Alright, I had a chance to try on for size most of the mice I listed in this thread this past weekend. Here are my findings:
CM Kone Pure Laser (identical shape to Optical) - As with all Roccats, it felt like a quality mouse. But the way its rear end flairs outward — very common among "ergonomic" mice, meant my pinky finger was forced into an uncomfortably wide position. If I could get past this, it's a good choice.
CM Savu - While this wasn't initially on my list, I actually found this to be more accommodating than the above. The sides don't grow wider in the same way as the Kone. Thumb button location wasn't as convenient as I'd like (forward button especially), but still accessible.
CM Xornet (same basic shape as Spawn) - This little mouse was quite comfortable to hold; however, putting your thumb in the proper position to gain access to the left-side thumb buttons forces your hand forward. This is why this is exclusively a claw grip mouse, perhaps except for people with quite small hands.
A note on CM (CoolerMaster) quality. Some here have commented that CM mice are "meh." From my admittedly brief experience with the Xornet, I'd say that CM clearly doesn't build all their mice the same. The Xornet is a cheap mouse. That's cheap in price (around $20) and quality, if feel is any indication. The mouse is light and plasticky. It seemed perfectly functional, but the thumb buttons especially don't inspire confidence. Having tried more expensive CM mice — the Inferno and Sentinel Advanced II — I can attest to the fact that they feel significantly better built. I even owned an Inferno for a short while (ultimately, it proved a poor fit for my grip), and I was impressed with all its switches and material. If that mouse is a good fit for your grip, I'd say give it serious consideration. At $40, it offer a ton of value, and the reviews I've read agree.
SteelSeries Sensei - This felt like a high-quality mouse throughout. My issue with it was the same as the CM Xornet — properly positioning my thumb for easy access to the left-side buttons meant "choking up" on the mouse (i.e., moving my hand forward) further than I naturally wanted to. That would likely force me into a claw grip.
MadCatz Cyborg Rat 3 - Without a doubt, this was the best immediate fit of the bunch. In my fingertip grip, my fingers fell quite naturally into place AND my thumb was perfectly positioned below the two left-side buttons. So, since I couldn't ignore my hand's compatibility with this mouse, I bought it (yes, in spite of several folks here telling me the Rat series falls apart). I'll say for the record that, at around $50-$60, this mouse definitely seems overpriced, with others of similar or better quality costing $10-$20 less, not that that's all that much money in the end.
Having now experienced the Rat 3 in action, here are my impressions:
- Shape is highly compatible with my fingertip grip, though it still isn't perfect. Placement for my average-sized hand is near perfect, and the mouse has a nice low profile. The only issue I see is that, unlike many other mice, the sides aren't "sculpted" or, in the case of the Rat 3, covered in grippy material, so your grip on the mouse doesn't feel quite as assured as other mice. While picking the mouse up isn't problematic, especially because it's light, it simply doesn't work as well as mice with ergonomic, rather than sheer, sides.
[Some have commented that a pinky rest/shelf would be perfect for the Rat 3. I agree, as my pinky dragged on the mousepad in precisely the location where a shelf would have supported it. Luckily, Mad Catz makes an accessory pack that includes three right-side options for the Rat 3 and 5 (the 7 comes with the pack included), and one of those options is a rest/shelf (the other two are normal (sheer) and rubber-coated, respectively). Unfortunately, the pack is $5.99, plus a rather steep $10 or more shipping. $15 for this pack is a bit outrageous, especially since this bare-bones all-plastic mouse costs $50-$60 in the first place.]
- If you like a light-weight mouse, as many fingertip grip users do, the Rat 3 is perfect. The Rat 3 is just substantial enough to offer slight resistance as you move it. The shape doesn't make it the easiest mouse to lift off the pad — though I never came close to dropping it — but the weight is perfect for it.
- The Rat glides across my SteelSeries Qck Mass thick cloth mousepad gloriously. I love the weight of it and how it moves.
- I'm not a competitive FPS player, so I'm not the best judge of such things, but to my mind tracking and accuracy were superb. I don't know whether the Rat 3's sensor is especially good, or it's simply a function of it being optical, but cursor movement is silky smooth and precise, and you feel an instant mouse-cursor connection. With my G5 laser, there is a slight sense of disconnect between the cursor and my hand movements; this vanished with the Rat 3.
- The Rat 3 has a very comfortable matte black finish. It also comes in glossy colors. I tried one and the feel is entirely different — it's rather sticky. Some may like this and some may not.
- The Rat 3 mouse wheel has a pleasing feel to it, but it's a bit smooth for gaming. My G5 is very "notchy" when rolling the wheel forward and back. This leaves no room for error when cycling through weapons in a game, for example. The Rat 3's notches are less discernible, and it can cause errors when cycling in this way. I still feel like it's high quality, so perhaps with time your finger will grow used to the feel.
- The thumb buttons work, but feel cheap. The Rat 3's two thumb buttons are perfectly placed for easy access and they function just fine for fairly easy, repeated presses. But they feel like they will break with use.
- The mode button is horrible to use. The Rat 3 has a "mode" button to the left of LMB on a sort of angled shelf. It's a low-profile button — making it hard to find by touch — and it takes too much effort to press. So much that the aforementioned shelf it's on bends when you press it. Modes allow you to switch between three button program presets on the fly. On a mouse with just three programmable buttons (middle click and two thumb), this is quite useful, even essential. But using it is just too difficult to conceive of doing such while in action, greatly lowering its utility.
- LMB/RMB have a nice, satisfying feel, but are surprisingly loud. If you're the type to mind loud "click click click" while playing, steer clear of this mouse (I use a clicky Model M keyboard, and headphones, so I don't care). Also, while LMB/RMB feel high quality and function well, after testing one vs. the other, I can click noticeably faster with my G5 — the distance to actuation is less and the touch is superior.
- Software isn't great. The Rat 3's software does it's job, but it's not good at it. Using the software is more complex than it should be, and options are fewer than other, more customizable mice. It's not broken, but I wasn't impressed.
The only mouse I wasn't able to try was the G9x, which we all know is out of production, though it's still available at online retailers.
In the end, I'm going to return the Rat 3 after all. It's a good mouse, if overpriced. And it had the best initial fit for my fingertip grip of everything I've tried. And in some ways, it's better than my G5. But in other ways it isn't. And the difference just isn't enough to justify keeping it. I simply can't see using it when I've got my G5 sitting there.
If I were to design the perfect mouse, it would likely be something like a hybrid of my G5 and the Rat 3 (along with a smattering of qualities from other mice). My G5 shape is quite good, but I'd like it to be lighter. I'd like it to glide more smoothly. I'd like it to work with my SteelSeries Qck Mass mousepad (it doesnt — the laser doesn't like it and wobbles and twitches constantly while moving...not an issue with an optical). I'd also like my G5 to be smaller, especially in the rear end. And while I love how the mouse wheel tilts, and movement backward and forward is good, the middle mouse button is far too hard to press. It only has one thumb button; I'd like at least two. Finally, I'd like it to have software that allows for more DPI increments and the programming of scripts and macros.
Unfortunately, all of the above doesn't appear to exist in any one mouse, at least for the fingertip grip user. Otherwise, if you really want the optical sensor, the Roccat Kone Pure Optical is almost perfect (I wish it had the tilt wheel of its XTD brother). But again, that didn't fit my grip well, at least initially. I may buy it anyway and see if I can't change my ways and adjust my grip some. That seems the only solution to getting into a new mouse...either that or I must stick exclusively with Logitech, which I'm not thrilled with.
Thanks for reading,