Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
Although I have been reviewing quite a number of mice lately, the SteelSeries Sensei Wireless was the last wireless performance mice I wrote about here at APH Networks. Three years later, the ROCCAT Leadr we are taking a closer look at today is yet another performance model sans-wires. As far as the design is concerned, the Leadr is an asymmetrical mouse for right handed users. This means the shape of the shell is higher on the left than the right. Due to the size and nature of the mouse, I found it better for those who prefer to handle their mouse with their palm. A claw grip is also possible, but those who looking for a finger grip is probably better off with something else, even though you can still do it.
Measuring in at 12.6cm depth, 8.0cm width, and 4.5cm height, the ROCCAT Leadr is pretty standard when it comes to physical dimensions. However, the 134g weight of ROCCAT's pointing device is not adjustable, so you will need to deal with whatever the company think is the best for you if this ends up on your desk. 134g is pretty light, especially for a wireless mouse that needs to house a 1000mAh battery inside. This makes a lot of sense for what this mouse is designed for, which is first person shooter and multiplayer online battle arena games. Based on these numbers, you can see the mouse is built for small to average sized hands. I am a palm grip type user myself, and the ROCCAT Leadr fits quite well. Just for fun, I gave it a claw type grip, and it is not bad to use it at all. My hand size is pretty average, so this is good news for majority of the users. Its surface material is a soft touch rubber finish, while both sides are made out of a textured plastic grip. All surface material is part of the shell; in other words, they are not simply stickers -- the surface is molded this way from the factory. Overall, I found the Leadr very comfortable to touch, and maintains great control and grip even if your hands are particularly sweaty during the summer.
In our photo above, the ROCCAT Leadr is shown mounted to its vertical charging stand, which doubles as its wireless transceiver as well. Two metal pogo contacts on a protruding ledge holds the mouse stylishly in place while charging it, which can be seen in the next photo. I am not sure why they needed to make the base so big, since most of it is unused space anyway. An array of four blue LEDs at the bottom left corner show the charge status of your Leadr wireless mouse when unplugged, and sequentially blinks to its corresponding battery level when charging. Weirdly, the LEDs continue to blink sequentially even when the mouse is charged, so you never know when it is fully charged. I would like to see this fixed in a firmware update. The ROCCAT logo at the bottom right corner also lights up in blue. These single color LEDs are not user-configurable.
To say the ROCCAT Leadr does not come with a whole lot of buttons is an understatement. With fourteen programmable buttons, you might be able to count all of them with your hands... if you had three hands. Combined with the previous image, you can see besides the standard left click, right click, and clickable 2D Titan scroll wheel, there is a total of four buttons adjacent to the left and right click; with two on each side. Behind the scroll wheel, at the apex of the mouse, is a mid-knuckle dorsal fin switch, which can be tilted left or right. On the left, you will X-Celerator single-axis analog thumb paddle that can be tilted up or down located between the browser back and forward buttons. Beneath your thumb is an Easy-Shift[+] button, which is like hitting the Function key on your keyboard: Holding it down will shift everything to its secondary functions. I found all buttons and switches to be within easy reach of my fingers, but will not be easily actuated by accident in a normal grip. However, you may click a few of them by unintentionally when you initially reach for the mouse.
Beneath the buttons, the ROCCAT does not advertise any specialty switches. Either way, are they any good in real life? They are good and fitting for its class, but nothing spectacular. The clicks are reasonably quiet, yet audible; giving it a reasonably substantial feel to it. The switch's response is distinct, and can be considered to be very clean. The audible tone is higher in pitch than the best from SteelSeries, but a little lower than the Omron switches found in the Corsair Glaive RGB. Compared to switches underneath flagship performance mice like the Rival 700, SteelSeries' is crisper with better response for the main buttons, and noticeably superior on the side buttons.
The ROCCAT Leadr features the company's multicolor illumination system. There are two illumination zones. These two zones are the mouse wheel and the ROCCAT logo at the back. The color of the LED light can be configured to virtually anything in software by a custom color palette; more on this later. Different lighting effects can be set for different profiles. You can also choose from five different lighting effects. These are fully lit, blinking, breathing, heartbeat, and battery status. You can enable color flow to have the corresponding effects change colors on transition. The effect speed can be adjusted to your liking. Personally, I found anything other than fully lit with color flow off to be quite distracting, but this is really a personal preference. If you find any kind of lighting distracting, you can turn the lights off completely. The brightness can be adjusted by decreasing the intensity of RGB channels, but ROCCAT does not advertise multiple brightness levels on the Leadr in the first place.
