The Roccat Kone is the first gaming mouse to be released by German company Roccat. They’re not messing about with this new mouse, as they’re taking on the likes of Razer and Logitech with a high-spec product. Does the new kid on the block have what it takes to steal some sales from the big boys?

Specification
Max DPI 3200
Polling Rate 1000Hz
Max Tracking speed 45 inches/second
Frame Rate 7080 frames/second
Buttons 10 (8 programmable)
Operating System Windows XP, Vista
Warranty
Special Features
  • Integrated Turbocore (72MHz) for enhanced processing power
  • 128Kb onboard memory for storing up to 5 profiles
  • Customisable LED light system showing full spectrum of colours
  • Adjust weight with four clip-in weights
  • Tracking booster for up to 200% improved laser performance
  • Ergonomic hybrid shape with optimum grip and comfort
  • 16-bit architecture for accelerated data transfer
  • 4-way tilt scroll wheel

Looking at the features list on the box you can’t help but be impressed. A lot of it is marketing speak, but cutting through the crap you’ll realise that the Kone is well equipped.

Starting off with the sensor, you get a ‘true’ 3,200DPI laser with reduced ‘Pick-Up Flight’. What this means is that the sensor stops responding the instant you lift the mouse, so you don’t get that horrible phenomenon where you find yourself pointing in a random direction when you reposition the mouse on the mousemat. The Kone also claims to have a tracking booster that gives up to 200% better performance than a standard laser.

There’s a 72MHz processor built into the Kone to handle the stream of data from the sensor. Add to this the 128Kb of onboard memory that can store up to 5 button profiles and you have enough power in this mouse to put my first two computers to shame (a 32Kb BBC Micro and a 128Kb ZX Spectrum). There are ten buttons in total and eight of those are programmable, so the Kone will be ideal for RTS and RPG gamers who like to program lots of macros.

There’s some fancy LEDs that can be customised to your heart’s content, and the feel of the mouse can be customised by adding one of four weights.

So, a promising start. Let’s crack open the box and see what its like.

Packaging

You get the impression that you’ve bought a quality mouse when you see the Kone’s box. It’s a large chunk of blackpolystyrene, with a transparent window in the front to allow you to view your new mouse. The polystyrene splits in two to reveal the inner plastic sleeve that holds the mouse and all of its accessories. It’s a sturdy box that will give the Kone plenty of protection in transit.

Splitting open the inner plastic gives you access to the Kone and the various accessories. You’ll find the mouse, a plastic case containing the four weights, a driver CD and a quick installation guide. You also get an Inari Case Mission Book and Roccat ID Card, which gives you access to some online extras.

Design

Although taste is subjective, I personally consider the Roccat Kone to be one of the best looking mice available. It is a sleek shape with no awkward angles (think Saitek Cyborg mouse) or protruberances (think Microsoft Sidewinder). The Roccat Kone is a right-handed mouse, so left-handers will have to look elsewhere.

The surface of the mouse is covered in a matt black plastic that feels a little like rubber. There are two plastic strips that run the full length of the mouse, which cover two LEDs each, and at the base of the mouse is the Roccat logo, behind which is a fifth LED. There are ten buttons in total – two on the left side for your thumb, three on top of the mouse above and below the scroll wheel, and of course the scroll wheel itself which includes a tilt action.

The Kone is very comfortable to hold, but it is a large mouse so is better suited to players who use a palm grip (rather than claw). Your thumb nestles nicely on the left side and all buttons are in easy reach. The buttons themselves have a nice action, being light to the touch but not too light. The Kone also feels like a sturdy device and seems to be well built.

The only flaw in the design is a visible join in the rubbery coating where it has been split into two pieces. One piece covers the lower part of the mouse, the second piece covers the top and two main buttons, and you can feel a slight ridge where the two pieces join. It’s a minor point, but Razer managed to cover the Deathadder in a single piece of smooth rubber, so surely Roccat could have managed the same?

The cable is 6 metres long, so should provide enough reach for most people. However, the first sign of cost-cutting is visible on the USB connector. The Deathadder, a cheaper mouse, features a gold USB connector, whereas on the Kone you get normal metal. While this is hardly going to stop the mouse working, I would have expected a gold-plated connector on a £50 gaming mouse.

Software

In the weight box you will find a mini CD. Pop it into your CD-Rom and you may be surprised to find little more than a static HTML page directing you to the Roccat website. This is probably a good idea as it forces you to download the latest drivers in order to get the mouse working, but if you haven’t got web access when you’re installing your Kone then tough – you’ll have to wait until you can get onto the internet to make full use of its features.

I downloaded the latest drivers (driver 1.29, frmware 1.32), which came as a 9MB zip file. Installing the drivers takes a few moments and requires a reboot, and after that I was prompted to upgrade the firmware on the mouse. This takes a couple of minutes but its just a case of sitting back and letting the program get on with it.

Roccat have clearly put a lot of thought into the software that comes with the Kone, as it’s a joy to use. The interface is clean and easy to understand and the various options are all intuitive. There are five tabs – Main Control, Color Control, Advanced Settings, Update and Help/Support.

The Main Control tab covers button assignment, sensitivity and scroll wheel speed. You can also choose the settings for the DPI switcher by including any of 6 DPI levels – 800, 1200, 1600, 2000, 2400 and 3200. These are cycled through when you press the dedicated DPI + and – buttons on top of the mouse.

Color Control, as the name suggests, allows you to control the colours for the five LEDs. You can choose your colour, or let the mouse select a random one, and then add effects. This tab also tells you the weight that’s currently installed in the mouse.

