Earlier this week, I got a visit from my future self (which was followed by a visit from Starfleet Temporal Investigations1). I learned two things which I can share with you that won’t cause a rift in the space-time continuum: 1) Apparently, in a future article, I am going to promise to write an article on how your computer peripherals can help you with gaming, and 2) DeLoreans never go out of style2 So here’s the article. 3
I touched on this a little in one of my previous columns, A GUI Mess. Specifically, I want to talk about how your choice of computer mice can have a positive impact on your gaming experience.
I’m going to talk about four gaming mice I have used, with a standard non-gaming mouse as my control reference point. None of these products are endorsed by CSTM, and none of the four manufacturers (Microsoft, Logitech, Razer, Mad Catz) are sponsors of CSTM. For purposes of full disclosure, with the exception of the Cyborg MMO7, I paid for all of the products I am going to talk about out my own pocket. I participated in beta testing for the MMO7 and was given a mouse in exchange for my testing feedback. I have not otherwise been paid to advertise or endorse any product.
What will a mouse do for me?
First of all, getting a “better” mouse will not make you a better player, nor will it help you learn to play your class, do more DPS, hold more aggro or increase your outgoing healing. What a higher-end mouse will do is make your movements more precise and some of them will place more controls at your fingertips.
To me, this leads to less moving around the screen to hit skills. I played LOTRO for about six months on a laptop using a standard mouse and keyboard setup and had an enjoyable gaming experience. Because MMO combat does not require the precision of a first-person shooter or sports game, hardware has less of a effect on your overall gaming experience.4
However, once you program your mouse buttons with certain skills and you practice enough5, you will be able to hit that heal/taunt/AOE at just the moment you need it without having to hunt through your quickslot buttons. I think the less time you have to spend looking at your UI to trigger your skills, the more time you’ll have to watch green bars to make sure you have all the aggro.
The second caveat to this is that hardware upgrades cost (real) money. Some of the products I’m going to talk about exceed $50 or $100, and that’s not chump change. Not for a mouse.
And the third and final thing I’ll say is that your gaming setup is something that can be intensely personal and varies based on your preferences, which may very well be vastly different from mine. Please accept these statements as my opinion only.
The mice in question
The five products I’m going to briefly review are:
Alienware TactX/Logitech G9x, Mad Catz Cyborg MMO7, Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 6000, Razer Death Adder and the Razer Naga.
With the exception of the Microsoft 6000, I have used all of the mice for gaming at some point, mostly LOTRO and SWTOR.
Whether you use one of these, or a comparable product, the bottom line that two factors will probably affect your choice above all others: Your budget and your needs.
These two factors should govern all of your decisions regarding your computer (or anything else in your life, for that matter). Many years ago, I used to own a small computer upgrade/repair business out of my house. People used to say, “I want a computer that has . . .”
And the first two questions I always asked them were, “What is your budget?” and “What do you need this computer to do for you?”
As a matter of general principle, you should never buy more computer (or car, house, etc.) than you can afford. I know it’s tempting to put stuff on a credit card or 12-months-same-as-cash financing, but for the most part, unless you have an emergency, financing small-ticket items is not smart. If your budget for a new mouse is $50, don’t buy an $80 mouse.
Many of the higher end products out there have extra bells and whistles on them that are nice, but aren’t worth breaking your bank over.
The second thing is this: many of the extra features are nice to have, and once you have them, you won’t know how you lived without them (like with heated leather seats or keyless entry for your car), but if they’re out of your price range, they’re not worth splurging on.6
Always set your budget first and work backwards to get the thing that has the most features that you need, but at the price point you can afford.
I bought a Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 6000 for Mrs. Vraeden’s laptop because she hates touchpads. There is nothing wrong with this mouse as a daily-use device. Since most people use Windows, there is no extra driver installation. The batteries last for a long time, it has the standard mouse buttons you would expect plus a scroll wheel, it feels good in your hand and will probably last you a good long time.
