Gaming mice are one of those items that everyone enjoys upgrading. We can happily use our old keyboard for years but a new mouse is highly desirable and something that most of us upgrade more often than most hardware.
The reason that mice have moved from being a perfunctory input device to an object of technical excellence is largely thanks to the manufacturer of todays review item, Razer. Over a decade ago they shocked the PC world with the Razer Boomslang which, in hindsight, was ahead of its time. However about 6 years ago they broke the mould again with the Razer Diamondback which was so fantastic it became the prototype for pretty much every gaming mouse since.
As with all market leading companies the ideas within their mice have often been imitated and sometimes bettered as various other manufacturers have refined and undercut the Razer product line.
Thankfully Razer have always been uncompromising and kept their position at the head of the marketplace by providing a mouse for all occasions.
Today we're looking at their latest gaming mouse, the Imperator, which has the 5600dpi sensor that comes as standard on all the high-end Razer mice.
The first thing you'll notice is that Razer have moved away from the snake nomenclature. After the Diamondback, Copperhead and Mamba we now have a name based upon Roman Emperors, the Imperator. Imperator being the Latin, which became the French Empereur during the Gaul crisis and finally, via the Norman invasion adjusting the English language, Emperor. Don't say you never learn anything here at OC3D.
The most obvious adjustment from the standard Razer designs is how this is absolutely a right-handed only mouse. Ergonomically designed more than any other Razer mouse apart from their most premium model, the Mamba, this could either be the change in direction that gains them a whole new audience or the reason die-hard Razer fans will stick with their current weapon of choice.
Approx. size in mm: 123(L) x 71(W) x 42(H)
Does the packaging live up to the normal Razer standard?
If there is one thing we can be sure of it is that Razer know their audience very well. Not for them the subtlety that you might find with some companies, or indeed the "trying too hard" packaging that also is seen now and again.
The front of the box has a big picture of the Imperator, the standard Razer logo, and a very Medieval font for the Imperator itself.
Opening the front of the box, via a Velcro button, we see the mouse itself against a Razer green backdrop. It's always nice to be able to wrap your hand around something prior to use, although naturally the plastic makes ergonomic mice tougher to get a real feel for.
The sides and rear of the packaging are definitely information city. Every tiny space has been crammed full of everything you could ever wish to know in a multitude of languages.
The other side panel contains the obligatory speech by RazerGuy along with yet another run-down of the features you can expect. Ok enough pre-amble, let's see what's inside the box.
Lifting the plastic cover off and donning our Raybans to protect us from the green, we get our first look at the Imperator in all its glory, along with the various documentation.
If there is one thing you can never fault Razer for it's a certain flair and style. All the documentation comes in a sharply cut out stylised form and you get stickers, quick guides and a main manual. These all, as you'll see soon, mirror the look of the software which is always nice to see a company go that extra mile.
Just in case you think this might be a refined product for the gentleman gamer, the coaster leaves no room for doubt.
The Mouse Up Close
Anyone who has ever owned or used a Razer product before will, like us, be delighted to see a new thick braided cable instead of the rather thin and prone to issue cable we've seen in the past. Although it isn't the softest braiding it is of a very high quality with a tight weave and should ensure an end to those problems some people experienced.
Despite this being an ergonomic mouse and so quite different to the minor variances in other Razer designs, they have still managed to give us the very distinctive Razer front profile.
Under the palm part of the Imperator is a Razer logo that has a subtle breathing effect in blue when the mouse is plugged in. The subtlety is actually a boon because your hand is covering it most of the time and when it isn't the glow doesn't distract from the screen.
Viewed from above you can see the aggressive styling of the front of the mouse. The scroll wheel is excellent, moving smoothly and yet with enough feedback that you know exactly when you've cycled through your weaponry. Behind the scroll wheel are two buttons that, by default, cycle through the various sensitivity settings. These can be tweaked to anything you like using the software we'll look at on the next page.
A small note that on the right hand side of the mouse the plastic cover that keeps it clean is still in place, hence the slightly bubbly nature in this shot.
Ergonomic design is very much at the fore of the Imperator and, personally, finally makes Razer a viable choice as a mouse. Here you can see the deep thumb groove. It is thankfully not as insane as the Logitech Revolution and provides a very good level of grip without becoming obtrusive. You can also see the front and back buttons we'll get to in a second.
On the base are three cool things. Firstly the 5600dpi sensor which is perfectly positioned in the centre of the mouse. Secondly on the left is the button to switch between profiles. When you create profiles in the software they are saved to the Razer Synapse memory on board the mouse, so you can take it with you without needing to install software or suffer with something that isn't quite your profile. To the right of that is a three-position switch that adjusts the positioning of the back and forward buttons.
Of the three positions they are naturally all the way back, far forwards and in the middle. A shocker I know. Personally I find the middle setting best because the buttons are large enough that I don't need them particularly one way or the other. However as we all have different preferences it's great to see Razer going the extra comfort mile.
Time to install the software and get playing.
We test many configuration software packages here at OC3D, from re-skinned third-party applications via bare essentials to things that seem to be designed to be as incomprehensible as possible.
Razer thankfully have delivered a package that is clear, well laid out and exceptionally easy to use. Firstly all the buttons are configurable. Whilst this might not appear to be a great thing in these modern times one of the elements we like most is that if you find a sensitivity setting you like for everything and no longer wish to utilise the on-the-fly adjustments you can reassign the buttons rather than be stuck with a couple you never use.
Speaking of sensitivity you can configure everything you can dream of. Pure sensitivity? Yep. Acceleration speed? Yep. How about the gap between each sensitivity stage so you aren't stuck with the lowest setting being slower than a stoned sloth wading through molasses? That too.
