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Published on January 3rd, 2011 | by Ruth

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Mad Catz: The Best Gaming Gear This Season

It’s been a fair­ly slow sea­son in games- on­ly a few ma­jor ti­tles have come out in the last cou­ple of months that have made us drop ev­ery­thing and play. But even when we weren’t busy shoot­ing or jump­ing, we were en­joy­ing some new gear from Mad Catz- the R.A.T. 9 mouse. And when we were play­ing one of the sea­son’s hottest ti­tles, Call of Du­ty: Black Ops, we were play­ing with a head­set from their fair­ly new ac­qui­si­tion, Trit­ton- apt­ly named the Call of Du­ty: Black Ops 5.1 Head­set. Fi­nal­ly, we put our­selves in the driv­er’s seat with the Mad Catz Wire­less Rac­ing Wheel and Ped­als set for the Xbox 360.

We’ll hit each one in turn, start­ing with the R.A.T. 9. For those who haven’t read our re­view of the very sim­i­lar R.A.T. 7, these are prob­a­bly the best gam­ing mice on the mar­ket- in­finite­ly cus­tomiz­able, com­fort­able, packed with fea­tures and op­tions, and ex­treme­ly ac­cu­rate. The R.A.T. 9 adds wire­less to the equa­tion- it’s not a ma­jor change, but with many gam­ing mice fail­ing the la­ten­cy test, it was still a tricky ad­di­tion. Us­ing 2.4 Ghz, we were re­lieved to find ba­si­cal­ly no dif­fer­ence be­tween the wired ver­sion and this new, wire­less mod­el. As be­fore, the mouse sur­face is silky and grip­pable, but we loved the abil­i­ty to add some tex­ture. But we no­ticed that our nor­mal grip re­sult­ed in a bit of un­com­fort­able pinch­ing on the right side, de­spite tweaks- we end­ed up ad­just­ing our­selves a bit to the mouse, but it seemed a fair trade. What you gain is a nifty hot-swap­pable bat­tery pack sys­tem- it’s a bit tricky at first, but a lot of fun. And bat­tery life is ex­cel­lent. Teflon feet keep it slid­ing across any sur­face, and a 5600 dpi en­gine that can be low­ered on the fly kep us hit­ting our tar­gets. It’s a bit heavy for trav­el, and that’s even with­out the var­i­ous ad­di­tions- ex­tra weights and sur­faces and the dock/trans­mit­ter. Al­so, we don’t know how it would per­form with a lot of oth­er 2.4Ghz de­vices ac­tive in the same area- it’s a busy spec­trum sec­tion. But the low la­ten­cy and con­ve­nience kept us com­ing back ver­sus it’s wired sib­ling, and the great looks haven’t changed. $120, avail­able on­line.

If it’s sound your af­ter, Trit­ton has you cov­ered- we’ve checked out some of their pre­vi­ous of­fer­ings both 5.1 and not, and have come away con­vinced that they of­fer some of the best head­sets around. This mod­el is aimed at PC gamers- and what­ev­er the ac­tu­al prod­uct ti­tle may be, it worked great across a wide va­ri­ety of games, and even for VoIP ap­pli­ca­tions. The di­rec­tion­al 5.1 sound ex­celled for first per­son shoot­ers, al­low­ing us to lo­cate and find our en­e­mies quick­ly. The pack­ag­ing, we should note was pret­ty great- a nice case, durable braid­ed ca­bles, and sleek black pads. As with their pre­vi­ous mod­el, these work best go­ing around your ears, and thus can feel a bit large or heavy when you first put them on. But with a lit­tle time, it’s easy to get used to them- se­cure, en­velop­ing even, and with­out any of the pres­sure di­rect­ly on your ears which can quick­ly end a gam­ing ses­sion. Vol­ume was more than suf­fi­cient, and the mic was great- a lit­tle less ad­justa­bil­i­ty than we like, but sound qual­i­ty was re­port­ed to be clear. Over­all, it felt like this was a fair­ly mi­nor up­grade on the AX 720, but it feels and looks ex­pen­sive- a great gift, if you are at the end of your rope this hol­i­day sea­son. It can take a minute to as­sem­ble, but of­fers ad­justable chan­nels and works won­der­ful­ly with min­i­mal tweak­ing. At $150, it’s a good deal, and in line with com­peti­tors. An Xbox 360 and PS3 ver­sion is al­so go­ing to be avail­able short­ly.

Fi­nal­ly, Mad Catz has al­ways of­fered in­ter­est­ing gam­ing ac­ces­sories, some through their Saitek brand. But this sea­son, they’ve come up with their first Wire­less Rac­ing Wheel for the 360, which comes com­plete with non-slip ped­als. Pow­ered by reg­u­lar AA bat­ter­ies (three re­quired), it fea­tures a lap rest sup­port (though we found it a bit awk­ward to use that way). But the lap pads can be eas­i­ly de­tached, and you can mount it with a clamp on any de­cent-sized desk or table. We didn’t have any left-hand­ed folks try it out, but they’ve been tak­en in­to con­sid­er­a­tion with the switch­able gear shift. Wire­less is easy, of course- the usu­al 360 method al­lows quick set­up and re-syn­chro­niza­tion to dif­fer­ent con­soles. We had tried the of­fi­cial Mi­crosoft ver­sion quite a while ago, and found it pret­ty de­cent if a bit un­re­al­is­tic, and as this one is ap­par­ent­ly cour­tesy of the Saitek side, it feels au­then­tic. You can play for about 40 hours off of one set of bat­ter­ies, but that leads to one of the down­sides. The key miss­ing fea­ture is force feed­back- it’s sad­ly ab­sent, even if you won’t no­tice it much for ar­cade rac­ers (a bit more for sim­u­la­tors such as, say, Forza- it’s pret­ty key and a sur­pris­ing omis­sion). Some de­sign de­tails we liked a lot though- the top stripe for pre­ci­sion turns, the ex­cel­lent grip ma­te­ri­al on the wheel it­self, and the sol­id ped­als. The ped­als are fixed to an in­ter­est­ing base unit, raised a bit, and spring back nice­ly- and they are al­so cov­ered in a good grip ma­te­ri­al. We like Kinect as much as any­one- but for rac­ing, it’s great to have your hands on some­thing re­spon­sive and re­al. $130, avail­able di­rect­ly from Mad Catz.


About the Author

The ampersand tattoo on her shoulder goes a long way towards explaining Ruth's outlook on life: there's always an "and." With TrulyNet, Ruth enjoys working on social media and writing... and editing... and... Ruth went to the University of Oregon, where she studied music, dance and cognitive psychology (and sleeping very little). While there, she designed classes and taught arts enrichment to talented and gifted grade-school students. After graduation, Ruth spent several years as a Market Analyst at a large law firm in New York. Feeling the pull back to the west coast, Ruth moved to San Francisco and worked for Stanford for a year before deciding to focus on her passion for the arts. Ruth spends more time on Facebook that she cares to admit. When not attached to the computer, working for TrulyNet, or dancing, Ruth rock climbs, knits, swims, obsessively plays Boggle, plays games, plays tennis, cooks, sips beer, wine and whiskey, and travels seeking adventure.



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