Just don’t game with it. I haven’t seen the dpi (dots per inch) sensitivity in any publication, but it’s pretty low. Still, for what you get, it’s not a bad buy.
However, for a gaming device, you should not consider this unless you have absolutely no other alternatives. The tracking is imprecise and you will find yourself moving the mouse a long ways just to turn right or left.
Entry-level gaming mice
These mice offer no-frills basic functionality, but are built with gamers in mind. They have a higher sensitivity (ie-the slightest mouse movement will move your screen or character), which is expressed in DPI, or dots per inch; more is better. These two have no additional buttons beyond what you would find on a standard mouse. They just look cooler, fit your hand a little bit better and have a more precise laser built in.
When I bought my desktop computer a couple of years ago, it came with the Alienware TactX mouse, which is internally the same product as the Logitech G9x mouse, in much the same way that the Dodge Stealth was simply a re-badged Mitsubishi 3000GT. Logitech built the mouse and just slapped an Alienware logo on the outer shell.
As far as gaming mice go, the G9x is a solid mouse. Compared to the Death Adder, it adds the ability to adjust the level of sensitivity at any point simply by pressing a button on the top casing. There are three settings, which I believe are 200, 2500 and 5700 DPI.
It is comfortable and easy to use, plus you can customize the colour scheme with the software that comes with it. The downside is that compared to other mice with more features, it’s expensive.
The Death Adder is what I consider to be an entry-level gaming mouse. It has reasonably high resolution (3500 dpi), but few other features. It has a good solid feel in your hand and tracks with precision and reliability. You can adjust the sensitivity, but only through a control panel, and then only to one of three presets. If you just want to upgrade from a basic mouse, but don’t want to spend a ton of real money, this is a good product to consider. Just know that you could probably get more value for your dollar/Euro/cubit/latinum.
Serious gaming mice
These bad boys will hit your foes and your wallet pretty hard. Both have some extra functionality and extra buttons which you can program with keystrokes/macros. After you use them long enough, you will find them indispensable. One problem I have with these two mice is that not only do they have a driver to install, but they have a software suite that comes with them. If you are running a computer that does not have a lot of extra capacity, you might find yourself in trouble.
Both are fairly easy to install, program and use. I don’t think either the Mad Catz “Smart Technology” or Razer configuration programs take up much by way of system resources, but they are processes which will be running in the background. That means extra strain on your CPU and memory. If those are in short supply for you, I suggest passing these devices by.
Pros: Lots of extra buttons, shift resolution on the fly, love-it-or-hate-it styling, adjustable form factor
Cons: Cost, love-it-or-hate-it styling, cost
Visit the manufacturer’s website
Buy it at Amazon
When you put the MMO7 next to a standard mouse, it looks intimidating. You can almost hear the MMO7 telling the MS Mobile Mouse 6000, “If you so much as look at me sideways, I’m going to eat your children, rape your horses, ride off on your women and generally eff you up. Now go get me a bottle of Jack and some hookers.”
The sleek, aggressive styling has all sorts of odd angles and spaces and when you first glance at the packaging, you really don’t know what to make of it. I remember seeing the MMO7′s predecessor, the RAT7, in a retail store and wondering if it was really something that I wanted to pick up. After using the device for a while, the funny contours make a little bit of sense.
A couple of the control surfaces can be moved to fit a variety of users, from children to adults. On the left side are five buttons and a four-way hat switch. That’s in addition to the standard left and right click buttons and the scroll wheel. There are also two “lock” buttons that will hold down the left or right button and a thumb button (the orange barrel-looking one). All of the buttons can be programmed with specific keystrokes or macros, giving you a lot of control.
There is also a button that will allow you to adjust the sensitivity on the fly from 25 DPI to 6400 DPI. There are four settings, and unlike the G9x, you get to pick what the settings are for each of the pre-sets. Next to the left button, there is a toggle that will let you change the presets to any one of three configurations, essentially tripling the number of keystrokes/macros you can pre-program.