Most impressively you can tick a X-Y box which unlocks the sliders to enable you to adjust the vertical and horizontal sensitivity separately. Naturally you need to use discretion as extreme gaps can lead to the mouse feeling drunk when doing diagonals, but if you find it easier to go from side to side than you do up and down, or you're in a game in which vertical movement isn't as important, the option is there.
One thing we can never get enough of here at OC3D is customisability. So even if you never use it, it's nice that you can if you want.
Profiles are stored on the Razer Synapse memory within the mouse itself and can be adjusted via a button on the base of the Imperator as seen on the previous page. Anyone who is familiar with the nVidia control panel and how it will auto-apply settings to certain executables will know what a boon it is that Razer have given us a similar option here. The ability for the mouse to automatically adjust without needing to pick a profile every time you switch games is fabulous.
Macros follow a tried and tested formula. If it's not broken, don't fix it, and Razer haven't. Name your macro, record what you want to do, apply. Done. Simplicity cannot be over-rated.
Finally should you wish for the ultimate in stealth gaming you can turn off the lights should you so choose.
With any software that allows so much customisation it can be easy to forget exactly which profile has what settings. Razer have handily given us an all-in-one view that gives an overview of the profile enabling you to see at a glance how it is. In this case this is how the mouse ships at default. The leap between 1800dpi and 4000dpi is quite large, but thankfully using the software we can adjust this.
Unlike the software side, the firmware updater is actually a bit of a bind. Needing to unplug the Imperator, hold the left and right mouse buttons and the scroll-wheel, and then plug the mouse in whilst holding them. It's quite difficult even with a front-USB port, so if yours are round the back of your computer you might consider hiring an octopus to assist.
Luckily once you've managed this feat of dexterity the update itself is swift and painless. We'd just prefer to see a dip-switch or something.
For testing the Imperator was used as the 24/7 mouse on our rig and covered all the genres we feel are necessary to gain a good feel for the Razer Imperator.
CPU : Intel i7 870 @ 2.93GHz
GPU : ASUS GTX275
RAM : G.Skill Trident 2000MHz CL9 4GB
PSU : Cougar 1000CM
HDD : Samsung Spinpoint 1TB
Motherboard : MSI P55-GD85
OS : Windows 7 64
Cooling : Thermalright MUX-120 with Arctic Cooling MX-3
Input : Razer Imperator gaming mouse used on cloth Zowie TF pad and CM Storm HS-M Battle Pad SSK.
Unfortunately I have neither a Razer Vespula nor a Razer Megasoma on hand to test the Imperator with a hard and soft Razer gaming surface. However on the positive side using the Imperator on a non-Razer surface is more likely to show flaws, and so if it proves to be excellent then on a Razer surface it would be brilliant indeed.
In the First-Person Shooter corner we used Modern Warfare 2 to test the speed of movement and the need to come to a sharp halt. Strategy games were represented by Company of Heroes Tales of Valor for a holistic view, and accuracy and long-term comfort covered by Football Manager 2010. Besides these the Imperator saw service in Photoshop and general desktop use.
Let's start with the big news. As someone who has previously found Razer mice to be slightly too small for my rather large hands it's a joy to find one that fits almost like a glove. The large buttons at the front nicely follow the Razer design, but personally I find the corner of the right mouse button slightly too large. The Imperator is so ergonomic on the left hand side that it almost forces your hand around in a banana style and my ring finger can't really rest nicely. It isn't problematic at all and doesn't notice normally. Only when I'm stuck reading a page or something do I notice it's not very comfortable.
The extra bulge in the palm rest certainly aids comfort, and the Imperator fits very well in your hand. All the buttons are nicely within reach and have a crisp click to them.
One of the things I really enjoyed was the swift ability to adjust the sensitivity on the fly. 5600dpi is frankly silly for desktop use and with a couple of clicks I could be back at a much more manageable 2000dpi. Of course this equally works in the other direction and firing up our battery of games it was just as easy to ramp the dpi back up and get snotting people left, right and centre.
Speaking of which, getting it done regardless of whether you are trying to bring on a last minute substitute, sniping an insurgent or calling in your creeping artillery barrage are all effortless with the Imperator. Even at full chat it isn't speed beyond control, but if you require it a couple of clicks let you drop the dpi to place that bunker or snipe that guy. Two clicks later and you're back at top speed raining death and destruction.
So it shone in gaming. And on the desktop. Brief conclusion time methinks...
I do enjoy a brief conclusion, and it's especially nice when the product is so good that a brief conclusion is caused by having so little bad to say.
Sometimes Razer have been guilty of recycling basically the same product over and over, really cashing in on their value of their brand rather than the variety of their products. With nearly the entire line following an identical design it was very difficult to justify any particular model over any other.
Thankfully the Imperator smashes this preconception. The move away from snake-based cognomen has also led to the design of a truly different Razer mouse, and one that shines in every department.
The ergonomics, whilst leading this to be unusable for southpaws, are almost spot on. No longer are you limited to the claw grip, or a variant of that, but the palm grip is a genuinely practical method of holding the mouse. I saw holding because thanks to the palm bulge and the nice thumb grip on the left, you definitely don't need to grip the Imperator at all.
The software and configuration are some of the best we've seen being fast, simple to use, and with all the features you could ever wish to see.
Razers 5600dpi sensor is magnificent. Easily tracking over just about any surface but really coming to life on a genuine gaming one. The two mats we used today couldn't be more different and yet the end result was the same. Fast, accurate and (if you will excuse a neologism) fragtastic.
The Imperator is comfy, has great software, easy to hold and fantastic features. I have no qualms at all about awarding it the OC3D Performance award.
Thanks to Razer for providing todays Imperator. Discuss this in our forums.