Xtrfy M42 Review
When Xtrfy released their first Project 4 mouse in the second half of last year, the Swedish company surprised many reviewers and gamers. Rather than trying to quickly cash in on the ‘mouse with holes‘ hype by copying an existing shape, drilling some holes in it, and calling it a day without involving too many quality control officers in the process, they took their time to design a brand new shape and maintained a focus on the overall quality of the product.
The result was the M4: a mouse that had its quirks (the shape turned out to be a bit of a ‘love it or hate it’ design, for example) but managed to charm pros and casual gamers alike. Today, over a year later, we’re looking at the M42: an ambidextrous mouse that builds upon what made the M4 so great and goes the extra mile by being modular. Is this as impressive as its Project 4 sibling or did the Swedes bite off more than they can chew for this one? Read our full review to get the answers to all of your questions!
“The Xtrfy M4 was one of the most surprising (in a pleasant way) releases of last year to me so I was pretty excited to see what the company has managed to come up with now.”Our mouse reviewer
Xtrfy M42 – First Impressions
When I unboxed the M42 I immediately went to check how the back end feels. As you may know, this mouse tries to set itself apart from the competition by offering two different shells for the back, and while that’s a really cool idea in theory it can become a deal breaker very quickly if these swappable elements make the mouse feel unstable or if they feel too loose. Luckily this wasn’t the case: once you snap either back panel on it feels as if the mouse rolled out of the factory that way, so that’s impressive. I’ll go a bit more in depth on both shells later on in the review but I just wanted to get this out of the way in case you were curious.
Aside from this, the M42 looks and feels really impressive as a whole. Two very noticeable elements here are the fact that there are holes on the side (which won’t be to everyone’s liking) and the extremely impressive RGB lighting. There is one thick and very visible strip that runs along the middle and front portion of the mouse, and there’s also a thin strip on the scroll wheel for good measure. The only branding on the mouse can be found inside the shell: there you’ll find the Xtrfy logo as a separate RGB element. It’s a different approach, but one that works quite well if you ask me. If you don’t want to bother with RGB and just want a clean looking mouse (provided you don’t mind the holes, of course) you can just deactivate the RGB and you’ve got yourself a mouse without any visible branding or obnoxious looking logos.
As is the case with all Project 4 products you can get this mouse in a variety of colors: this black one that I tested is the cheapest but you can also get it in white, blue, pink, and a special retro colorway.
The M42 is a small ambidextrous mouse that’s very, very light. I weighed it in at 60 grams, landing it firmly in that ultralight category of mice.
As with the M4 there’s a bit of a quirk here: the button on top does not control the DPI but rather the RGB. I suppose that makes some sense as you’d rather accidentally change the pretty little colors during a game than your actual DPI, but for people who actually use the DPI button regularly this might come as a bit of a disappointment so I’m mentioning it. You of course can change the DPI: there’s a button on the bottom along with a slider for the polling rate. You’ll need those since the mouse doesn’t come with any software, by the way, but more on the DPI levels and all of that later.
Xtrfy seem to like packing their products with a bunch of little extras, and that is something that’s always appreciated.
Aside from the extra back panel you’re going to get a short but complete guide on how to change the RGB and what not (everything needs to be done on the mouse itself, so this is definitely handy to have) along with an Xtrfy sticker. That’s pretty standard, but you also get two keycaps (one that says ‘GG’ and another with the Xtrfy logo) in case you want to pimp your keyboard and a pair of extra mouse feet on top of that. If you know me a bit you’ll know that I love it when companies include extra feet so I’m very pleased with everything that you can find inside the box.
Size & Dimensions
Shape and finish
Whereas the ergonomic M4 (that other ‘Project 4’ mouse) has a shape that seems to be a bit hit or miss for a lot of people due to a rather significant curve at the back, this M42 has a very safe shape. There are no awkward curves to be found anywhere, and even though you get the usual narrowing in the middle this mouse isn’t as curved as some other ambidextrous shells. Whether you like that or not obviously comes down to personal preference but I like the curve near my thumb (i.e. the middle of the mouse) to be a bit deeper. Again though: that’s just my opinion, and I can’t say that I had any grip problems or whatever during my testing.
