2012 mouse update

So here’s a little update on the mice I currently use at least every once in a while and my opinion on them after months of use.

Razer Abyssus

My favourite mouse for now. The only think I dislike about it is the crappy scrollwheel, it feels cheap, it works OK but the amount of ‘clicks’ per revolution is too low.

Razer Deathadder 1800DPI

My trusty old Deathadder doesn’t get much use these days. I think it’s too big to comfortably throw around, other than that it’s still great.

Razer Imperator 5600DPI

Too big, the left click seems to misfire every once in a while and the weird acceleration issues of the Philips twin-eye sensor have degraded this mouse to my backup mouse at work.

Razer Mamba 6400DPI

A great wireless mouse. Zero lag on the wireless, decent playtime on batteries and the ability to switch to wired mode very quickly. The glowing charging station and glowing scrollwheel are totally over the top, draws a lot of questions (“Didn’t it glow blue 5 minutes ago?”). The battery adds a bit of weight, but other than that it’s basically a Deathadder with a worse sensor. Again the Philips twin-eye sensor with it’s acceleration ruins it for me. Therefore it’s my default mouse at work.

Steelseries Xai

Great mouse with only minor acceleration issues. Lovely scrollwheel. The crazy LCD on the bottom of the mouse allows me to set everything I want. A small issue is the ‘boot’  time of the mouse. Feels like it takes 10 seconds for the mouse to become usable after plugging it in.

Zowie EC2

Lovely shape, decent sensor. The scrollwheel totally ruins this mouse for me, it’s even worse than the Abyssus one. It’s loud, has a horrible feel to it and the ‘clicks’ per revolution is the lowest of them all.

Mouse jitter on cloth pads

 

 

Here’s a little test comparing a bunch of different mice and sensors.

With all mice I tried to move straight down on a Razer Goliathus Speed cloth pad while drawing a line in MS Paint.

All mice had prediction aka drift control disabled so the lines aren’t artificially straightened by the mouse.

As you can see in the picture the mice varied quite a bit in their behaviour. Judging by the picture you might think that both the Abyssus and Imperator had excellent performances while the Zowie EC2 and Xai didn’t do so well.

But what the picture doesn’t show is the amount of negative acceleration experienced during this test. The Imperator slowed to a crawl, forcing me to move it quite a bit further to get the same line.  None of the other mice showed this behaviour and surely the “Dynamic DPI scaling” of the Imperator is the problem here.

What is clear from the picture is how horrible the Zowie EC2 is on a Goliathus Speed mousepad.

Taking all these things in account, here’s my final scoreboard:

  1. Razer Abyssus (new)
  2. Razer Deathadder (original)
  3. Steelseries Xai
  4. Zowie EC2
  5. Razer Imperator
  6. Razer Abyssus (old)

 

Zowie EC2 mouse review

After all my Razer mice reviews, it was time for something else. A non-Razer gaming mouse. I’ve chosen the Zowie EC2.

Zowie?

Zowie has a small product line-up. They sell an old, but great Microsoft mouse and two mice of their own: The Zowie EC1 and EC2. These mice use the same hardware in a different shell. The only difference seems to be the size. I’ve chosen the EC2, the smaller mouse.

EC2 (left) and EC1 (right)

 

 

Sensor

The EC1/EC2 use a Avago ADNS-3060 sensor at a 2000 max DPI. There are a few other mice that use this sensor, some A4Tech mice and the Steelseries Ikari Optical for example.

Overall the sensor is pretty good. Zowie chose to keep some prediction/drift-control activated in the firmware, but on a minimal setting. There are some jitter issues on cloth pads (Razer Goliathus for example) and tracking on semi-shiny surfaces can be quite bad. My trusty old Deathadder 1800DPI has less jitter and that’s a mouse with all drift-control disabled.

The mouse gets polled at 1000Hz by default, so you won’t have to install USB hacks or drivers. You can adjust the DPI  by using a button on the underside of the mouse. There are 3 settings: 500, 1000 and 2000DPI. The scrollwheel changes color when changing the DPI. A nice way to show which DPI is active.

Build quality

The overall build quality seems a bit sub-par for the amount of money you pay for one of these ‘heatoN-approved’ mice. On the box there’s a sticker that reads “most durable and precise mousewheel”, but in reality it feels really cheap. Sometimes you can hear the click of the scrollwheel, but no scrolling movement is registered. It’s simply one of the worst scrollwheels I’ve used in a recent mouse, feeling even a bit worse than the Razer Abyssus scrollwheel.

