A comfortable, well-rounded gaming mouse is surprisingly hard to find these days. There are plenty of options, between manufacturers like Cyborg, Razer and SteelSeries to name a few, but sometimes these mice are just too specialized to a specific game type or play style to be generally comfortable. I previously reviewed the SteelSeries Sensei and found it to be about as comfortable as an ambidextrous mouse could get, but what about a good old fashioned right-handed mouse? The Razer Imperator is just such a mouse—versatile and classically styled but definitely geared toward serious PC gaming.
A quick advisory before I begin this review in earnest. For a couple weeks I encountered a serious stuttering problem with the Imperator; the cursor would jump and skip erratically both in regular use and in gaming. Razer’s tech people offered a solution: the mouse’s auto-calibration feature might be interfering with my desk surface. Wouldn’t you know it, my desk has a wood grain patterned surface that must have been confusing the Imperator’s optical sensor. Deactivating auto-calibration in the mouse’s downloadable utility solved the problem instantly. I just wanted to get that out of the way because the issue kept me from enjoying the Imperator for a good couple of weeks.
Once I got it working, the Imperator worked like a dream. I threw just about every game in my Steam library at it—old and new—and the Imperator handled it like a champ. Half Life, Left 4 Dead, Bioshock 2, Painkiller, even GTAIII all controlled exceptionally smooth on the Imperator. The default settings (minus the auto calibration, of course) suited me just fine but Razer’s downloadable utility offers a wealth of customization options.
Once you have the Imperator’s tweak software installed you can remap button functions, manually adjust the dpi settings and even set the USB polling rate. Like most mice the Imperator has pre-set dpi stages that you can select between with specialized buttons, but the software even lets you customize the dpi stages. If you want to get really crazy you can un-link the X and Y axes and adjust their sensitivity independently—good for shooter fans who want their lateral movement a little twitchier than the vertical. The software allows you to save seven custom profiles, so you could have different setups for different games or genres.
While the software customization is rather complex, the Imperator’s styling is comparatively basic. It has a fairly standard height and length, easy to grip with the whole palm or just fingers, with soft rubber coating on both sides. The left side has a shaped scoop that perfectly cradles the thumb, while the left and right buttons have similar shallow grooves for the index and middle fingers. The top of the mouse slopes gently down to the right, placing the index finger higher than the middle finger.
The Imperator’s real standout feature, however, is its adjustable thumb buttons. A slider switch on the bottom of the mouse lets you ratchet the two buttons forward and backward along the left side above the thumb groove, and they’re also placed high enough that they are difficult to hit accidentally.
Razer has also managed to balance appearance aesthetics with ergonomic comfort. The Imperator is very natural to use and hold but it’s also an attractive mouse, with a matte, textured dark gray shell. The shell isn’t rubberized but its smooth, dry and lightly grippy surface keeps your fingers from sliding off, but also doesn’t cause your hand to sweat like slicker-surfaced mice. To complete the look the Imperator has two icy blue LEDs—one that illuminates the wheel, and another on the back of the mouse that slowly pulsates, causing a Razer logo to glow and fade rhythmically. The Imperator has an understated style—it’s not as flashy as a Sidewinder or as bizarre as a Cyborg R.A.T., but it really doesn’t need to be.
With the Imperator, Razer has produced a very flexible, comfortable gaming mouse that is also perfect for everyday use. Its downloadable utility lets serious gamers fine-tune its settings for a wide range of play styles, but you can just plug it in and go with no tweaking and the Imperator works perfectly well that way too; just make sure to turn off the auto-calibration if need be. At around $70 the Imperator is also competitively priced against other gaming mice on the market. The Imperator is a solid buy and a good first choice for an all-around gaming mouse.