Tt eSports Black Element Gaming Mouse Review

Author: Carl Poirier
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, August 29th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/tt_esports_black_element/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

It may seem like a strange marketing strategy for Thermaltake to offer the eSports Black Element, its most advanced mouse quality-wise, to the RTS and MMO gaming markets when one should know full well that FPS players tend to benefit far more from top-of-the-line mice. Indeed, if one were interested in RTS/MMO games, the usual advice has always been to invest in a good keyboard, which typically makes it easier to keep track of macros. FPS games on the other hand need that fast and precise tracking ability that few mice seem to possess. 

It appears Thermaltake is increasingly conscious of the current state of the esports community, where games like World of Warcraft, Leagues of Legends, Heroes of Newerth and Starcraft 2 are still as popular as ever, while less emphasis is placed on FPS games like Counter-Strike. Thermaltake did produce a mouse for the FPS market called the Azurues, but it's easy to tell through its pricing and features that it was never destined to be Thermaltake's most prestigious product, perhaps reflecting the shift in interest in today's competitive computer gaming.

Given Thermaltake's special position on this relatively untapped portion of the esports community, it begs the question of what exactly makes a mouse tailored to RTS/MMO titles in particular?  More specifically, what should one expect of such a mouse? The answer, as hinted before with keyboards, lies in programmable macro abilities which are the staple of RTS and MMO games. FPS players should not be discouraged however: the Tt eSports Black Element will also suit their needs. Its light weight and powerful sensor is the best yet seen in the Tt eSports brand, which, adding the powerful macro abilities, makes for a powerful combination rarely seen in mice.

Specifications
Interface USB
Sensor type  Laser
Resolution 100-6500 DPI (through 100 dpi increments on the x and y axis separately)
Body dimension (LxWxH) 123.8 x 66.7 x 41.6mm 
USB Polling Rate 1000Hz
Buttons 9 macro buttons
Onboard memory 128 kb
Cable 1.8m Braided Cable
USB Plug Gold Plated USB
Response Time 1ms
Warranty 2 years limited hardware warranty

The Black Element comes with a lot of stuff, like a neat little pouch with the Tt eSports name on a black background for the mouse and its cord. It's a nice touch for those who plan on going to lots of LAN parties/tournaments or who make extensive use of a laptop. The rest of the goodies are contained inside some sort of paper packaging that also bears the Tt eSports name.

Other contents include a driver CD, a manual in 15 different languages explaining how to install the mouse correctly as well as highlighting its features, a warranty manual, and two Thermaltake themed stickers.

The mouse itself comes with its braided cable which ends with a gold plated USB plug, something that may seem gimmicky but has come to be the new standard for high-end mice. The mouse has a very slender design that fits in both the left and right hand, although as usual the buttons are placed primarily to cater to the right handed.  The two buttons on the top are used by default to increase or decrase the mouse DPI. As can be seen from the USB plug, the Black Element is far from enormous, and is in fact the smallest and lighest mouse in Neoseeker's test sample group, though not by an overly significant or disproportionate margin. Unfortunately, weighing scales weren't available during testing to make a more objective comparison.

Speaking of weight, the Black Element also comes with five 4.5g pellets that can be used to tweak the mouse heft to one's preference. Using all the pellets at once will make the Black Element the heaviest mouse in the sample group, which means a good amount control is available to the user as far as the mouse's weight is concerned. Also seen in these pictures are the four teflon feet distributed on the outline of the mouse's shape. They may seem a bit thin, but no indications of premature wear were found or suspected during testing. Also located underneath is the button used to cycle through the five different possible mouse profiles.

   

The left side of the mouse features 3 side buttons along with a very comfortable rubber coated pad for the thumb. The middle button has 3 little dots on its surface to distinguish it from the others. The right side would be exactly the same were it not for the fact that it has only 1 button instead of 3. One can also see from these pictures that the left and right click buttons are slightly curved, a characterestic already seen on other mice like those from Razer. There are always nice to see because it allows for different grips of the mouse should the user see the need, while preventing fingers from accidentally slipping off of them during.

 

The Black Element illuminates in five different colors, which by default is used to distinguish between the five different user profiles. The mouse wheel is not the only component to be lit by these colors; the transparent stripes shown on the previous pictures also illuminate. Not quite seen on the pictures above is the Tt logo, located on the back of the mouse, which pulsates in glow periodically (it takes approximately 6 seconds to make a complete cycle). This should create, in Thermaltake's own words, a nice "gaming atmosphere".

Attention will now be directed toward the mouse's software, which should confirm or deny Thermaltake's claim that the mouse is MMO and RTS centric.

The very first screen on the mouse customization software gets directly to the point: here, we have a nice view of all the programmable buttons. One thing of interest is the fact that two of the nine programmable buttons are the left and right click, which aren't likely to get micro-ed, therefore bringing the actual programmable button count to seven.  We can also see from this picture five tabs representing the five different user profiles. The three buttons on the right corner are from left to right used to revert to mouse the default settings, register the product on the official Thermaltake website, or access the help menu (which also links to the official website, although to a different page). The big timer on the bottom right corner is not used to make macros (though a timer option is indeed available, as it will be seen later on), but rather was placed there, according to the official help page, to help gamers could keep track of their playtime. Though it potentially adds a personal touch, the inconvenience of having to alt-tab or quit games completely just to view it does make it unlikely to see any real use.