The two side buttons don’t feel very good either, but they get the job done. The main mouse buttons and scroll-wheel button are just fine.

The rubber coating on the black Zowie mice is quite similar to the one on the Deathadder, and feels very nice. The same kind of coating seems to be used on the mouse cord. This makes it less likely to get tangled up like with the original Deathadder.

Verdict

Overall I quite like this mouse. Being slightly smaller than the Deathadder it’s easier to throw around your mousepad. The rubberized feel and the mouse buttons are fine, the sensor performs well enough to be used on most surfaces at high speeds.

I’m slightly disappointed with the overal price/performance ratio. The sensor has some jitter issues, the scrollwheel is terrible and the side buttons make the product feel cheap and flimsy.

These issues don’t prevent it from being a great mouse which I’d recommend. Especially people looking for a mouse that’s slightly smaller than the MX518/Deathadder/IME3.0.

The problem with gaming mice

It’s been nearly 4 years since the original Razer Deathadder was released. After some initial issues, a few firmware updates made it a nearly flawless mouse. Since then, Razer, Logitech and other manufacturers have released many new mice, none of which I’d recommend over the trusty old Deathadder.
Here’s my list of the mice I’ve tried and what’s wrong with them:
  • Logitech MX518, 125Hz polling rate by default, prediction, otherwise flawless afaik. Both the old 1600DPI, and the new 1800DPI.
  • Razer Boomslang CE07, rubber buttons wear very quickly.
  • Razer Lachesis, z-axis tracking
  • Razer Mamba, z-axis tracking, jitter on old firmware, dynamic dpi scaling on new firmware (to fix jitter :/ )
  • Razer Abyssus, jitter on cloth pads
  • Razer Deathadder 3500, jitter on cloth pads
  • Razer Imperator, z-axis tracking, dynamic dpi scaling (hardware acceleration :/ )
  • Logitech G500, hardware acceleration due to Avago ADNS-9500 sensor
  • Logitech G9x, hardware acceleration due to Avago ADNS-9500 sensor
  • Steelseries Xai, hardware acceleration due to Avago ADNS-9500 sensor
Apparently, releasing a new mouse with OVER 9000 DPI AND BUTTONS is more important than flawless tracking to all these mice companies.

Disabling mouse acceleration on OS/X

With the recent release of Portal and Team Fortress 2 for the Mac I’m guessing there are quite a few gamers that have noticed the horrible acceleration that’s default on OS/X.

I’ve finally managed to find a little tool that can give you 1:1 mouse/pointer movement, just like you can on Windows (with the help of some regtweaks and system file patchers).

Download this Preference Pane and run it: MouseAccelerationPref11c

Use these settings:

I know it says ‘Inverted’ on -6.0x, but it’s actually 1:1 non-inverted :P

Razer Abyssus/Razer Deathadder 3500DPI review

A new infrared 3500DPI sensor forms the core of an updated Razer Deathadder and an updated Razer Salmosa, the Razer Abyssus. Their predecessors were good mice, with some small issues.

The original Deathadder is Razer’s best mouse in my opinion. It has a great sensor which tracks very well on a lot of surfaces, is capable of tracking at high speeds, has DC and NDC firmwares and has no acceleration or other side effects when set up right.

The Salmosa has received little love from Razer. 1 driver update, no firmware updates and only the default DC firmware available.

Salmosa

So let’s talk a bit first about the thing the new mice have in common, the 3500DPI sensor. It’s not as good as the trusty old 1800DPI sensor used in the Salmosa and Deathadder-new. It has a lot of issues tracking on cloth mousepads, some more than others. Ironically, it’s pretty bad on the Razer Goliathus.  If you like to play on cloth pads, don’t buy an Abyssus or a Deathadder-new.

Deathadder-new

With that out of the way, a bit about the Deathadder-new. It’s pretty much exactly the same as the old one. It has a nicer braided cable, replacing the very thin plastic wire from the old one, which was prone to breaking internally. That’s basically all there is to this new Deathadder. If you have an old one, keep it, if you want a new one, try to find an old one. The changes are not worth the upgrade and extra costs.

Deathadder new, or old?

