably smoother gliding motion when compared to the Razer DeathAdder, Logitech G400, or the Corsair M60 mice.
Comprehensive driver suite
Unlike its Spartan optical brethren, the CM Storm Recon has most of the bells and whistles found in more expensive laser mice. It features LED lighting in three zones: the wheel, logo and the DPI switching buttons. Each zone can be assigned any colour you fancy, in addition to other individually adjustable parameters such as brightness and illumination modes.
The level of customisation offered is quite impressive
The driver suite is pretty comprehensive. In addition to the usual deal of allowing full button reprogramming and macro functions, it also lets you set resolution as well as USB polling rate in four separate presets, which can then be cycled through using dedicated DPI switching buttons. Unlike any optical mouse, the Recon offers LOD (Lift-Off Distance) tweaking. This is a godsend for low-sensitivity gamers, who can now strike a careful balance between maintaining optimum tracking accuracy and setting the least LOD for their surface of choice.
Prima facie, it isn't clear why the driver suite lets you set button response time between a maximum of 32ms and a minimum of 5ms. However, allowing users to increase de-bouncing delay actually makes sense in the wake of the rampant double-click glitch plaguing mice such as the Razer DeathAdder. Doing so just might save you the trouble of calling in an RMA or worse, even as the switches deteriorate over time. This is smart thinking on Cooler Master's part, and a nod towards prolonging product life.
The driver suite is quite comprehensive
A worthy heir to DeathAdder's throne
Since the Recon's Avago A3090 is essentially the same sensor as the DeathAdder 3.5G's S3888 with a modified ROM and red LED instead of an IR one, it provides similar levels of tracking accuracy. This is a very good thing, because the DeathAdder is one of the best mice money can buy at the moment. While the driver may not allow you to toggle angle snapping (prediction), it thankfully is disabled by default. The cursor quality and precision is top notch, while jitter levels are lower than any laser mouse can achieve.
Like all optical sensors, the Recon performs well with both hard and soft surfaces. Although it delivered impeccable tracking on Cooler Master's own Speed-RX micro-woven cloth mat, the malfunction speed was worryingly low as you can see from the screenshot included below. Quite ironically, it worked flawlessly on Razer's soft as well as hard surfaces. What's even weirder is how the mouse simply fails to register movement on mouse pads bearing a red hue. Do bear that in mind while choosing a mouse mat.
However, once you find an optimal surface, making pixel-precise adjustments is surprisingly effortless. I couldn't manage to get it to skip despite giving it an armful of travel at low sensitivity settings. The CM Storm Recon, like the DeathAdder, is cut out for low-sensitivity Counter-Strike players. What's more, its variable LOD further helps in maintaining aiming accuracy even when you run out of mousing surface. High sensitivity gamers will appreciate its ability to hold tracking accuracy and quality even at its max resolution of 4000 DPI.
The malfunction speed is surprisingly low on Cooler Master's own Speed-RX cloth surface, but it's flawless on other surfaces
Verdict and Price in India
Available for Rs. 3000, the Cooler Master Recon essentially employs a tweaked version of the Avago optical sensor found in the DeathAdder. It incorporates the same solid tracking accuracy in a well-built package that's brimming with features found only in high-end mice. High-sensitivity gamers will appreciate the extra 500 DPI it offers over the DeathAdder (although it makes no real difference), whereas low-sensitivity gamers will find its adjustable LOD to their liking.
With a shape and weight that's optimised for claw as well as palm grips, this is an all rounder that will appeal to gamers across the board. Although it may not beat the DeathAdder in performance, it serves as a viable alternative to those who seek similar levels of tracking competence in a more reliable and feature-rich package. My only major gripe with the mouse is the tendency of the drivers to randomly reset settings. Hopefully, Cooler Master will fix the issue before gamers run out of patience.
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