Introduction, Design Features
From the perspective of a manufacturer, the Holy Grail of the consumer marketplace would be a product that changes to fit everybody’s very differing needs and expectations.
Dream about it for a minute. Suppose you’re in real estate, and could sell a house whose doors and windows you can move about with greater ease than a 3D architectural program. Rooms you can extend or retract on the fly to suit the needs of a new client? Floor levels you can fold into and unfold out of fourth-dimensional space? Now, multiply this kind of configurability: What if you could do this for every client you’ve got?
To be sure, it’s a money-making daydream, and an engineer’s nightmare. But some computer-peripherals manufacturers are doing this on a much smaller scale, paying increasing attention to the underlying concept. EpicGear’s MorphA X is a case in point.
First of all, who’s EpicGear? It’s a gaming brand of Golden Emperor International Ltd., or GEIL, better known as a maker of high-performance PC memory. The company has recently moved into gaming peripherals, with a full line of ambidextrous and sculpted mice with the inevitable mishmosh of names centered on classical mythology (MeduZa, Cyclops), weapons (Blade), and, um, classes of reptiles (GeKKota, Anusa).
So with that, in trot the EpicGear MorphA and MorphA X. The former is an “IR LED Optical” mouse of mostly conventional form (though featuring swappable internal weights), while the latter is flogged as a “modular gaming mouse.” We got our hands on the $129.99-list Morpha A X. Thanks to some hardware bits you can swap in and out, it’s in essence several mice in one. But can that flexibility justify a price that could fetch you two or three very good gaming mice by themselves?
Let’s take a look.
Here’s a first look at the mouse, fresh from the box…
Well, wait—no, that isn’t actually what you see first. This is what you see when you open the metal box it comes in…
It could have been the mouse in that first image, with its other modular parts bundled away in cardboard. But showmanship demands a gesture, and EpicGear’s presentation is good theater. What we get in the MorphA X is a shiny white mouse (or one with a semi-matte silver finish, depending on the shell you choose) that comes with an optical sensor (or a laser one, your choice for the day). It weighs 3.95 ounces (though you can reduce that to as little as 3.25 ounces), and whose seven buttons have a pronounced click (or, a slightly quieter one). Most of the major features, in other words, are negotiable.
When you open the tin, all the pieces are laid out in full view, waiting for you to assemble them as needed. They come in a fanciful tin that looks like this from the outside…
The MorphA X’s shell is a classic ambidextrous one—though surprisingly, EpicGear doesn’t take advantage of this to offer left-handed folks a pair of buttons on the right side of the unit. In our opinion, if you’re going to forego the ergonomic advantage of a shape formed to fit the right hand, you might as well draw some benefit from the balanced design and make it more attractive to lefties.
It’s a fairly large mouse, just under 5 inches long, by roughly 2.6 inches wide and 1.6 inches high. It feels just a shade too long for a medium-size hand in a palm grip. Users who prefer a claw grip will have problems, because it lacks the characteristic splayed indents for the left and right mouse buttons that help anchor the hand in position.
Swapping out the thin, plastic faceplate is very easy. It actually comes off in two pieces, both held in place by magnets. This is what the mouse looks like with its highly reflective eggshell white faceplate in place…
As you can see, it has a series of four lights aft of the scroll wheel. They indicate which of the four dpi settings is active. Above that is the trapezoid-shaped dpi-cycling button. We prefer a toggle control for this function, so that you can raise or lower the dpi by a step. (A button can only cycle through your custom settings in one direction, one step at a time.)
Still moving up, we come to a button that switches among your stored profiles. You can designate five of them using the configuration software. Finally, above that, we come to the scroll wheel. It’s got a very well-defined tread with a nicely tactile bump. It lacks the ability to tilt the wheel to either side for additional functionality.
Here’s the MorphA X, as seen from the left…
Its two side buttons are quite flat and, despite being visually separate, lack the kind of sharply defined edges that make it easy to tell them apart with the ball of your thumb, something we really like in, for example, the Logitech G900 Chaos SpectrumG.Skill Ripjaws MX780 RGBHyperX Pulsefire FPS, so they’re not as difficult to reach for a medium-size hand. Though again, as we remarked above, this mouse is really more suited to a large mitt.
Another point in which the MorphA X differs from some other models is in its pitted grips on the sides. EpicGear’s give you a truly rough-textured feel. They’re not just for show.
Looking at the underside of the mouse reveals how the sensors are swapped out…
They’re housed in cartridges, which snap out past a lip that holds them in check.
The only other point worth noting here is the MorphA X’s 71-inch cord. It stands to reason that, given this mouse’s theme, it should swap out with a battery module or possibly a little solar panel. We jest. However, the best the cable can do is be thin but braided, flexible, and sturdy. Which is actually saying quite a bit.
