The Taiwan-based tech maker Biostar Microtech International is best known for its motherboards. (We’ve reviewed a handful of them in recent years, among them the Biostar AM1MHPHi-Fi A88W 3DGaming Z97X.) Within the last year, however, the company has decided to forge into the crowded field of peripherals, among them gaming mice, to complement its Racing line of motherboards. And it has done so with the age-old strategy of marrying a baseline feature set with bargain-basement MSRPs. It’s also taken another, more humane tack: not excluding the planet’s percentage of left-handers with its designs.
First up was the AM2 Gaming Mouse, in 2016: an Avago 5050 optical sensor in a moderate-size ambidextrous shell with four resolution settings (up to 2,400dpi), and an MSRP of…well, just under $10. A few months later, the company released its AM3 Gaming Mouse. That one had a Pixart PMW 3320 optical sensor with nine buttons on another ambidextrous shell, as well as Biostar’s Racing configuration software for button reassignment and macro creation—all for $16. [That’s barely a buck a button! –Ed.]
Now the firm’s third mouse, the Racing GM5 Gaming Mouse, is out, and it looks like the company is getting serious about challenging the more established gaming-mouse lines. Biostar hasn’t given up on low price tags as a lure, however, as an MSRP of just under $40 on the Racing GM5 demonstrates.
Here’s Biostar’s latest, at first glance…
We admit to not caring much for the carbon-fiber Op Art look, but fans of Victor Vasarely will surely be pleased. (Go on, look him up. We dare you.) And once you snap out of staring at the stripes, there’s a real plus in finding an ambidextrous mouse that actually offers buttons on both sides. This has long been an issue for us: mice that forego the important ergonomic benefit of a horizontal arch cresting beneath the right index finger, but don’t offer any compensation to lefties in the form of side buttons on the right. The Racing GM5 does, making it one of the few serious gaming mice out there that works for lefties.
With a decent vertical arch, it’s a solid choice for a grip through the palm, but the splayed front buttons also work for a claw grip, given a large enough hand…
And finally, note the beginning of the cord at the front of the Racing GM5. It’s thin but braided, both tough and admirably flexible. It’s also almost 72 inches long, and fastened with a Velcro tie, which is a nice touch.
The mouse body, in turn, is 4.9 inches long, 2.7 inches wide, and 1.5 inches high. These numbers give the impression that it’s meant for a large hand, but those lengthy, splayed claws actually make it a reasonable fit for a medium-size one—as long as you don’t try to extend your index and third fingers all the way to the claw tips. The mouse wheel is too recessed into the Racing GM5’s surface for our tastes, however, and both its tread and tactile bump are severely reduced.
Behind it, as you can see here, is a pair of buttons…
The more forward of these two is called, literally, a “mode switch button.” Some confusion may arise from multiple definitions of the word “switch.” Clearly, Biostar didn’t mean it as a physical switch, but a change or switch from one condition to another. So what we have here is a button, and it cycles through a series of five game profiles, or modes, that you can define using the mouse’s Racing configuration software. Behind it is a “dpi switch button.” Again, it’s a button—though we actually prefer dpi switches or toggles that let you move up and down through a series of user-defined dpi settings, rather than a button that moves one way before it cycles back to the first dpi setting.
Here’s a view that highlights the side buttons…
There’s a good, defined edge between them that makes for easy identification by feel with the ball of your thumb.
By the way, all of the images above give at least some sense of the single-piece, thick-plastic coating on the Racing GM5. The result is extremely smooth, and within our experience, presents an unexpected sensuousness to the touch. Which isn’t to say that we’re about to buy it chocolate and flowers, and rent Notting Hill to watch together. But out of the box, it’s truly a pleasure to rest one’s hand upon.
It is a fairly hefty mouse, as well, weighing in at 4.6 ounces. By way of comparison, the HyperX Pulsefire FPS we recently reviewed came in at 3.4 ounces, and that one functioned well in a competitive MOBA environment. The Racing GM5 moves easily on its four mouse pads, but there’s still enough drag to make this a less-than-optimal choice in games that rely upon speed for the win.
