“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Anyone who attended public school was told that at least once. Ah, what an innocent quote (from an age before YouTube, obviously); but there is some truth to it. If there’s no need for something to change, chances are it’ll stay the same until the need arises.
The new Razer Naga is a leap forward for one of the best gaming mice ever available.
In gaming, MMOs (also known as massively multiplayer online games) became one such need. Although created specifically for a computer, these massive RPGs taxed even the input capabilities of a keyboard and mouse, leaving gamers to ponder questions like “should I bind Howling Blast to Ctrl+5 or Shift+5?” To solve that eternal question, companies like Razer invented new gaming peripherals.
The Naga, among the first MMO mice on the market, is also one of the best success stories. Rare is the day that sees this mouse not occupy a top-five slot on Amazon’s list of best-selling gaming mice, and several major games, like World Of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic, have paired with Razer to sell special editions over the years.
After several years of service, this veteran is seeing an update. The all-new model makes ergonomic changes, boosts the DPI, and gets a redesigned scroll wheel. Let’s see if these improvements are enough for the Naga to remain the king of MMO mice.
A subtle change
Razer’s press information about the new Naga is quick to point outs its “all-new ergonomics,” which deliver “the best feel and comfort for a wide range of hand shapes.” Mentioning this was a good move by the company’s PR, as at first glance the 2014 model seems identical to the outgoing mouse. This is actually fine by us since, like most Razer mice, the Naga has always looked great.
In general, the new mouse is broader and flatter than the previous version, which had a more significant indent for the user’s palm and more radically sloped and contoured buttons. Based on looks alone, the old mouse looks more ergonomic, but actual use tells a different story. The new Naga does a better job of filling the user’s hand, is easier to control, and feels more natural at first touch. While mouse ergonomics are a matter of taste, we do think the revised design will better fit more gamers.
Also new for the 2014 model is a left-hand version of the mouse. We didn’t test this model, but as you might expect, it’s a mirror image of the right-hand design. The new option will surely be appreciated by southpaw MMO fans.
There are no ergonomic adjustments to be had with this mouse, which some might see as a step backwards; the older model offered three different side panels to change the user’s grip. Razer’s hope is that one solid ergonomic design makes more sense than three mediocre ones. There’s also no weight adjustment, a feature also missing from the previous Naga. Fortunately, the default weight is robust, and the device moves quickly on its slippery feet with or without a mousepad.
Better, faster, stronger
The theme of subtle improvement continues with the Naga’s features. Again, there’s no obvious change at first glance. But look closer and you’ll find a host of enhancements over the preceding version.
While mouse ergonomics are a matter of taste, we do think the revised design will better fit more gamers.
One of the most obvious is the new 8200dpi laser sensor, a major leap over the already excellent 5600dpi laser previously used. In theory, this more sensitive sensor offers better tracking and accuracy. We had trouble noticing a difference in real-world use, but only because the Naga, like most Razer mice, was already extremely precise.
A more important change, and one that doesn’t appear on a stat sheet, is the revised mouse wheel. The new mouse adds left and right tilt to the wheel, a feature that’s great for not just MMOs but any game, as the left and right tilt actions can be bound for easy access to game controls. Gamers will also be happy to know that the wheel does not rotate smoothly, but instead in a series of “clicks.” This is desirable because it gives a gamer tactile feedback while using the wheel to rotate through a list of guns or abilities.
Finally, the twelve buttons on the thumb grip (the Naga’s signature feature) now use mechanical switches. Razer says this will improve longevity and increase tactile feedback. While we can’t comment on the former claim, we can say the buttons have a robust feel and activate at exactly the moment their tactile click is felt. And if twelve buttons aren’t enough, an alternative keymap option in the Naga’s software allows for the button’s commands to be changed to a second set, effectively doubling the number of actions that can be bound.
One feature we still miss from the original Naga is the default on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment. This feature is useful because it allows for a quick switch from fast movement to slower, more precise targeting. Users can custom-bind this function to an existing key, but doing so sacrifices use of that button for another purpose.
Can an MMO mouse really make you a better gamer?
While we’ve covered the improvements of the Naga, we also think it’s worth looking at the mouse from a newbie’s standpoint. Can a mouse like this really improve your MMO experience?
To find out, we loaded up Star Wars: The Old Republic, a game that partnered with Razer in the past to release a special edition Naga. In turn, we lost a significant chunk of our weekend. The verdict? While mouse ergonomics are a matter of taste, we do think the revised design will better fit more gamers.
Grabbing the Naga didn’t suddenly improve our skill, but we did notice …) that actions are easier to activate and require less finger gymnastics.
The thumb buttons are, at first, very confusing. Having so many buttons at the command of your thumb is unusual, and gamers who’ve never owned a Naga will have to fight a strong instinctual urge to punch actions through the keyboard rather than the mouse.
As that urge is overcome, however, the advantages of an MMO mouse become obvious. Some keys normally used for actions in this genre, like the right-hand portion of the number row, are very hard to reach. The Naga largely solves the problem. Activating actions through the mouse also frees up your left hand (or right hand, if you’re a southpaw) to focus on character movement.
Having adjusted to the mouse, we found it enjoyable, though not an absolute must-have. Grabbing the Naga didn’t suddenly improve our skill, but we did notice (once we learned the layout) that actions are easier to activate and require less finger gymnastics.
While this mouse is designed with MMOs in mind, it works great with other games. The basic strengths, including a sensitive sensor and precise mouse wheel, make for an excellent experience in almost any title. The thumb buttons are distracting at first, but they take some force to activate, so they can be mostly ignored in games that don’t benefit from them.
Tapping into the Synapse
All of the Naga’s features are managed through Synapse 2.0, Razer’s proprietary software interface. Users can tweak everything from functional details such as sensitivity and polling rate (the number of times per second the sensor checks for movement) to aesthetic concerns like lighting. Razer has spent a lot of time refining Synapse, and it shows; the software is slick, quick, and easy to understand.
A new feature for the 2013 model is an in-game configurator that provides the ability to easily map keys to the Naga using a grid layout that’s visually more sensible. At least, that’s the theory. In practice, we had a hard time getting this feature to work reliably, a situation that might be excused by pre-release drivers. Still, there’s nothing wrong with configuring the mouse through normal in-game options.
In addition to providing settings, Synapse 2.0 also acts as a cloud backup for mouse settings. Take the mouse to another machine, log in to the software with your account, and presto!, your settings appear. While we doubt the average gamer will gain a great deal of use from this feature, it works instantly and seamlessly.
The new Razer Naga is a leap forward for one of the best gaming mice available. Though none of the improvements are revolutionary, they undeniably enhance the mouse, and we can’t find any new downsides to offset them. The 2014 model is more comfortable, more precise, and easier to use than its already excellent predecessor.
The Logitech G600 is the only competitor that can go toe-to-toe, but Logitech’s alternative is less attractive, not as comfortable, and comes with less intuitive software. The 2014 Naga’s only notable disadvantage on paper is an MSRP of $80 (ten dollars more than the Logitech), but the price gap will likely be trivial once online retailers slap on their typical discount.
Make no mistake; this is a mouse for MMOs, and if you don’t play them more often than not, you shouldn’t buy the Naga. If that’s your genre a choice, however, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better mouse.
- Solid design and build quality
- Very precise, high-resolution sensor
- Great mouse wheel
- Tons of buttons
- Useful control software with cloud functionality
- Slightly more expensive than the competition
- No dedicated sensitivity adjustment or weight adjustment
- Unique button arrangement takes time to learn