Installing the MorphA X is a two step process. First, you plug it into a convenient USB port, then download and run the supporting EpicGear software from https://www.epicgear.com/en/support. Note that the Support page at the time of this review recommended you take and install a firmware download first. What was there was only a firmware updater, however, and the software already includes the latest firmware.
Let’s start with the MorphA X’s configuration software. This is the main screen…
It’s moderately overloaded and garish but functional, and more important, furnishes a white font on a black background that’s large enough to read without a magnifying glass. Curiously for a mouse whose manufacturer emphasizes its configurability, it stores only five profiles, rather than the unlimited game-specific profiles offered in the software from other mouse makers, such as Logitech, Razer, and Corsair. You change these by highlighting one on the bottom row.
On the left, you can reconfigure six of its seven buttons, all but the profile selector. (And no, reconfiguring another button as Profile Select still won’t let you change out the default profile-select button. Sorry. We tried that.) On the right, you can assign a series of four dpi settings to each profile.
We’ve kvetched in the past that some ostensibly advanced gaming mice (such as the SteelSeries Rival 700Turtle Beach Grip 500 Laser) offer no separate X- and Y-axis controls, which would be useful on wide-screen monitors and in shooter titles where enemies appear only from either side, rather than above. The MorphA X supplies this, but oddly enough, it leaves out any way to link the axes if you want to adjust them together. It’s an independent X/Y adjustment by design rather than by choice.
If some of this seems counterintuitive, consider that if you click on any of the raised buttons under Button Assignment, nothing happens. You actually have to click on the word to the right of each button, which shows its assigned task, to bring up a list of alternate functions you can assign. They’re a fairly parsimonious lot: basic left/right/wheel click, browser forward/backward, scroll up/down, single/double/triple click, dpi up/down, and dpi level switching.
Let’s return to the profiles for a moment, and click the Lighting button. This brings up a relatively primitive color-assignment screen…
Whatever color choice you make gets patched onto both the scroll wheel and logo. The only other options are to turn lighting off, or to cycle through colors, and peculiarly, they aren’t available from this screen. To get to lighting on/off, you have to click one of a pair of images on the right top edge of any screen, above the language-choice drop-down. To cycle colors, you need to go to the Performance tab…
From here, you can turn off AFM Ambient Lighting, or set it to start cycling in 20 seconds, or a minute.
While we’re on this tab, check out a few of the options. Performance is a bit surprising in that it offers linear sliders for acceleration, angle snapping, and lift distance. The last of these is not a wizard, such as the Corsair ScimitarLogitech G303 Daedalus ApexMionix Avior provide. It’s again a slider—of 10 increments, as you can see below…
Trial and error is the only way to succeed with this feature. Finally, there’s the Macro screen…
You can insert actions, edit them, ignore and remove delays, create a default delay time, and insert a very few mouse actions (left or right button, scroll wheel up/down, or browser backward or forward). It’s rudimentary, at least when compared with the likes of the Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) or the Logitech Gaming System (LGS). In CUE, for instance, you can create macros that run programs, chain macros together, and run macros that have one function when a button is held down, and another when it’s released.
We also found the software buggy. Trying to overwrite the default macro title by backspacing, for example, froze the program. We had to highlight the default name, then write over it. And opening the program several times without rebooting caused the dpi settings to crash and reset to 100dpi, no matter what the program itself stated. (We had to use a different mouse to “rescue” the MorphA X by manually resetting the dpi and then saving.)
The configuration software is in several respects underwhelming, but that can’t be said of the sensors EpicGear furnishes with the MorphA X. The Pixart PMW 3360 optical sensor is regarded as one of the finest high-end gaming sensors currently available, rated here for 100dpi to 12,000dpi. Much the same can be said among those who prefer laser sensors for the ADNS-9800, which is rated for 100dpi to 8,000dpi.
Another feature EpicGear supplies are two pairs of microswitches for the main mouse buttons: EG Orange, and EG Purple, with the former installed. EG Orange is rated for 20 million clicks, with a tactile-bump and a click feel, while EG Purple is rated for a 50-million-click lifespan. The Purple switch is both tactile and has a click, just a bit…louder. There are no other perceivable differences, as both possess an actuation force of 50cN, and a 4mm travel point. We suspect you’ll settle on one, shrug, and leave the other set in the tin until it’s time to recycle it all.
The MorphA X also comes with four removable weights. Here’s a few of them alongside the mouse…
They’re metal and store easily inside the unit, where they’re held in place, once again, by magnets. There’s no chance of dislodging them by mistake, and we definitely tried. With all four weights in place, the MorphA X weighs in at 3.95 ounces; when removed, it weighs 3.25 ounces, not counting the cord.