The jury is still out on keyboards, and even if I want one, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth is out of stock – it is only purchasable directly through Razer’s online store.
For now, I thought I’d talk about my trusty Razer Naga MMO Mouse. It’s pretty expensive, $80 for a computer mouse, or $130 for the version with a detachable cord that puts it in Bluetooth mode.
Some of the stuff I’ll talk about today aren’t aspects I put a lot of thought into before, but I am paying more attention at the moment for the sake of making the post more thorough.
How I found the Naga
I had become pretty used to spending $50 on the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer series, but as I’ve mentioned about their keyboards, Microsoft keeps changing their designs, which breaks things that weren’t broken. So, a couple years ago, I went to Best Buy with the intention of spending $40 in gift cards toward buying the current Microsoft Mouse.
My wife’s family doesn’t ever know what to get me for Christmas. It’s not their fault; I’m hard to buy for, and I am really picky even about the stuff I am looking for, if you can’t tell already. So it seems they just all get me Best Buy gift cards. This works out for me, because I can usually find something to spend them on, and several small gift cards add up quickly!
Anyway, so there I was at Best Buy, $40 of free spending cash just burning a hole in my pocket, and I kind of wanted a new mouse.
I started looking at the Naga, and was sort of interested. At the time, I played World of Warcraft and led a raiding guild. I figured I was used to spending $50 on a mouse, and with the gift cards, I’d only really be spending $40… see how I just convinced myself there of spending way more than I normally would?
I figured I could always return it, so I would be careful about how I opened it, not break any seals and so such, just to make it that much easier to return if I decided I didn’t really like it.
First Impressions / Overall
I do remember liking the overall look and feel of it. Much like the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate I recently reviewed, it just had a pretty sleek look to it – mostly black or dark colors, soft finish that was comfortable in my hand, and its a fairly long mouse, meaning my entire hand can rest pretty comfortably on the body.
This is one of the reasons I previously gravitated so much toward Microsoft’s Intellimouse mice (which they later changed into a shorter bodied variant that was no longer comfortable to use). I have long fingers and most mice are too short.
Overall, I was impressed by the mouse, in general, but the huge 12 button grid on the side was a bit intimidating (more later).
It seemed pretty responsive, definitely more so than my wireless mouse.
The main buttons have a slight concave shape to them, so the entire curve of my fingers connect with the surface of the mouse. I don’t know if that’s supposed to make it more responsive or something, but it feels nice. They are also an extension of the palm rest, not isolated buttons. Thus, to press a button, you are bending the end of the surface instead of moving an entire “plate”. It results in more fine response so it requires less finger pressure to click. I like it.
Scroll Wheel / Button 3
I practically never use the scroll-wheel-as-button feature on mice because I am used to the continuous scrolling style of the Intellimouse. This style is great for scrolling pages of text. The Naga is designed for gamers, however, so the wheel uses the step-scrolling method where you can feel each click of the wheel for more accurate scrolling. I hear the Logitech G500 mouse has both modes and switches between them.
The physical feel of the wheel is appropriately nice.
The main feature of my Microsoft mouse that I missed was the tilting scroll wheel. This is another feature that Microsoft appears to have abandoned, and that’s sad. Sure, maybe they sat there one day and said, “Who cares about scrolling sideways!?” Maybe you wouldn’t if you’re just browsing the web or scrolling through a Word document, but I used it ALL the time.
Most production software is configured with a side to side timeline view for scrolling your project linearly. Just about every piece of audio or video software uses this, and the tilt-wheel was like a built in jog-wheel. I loved this feature, and I still miss it… but not enough give up the other cool features of the Naga mouse.
Buttons 4 and 5
On my old mouse, these were on the side, easily reachable with my thumb. This was the reason I went to the Intellimouse in the first place – more buttons. For a long time, I didn’t much like the positioning of these buttons on the Naga. They are at the front left of the mouse on the top – essentially cut out of the front left corner of mouse button 1. This means I hit them with my index finger. One is pretty easy to deal with, one requires more deliberate finger movement to press, and sometimes I find it causes me to inadvertently move the mouse while trying to get to it. I make the easier one my “back” button, and the harder one my “forward” button, since I rarely need that anyway.
I usually justify this to myself with the idea that I can ignore these completely and assign two of the side buttons to the same use. More recently, I’ve started using them both more for production software and I’ve kind of re-discovered their usefulness.