I have been using this mouse since the SWTOR beta test weekends and it has also become my daily use mouse. Because I can customize the size of the mouse, I find it to be the most comfortable. At first, I thought I’d miss the 3 fewer buttons that the MMO7 has when compared to the Naga, but I don’t really use all 12 of the buttons on the Naga in my regular rotation anyway7. It also helps that in SWTOR, there are fewer skills, so my quickslot bars aren’t as fully as they are in LOTRO.
The biggest downside of the MMO7 is the high cost. At about $130, it’s almost double the price of the next most expensive mouse here and that may price it out of your consideration.
As far as I am concerned, the Naga is the benchmark MMO mouse for most use. While I find the MMO7 to be more comfortable, for about $70, the Naga gives the most bang for the buck. There are twelve buttons on the left side of the mouse, which you control with your thumb. The styling is a little bit plain, but it works. Its sensitivity can be adjusted from 100 to 5800 DPI, but it cannot be done on the fly and must be changed through the interface.
My biggest complaint is that the thumb buttons are arranged in a grid and are not in the most comfortable location. If you play a lot of LOTRO or other games, the Naga is a repetitive stress injury waiting to happen. Where you can move the thumb buttons to the exact location that you want them on the MMO7, you’re stuck with the Naga.
There was a one month span where I was in the Draigoch raid for about four nights a week and near the end of the run, my thumb had a sharp, shooting pain running from my wrist to the second knuckle. Part of it is that I don’t think the Naga was necessarily built for me; I have small hands and that could be an issue.8
I bought mine for about $80 a year ago, and the retail prices have dropped and for basically the same price as the Death Adder, you should select the Naga. I still use the Naga for LOTRO since I have invested so much muscle memory into healing with it and I don’t want to re-learn my healing rotation with the MMO7. It has become that important to me. The only thing I would do differently is to buy the “Molten” edition, because it’s red.
I think the world of both the Naga and the MMO7. If you can afford them and have the available system resources, I recommend both products. And by recommend, I mean, “Go buy them right now.”
The Death Adder is also a good mouse, but if you’re going to pay the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $60, you may as well shell out another $10 for the Naga.
There are other mice out there, and the bottom line is that you should find the mouse that fits your budget and play style. If you’re happy with what you have, go with it. But in my experience, the extra 9-12 buttons are life savers and make healing/tanking/killing a whole lot easier.
- It seems I have eight violations, but I can only account for three of them. It looks likes I am going to have fun with the Professor and Graymalkin in both the future and in the past! (Please don’t tell Cable) ↩
- Just as an aside, do you all realise that if Marty McFly got into Doc Brown’s DeLorean today and went 30 years back in time, it would be 1982. Instead of Johnny B. Goode, he would be playing Eye of the Tiger, 867-5309/Jenny or Tainted Love. Weird, huh? ↩
- I wasn’t explicitly told not to share this, but in the future, it seems that there are unpleasant things that require something stronger than penicillin. So be careful about where you put Mr. Happy. Just sayin’. ↩
- A friend of mine once lamented that he couldn’t play Halo or Call of Duty on his PC against Xbox players. I told him that was intentional because the PC gamers with better graphics cards and better controllers would slaughter the Xbox players using a standard gamepad. ↩
- Contrary to popular belief, practice does not make perfect, something I learned years ago from my taekwondo instructor. Practice makes habit. Bad practice breeds bad habits. Good practice makes for good habits. ↩
- Many years ago, my wife and I had a knock-down, drag-out fight over getting broadband internet at home. She thought it was too much money. I was used to the T1 connection we had a work, and dial-up (remember that?) was way too slow. That was one of the few arguments I won, but about two weeks later, she wondered why it took me three months to talk her into getting cable internet. On the plus side, I did get some make-up/apology nookie out of it. ↩
- Part of that is because I also use a Logitech G13 gameboard, and that has 24 buttons plus a hat switch, so I need fewer buttons on a mouse, but that’s another article for another day. ↩
- My hands are the size you want your proctologist to have. It doesn’t help that my day job involves sitting in front of a computer, pushing paper and typing pretty much all day long. ↩