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Testing: Logitech G502 Proteus Core Gaming Mouse

By Norman Chan

Just one year after Logitech released its G500s, it's revamping the design and sensor of its flagship wired gaming mouse with the G502. This mouse goes to 12000 DPI, but who in their right mind games at that sensitivity?

Wait, wasn't it just one year ago that Logitech released the G500s, the rebirth of its venerated G5 line of gaming mice? Hold on for just a second while I check my review. Yep, that was just last March. But here we are, with another new high-end gaming mouse, the G502. And this year, Logitech's given it a fancy moniker: the Proteus Core. I'm not sure if that's meant to evoke a certain StarCraft faction in gamers' minds, or simply a take on the SAT-friendly word 'protean', meaning versatile or adaptable. The latter's likely the case, given the G502's ability to be calibrated for different mousing surfaces (glass and mirrors notwithstanding). Regardless, Logitech's new flagship is an aggressive product, an $80 mouse that not only succeeds last year's G500s, but revamps the design of Logitech's gaming mouse line. That curvy G5 design that I was so hot on last year has once again been retired (at least temporarily).

I've been testing the G502 for about a week, in first-person shooters, real-time strategy games, and lots of desktop imaging work. I'm not a MOBA player, so my perspective may not reflect those playing the dominant PC gaming game type today. And as I've said before, a gaming mouse is an accessory that most people rarely change--they find the one that works for them and stick with it. If you like the Razer DeathAdder, Mad Catz R.A.T., or even Logitech's own previous G-series, mice, there's really not a lot of reason to spend another $80 on a new gaming mouse unless your current one breaks. Gaming mice technology has really reached a point where every new generation of product offers fewer new benefits; product engineers really feel like they're reaching when they push the boundaries of sensor DPI or add more configurable buttons. And the G502 has plenty of those new back-of-box features, for sure. Let's run through them and evaluate whether they truly add any benefit to your gaming experience.

Arguably the most important component in a gaming mouse is its sensor, and the G502's optical (IR) sensor was apparently designed from the ground up to introduce two notable features. The first is DPI (dots per inch, or technically counts per inch) sensitivity that ranges from 200 to 12000. You read that correctly: this mouse is sensitive to past 10,000 DPI, which I believe is a first for a gaming mouse. (Consider that the G5, circa 2005, topped out at 2000 DPI). At that maximum setting, the tiniest flick of the wrist will send the cursor all the way across a 1080p panel; it's meant for gamers who want to make extremely large movements quickly, or desktop users running multiple monitors spanning many thousands of pixels wide. Of course, high DPI doesn't denote accuracy, just sensitivity. A mouse set to 10,000 DPI isn't useful if it isn't accurate at that "resolution"--the trick is testing the mouse's accuracy at the sensitivities that you find most useful.

To that end, I spent a weekend re-evaluating the DPI settings on the the G500s I was using, and matching those settings on the G502. With basic drivers installed, the G502 has four DPI presets that are accessible using hardware DPI buttons, but maxing out at 4400 DPI. Using Logitech's G-series software, I configured the mouse for the max of five sensitivity presets, and settled on a default of 5600 as my favorite. That's pretty high for most people--an anecdotal poll on Twitter showed that many of you guys use DPI of 3000 or lower, and some even in the 1000 range for precision targeting in FPS games. And through those DPI settings, the G502 was accurate--just as much so as the G500s. At higher settings--past 8200 DPI--the ultra-responsive movement of the cursor became a little much to handle, even on my desktop setup with a 2560x1600 monitor next to a 1920x1200 one. That made evaluating the accuracy of the cursor at ultra-high DPI difficult, and I can't really imagine anyone using a mouse that way. But the option is there for pro-gamers who feel like they need it.

A physical DPI Shift thumb button can be programmed to automatically jump to a secondary DPI setting, ostensibly for FPS players to lower the sensitivity when sniping. I found the button placement of this Shift button awkward, loosening my overall grip and comfort while holding the mouse with the button depressed.