The side grid
What makes this mouse ridiculously cool is the 12 button grid on the side. It would be nice to have a more ergonomic layout, although I don’t know what that would be. For me, I effectively use 9 of the 12 buttons. One of the rows is a bit hard to get to, kind of like the “forward” button I mentioned earlier. This is pretty minor though, I’m still gaining 9 buttons to do whatever I want with, and this rocks! I think part of the idea is to learn to use the 5 or 11 key as a home position, so it’s kind of like 2 banks of 6 keys, but I just go from the 5 key for everything.
At first, these buttons had one serious drawback – they weren’t arbitrary buttons to be assigned to whatever. They duplicated the functionality of the number keys on the keyboard. A switch on the bottom of the mouse could swap them from acting like either the top row of numbers – 1 through 0, -, and =, or the number pad. For gaming, it wasn’t so bad. It essentially meant the keyboard’s number pad was strapped to the side of my mouse and I didn’t need to take my hand off the mouse to get to those keys.
This wasn’t what I originally hoped for, and in production software, they became much less useful. If I wanted to assign Naga side button 5 to a certain task, that meant “5” on the key pad would also be assigned to that, but I used the keypad on the keyboard to actually type numbers.
For a long time, I just didn’t use the side keys except for gaming. It took about a week to get used to the sheer number of keys, but the trainers combined with the tactile guide bump on key 5 and 11 (like the F and J keys on keyboards) made it pretty easy to get the hang of.
Then, when I first started checking out the BlackWidow, I realized a driver update had changed that functionality and now the keys worked exactly as I always wanted them to, in fact, it was even better!
Just like the BlackWidow’s M keys, the side grid on my Naga could be fully programmed to do just about anything I wanted it to do. Freaking awesome. Love it. The utility here is great.
Reader: Really? It gets its own section heading?
Reader: Why? It’s a cord!
I usually have reasons behind every decision I make. And there is one here.
My first “expensive” mouse was a wired Intellimouse Explorer. I loved it, but it broke after a while because the cord became damaged right where it enters the body of the mouse. Too much side to side swiping I guess. This is actually what led me into the world of wireless mice and keyboards (and subsequently I’ll blame my entire obsession with a clean wire-free desktop here, just for the fun of it).
So after using a wireless mouse and keyboard combo, I was reluctant to get another wired mouse. I had a few wired mice fail in exactly this same way, so there’s some justification here.
The Razer Naga (all Razer Products I’ve used) has a heavy nylon mesh cord shroud, which apparently means it’s a heavier duty cord. I don’t know – maybe it’s a $2 gimmick that raises the price $10. However, after two years of heavy use, the Naga’s cord is still solid.
It’s also really long. It’s so long, I coiled part of it up with a zip tie behind my monitor. This is okay, though. I like having the option if I really needed it.
I didn’t buy the mouse for this feature, but it has it. It looks kind of neat, but it’s not really a big deal. I doesn’t add any actual functionality to the mouse save for being able to read the keys in the dark. After two years of using it, I don’t need to look at the side keys any more.
After about a year and a half, I started noticing the right mouse button started double clicking all the time. It made it really hard to open the context menus in Microsoft Excel. I just sort dealt with it for a while, and then I decided to see about fixing it. I thought the mouse had a 1 year warranty, but it actually has 2. So I e-mailed their support site and asked for some kind of official instructions on taking the mouse apart to implement a fix I saw on you tube. I figured it was worth a shot.
I was surprised when they told me to just send them the mouse for a warranty RMA, and went ahead and did that. The process was smooth, and took about 10 days from shipping it out to receiving the replacement.
In short, this mouse seems very fast, very responsive. There are some options for acceleration, polling rate, and its DPI / sensitivity. I actually keep it pretty low, because it’s more than enough for me. I’ve been really happy in this regard. When I sent my Naga back to Razer for the RMA, I used my old Intellimouse as a temp. It was amazing how different they felt. I know newer wireless technology is a lot more responsive, but the difference was huge.
The Razer products all use a similar style interface for configuring their devices. You can configure several profiles an switch between them via the system tray icon, and it can also automatically switch when you run certain programs. Sometimes I switch profiles between different software sets as I get more and more into using the side grid for production software. It’s been really useful so far. With the recent discovery of the fully programmable feature set, I feel like I’ve just rediscovered how powerful this mouse really can be.
I really love this mouse. It’s fast, responsive, fully customizable, has a ton of buttons, and it’s built for gamers who can be pretty rough on their gear. Even if I had been out of warranty on the right button issue and had to buy another one, I would have been okay with it. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of this thing, and I’d definitely buy another.