The standout feature for this mouse has got to be the fact that it has two different back panels. One is flatter, causing the main hump of the mouse to be centered towards the middle rather than the back, and the other focuses more on the backside of the mouse. Aside from the hump location (which, make no mistake, does make a huge difference for how the mouse feels) the panels don’t have vastly different heights or anything like that so it’s not as if you get two different mice here. You can clearly see the difference between both panels in the gif I made of the sideview of the mouse. I personally prefer the one with the hump towards the back (which is what I used for the majority of my testing) but of course this is going to vary from person to person.
I already mentioned it, but this modular functionality is really nicely done. Initially I feared that the panels would feel loose which, given their location, would be an absolute deal breaker for me, but both of them are absolutely rock solid once you’ve attached them to the mouse. I tried to get them to move or creak or whatever by putting a lot of pressure on my palm and moving it side to side but they didn’t budge, and I never felt anything in game either. That’s very impressive, doubly so because they’re so easy to take off and install.
The coating feels great to me too. My hands get moderately sweaty quite quickly when I’m trying my best in competitive games but this matte coating had no issues with that. To be complete I of course have to say that there’s just not as much hand to surface contact with these holey mice as there is with a solid shell mouse so the coating is definitely less of a factor, but the areas that do come into contact with my skin felt grippy and pleasant to use under all circumstances. The coating also doesn’t have a tendency to show oils or stains super quickly.
Of course there’s also the fact that there are holes all over the side of the mouse. I am personally not bothered by that, but I know that there are people who absolutely cannot stand this feeling so I feel like it’s important to let you know that you do always feel these holes, no matter how you grip the mouse. They don’t have sharp edges or anything so that’s all good, but it’s good to note this if you’re someone who has trouble with holes on the side of your mouse.
On the bottom there are two thin and long PTFE mouse feet that feel super slick straight out of the box. The combination of the smooth feet along with the low weight of the mouse makes for a very fast feeling device: if you’re coming from a heavier or older mouse (with worse stock feet) you’re definitely going to need a bit of time to adjust to how ‘slippery’ this mouse can feel. That’s not a bad thing: it’s just an observation.
Buttons and scroll wheel
The main clickers of the M42 house the well known Omron 20M switches and the main buttons feel very pleasant to me. It’s hard to find any objective flaws here, even when I’m nitpicking: the main buttons are super solid, with virtually no sideways movement and a noticeable lack of pre- or post travel. The only thing that I could is that there’s a bit of post travel on the left click if you press it towards the front and you’re someone who has a very light trigger finger, but aside from that the entire experience is stellar.
They also struck a nice chord as far as the tensioning goes. I know that this is a bit personal as well, but for me the main buttons require just about the right amount of force to actuate. Both do so with a very audible and crispy feeling click, so as you no doubt have been able to gather from this I am a big fan of the main clicks on the M42.
The same is true for the side buttons. There is almost no pre travel and they don’t exhibit any of that annoying ‘pivoting feeling’ that a lot of side buttons do where they travel inside the shell if you press them near the back or front. More than that: there’s almost no post travel on the side buttons at all, not even when you’re really looking for it. This makes me really happy because I remember having some small issues with the side buttons on the first Xtrfy mouse I tested (the M4) so it’s good to see that the company went above and beyond to fix one of the few issues I could find with their first Project 4 mouse.
The scroll wheel is nearly silent but there’s a surprising amount of tactility for a wheel that’s this quiet. It has a pleasant rubber texturing to it that makes it easy to use too. The only point of criticism I can give here is that it feels a bit hard to press for me, but that’s a small note. This is one of the better scroll wheels I’ve used over the past couple of months, and unless you’re really into super smooth feeling wheels with almost no tactility this should serve you well.
Sound test in order: left click, right click, scroll down, scroll up, scroll click, mouse 4, mouse 5.
Quality and cable
As I’ve already alluded to in the previous sections, the build quality of the M42 is exemplary. The shell does not creak, no matter how much pressure you apply to it (within reason of course: I’m sure you can get it to make a sound with a vice or a hydraulic press) and I couldn’t get the shell to flex either. This is impressive because these super light mice often have problems with their structural integrity, but that’s not the case here. Xtrfy like to emphasize their focus on build quality, and rightfully so.
