The last Razer mouse we wrapped our sweaty, RSI-ridden hands around was the Abyssus Mirror Special Edition. While we thought it was pretty ace, we were disappointed by its lack of features and slightly lightweight feel. Now we've had the chance to manhandle the bigger, heavier and more feature-packed Razer Imperator, which can be yours for the humble sum of £55 or thereabouts. Is it any good, though?
Despite its grand title, the Imperator is actually pretty slender, measuring only 71mm across. It is tall, however, at 42mm, and it features a highly arched back designed to slip neatly into your clawed hand. The Imperator fit into our paw very snugly indeed.
A rubberised coating means you won't experience any slippage as your fingers inevitably get sweaty. Also, because the mouse isn't overly large, the base of your wrist will maintain contact with the mousing surface, providing you with a decent degree of control.
That non-slip surface doesn't extend over the whole mouse. The sides are made out of glossy black plastic, with a hollow on the left side of the device for your thumb.
The understated matte black finish is complemented by blue LED highlights on the scroll wheel, and a pulsating blue Razer logo in the centre of the Imperator's body. The mouse is slightly more angular at the front, with the two main buttons protruding over the base of the mouse.
We're very glad to see on-the-fly dpi-adjustment buttons squatting atop the Imperator, just below the scroll wheel. We didn't notice the cursor hanging at all when we used them, and you can customise exactly which sensitivities you want to cycle through using the brilliantly named 'Imperator Configurator' software, which you can download from Razer's Web site.
The Microsoft SideWinder X8 features a display that shows its dpi setting, but, since it's possible to make the Imperator's dpi pop up on your computer's screen whenever you change it, this isn't a feature we missed too much. The highest setting available is 5,600dpi, which is extremely sensitive, and we can't see many gamers pushing it quite this high.
Your thumb has access to two programmable buttons. What purpose they serve is up to you, but we'd wager you'll want to assign some macros to these bad boys. Again, this is handled through the Configurator software.
These buttons can be mechanically moved forward or backwards using a slider on the Imperator's underside. We found that positioning them further back, toward our wrists, was more comfortable. We think the buttons have been placed slightly too high -- you probably won't find them in the spot in which your thumb naturally rests, which might cause you a precious microsecond's delay in pressing them.
Also on the underside, you'll find a button for switching profiles. You can have up to five different profiles, if, for example, you want different macros for different games.
Using the software, it's also possible to alter the Imperator's polling rate, choosing between either 125, 500 or 1,000Hz. With the mouse informing your computer of its co-ordinates 1,000 times per second at the highest setting, the resulting experience is very smooth indeed. During our game-based testing, we found the mouse brilliantly responsive.
Wires and wherefores
Aside from those oddly placed thumb buttons, the only criticism we can really level at the Imperator is that it doesn't have a wireless option. It's not that we have anything against wired mice -- indeed wireless mice run the risk of losing their signal while you're lining up that vital headshot -- but we can't help thinking of the SideWinder X8, which offers a neat solution for switching between wired and wireless modes.
The Imperator's cable is coated in braided fabric, so it won't catch on your desk. The cable input is also set high enough in the mouse's body so that it won't drag on your mousing surface.
The buttons themselves are all very comfortable to use. The main buttons are both springy and responsive, and, while they're easy to press, they're tricky to press by accident. The scroll wheel is brilliant, and, because it's especially grippy, it's very easy to rock back and forth. We would, however, have liked to see the scroll wheel offer the option of left- and right-leaning clicks.
The Razer Imperator represents decent value for money. If you're new to the world of gaming mice, you'll certainly notice a marked improvement in terms of comfort and usability compared to a standard model. A wireless version of the Imperator would have been good, but it looks the business and performs admirably. Microsoft's SideWinder X8 offers a few more features, but we reckon the Imperator mouse is slightly more comfortable.
Edited by Charles Kloet