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Corsair Dark Core RGB Pro Review: Adapt and Glide

Large and in charge

By Christopher Coke on April 07, 2020 | Hardware Reviews | 0

Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of using and reviewing nearly half a dozen mice from Corsair. Of all of those, the original Dark Core RGB stands out for its unique design, perfectly suited to palm and claw grips, with its removable right-side wing. When Corsair reached out to let us know that they were releasing a brand new model that not only upgraded the sensor but doubled the response rate, I knew I had to take a look.

Today, we’re reviewing the Corsair Dark Core RGB Pro. It features Corsair’s high-speed SLIPSTREAM WIRELESS tech with an incredible 2,000 Hz polling rate, 18K max DPI, and smooth PTFE glide feet to make sure your shots stay on target. It’s also packing eight programmable buttons ready to carry all everything from macros to media controls. Let’s take a closer look and find out if the Dark Core RGB Pro should make its way to your Wish List.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $79.99
  • Wireless Connectivity: Hyper-fast, sub-1ms 2.4GHz SLIPSTREAM CORSAIR WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY, Bluetooth® 4.2 + LE
  • Wired Connectivity: USB 2.0 Type-A to PC, USB-C to mouse
  • Battery Charging: Charges via USB to computer
  • Battery Type: Built-in lithium-polymer, rechargeable
  • Battery Life:
    • 4GHz SLIPSTREAM WIRELESS: Up to 16hrs w/ standard lighting and 36hrs w/out backlighting
    • Bluetooth: Up to 18hrs w/ standard lighting and 50hrs w/out backlighting
  • Sensor: Pixart PAW3392, Optical
  • Sensor Resolution: 100 - 18,000 DPI, with 1 DPI steps
  • Onboard Profiles: Three
  • Backlight: Nine-Zone RGB
  • Buttons: Eight
  • USB Report Rate: 1,000/2,000Hz
  • Color: Black
  • Mouse Feet: PTFE
  • Cable: 1.8 m / 6 ft., braided, fixed
  • iCUE (Software): Supported
  • Dimensions: 127.0(L) x 89.0(W) x 43.0(H) mm / 5.00”(L) x 3.50”(W) x 1.69”(H)
  • Weight: 133g / 0.31 lbs. (w/o cable and accessories)
  • Warranty: Two years

Dark Core RGB Pro Packaging

When I reviewed the original Dark Core RGB (SE version), it stuck with me. At the time, the mouse stood out because I had never seen one with a removable right-side wing. It was novel in a field where, let’s be honest, a lot of mice wind up feeling awfully familiar. I published that review nearly two years ago, and since then I’ve yet to encounter another mouse from a major brand that adopts this feature. That’s a good thing, because that small customization feature winds up feeling just as novel today as it did back then.

Dark Core RGB Pro

Part of that is because of the wing, which I’ll talk more about a bit later, but the other part is that it’s a large and rather heavy mouse when the rest of the industry seems intent on shaving mice down to their lightest possible state. At 133 grams and dimensions of 5” (L) x 3” (W) x 1.7 (H), it’s even larger than Corsair’s dedicated MMO mouse, the Scimitar RGB Elite. That isn’t to say it is out of line with other palm mice. Putting shape differences aside, it’s very close to the Razer Viper, for example.

That said, it’s ergonomics make it quite comfy to use with a palm of a claw. Corsair trimmed the palm rest with a rubberized finish that’s textured with small bumps. The left side and each wing are hard plastic but covered in small diamonds to keep the mouse secure in your hand. The contouring is nice and supportive, but since the mouse sits higher, you feel the heel of your palm drag if you don’t keep it raised. For normal browsing, this doesn’t make any difference, but playing a shooter like Doom Eternal, it definitely helped my accuracy by forcing me to be more nimble with my grip.

Dark Core RGB Pro Left Side

The mouse has eight buttons and Corsair completely axed the unique left-side design of the original. In previous versions, the thumb grip featured your traditional Forward and Back buttons embedded in a ring around a prominent sniper button. Now, it features a much more standard design with two contoured thumb buttons. Even though I would occasionally hit the sniper button by mistake on the old version, this change feels like a step back. The lip under the thumb only highlights how much open space there now is and it begs for another button. Instead, we can enter a sniper “mode” from the software, but that’s really not as convenient as having a dedicated button to temporarily lower the DPI. I do like that they brought back the three-level DPI indicator, though.

Let’s talk about that customizable right side. Out of the box, the Dark Core RGB Pro ships with a standard flat side, similar to the majority of gaming mice. It sits flush and is held in place with two strong magnets to keep it secure no matter what type of grip you use. Take it off, and you’ll find a compartment for the USB dongle, which is convenient for traveling, and, on the inner side of the panel, a latticework of ridges to help it feel solid in the hand.

Dark Core RGB Pro Customizable Side

In the box, you’ll find the alternate side, which adds a second wing to support your ring and pinky fingers. I’ll level with you guys, after two years away from this design, it felt weird at first. After a day, however, my opinion completely changed. Between the contour prompting me to lift my wrist and the wing giving a shelf to my fingers, the Dark Core RGB Pro eliminated all of my body drag. What’s left is pure glide from the six (count them!) PTFE feet.