The cable, then, is the biggest con of the M42. Just like the M4, this one has a rather rigid cable. Yes, it’s sleeved, but putting a cable in a sleeve doesn’t make it a paracord, and if you’re looking for that experience you’re going to feel let down. These days I’d classify this as a very firm cable. There’s a built in stress relief portion that helps alleviate some cable drag concerns if you put it in a bungee but if you’re thinking of maining this mouse and you’re someone who is sensitive to cables I would definitely recommend a real paracord or at the very least a good bungee.
I know companies go for the ‘it’s more durable‘ angle when they install cables like these, and I don’t have anything insightful to say about that (I don’t have any meaningful numbers on failure rates or the lifespan of more flexible cables of course) but I’ve reviewed way better stock cables.
Performance and sensor
The M42 uses the well known and loved 3389 sensor to do the heavy lifting, and as we all know by now that is a flawless sensor. It tracks everything that you do on your mousepad with pixel perfect precision, allowing your crispy clean aim (or lack thereof) to really shine reliably with no smoothing or other shenanigans. I’ve tested it in multiple games (ranging from VALORANT and Overwatch to SimCasino and others) and, as expected, it performed perfectly.
As I’ve said before this is a peripheral that’s entirely plug and play, meaning that you don’t need (or even get, in this case) any software: everything is handled on the mouse itself. For someone who is juggling multiple different software drivers at any given time of the week this is really nice but if you’re someone who likes to rebind certain buttons or you’re a frequent macro user this could be somewhat of a hindrance.
For everyone else the onboard controls should suffice. As you can see in the specs section it has a rather wacky array of DPI settings to choose from, so unless you’re on an uncommon setting you’re good to go. The RGB settings that are present are plenty too. The only thing that’s missing is the opportunity to adjust the LOD, but that’s under 1 DVD (1.2 millimeters) so I don’t think a lot of people will want to be changing this regardless.
Note: I have been informed that, on earlier copies, the 400 DPI setting was accidentally set to 450 DPI. This was not the case on my copy, but if you do happen to get one with this issue you can just download the latest firmware on Xtrfy’s website.
With this being a small mouse it’s obviously not gonna be an instant recommendation for people with huge hands, but of course all of this is very much down to preference. Due to the fact that this has, in essence, two different shapes it can be used by a large variety of grip styles. Like your palm to be a bit more filled out? Slap on the other cover. Want to go for a more neutral, flatter experience? Leave it on the first one.
If I had to say something though I’d say fingertip and claw grippers should be very interested in this mouse. The smaller size makes it a definite option for the first group, and the fact that you can basically tune how much palm contact you get makes it great to consider for the second group. As usual, though, I want to add a disclaimer: this part is completely down to personal preference. I know people with huge hands who use a small ergo mouse and I know people with smaller hands who swear by heavy and large mice. No one (certainly not reviewers who have never met you) knows what suits you, so take all of these size/grip advice sections with a grain of salt.
Conclusion & Recommendation
Xtrfy already impressed me with their first Project 4 mouse last year, and they do the exact same in 2020. With this M42 the Swedish company has basically addressed everything that I had to say about the M4 that was released last year, aside from one aspect. By this I don’t mean to say that I am responsible for any of this or that they immediately listened to everything I had to say (I am not that arrogant) but it is nice to see that a company improves on the fronts that can be improved upon.
The M4 had a bit of a ‘love it or hate it’ shape, so Xtrfy made this symmetrical mouse with a much safer shape, and even added a second back plate so that you can be damn sure it fits you. The side buttons had some issues on the M4, so Xtrfy improved those to the point where they’re among the best side buttons I’ve seen in the past years.
These might sound like small improvements, but the truth is that there wasn’t a whole lot to objectively improve on since the first Project 4 mouse was already a really good attempt. What you get here is a small symmetrical mouse with a safe shape (not a lot of curvature though, so take note of that), an extremely pleasing click set, a great scroll wheel, great feet, and the opportunity to tweak the backside to your liking somewhat. All of that is packed into a mouse that’s incredibly well built for being so light. The only thing that stands out as something that can definitely be improved is the cable: that’s just a tier below what it should be if you ask me.
Aside from that this is one of the best gaming mice of the year though. If you’re looking for a smaller ambidextrous mouse you owe it to yourself to take a look at the Xtrfy M42. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t.