Clicking on the gear on the bottom left corner brings a new screen which lets the user modify the mouse's DPI and polling rate. The most interesting feature here is the grid, which allows for an independant control of both the X and Y axis. For adept gamers, this will be similar to changing m_yaw and m_pitch variables in the console or .init/config files, but with the added advantage of not needing to do it for each individual game. Another selling point for letting the mouse control these values is that some games don't even allow enabling the console (the Call of Duty titles for example) to adjust these settings otherwise.

The LED icon next to the gear opens this new screen which lets the user decide what color should be used for this particular profile, and which parts of the mouse will be illuminated as a result.

Options to save the current settings on the computer's hard drive or the mouse's onboard memory are of course available.

 

Some basic options are provided by default for the different buttons, ranging from the most basic "click" to a function to save documents. Unfortunately, some of the most useful ones are noticeably absent, like the option to increase or decrease the sound volume.

If the button is set to the elusive "macro key", it is then possible to click on the Tx button (x being the button number, between 1 and 9) next to the description to access this new screen. The example shown in the picture underneath should make it fairly easy to understand how setting the macros work. The repeat option, an interesting feature, lets the user decide if he wants the selected key's macro to be run only once, to keep running if the key is held down by user (basically, the famous "turbo" button from older console systems), or to keep running until a new key is pressed. It is possible to set as many as 90 different keys before a limit is eventually reached, which should more than suffice for even the most hardcore gamers.

Finally, the graphical user interface also manifests itself when the user tries to change the DPI through the buttons or cycle through the profile, by superimposing a little indicator over whatever is currently seen on the screen. It should be noted that the pop-up indicator will either glitch or not show itself at all when in a game, which defeats a bit the purpose. On lower-end systems, it may even decrease performances for a short while. As the indicator is bright red over a transparent background, it would be best not to use a red desktop in conjunction with this mouse becuase this indicator color is not customizable in any way.

Formal testing of the Black Element will be highlighted on the following page.

Testing setup

 

Comparison mice

 

Tracking

The following table sums up the various tracking tests we've done. A "Pass" means the mouse can track a movement perfectly well on that particular surface, whereas a "Fail" means it encounters some hiccups at the very least from time to time.


Tt eSports Black Element QPAD 5K Choiix Cruiser CM Inferno MS Razer Habu GB GM-M8000
Desk Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass
Clothing Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass
Glass Pass Fail Pass Fail Fail Fail
Mirror Fail Fail Fail Fail Fail Fail

The Black Element was able to track successfully on glass, maybe not such an extraordinary feat but enough to put it ahead of at least some of its competitors. The mouse was also used in highly hectic FPS games such as Quake Live, where it performed strongly and didn't disappoint. It is very hard to test a gaming mouse in any way other than searching for gaming situations where it could fail, and in this regard the search was unsuccessful.

 

Comfort

The Black Element does predominantly favour a palm style of grip, and a very specific type of palm grip at that! This is not because of the mouse's shape, but rather because of the button placement. With any other kind of grip, some of the buttons simply become unreachable, the worst offender being the most forward button on the left side. Aside from that little problem, the mouse, with its mix of shapes and elements that are usually seen in very a specialised type of mice, really allows for any type of grip in existence and is particularly fun to use with a light finger/palm combo. The slim design which narrows at the end also makes it perfectly suited for the claw grip.

 

Customization

Contrary to Thermaltake's marketing, the Black Element is far from being riddled with buttons. Nine programmable buttons are available, counting the left and right click buttons. This could be enough for many RTS and MMO players (and it's if the case, by all means, consider the Black Element a good mouse), but it's certainly not the World of Warcraft SteelSeries mouse, with its 15 programmable buttons. This may be nitpicking a bit, because the WoW mouse does cost significantly more than this one, and other mice with more buttons don't necessarily come with such an elaborate macro software with nearly endless setting possibilities. The software itself was completely bug free, except for that little issue with changing the DPI while inside a game. It's worth noting that this type of on-screen notification is still quite new on the market, and any problems with it could be excused for being still being in the training wheel phase. Perhaps further versions of the software will even fix the issue completely.

The Black Element seems to have incorporated many of the elements that have proven over time to be successful in the mouse market: fancy LED colors to play with, enough buttons to please the majority of people, an excessive amount of DPI settings (which really isn't a bad thing), 128kb of onboard memory with plenty of room to play around, a very high polling rate, a weight-in design and, most importantly, an all-around solid configuration software.

This is of course combined with a refined design, which has already seen quite an improvement since the first mouse in the Tt eSports brand. With this mouse, Thermaltake seems to have proven that it can play with the big boys while even adding its own little innovations.

The Black Element retails currently at around $60, which represents good value for RTS, MMO, and FPS players who can look past the somewhat questionable button placements. Even if all the features that this mouse can offer aren't necessarily needed, the design alone is certainly a good enough reason to buy it anyway. The $60 price point still puts the Black Element in the middle-end range of gaming mice, which in light of of all its qualities seems to undersell the Black Element.

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