Razer Spectre Gaming Mouse Review

Posted Jan 7, 2011
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The brand Razer is no stranger to the gaming peripheral industry. In fact, I’d say Razer happens to be one of the corner stones of the industry sharing the mantle with the likes of SteelSeries and Cyborg. So when I heard that Razer have teamed up with Blizzard Entertainment – you know the makers of insanely popular franchises like World of Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft – the avid gamer inside me was more than intrigued to find out exactly what those two would come up with. You can imagine my excitement when the delivery guy dropped off the Razer Spectre mouse, Marauder keyboard and the Banshee headset at my doorstep. Together they make up the StarCraft II series of Razer gaming peripherals which augment your gameplay experience in unique ways.

Today, we would be taking a look at the first component of the set – the Razer Spectre gaming mouse engineered specifically with a StarCraft II player in mind. This $80 beast packs a 5600 DPI sensor with a 1000 Hz pooling rate resulting in a 1 ms response time. All the standard five buttons on the Spectre are fully customizable with custom mappings and macros, and the unique APM lighting system onboard can be fully customized to display 16 million colors. Interested in finding out how this thing actually performs? Continue reading for the full review.

Specifications

  • Lightweight, Fingertip-Grip 5 Button Mouse
  • 5600 DPI Laser Sensor
  • Ultrapolling (1000Hz Polling / 1ms Response)
  • APM-Lighting System
  • Button Force Adjustment
  • Always-On™ Mode
  • Ultra-large Non-slip Buttons
  • 16-bit Ultra-wide Data Path
  • 200 Inches per Second and 50g of Acceleration
  • Zero-acoustic Ultraslick™ mouse feet
  • Gold-plated USB Connector
  • Braided 7 Foot USB Cable
  • Dimensions: 100mm(L) * 66mm(W) * 37mm(H)

Packaging and Design

I’ve always said that you know you are playing with premium quality stuff just by looking at the packaging. The uniquely crafted cardboard box shows a lot of branding on the package. Both Razer and Blizzard are equally represented here, and the backside of the box highlights some of the major features of the mouse.

The Spectre itself is modeled after the Terran faction of StarCraft which is evident from its slightly angular looks and gray finishing. The mouse is smaller than your average gaming mice in length and is actually lighter than most gaming grade mice I’ve used in the past. While Spectre is a wired mouse, the 7 foot long cable is braided so it would easily withstand a couple of tugs, and the USB connecter is also gold platted for optimal conductivity. The weight of the mouse is centered towards the front instead of the rear which might be a little annoying to some users who prefer a more balanced distribution.

Razer opted to use rubber skates on the Spectre instead of the usual plastic ones they use. While some users might complain about the added friction rubber skates bring, I actually prefer a bit more traction when I’m gaming.

The large Left and Right click buttons are quite easy to push. In fact, there is an adjustment slider on the underside of the mouse which lets you adjust how much force you need to register a left button click. While I did think it was just a cosmetic feature at first, it does have a great deal of impact on performance once you figure out the perfect balance for your fingers.

The black scroll wheel in the middle has 24 individual click points and is quite comfortable to press. The Forward and Back buttons are also easily accessible and have a satisfying level of feedback.

The star of the show here is the APM Lighting System. 6 LED lights placed around the rear edges of the Spectre change their colors to give you feedback about the game (more on that below). The LED lights on the sides, the StarCraft II logo and the underglow can be customized to display up to 16 million different colors using the configuration utility.

Performance Configuration

There aren’t any drivers included in the packaging, though you can (and should) download the Razer StarCraft II Configurator utility from Razer’s Support website. It is available for both Windows and Mac OS X and features a wide range of customization options for the entire line of StarCraft II based peripherals. You can basically customize everything from DPI and sensitivity to button mapping and the lighting on the mouse.

The utility supports multiple usage profiles which you can change on the fly during a heated game session either directly or by mapping it to a button on the mouse. Additional button mapping options include Universal Scrolling, sensitivity adjustment (both On the Fly and step wise) and mapping Macros or Single key strokes to the buttons. The scroll wheel can also be customized in a similar fashion.

Spectre’s pooling rate can also be tweaked via the configuration utility. You can set it at either 125Hz, 500Hz or 1000Hz depending on your comfort level, though I suppose most of you would prefer the 1Hz (1ms response time) setting. You can also change the DPI, setting it anywhere between 100 and 5600 and if you really want to fine tune the last grain of performance, then you can even change the horizontal X and vertical Y DPI sensitivity independently. As with all other gaming mice out there, you can also control the acceleration from the configuration utility.