I wouldn’t have believed it, but this 133-gram mouse has some of the best and smoothest glide of any mouse I own, including those that are literally half its weight. Even if I drop my wrist, simply removing finger drag made an immediate and dramatic impact on its gaming performance. This is most pronounced on a hard mouse pad. but still true even on soft surfaces. No mouse is going to make up for a lack of skill, but the Dark Core absolutely made me feel more nimble and capable. 

Under the hood, Corsair has pulled a John Hammond and spared no expense. The Dark Core RGB Pro uses a custom PixArt PMW 3392 Optical Sensor with customizable DPI ranges from 100 - 18,000.  It also sports a top speed of 450 IPS and 50G of acceleration, which is a perfect fit for low sensitivity shooters where you’re making big elbow sweeps. In all of my tests, I wasn’t able to make the mouse spin out or feel less than pixel-perfect; however, it’s increasingly difficult to test mice at their highest DPI settings. 18K DPI is astronomically high no matter what resolution you’re playing at. Even so, cranking it up and setting in-game sensitivity low, I was able to play confidently without any noticeable filtering or other software tricks.

The real high point here is Corsair’s new Hyper-Polling technology. The company has made effective use of its SLIPSTREAM wireless technology in a number of peripherals, offering genuine wired-like performance for quite some time. With the Dark Core RGB Pro, however, they’re topping themselves by offering a 2,000 Hz polling rate, which is solidly twice what most gaming mice offer. In layman's terms, that means the Dark Core is reporting its position 2,000 times every single second. That’s incredible, but does it actually make a difference?

PTFE Feet and Sensor

Well, maybe, but only if you have a 240 Hz monitor. In my testing on 60, 100, and 144Hz monitors, I wasn’t able to feel any noticeable difference between 1,000 and 2,000Hz polling rates. In my research, however, eSports aficionados on 240Hz monitors are reporting that the mouse feels much more smooth.  The staff at Blur Busters also claims (with picture support) that a higher polling rate decreases the amount of micro-stutter you’ll find with the mouse pointer. Without a 240Hz monitor to test for myself, I can’t say for sure, but it will almost certainly feel like a modest increase versus a major bump.

The mouse also offers low latency Bluetooth connectivity. If given the choice, you will definitely want to opt for the 2.4GHz SLIPSTREAM connection for the best experience, but the Dark Core RGB Pro offers an impressively low 7.5ms latency over Bluetooth LE 4.2. If you happen to forget your dongle at home, you can still have an acceptable gaming experience this way.

The mouse also has satisfying clicks across all of its buttons thanks to Corsair’s use of genuine Omron switches. They have a long, 50M click lifespan, so you won’t have to worry about the buttons giving up the ghost in the middle of an important match. The mouse wheel offers soft tactility as it rotates, but, perhaps because of the size of the mouse, I found myself longing for a rapid scroll option like Logitech’s Hyper-fast mouse wheels.

Corsair iCue Software

Of course, this is a Corsair peripheral, so it’s replete with RGB lighting zones and full programmability. The Dark Core RGB SE offered four zones of illumination but the Pro increases that to nine. Instead of adding lighting strips, they’ve instead broken the long strip on the left into four different customizable zones. You can do an individual effect for each one or set them all to the same for a seamless transition inside Corsair’s iCUE software.

Likewise, you can customize six of the eight available buttons (left click and profile switch are off-limits). You can set each to trigger macros complete with mouse movements, media controls, keyboard commands, timers, and more. Your lighting, macros, and DPI levels can all be store right to the mouse through its three on-board memory profiles.

Finally, battery life. It’s one of the core fears many gamers have when considering a wireless mouse. With lighting enabled, the battery life on the RGB Pro is identical to the original RGB at 16 hours. Turn lighting off and that lifespan doubles to up to 50 hours. The mouse also intelligently puts itself to sleep when not in use. I found these figures to be fairly accurate but definitely got in the habit of plugging my mouse in at bedtime. You can also continue to use it when it’s wired, and the cable, though not as flexible as some of the competition, is still a lightweight braid that doesn’t bunch up in use. Given the amount of lighting and responsiveness, the battery life here is quite good, but I still would have liked to have seen some improvements with lighting enabled.

Final Thoughts

The Corsair Dark Core RGB Pro is an excellent gaming mouse, especially if you’re not sold on the ultralight craze. Palm and claw gripped gamers will feel right at home and still be able to benefit from ultralight levels of glide using the optional wing for the right side. I miss the sniper button, and feel like there is room for improvement with the sensitivity of the mouse scroll, but these are nitpicks. For $79.99, this is a great mouse that can make you a more nimble gamer.

The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

8.5Great
Pros
  • Super smooth glide
  • Customizable right side
  • Lots of programmability
  • Improved battery life (with lighting off)
  • 2,000 Hz polling rate
Cons
  • Reworked left side feels like a step back (one less button)
  • No improvements to battery life with lighting on
  • Large size isn't a good fit for fingertip grip


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight