ProsPrecise control; excellent shape for larger hands; slick LED lighting
ConsVery high price; may be too big for some users
Over the past few years, we've been through our fair share of gaming mice, including many of the RGB variety. Our Keyboard & Mouse Review Page is veritably littered with them, including reviews of such standouts as the Corsair M65 Pro RGB, the G502 Proteus Spectrum, and the Razer Deathadder Chroma, and more recently, the Logitech G403 Prodigy Wireless Gaming Mouse, which we consider the best mouse ever released. We even gave the Roccat Kova a trial run in our recent review of the pioneering Roccat Sova lapboard. Through it all, we've come away with the impression that there's only so far we can push the boundaries of mouse design, it having been pretty well cast over the past 30 years or so.
So, what's a mouse manufacturer to do? Polish their gems! And that's exactly what Roccat has done with its popular Kone mouse, which has morphed from its original XTD form to the current Kone EMP we're testing here. To the casual observer, these two mice look identical, and indeed, they utilize the exact same shape. But they in fact are not remotely the same. The scroll wheel has been smoothed over without losing its rubber grip, the DPI buttons have been made easier to hit, and the seldom-used front button has been removed. The internal changes are even more significant. Do they make an already-great mouse strong enough to defeat its best-selling foes? Read on to find out!
We'd like to extend a special thank you to Roccat for providing us with a review sample of the Roccat Kone EMP RGB Gaming Mouse.
Description and Features
Shown below you can see the Kone EMP in profile, sandwiched between the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum on the left and the Razer Deathadder Chroma on the right (which Razer still humbly markets as "The World's Best Gaming Mouse," despite the fact that it sells several newer, more expensive models). In any event, these are the two best wired mice we've ever tested, so we're going to be using them as benchmarks in this review. In our opinion, peripheral reviews just aren't all that helpful in a vacuum, doing little more than regurgitating a marketing department's bullet points. We've read plenty such reviews over the years, but luckily we're in position where we don't have to write them!
Like its rival Razer (but unlike Logitech), Roccat has stuck to a consistent design motif for quite some time. This suggests the firm has identified a unique shape that happens to work really well for its users. From out point of view, the Kone is quite possibly the most ergonomic of PC mice, with its softly-flowing lines, graceful thumb and finger rests on either side, and large but unintrusive side-mounted buttons. That's amazing when you realize this design first appeared back in 2012 on the Kone Pure. The lines are accentuated by the cool lightpipes Roccat introduced on the Kone XTD the same year, which was truly cutting edge at the time. Razer cribbed this basic concept in 2015 in its range-topping Mamba Tournament Edition, but went well beyond what Roccat did by offering multiple LEDs per pipe, rather than a single LED on either end.
Honestly speaking, the first thing we did when we plugged in our Kone EMP sample was to see if this had changed, but alas, it has not. And this is where the "features" section of the Kone story starts to go off the rails just a bit. The Kone EMP is coming in at a pretty high price ($80), and yet it's still using the same RGB effects its predecessor has featured for a number of years. The competition has moved on, and we're surprised that now that the age of the RGB is truly upon us, Roccat didn't take the obvious next step. The Kone EMP looks great in static images (and in static lighting mode), aided in part by the natural dithering of light projected by the LEDs on either end of the lightpipes. But it's very disappointing when using any animation routine, as it simply cannot provide the rainbow wave effect that you get on other peripherals, including some of Roccat's high-end keyboards, Razer's high-end mice, and mousemats like the Razer Firefly and Corsair's Polaris, which we recently reviewed. When set in motion, you realize you're just seeing four blinking lights, which isn't all that cool. We also noticed a glitch in the Swarm software, a screenshot of which is shown here. Specifically, the colors selected for the right side of the mouse (red and yellow in this instance) do not appear in the control panel, instead showing up as unselected. We bet Roccat will fix this in an upcoming release of the software (update: this was indeed fixed in the Swarm v1.91 update released on January 25, 2017, hours after we published this review - Roccat is serious about constant Swarm updates, so expect regular reminders to download them!).
Another surprising omission from the features list is the adjustable weight box featured in the older Kone XTD. To be honest, we think this is probably the right move, in part because the trend in mouse design today is to make mice as light as possible, rather than heavier. While it could have to do with a change in the types of games people are playing, we actually think it has more to do with the fact that high-refresh monitors are finally able to expose weaknesses in input devices that were previously hidden by boggy 60Hz monitors. When the mouse becomes the bottleneck in your 120fps gaming session, the extra weight kits you clung to dearly for so many years start to look less like an asset and more like a liability. Indeed, the Kone EMP weighed in at a solid 118g on our scale, versus 126g for the G502 sans extra weights, and an amazing 95g for the Razer Deathadder Chroma (Razer never jumped on the add-on weight train, and probably always knew lighter was better). The Kone's weight is pretty impressive when you consider its above-average size: at 135mm long, 75mm wide, and 42mm high, it has an overall larger volume than the G502 or Deathadder. That makes it great for larger hands, but it may be just a bit too big for some users.
Ultimately, all the features we've highlighted so far are identical or just minor updates to the original Kone XTD. Where Roccat has moved on from the past in a big way is the sensor. The XTD debuted in 2012 with an 8,200dpi laser sensor, back when lasers were all the rage. As it turns out, lasers quickly fell out of favor for their negative impacts on accuracy, and manufacturers like Roccat, Corsair, and others began stumbling all over themselves to "downgrade" back to an optical sensor. In the case of the Kone XTD, Roccat debuted an updated XTD with a 6,200dpi optical sensor in 2014. Well, optical's day has finally come, because it's no longer a downgrade from lasers in any way. The Kone EMP uses a 12,000dpi optical sensor dubbed the "Owl-Eye" by Roccat, and derived from the ultra-high-end PixArt 3360 (referred to as the 3361 as utilized by Roccat here).
This sensor isn't a Roccat exclusive, and is in fact the basis for the Pixart PMW3366 optical sensor used in the Logitech G502 (and G403 wireless). But they are not quite identical, because Roccat applies its own unique tuning to the sensor. Specifically, Roccat claims it has optimized the sensor's functionality in the 200dpi to 2,000dpi range that most users actually utilize when gaming. We appreciate that despite using an ultra-high DPI sensor, Roccat is intent on going beyond that somewhat absurd testbed spec to provide a better overall experience for the humans that actually use their mice! By the way, if you take another look at the bottom of the Kone EMP as shown in the accompanying photo, you'll notice the Kone's large glide pads. We found that they provided a very stable base, limiting the chance for roll, while also keeping drag to a minimum and thus allowing the sensor to function unencumbered.
All right, now that we've covered the features of the Roccat EMP, let's see how it performs in real-world use!