IRL: Mad Catz's Rat M portable gaming mouse

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL: Mad Catz's Rat M portable gaming mouse

We suppose if there are folks who'd prefer a gaming laptop as their primary PC, then there must also be a market for portable gaming mice. But would you pay $115 for one?

Mad Catz Rat M gaming mouse

IRL Mad Catz Rat M gaming mouse and TK

Nestled in my travel bag, alongside my headphones, FreedomPop MiFi and a Nintendo 3DS, is a tiny pocket containing a $10 travel mouse I picked up at Target. It's terrible, uncomfortable and far too imprecise to handle much more than very basic web browsing. Normally, this isn't much of a problem, since most PCs come with workable mousing tools built in, but as a PC gamer, there are times when I need something better. Lately, that's been Mad Catz's Rat M, a mobile version of its popular Rat 9 gaming mouse.

Visually, the M is simply a scaled-down clone of the 9, but close inspection reveals it's actually missing some functionality, too. The M, for instance, has only a single button below its scroll wheel, as opposed to the Rat 9's rocker, and it completely abandons the horizontal scroll wheel used on the original. The mouse also forgoes a few of its big brother's transforming features, including the ability to adjust weight and thumb rest positions. Still, it's a versatile little rodent, with an extending palm rest, six traditional buttons and a four-direction thumb rocker that pulls double duty as the mouse's seventh button. Best of all, its belly houses a 6,400-dpi sensor, offering more than enough sensitivity to handle fast-paced gameplay.

The Rat M is comfortable, sensitive and well equipped, but it does still have some drawbacks. Mad Catz lists the mouse's Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy compatibility as a selling point, but it's hard to get the mouse to connect without using the included USB dongle. Worse, when you do get a Bluetooth connection running, the mouse often lags and jumps around the screen. It also has the unfortunate status of being the only device in my travel bag that requires AAA batteries. Blegh. Still, as long as you stick to the USB dongle, it's a handy little gaming mouse. It is a bit expensive, though -- $115 is a lot to ask for a mouse you'll only be using on the road.

-- Sean Buckley