The Advanced Settings tab allows you to specify different levels of sensitivity on the X- and Y-axis. You can also activate cursor acceleration, switch the TCU on or off, and adjust the Windows pointer speed. The polling rate can also be adjusted to 125Hz, 500Hz or the full 1000Hz.

Sadly there’s no auto-update of the driver software, so the Update tab gives you a button to check manually. Clicking the button tells you your current version and the latest version on the website, with the contents of the changelog. Finally, the Help/Support tab gives a button that launches your browser and takes you straight to the Roccat website.

You can create up to five different profiles and save them to the mouse’s onboard memory. The eight programmable buttons (excluding the main left/right buttons) can be reassigned with a preset action, or loaded up with a macro of your choosing, so there’s plenty of scope for tailoring the mouse functions to a specific game.

LED Lighting

The Kone has got some very trick lighting inside its sleek body. There are five individual LEDs, each of which are capable of reproducing any colour in the spectrum. Using the software you can manually set which colours you want and then add effects – rotating, moving, pulsating, blining or heartbeat. Check out the video to see them in action.

This all sounds very good, but in action the effects aren’t quite what you’d expect. The pulsating option, which I expected to be a smooth change in brightness from dark to light like the logo on my Deathadder, is just a flashing effect. As is the blinking effect and the heartbeat – basically the effects boil down to just flashing in slightly different ways. Also, although the LEDs are supposed to be capable of reproducing the full spectrum, in reality you can only choose from a palette of 40 pre-defined colours.

Weight System

On its own the Roccat Kone weighs 133g, but this can be increased by up to 20g using one of the four weights. The weights come in multiples of 5g (5g, 10g, 15g and 20g) and are easy to fit. On the base of the mouse is a round socket – just choose the weight you want and pop it into place. They’re also easy to remove by pressing a button positioned next to the socket. The currently selected weight is detected by some pins in the socket and displayed in the driver screen.

It’s a simple system that makes a slight difference to the feel of the mouse, although the divisions between each weight could have been greater. Each 5g increase is barely discernible, perhaps multiples of 10g would have been better.

There is also another problem with the weights. If you don’t want any weights fitted at all you are left with an empty socket on the underneath of the mouse, with the pins that detect the weight completely unprotected. It would have been a good idea to include a cover for the socket to stop the pins getting dirty or damaged.

In Use

I put the Kone to good use as my everyday mouse, setting aside my trusty Deathadder. This meant it would get used as a standard Windows mouse for word processing and development work, and then get thrown into whichever games happened to be capturing my interest at the time.

For normal desktop applications the Kone works very well, but I found myself turning down the sensitivity to around 1600DPI. At this level the Kone is fast yet accurate, and it feels slightly more responsive than the Deathadder at its maximum setting of 1,800DPI.

For game testing I turned to Far Cry 2 and Left 4 Dead. I started off with the mouse at its full 3,200DPI and, to be honest, found it way too sensitive. It was difficult to remain accurate as the slightest twitch of the mouse caused significant cursor movement. Eventually I settled on using two of the DPI levels – 2,400DPI for fast action and occasionally switching down to 1,600 DPI for sniping. The +/- buttons are ideal for doing this as they’re easy to reach in a hurry and as long as you don’t have all levels of DPI activated they’re quick and intuitive – with all levels switched on you can easily lose track of which level of DPI is currently in use.

Although I haven’t used a Lachesis for a while, the Kone seems to be more responsive at 3,200 DPI than I remember the Lachesis at its full 4,000 DPI. It could be considered too twitchy for a lot of players, but that’s not a problem if you configure the DPI levels to your taste.

The programmable buttons are great, and you can map a lot of the game functions to the mouse. For example, in Far Cry 2 the scroll wheel click opened up the map, the button above the scroll wheel acted as ‘reload’, one of the left thumb buttons threw a grenade and the other toggled between grenade and molotov. This meant my keyboard hand was left to concentrate on movement while weapon management was controlled entirely by the mouse.

As far as comfort is concerned the Kone proved to be a pain-free experience. I would say I have average-sized hands into which the Kone seemed to fit perfectly, and at no point did I have any discomfort, even after a full working day of eight hours. It was the same for gaming, and after some lengthy sessions my mouse hand still felt comfortable. Some mice can leave you with aching and cramped fingers, but the Kone isn’t one of them.

A final mention goes to the Tracking Control Unit, or TCU, that helps to reduce the pick-up flight mentioned at the start of the article. It really does work, and manages to greatly reduce the problem. It doesn’t entirely eliminate it, but lifting the mouse back into the middle of the mousepad is no longer the stuff of gaming nightmares.

Conclusion

Roccat were aiming high with the Kone, and the results are very good. While the LED lighting might be a bit of a letdown the rest of the mouse more than makes up for that. The Roccat Kone is excellent where it matters – the laser sensor is smooth and very responsive, the buttons are easily configured and its comfortable to use for long gaming sessions.

The negative points are few and minor. The LED lighting isn’t all its cracked up to be, the lack of a cover for the mouse socket seems to be an obvious flaw and … that’s about it. One improvement I would like to see is some sort of DPI indicator on the mouse so you know which one of the settings is in use. An LCD display like that on the Microsoft Sidewinder would have been a good idea.

So could the Roccat Kone be considered the best gaming mouse available today? There’s no single answer to that question, as it depends on your personal gaming style and the games you want to use it for, but the Roccat Kone gives you everything you’d ever need from a mouse.