Let’s take a moment first to pause and wonder at something that is incredibly rare—namely, the Racing GM5’s 16-page foldout manual. (It’s also available online.) It’s not one page in 16 languages, nor is it a collection of pictures that could have been compiled by a mime. While it has its share of images, most of it is a detailed, well-written explanation of the mouse hardware and how to work through the configuration software.
As for installation, it’s both easy and fast—a matter of plugging the Racing GM5 into a USB port, then downloading and installing the small Racing configuration executable. The latter launches once installed…
The basic design elements are reasonably chosen. At the top are four categories: Buttons, for button reassignment; Sensor, allowing for five dpi settings; the self-explanatory Macro Editor; and a catch-all, Settings. Lighting control seems to have been added as an afterthought, in the form of the colored blob to the right of Settings. There are five selectable profiles underneath. (We’ve no idea why only five are provided, unless Biostar chose to deliberately save its profiles in onboard memory only, instead of adding a configuration file stored on your PC into the mix.) Under that is an image of the Racing GM5 with its buttons ready for reassignment…but all is not well.
See the button on the image that’s linked to the function “Scroll up”? Problem is, there’s no button even close to where it’s pointing. It should, in fact, be pointing lower, at the scroll wheel, because it does affect what happens when you roll the scroll wheel up. Next, check out the button that’s two down from the scroll wheel. It’s the dpi button, but there’s no way to change it. As you can see, it’s not linked to anything on that mouse image. Finally, the “M” button that’s linked to “Scroll down” actually isn’t. It’s linked to Switch Profile. But there is no Switch Profile option, and it doesn’t matter anyway, since that button can’t be reassigned, either. If you change “Scroll down,” it again affects the scroll wheel. We couldn’t change out the profile switcher, any more than we could the dpi settings button.
Admittedly, the Racing GM5 is new on the market, but the near-miss button-reassignment image and inability to reassign two buttons (three if you count the left mouse button, but that’s okay) probably isn’t the best way to generate confidence in potential buyers. Some graphical tweaking, maybe in a new version of the software issued on the Biostar site, would fix this.
That said, click one of the button functions you want to reassign, and this is where you end up…
This control panel takes up a lot of visual space across several tabs’ worth of screens, but it includes some surprising options. For example, you get a sniper mode, which is the ability to toggle on another dpi setting for as long as a designated button is held down. You can also engage a “fire button” option, which offers continuous fire from a button as long as it’s held, or a not-quite-properly-translated option named “on-to-go fire button,” which issues continuous fire for as long as the assigned button and any other button are held down. There’s angle-snapping, too, though only as an on/off switch, rather than a linear slider. Beyond gaming, you can assign media keys, Print Screen, and Pause.
The sensor screen is fairly basic, requiring little explanation…
That’s four sets of dpi settings, from 50dpi to 7,200dpi, though the chances are you’ll never want to go above 3,500dpi even in competitive events. An option at the bottom of the screen lets you set X and Y axes independently—useful on wide-screen monitors, and in games where more panning action is needed on the horizontal plane than the vertical.
The Auto Speed check boxes here will turn on both automatic acceleration and deceleration. We recommend leaving them off, though. We’re not opposed to making either option available in principle, but percentage-based sliders under the user’s control are far better choices than on/off switches, in something that can throw off your mouse’s precision. If you’re serious enough to use these, you want complete control.
Let’s move to the macro screen, which suffers from some counterintuitive icon choices…
The red dot icon is clearly “start recording,” but reasonably it shouldn’t be fourth down from the top on the right, given its importance. And the one that looks like a clock face with an arrowhead in it? That’s “mouse movement.” Once again, though, there are a few surprising and good options—such as the ability to insert any mouse, scroll, or keyboard command in a macro, and to create macros in loop, fire-key, and one-time modes.
Settings is, as we noted earlier, a hodgepodge…
We like angle-snapping as an option, but once again, wish it had been implemented as Mionix does in its CastorAvior 7000, as a linear, percentage-based slider. The “Enable DPI/profile OSD” option, when checked, pops up a message in a user-selected corner of your screen as an overlay when you switch dpi settings or profiles, a solid idea. “Disable mouse acceleration (OS)” implies it’s enabled by default, which is unexpected when implementing a decent optical sensor such as the Pixart PMW 3330. But what this does is override the Windows setting if it’s on, meaning you can control one more aspect of your mouse from this single utility, rather than splitting time between it and the Windows mouse settings.