The second notable sensor feature in the G502 is its ability to be calibrated for use with different types of mousing surfaces. As Logitech's G-series Product Manager explained it to me, this is the first time a mouse sensor could adapt in the fundamental way it tracks movement depending on whether you're using a hard, soft, or even uneven surface. Other mice, using manufacturer's desktop software, have been able to calibrate for gaming surfaces, but Logitech said that the old way of tuning was simply an adjustment of the sensor's framerate--how many times it the sensor polled the surface for an image before processing. If you imagine the mouse sensor as an analogue to a camera sensor, the framerate is how many "photos" it takes per second for the software to analyze in determining movement and speed. The G502 uses new tracking software (which Logitech wouldn't get specific about) to apparently analyze the clarity of those images in its surface calibration, adjusting low level values in the sensor software to adapt to each surface. It's Logitech's way of saying that their surface calibration is more accurate than its competitors.

In my testing, I was hard-pressed to find much difference between the default surface setting and one calibrated for my Steelseries cloth surface mousepad. Logitech provided its two mousepads for testing--the hard surface G440 and cloth surface G240--both of which have presets for the G502 mouse in the desktop software. With the appropriate presets, the mouse tracking was indeed smooth and accurate, but once again not immediately noticeable. As a testament that the calibration actually affects sensor accuracy for different surfaces, the G440 preset worked poorly on the G240 pad, and vice versa. So the surface settings do affect the sensor, but the default setting is still good enough that I didn't feel like the tunable feature adds much. In a blind test with two casual gamers, they couldn't tell the difference between the default setting and a calibrated one for either hard or soft surface. I'll give Logitech the benefit of the doubt and keep the G502 at the calibrated setting, but since I don't switch gaming surfaces at all on my desktop, the benefits of tuning are meager.

Aside from the sensor, Logitech also made several physical changes in this new G-series mouse. The body has a sleek and streamlined design--definitely edgier than the G500s. I miss the speckled plastic surface texture of the G500s that made it comfortable to grip, but the patterned texture on the thumb grip in the G502 also feels good. The profile silhouette of the mouse is less bulbous, making the mouse easier for claw grippers. Logitech is careful not to evoke the E-word when talking about the physical design: ergonomics is a complex science that is difficult to test for. But the G502 is at the very least comfortable to hold and use for multi-hour gaming sessions. And speaking of endurance, Logitech also redesigned the keyplate design of the mouse so that the left and right mouse buttons are separate pieces of plastic, allowing for a more rigid buttons that supposedly last longer (durability rated for 20 million clicks, something which Logitech actually tests). And don't worry, the excellent mouse wheel that can spin freely or with clicks is still here.

Another change is the design of the adjustable weight system. Instead of using a cartridge system that slots into the mouse at an angle (designed in the past to evoke the changing of a pistol magazine), the G502's new customizable weights are flat angular pieces that don't mess with the vertical weight distribution of the mouse--it keeps the center of gravity low. Without any of the 18 grams of tuning weights, the mouse is 145 grams, which is lighter than the 165 grams of the G500s. That's still a far cry from the 105 grams of the Razer DeathAdder, The Wirecutter's favorite mouse from last year. I feel that 145 grams isn't too heavy, but professional gamers often want mice as light as possible for quicker reaction times.

The G502 doesn't feel like a giant leap over the G500s, especially not if you're someone that games at under 6000 DPI and is already accustomed to the design of last year's mouse. Its marquee features--that 12000 DPI sensor and surface calibration--won't benefit the majority of gamers, even if they are unique to this mouse. Most people simply don't need that high of a DPI for desktop use, and don't change mouse surfaces on a regular basis. But for someone who needs to buy a new mouse, they should know that the G502 replaces the G500s. And if you don't need a mouse that's 100 grams, I'd recommend the G502 as the best Logitech has to offer right now.