Another neat feature of the Spectre is that you can preset five different DPI stages to switch between on the fly when you are gaming. While most gaming mice have hardware buttons to take care of that, the Spectre lets you configure the individual steps in software, giving you the extra bit of control you wanted.

You can create new profiles or manage existing ones via the Profile Manager. Each profile has their own individual configuration. You can export and import profiles to share with friends or to apply them on your other machines, and you can assign profiles to specific applications to automatically switch them on. For example, you can have a different profile for StarCraft II with high DPI sensitivity and another one for Call of Duty Black Ops with a moderate sensitivity to get better aim.

Macro management in the configuration tool is also a breeze. Keystroke delay between events is automatically recorded and saved to the macro and you can even insert custom delay timings between your strokes. Macro recording even supports advanced functions like Copy and Paste, show desktop, switch windows and a whole lot of others.

As for lighting, like I said earlier, you can fully customize the look and color of three individual LED lighting areas on the Spectre. These include the StarCraft II logo, the trim lights and the underglow. You choose the color from a palette of over 16 million colors to give your mouse a unique and personal look.

Razer introduced the APM (Actions Per Minute) system into the StarCraft II series of peripherals to gauge the performance of gamers mathematically. They system works by tracking individual keystrokes and button clicks (actions) you came per minute. The general concept is that the higher APM you have, the better player you are. While this isn’t really a good metric for tracking game performance (you can randomly mash the keyboard to get a good APM), it does look cool though. The peripherals respond to the change in APM by changing the color of the LED lights. You can specify the colors and the APM level limits in the configuration utility. While it doesn’t really make a difference on your in game performance, it is still a nice aesthetic feature to have.

A practical usage of LED lights on the Spectre however is the Alerts feedback system. You can configure the Spectre to react to 13 specific in game events like when your base or a unit is under attack or when a building is complete etc. You can customize the color of the LED lights to show for the event as well as enable or disable the blinking effect and the number of times the lights blink. It’s a good way to get your attention towards off screen events and a much more elegant use of the LED lighting system.

Gaming Performance

Since Razer Spectre is a StarCraft II branded mouse and has features specific to that game, I primarily tested it in that particular game only. I did use the mouse for one or two sessions of Left 4 Dead 2, Counter Strike: Source and Call of Duty: Black Ops though so I’ll also be sharing my experience with those games as well. But my primary judgment of the device would only be based on StarCraft II performance since its aimed at the specific tournament players.

First of all, lets just get FPS performance out of the way. In all the aforementioned FPS games, the Razer Spectre was definitely playable. I did have to do a bit of adjustment and there was a slight learning curve due to the fact that the mouse’s center of weight is towards the front side but after a brief initial period, my game performance was just about normal. There were a couple of misses here and there, but hey the Spectre isn’t meant to be used with FPS games anyways right. The other three mice I was using sisde by side with the Spectre include Raptor Gaming M3 Platinum, Zowie Gear EC1 and SteelSeries XAI. All of them had slightly better performance in the FPS arena.

As for performance in StarCraft II, the Spectre definitely had its advantage. The APM system and the alerts system worked exactly as advertised and thanks to the higher sensitivity on the Spectre, controlling and selecting units was a little bit faster in my opinion. Add the bonus advantage of macros on top and you have a pretty good winning formula. Of course that doesn’t mean that you would be taking the crown in the tournaments all of the sudden. The actual outcome of the game still depends on your gameplay skills and no peripheral can help you with that.

Conclusion

During most of my testing, I was pitting the Razer Spectre against the other mice I had on hand. While the Zowie Gear EC1 was no match for this beast, it did have a neck to neck competition with the Raptor Gaming M3 Platinum and a little bit with the SteelSeries XAI. While the Razer Spectre works well for the task it is designed for – the StarCraft II tournament player – it did have a tough time keeping up with more advanced mice like the M3 Platinum when it came to other tasks and general ergonomics of the mouse.

Then again, the Raptor Gaming M3 Platinum costs twice as much as the Razer Spectre so the scale again tips in its favor. And don’t forget that the Spectre is the part of a series of peripherals designed specifically for StarCraft II and tournament players in mind. So in conjunction with the Marauder keyboard and the Banshee headset, the Spectre mouse is a must have for any serious StarCraft II player. Just don’t expect that you’d be taking the crown in Black Ops as well.

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