Finally, there’s lighting…
Alas, this panel is a bit Version 1.0. The Racing GM5 has nine lighting zones: one on the scroll wheel, one on the logo, one on each side toward the front of the mouse in blue (as a shorthand to show which dpi setting is in use: no light, left light, right light, both lit), and three zones in two narrow bands, on each side at the bottom of the unit. There are the usual 16.8 million colors, but only two basic effects, wave and solid. (A pair of other choices, Random 1 and Random 2, just randomize what zones get wave or solid.) What’s more, the scroll wheel is always a quickly cycling wave in whatever color you’ve assigned to the title of your current profile. The funkiest detail, though: To turn off the lighting, you have to reset each of the nine lighting zones individually to black. The best that can be said of this is what we’ve said about mouse lighting all along: it doesn’t matter all that much, because your hand will be covering the mouse most of the time. Clearly, this is a work in progress, and at an early stage.
Its Racing configuration software to one side, the Racing GM5 comes with a couple of other features that merit attention. We’ve already mentioned the Pixart PMW 3330, and it’s a good, midrange optical sensor, if not a spectacular one. The unit’s Omron microswitches are rated for 50 million clicks—which means, since you’ll probably move onto another gaming mouse in a year or two, that the GM5’s switches will probably give out while your grandkids are busy playing Grand Theft Hovercar LVIII.
We checked out the Racing GM5 on a range of gaming titles, including DOTA2, Far Cry 4, Ashes of the Singularity, Grim Dawn, and Torment: Tides of Numenera. The mouse performed adequately in all but one instance. As we initially suspected, it proved too heavy to work really well in MOBAs. On the other hand, we found that for fighting the less tricky AI opponents of Far Cry 4 and Grim Dawn, it handled well enough, without a lot of mouse drag getting in the way.
The ability to create macros was appreciated, even if the unit’s configuration software lacked some of the more esoteric capabilities of the Corsair Utility Engine (CUE), such as designing a macro that has one effect when pressed, and a second, different one when released. We did miss being able to store as many game-specific profiles as we wanted, however, and we didn’t like the use of checked boxes for angle-snapping, acceleration, and deceleration, as opposed to linear sliders.
While on the subject of the configuration software, one feature we’d dearly like to see implemented is a lift-distance wizard. (That’s aside from the GUI features we’d like to see fixed, such as the confusing button-reassignment screen). Optical sensors, such as the Racing GM5’s competent Pixart PMW 3330, have real issues with mousing surfaces that are transparent or oddly textured. A lift-distance wizard can’t help with the former—you’ll just have to use it on an opaque, non-reflective surface—but it can mitigate or resolve issues caused by moving from hardwood to softwood, for instance, or one mouse pad to another.
Now, we’ve quibbled a bit about this mouse, but let’s take it all in perspective.
For an MSRP just under $40, the Racing GM5 is a moderately sweet deal, especially if you are left-handed or have a lefty in the household. You get an ambidextrous, hand-neutral design with a pair of buttons on either side, making it one of the few gaming mice out there that caters to lefties. It’s got a decent optical sensor, excellent microswitches, and deeper-than-expected configuration software. The latter needs to work out a few issues, but it should be effective when it’s finished, and you can muddle through with it now.
Mind you, if you can swing around $10 more, depending on the reseller and the sales of the day, the Corsair M65 will give you unlimited game profiles, and the best configuration software in the business. But it doesn’t offer side buttons for lefties—and Mionix’s mice, which do this and supply a good lift-distance wizard, offer only basic macro creation.
So it’s effectively a toss-up, based on your needs. Suffice it to say, the fact that the Racing GM5 can even be considered alongside the likes of Corsair, Logitech, Razer, and Mionix gear is a testament to the shrewd analysis that Biostar made before manufacturing this, its first medium-price gaming mouse. And if this mouse goes the way of nearly all the others we’ve reviewed over the years, its price will in turn drop with time. Should it reach $30 or less, gamers on a tight budget looking for a first-time mouse will get a grand bargain here.
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