Abyssus

Compared to the old Salmosa there isn’t much new either, but at least the 3500DPI sensor doesn’t have drift control. The hardware buttons to switch DPI and mouse refresh rate are still there, but the 500Hz option is gone. The scroll wheel is the worst I’ve seen on a Razer mouse. It feels cheap, makes a weird noise and is definitely not as good as the Deathadder or Imperator scroll wheel. Just as with other Razer mice there are a lot of reports of squeaking mouse wheels on the Abyssus.

Abyssus

For some reason I still like the Razer Abyssus. It’s really light and small, easy to throw around. Great for people looking for a finger grip mouse. The buttons are easy to press, I’d rankthem like this (easy -> hard to press): Boomslang CE2007, Abyssus, Deathadder, Imperator

The overall verdict
The new Razer 3500DPI mice are great mice, limited by their kinda crappy sensor.
The main problem with the 3500DPI DA is its older brother, which is cheaper and better, apart for the cable.
The Abyssus looks like a great entry-level gaming mouse. It’s cheap (the scroll wheel shows), light, easy to use and great value for money. It’s not only an entry level mouse, it’s a great mouse if you need something small and nimble. I wish it was made with the Deathadder sensor, that way I could have finally recommended a new Razer mouse.

Remote kernel upgrade with Debian/Ubuntu and Grub2

Remotely upgrading a kernel without some sort of remote KVM solution is not for the faint hearted. Realizing you forgot to include some module, or build the initrd image after remotely rebooting a kernel is even worse ;)

Luckily there are some nice tricks you can use to make a remote kernel upgrade as safe as possible.

First, make sure you have a valid kernel. Copy the .config of an old kernel and ‘make oldconfig’ to make it work on your new-to-be-compiled kernel.

Second, make the kernel using the ‘make-kpkg’ package, don’t forget the –initrd parameter if you need it.

Third, after installing the kernel package, don’t forget to check if the initrd image got generated. For some strange reason Debian won’t generate this even after building with make-kpkg –image, you can read more about that here. You basically need to copy a file from ‘/usr/share/kernel-package/examples/etc/kernel/postinst.d/initramfs’ to ‘/etc/kernel/postinst.d/initramfs’

Fourth, you need to configure Grub2 so it uses a kernel boot option which makes the kernel restart if it can’t boot for some reason. To do this with Grub2, open /etc/default/grub and add “panic=5″ to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT, like this:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet panic=5″

Fifth, Grub2 needs to be told to only boot the new kernel once, so in case the new kernel panics, it automatically restarts using a kernel you know works (your current one perhaps). Else the ‘panic=5′ we set earlier will only lead to a reboot loop.

To do this open /etc/default/grub and change GRUB_DEFAULT to saved, like this:

GRUB_DEFAULT=saved

To configure ‘reboot-once-into-new-kernel’, we need to do two more things, first we need to tell Grub2 what your working, safe kernel is. Check /boot/grub/grub.cfg for the name of this kernel, but don’t change anything in this file.

My safe kernel is called: ”Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 2.6.32-2-686″, which I can set as the default, safe, kernel with this command:

grub-set-default ”Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 2.6.32-2-686″

Now we have to tell Grub to reboot once into the new kernel, again we need the name of the new kernel, mine is ”Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 2.6.32-example”, use this command.

grub-reboot ”Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 2.6.32-example”

Don’t worry, this won’t reboot your machine.

The final step is to generate a new /boot/grub/grub.cfg, else all the things we just did won’t have an effect

update-grub

Now you’re ready to reboot, good luck and fingers crossed. After a succesful boot, you can set your new kernel as the default using the grub-set-default command

grub-set-default ”Debian GNU/Linux, with Linux 2.6.32-example”

Razer Imperator review

Razer’s past 5 years have been quite succesful. Clearly becoming a leading gamer’s brand that pushes the envelope. The hugely succesful Diamondback, using a temporarily Razer-exclusive sensor, showed Razer was back in business after their crappy first optical mouse, the Viper.

Following the Diamondback was an OK laser mouse, the Copperhead, and the awesome Deathadder, Razer’s first right-handed mouse. It was a great upgrade for gamers looking for the next best thing. The very good Avago 3688 sensor, with 1800DPI and very high maximum speed, guaranteed excellent tracking and is still one of the best sensors available. The familiar ergonomic shape pleased many coming from Logitech’s aging MX5xx line and Microsoft Intellimouse series.

The Deathadder was released over 2 years ago and is still very popular. Recently a newer 3500DPI version was released, which I’ll be reviewing soon as well. (Early verdict: Not as good as the old one.)

Imperator

This review, however, is about the Razer Imperator.

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