A shot at the bottom of the ROCCAT Leadr optical mouse. Keeping the plastic base gliding above your mousing surface are four PTFE feet in total; also known as Teflon to the common man. In Organic Chemistry, ethylene/ethene indicates a carbon-carbon bond; with two carbons and a double bond (C2H4). Tetrafluoro replaces four hydrogen atoms with fluorine atoms, making it C2F4. In non-scientific terms, 'poly' just means a bunch of them linked together. Here, you will also find two metal contacts for charging its internal battery, an on/off slider switch, and a pairing button. The pairing button works with the pairing button at the back of the charging stand, but I never had to use it -- everything worked out of the box.
The ROCCAT Leadr is powered by the company's Owl-Eye optical sensor capable of sensing up to an incredible 12,000 DPI sensitivity, but can drop as low as 100 DPI at 100 DPI increments for those who want it. Also known as the PixArt 3361, this is a modified version of the excellent PMW3360 sensor. It promises true 1:1 tracking with zero hardware acceleration. 1000Hz polling rate is standard, but can be lowered to 500Hz, 250Hz, or 125Hz. Its lift-off distance can be configured as part of ROCCAT's Distance Control Unit. A 72MHz ARM Cortex-M0 processor exists inside both the mouse and the charging stand to run all its embedded functions. The 1000mAh internal battery is rated for 20 hours of continuous usage. The Leadr keeps critical components in full performance mode while reducing power usage of non-critical functions after 10 seconds of inactivity to extend battery life. After 30 minutes of inactivity, the mouse goes into standby mode, and will require a click to wake it up. The standby timer is not user-configurable.
The charging stand connects to your computer via a braided USB 2.0 cable. For charging to occur, it needs an active PC, which means you cannot charge the Leadr even with an always-on USB port. I think an external power supply and a charging stand that allows computer-free charging will be very useful here, since I am one of those who want to charge their mouse while their system is off at night. If you want to use your ROCCAT Leadr in corded mode, you can connect it directly to the front of the mouse and engage the lock, so having a braided cord is actually functionally relevant in this setup. A braided cable, beside aesthetic purposes, also has lower friction than rubber coated cables for performance benefits. It connects to your computer via a standard, non-gold plated USB connector. When we bring about the question of whether gold plated connectors are useful or not, let us just say if it was the actual pins, then possibly -- since gold offers better conductivity than other metals. This theoretically establishes a better connection with your computer, but on a digital signal level, we must understand it is a discrete one or zero; so if anyone tells you they can tell the difference, you can definitely defeat their theory with a double blinded test. Additionally, if you are referring to the gold part of the connector you see on the plug, I would like to point out it does not make any physical contact electrically with your computer. In other words, it is nice to have, and it is pretty to look at, but it is not anything significant on a practical level. The lack of a gold-plated USB connector will not have any performance impact on the ROCCAT Leadr.
The Leadr works along with the latest version of ROCCAT Swarm, which is a 119MB download from ROCCAT's website at press time. This program unifies all your ROCCAT peripherals into one application. After installing the corresponding hardware module, you will be prompted to update the mouse firmware. Updating the firmware was a quick and painless process.
After selecting the ROCCAT peripheral you want to configure at the top, the graphical user interface is basically separated into four separate tabs: Pinned, Settings, Button Assignment, and Advanced Settings. The Pinned section allows you to pin a selection of function boxes of your choice for quick access. Under Settings, you can customize the mouse's vertical scroll speed, horizontal tilt speed, Windows pointer speed, double click speed, five preset sensitivity settings, and the X-Celerator analog thumb paddle scroll sensitivity. Button Assignment, as its name suggests, allow you to assign functions to different buttons. These include macro, hotkey, timer, basic functions such as left click, advanced functions such as increase sensitivity, internet, multimedia, exclusive ROCCAT functions such as Easy-Aim, operating system functions such as shutdown, or disabled. Note not all functions are available for every button. For example, you cannot use the analog thumb paddle to change the volume, although that would have been nice. The macro manager allows you to directly link to actions from a preset list of games such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Our screenshot above shows Advanced Settings, where you can adjust your Leadr's polling rate, sound feedback, lift-off distance, and illumination. With regards to the lighting effects, there are five options. These are fully lit, blinking, breathing, heartbeat, and battery status. You can enable color flow to have the corresponding effects change colors on transition as aforementioned.
Overall, I found ROCCAT Swarm to be very straightforward and easy to use. The software suite is feature-filled, graphics are appealing to look at, and the experience is generally positive.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
3. Subjective Performance Tests