It’s preposterous to think that in the gaming industry, a billion dollar market, teams and players still haven’t developed specialized gear to win in their respective ESport. In contrasts to other traditional sports, teams of professional players still use commercial grade components to compete in million dollar tournaments.
Can you imagine watching motorsports… except instead of featuring actual F1 cars, the drivers used commercially available cars?
“Lewis Hamilton in a C8 Corvette, Kimi in an Audi R8“.
Or in the 100 meter dash at the Olympics, runners were using off the shelf running shoes?
“Usain Bolt sporting the brand new Nike Revolution sneakers, at $87, they are a real bargain!”
While I don’t doubt it would be interesting to watch the top athletes in the world compete with the same gear that high school students use, it certainly wouldn’t be pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
In that sense, the Zaunkoening M1K mouse is a glimpse of the future.
Coming in at 23 grams and running at a claimed 8000hz (overclocked but more on this later), the M1K pushes the limits of what’s current possible with today’s technology. While specifications are great, they don’t always paint a full picture.
Join me as we explore to see if this mouse succeeds in being the Esport mouse of the future.
Usability: Size, Weight and Shape
Make no mistake, this is specialized mouse. It’s not designed to be comfortable, nor is it designed to be used as a normal daily driver. Instead, it’s designed to be the highest performing gaming mouse on the market, helping you be more accurate when competing in the ESport title of your choice.
(Editor note: I have the luxury of having a dedicated computer for gaming and that’s where I’m using mouse.)
If you’re looking for a mouse built for productivity, then look elsewhere. With that in mind, I’m going to draw comparisons to a traditional mouse because that’s the only thing we can compare it to at the moment.
The size is small… yet, the mouse fits comfortably in my hand. (And I have large hands.)
While the official specifications are:
Height: 30 mm
Length: 79 mm
Width: 60 mm
Because you’re forced to use a finger grip with this mouse, the only dimensions that really matter are the width and height. (The length is borderline irrelevant because your palm will never touch it.) While I understand that everyone has a preference for size, the shell feels as narrow as possible at 60mm while still being easy to grip.
In addition, because there are no side mouse buttons, the mouse can afford to be shorter at a 30mm height. It’s tall enough to get a good grip and that’s all you really want.
In terms of shape, it’s almost square which makes it easy to grip. Unlike other mice which have sometimes slipped around in my hand, the narrowly rounded edges give you a confidence inspiring hold of the mouse which allows for precision movement. In contrast, I’ve had to put specialized grip tape on some slippery Logitech mice in order to be able to grip them without having the mouse slip. This isn’t the case here as the carbon fibre shell of M1K is smooth yet somehow grippy.
Unfortunately, this also means that it’s not as comfortable to use as other mice for long periods of time. While I have no issues using this mouse for 5+ hours in a row, if I was working with this mouse 8 hours a day, there are more ergonomic mice out there.
In addition, because the shell is built out of carbon fibre, you can sometimes scratch your finger on the side of the mouse button when you click. I believe a lot of people will be surprised when they compare the feel of a carbon fibre shell versus a traditional (and brittle) plastic shell. The carbon fibre shell does not bend like a plastic shell.
The result is a real 23 gram weight.
The hardness of the shell isn’t something that drastically changes the feel of the mouse but you are reminded of it when you squeeze the mouse. While the shell is quite thin, it won’t flex. This leads to solid mouse clicks but it also means that clicking down on the mouse buttons requires slightly more pressure than other mice.
Mouse Buttons and Click Activation Pressure
The mouse buttons are activated by Omron D2F-01F which are recognized as high quality switches. The activation is solid and confidence inspiring… and in my month of testing, I haven’t had a single accidental click. Unfortunately, the carbon fibre construction combined with high quality switches results in an activation pressure that is a little higher than traditional plastic mice.
While the electronic portion of the click is handled at a claimed 0 ms (Instant as there is no debounce), the pressure required makes it feel as if my reactionary clicks are slightly slower than normal. Ideally, I would like the mouse buttons to be so sensitive that if I just think of clicking, a click has already happened.
I’m trying to minimize the amount of stimulus my brain has to provide to my fingers to activate a click… and more pressure requires more stimulus.
Tracking and motion
This is where this mouse really excels. The combination of the lightweight and 8000hz (claimed overclocked, in reality I only achieved 4000hz but this may be a limitation of my motherboard) refresh rate makes this the mouse accurate mouse I have ever used (by a significant margin). This is in spite of using the same 3360 sensor found in so many other mice.
All the compromises are designed for this: to be the most accurate pointing device currently available.
Remember when I was talking about activation pressure for mouse clicks? Well the weightlessness of this mouse makes it the easier mouse to move around. The cursor moves exactly to where you’re thinking… like nothing else I have ever seen or felt! While I overclocked this mouse to a claimed 8000hz, the real polling shows a peak of approximately 4000hz which equates to approximately 0.25ms in response.
While I can’t feel the difference once the mouse is moving, the mouse does feel snappier when changing direction. The motion seems to ‘brake’ faster and response faster to my input. It’s a difficult feeling to convey but other mice feel mushier after using this one.
