When talking about a general use computer mouse, there are only a few features that matter, and most modern mice satisfy them. The gaming crowd is a bit pickier, however, and details like the sensor’s DPI and lift height matter a lot more. The Cougar 550M is a gaming mouse with attention to detail, a comprehensive software suite, and an eye on what gamers actually need from a mouse.
Technically speaking, the Cougar 550M features a 1000Hz polling rate and one millisecond response time for a lag-free experience no matter what. All of the switches are built by Omron, and are each rated for a guaranteed minimum of five million clicks. It has six programmable buttons, and a 6400 DPI sensor. The 1.8 meter braided USB cable is fitted with a gold-plated connection, and the whole setup only weighs 120 grams.
The Cougar 550M has some real potential for gamers, with high performance specifications and a no-nonsense button and feature set. Can this underdog take its talents to the big leagues, or will it be doomed to play in the minors forever?
The Cougar’s semi-gloss black and orange panels try to adopt the same “bright highlights on dark colors” look that gaming peripherals have been chasing lately, but the plastic doesn’t immediately scream high quality. The lower sides of the 550M have a debossed hexagonal pattern that helps you pinch the sides and move the mouse quickly.
While the 550M’s light weight is great for snappy movements in games, it doesn’t do anything to improve how the mouse feels. That being said, the weight is very well distributed in the body of the mouse, and the center of gravity sits near the middle of its body. The bottom stays flat and turns left and right without overturning when you pick it up to move quickly.
Unfortunately, the ergonomics mean the 550M won’t be particularly comfortable for a left-hander. It’s not unusable, but southpaws will find the shape and location of the back and forward buttons aren’t ideal for everyday use. If your right hand is dominant, however, you’ll find the shape of the 550M comfortable for a number of different grip styles.
The short body and lightweight construction lends itself best to a fingertip grip. Good weighting means that on the highest default DPI setting, which is only about halfway up the 550M’s DPI range, you can rest your palm on the mousepad and whip back and forth across a 4K display with very little effort.
Just USB, please
You don’t want any delay between your movements and the response on the screen when it comes to gaming. That’s why serious gamers don’t even consider wireless options, and the Cougar 550M is USB only. It has a tough, braided cord that holds a shape well, but is malleable enough not to tug at the front when you need to react quickly.
The Cougar 550M also has a cable barrel sticking off the front. This hard extension is designed to prevent the cable from bending or breaking at the connection point, and should also help with cable snag. In reality, it’s pretty tough to tell if it does anything at all, though it might come in handy if your desk space is limited.
Needs more clickers, but what’s there is solid
The 550M could use one or two more buttons. While it doesn’t need to have a full array of numbers like mice that target the MMO and MOBA genres, at the moment its options are limited. There’s left and right click, a two-way scroll wheel with click, and forward and back buttons on the left side. That’s it.
It’s a gaming mouse with an eye on what gamers actually need.
There’s also a DPI switching button right behind the scroll wheel. It’s not the most inconvenient button to press, but it does require you to take your fingers off others buttons to press. By default, it switches between three different DPI settings, and the setting you’re currently using is indicated by a set of three lights in front of the back and forward buttons on the side.
While the button choices are limited, the 550M has the quality of what’s offered on lock. The left and right buttons are snappy and responsive, and the tension increases slightly as your fingers slide higher up the mouse. Even a light tap can trigger the click, but there’s just enough resistance to keep you from firing accidentally.
The software is almost overkill
The 550M will work right out of the box, but in order to make changes to the settings, you’ll need to download the latest version of Cougar’s UIX software from their site. Once you’ve done that, the settings are saved to the mouse, so you can plug them into any computer and it will take your light, button, and DPI configurations with it.
Cougar’s UIX interface offers simple options, but suffers from clunky performance. Applying your settings takes ten or more seconds to sync everything, even when it’s just a minor change. That may have to do with the fact that the 550M stores your settings on the mouse instead of the computer. Plugging it into a new system means all your settings go with it, which is particularly convenient when it takes a bit of work to set everything up.
You could do a lot worse than Cougar’s UIX software.
The key assignment options are standard for a programmable gaming mouse. You can reassign buttons to a number of functions that are divided into categories like “media control,” “DPI switch,” or “launch program.” You can also record macro sets or program a button to switch key assignments on the fly. The interface that controls these functions is a bit slow, but intuitively laid out.
The 550M also boasts multi-color programmable lighting. There are two distinct zones, a thin light on the heel of the mouse, and the mode indication lights near the front. Both can be set to a wide spectrum of colors, and to either fully light up, pulse, or turn off completely. They look nice, but opinions will vary. Some gamers find the LEDs rather tacky.
You could do a lot worse than the Cougar UIX when it comes to peripheral management software. It’s loaded options that most users won’t ever touch, but the fact that the mouse has 512 kilobytes of storage means the actual application uses few system resources. You can set up the 550M exactly as you want it and never mess with the settings again, as they carry over to new systems via the built-in memory.
An FPS dream
Out in the real world, the Cougar 550M doesn’t disappoint. The minimal feature set is a distinct advantage in a number of games. First person and third person action games are particularly pleasant to play on the 550M because of its light weight and adjustable pick-up height.
The response times are as snappy as promised. While the switchable DPI is disorienting at first, it eventually feels natural. It even has “sniper mode,” which lets you assign a button to drop the DPI temporarily, so you can go from turning 180 degrees by moving an inch, to adjusting your aim with large, precise movements.
The customization options mean you can reassign a couple of buttons to get the optimal set up for any game, but you still may end up wanting more for games where you need access to commands at a moment’s notice, like Heroes of the Storm. If you’re a MOBA fanatic, however, you’ll appreciate the rapid speed at which you can click.
The most important factor when it comes to any gaming peripheral is preference. Whether you have a propensity toward a specific brand, feature set, or sensor DPI, no one mouse is going to fit the bill for everyone. The Cougar 550M tries to make a broad argument for itself providing a solid core feature set, and offering a rich set of customization options to help it end up in front of a few more rigs.
The 550M’s snappy response times, customizable lift height, and lightweight construction make it particularly well suited for shooter and action gamers. MMOs, MOBAs, and RTS games don’t suffer as a result, but Cougar’s mouse lacks the extra buttons often demanded by gamers who enjoy these genres.
At just $59, the Cougar 550M falls right in the middle of other mice in its price range when it comes to functionality. At that price point, you’re only just reaching the entry level Razer mouse, the Deathadder. That’s a highly-rated mouse, but lacks a lot of the features the 550M offers. Logitech offers a number of gaming mice in its G line for $60 or less, and the clear advantage there is choice – there are a number of mice designed for MOBAs, MMOs, and first person shooters specifically. The Cougar wins out by fitting most uses very well, and only giving those mice a slight edge in the MOBA and MMO realm.
The Cougar 550M isn’t for everyone. If you need buttons everywhere, and you like to show off pictures of your rig constantly, this mouse will look out of place. Rather than focusing on aesthetic quality or fancy features, the 550M offers enough functionality and performance for most gamers, and more than enough for those who just like shooting stuff.
- Great clicking action
- Rugged, malleable cord
- Comfortable fit
- Short on buttons
- Design looks chintzy
- Awkward DPI switch placement
- Software is clunky