And yes, I know the CPI logging isn’t as consistent as other mice however when you fluctuate between 4000hz and 8000hz, that’s a variance of 0.125ms so it feels perfectly smooth.
It also helps that this mouse comes with Hyperglide PTFE feet that glide better than any other mouse feet I have ever used.
The best way I can describe the feeling is to imagine you’re moving a tennis ball from left to right in your hand. It’s responsive but there is a softness as the tennis ball absorbs each direction change. This is how traditional mice feel. With the M1k however, there is no ‘softness’. As soon as you move it to one side, it has a hard edge that provides an instant direction change, similar to how it would feel if you were moving a carbon fibre ball from side to side. There is no give, there is no softness. As soon as you move, it’s instant. The biggest factor being how much your fingers compresses when it pushes the mouse.
In practice, this has resulted in the highest “aim scores” on aim trainers and has translated into high accuracy in games. While I may no longer be a professional gamer playing 10+ hours a day to hone my skills, I can still appreciate that if I had this mouse back when I was training, it would have elevated my game even further.
As you can imagine, this performance doesn’t come without a cost. In order to achieve a weight of 23 grams, Zaunkoenig omitted a scroll wheel and any side buttons. While I personally never used a scroll wheel in games, I know many people that do and that might be a deal breaker for some of them. It certainly prevents the mouse from being a viable daily driver as navigating the web without a scroll wheel is exceedingly painful.
While the omission of side buttons don’t have the same impact on daily usability as a scroll wheel, many newer games make use of 3 buttons (with secondary abilities beyond just a primary fire) and this puts the mouse at a slight disadvantage for those titles. I personally had to remap a few buttons and get re-adjusted with the new mouse.
In addition, the mouse cable is very thin and lightweight… but the rubber feel is slightly worse than some custom paracord wires I have used in the past. (These are the best cables I have found so far)
Put simply, there is no software.
If you want to adjust the mouse, there is a procedure to perform which involves holding down the mouse buttons while you plug the mouse into the USB slot. You can adjust LOD and angle snapping without software but having to plug in mice while holding buttons isn’t the most elegant solution. While they market it as a selling point “No need for drivers!“, in reality, it’s more likely due to the fact that software development is expensive and for a new startup, it’s something they can do without… for now.
The mouse works just fine right out of the box however it is set at default rate of 1000hz. I consider myself very experienced with computer troubleshooting and I had to spend over 3 hours to get the hacked USB drivers to work at a rate of 8000hz. Because these are unofficial drivers (with multiple versions depending on your hardware and OS version), I had to fight Windows in order to get it to work. (I ended up trying 5 different downloads and repeating the various installation procedures over and over again. At one point I had to plug in another mouse because the mouse was completely unresponsive.)
That being said, I believe the company is being honest when they say: This mouse is a 1000hz mouse but has been proven to overclock with unofficial drivers. If you want to go down that route, then it’s up to you. Of course, most enthusiasts buying a specialized carbon fibre mouse WILL be the people that want to overclock their mouse’s polling rate.
Just be prepared to fight with the drivers for a bit.
Here’s what I had to do for it to work:
– Install ATSIV
– Disable run protection security, whitelist the ATSIV executable
– Install the driver from my “try #3” folder into both system32\drivers AND into the atsiv\drivers\amd64 (this was the third set of drivers I was trying)
– Set to 62 inside the supplied software, install service, restart service
– Add to scheduler the .xml (with copy ID) edited inside. (You have to get the device ID from the software… make sure to take line #2 from the ID log and not the first one!)
– Restart computer
– Go back to setup, click on ‘restart service’
And… it should work… assuming you found the right driver for your hardware and version of Windows.
It would be great if Zaunkoenig developed their own basic software suite with the bare essentials: Simplify the 8000hz driver installation and allow software adjusting of the LOD (lift off distance) and DPI. It’s just 3 things but would go a long way for the overall user experience.
In spite of the criticism and shortcomings of the mouse, this is one of my favorite mice of all time. Zaunkoenig built the mouse that other companies don’t dare to build. Full carbon fibre shell, lightweight, extreme polling rate… all the compromises possible for the best tracking in your games.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a general purpose mouse. I’d go as far as saying that isn’t even a mouse for casual gamers.
If you’re a professional gamer looking for an edge in your next competition (and you aren’t tied to sponsored gear), then the Zaunkoenig M1k is a mouse you should be trying to get your hands on. It’s a specialized tool for a very specific task: Being as accurate as possible within your game.
The M1k is the F1 car designed from the ground up to go around a specific track as fast as possible. With its invention, it moves the entire Esports industry one step forward. I expect that it will take another 10 years before we see Esport specific hardware being available to the mainstream. When we have 1000hz monitors, 0.5 ms (real response) gaming keyboards, this mouse will feel right at home.
I can’t wait to see where Zaunkoenig goes from here. I’d love to see a tiny (2-3mm width) mouse wheel, a side button and a better mouse cable in their next design. Keep the carbon fibre shell idea, add official software support for 4000-8000hz drivers and you have yourself an amazing mouse. To compensate for the weight, I would implement Bearded Bob’s additional weight reduction mods as standard. That said, as a first product from the Zaunkoenig company, this is a stellar mouse.