A Look at the Razer SWTOR peripherals: Mousepad, Mouse and Headset
Hey everyone, Razer is a pretty common household name among MMO players. The Razer Naga is probably one of the most popular MMO mouse out there and highly praised for its functionality. The SWTOR line of Razer peripherals (mousepad, headphones, mouse, and keyboard) was launched in early Dec of 2011 to coincide with the launch of SWTOR and had been showcased in recent SWTOR related gatherings such as PaxEast 2012. As a SWTOR fan, I was very eager to see what the hype was all about and contacted Razer who kindly provided me with the mouse, mousepad and headphones to take a spin. I wrote this little review here in the hopes that it will help those still on the fence about purchasing these SWTOR themed peripherals or those who are shopping gifts for a SWTOR fan.
- Pros: Very sturdy construction, performs nicely and looks great.
- Cons: It is a bit expensive due to the SWTOR branding
Lets talk about the mousepad first as it is probably the least complex out of the three. The mousepad is priced at $49.99 at the Razer store. It comes with a heavy metal base padded by thousands of tiny rubber feet at the bottom and smooth white hard plastic pad at the top which you can flip to display faction specific icons (this also means that if you somehow totally ruined one surface, you can just flip to the other surface). There is a very large hole at the base that allow you to easily tap out the surface to swap to the other side.
The pad itself is about 220 mm x 315 mm in size. This number probably doesn’t mean much so here is a picture with my highlighter and my Collectors Edition security key thingie to give you some perspective in size. Its roughly the length of 2 highlighters, which is plenty of space to move around and not totally clutter up your table!
The actual hard white plastic pad itself is smooth and non glossy. There are two fancy terms to describe the surface – Grip and Glide. Grip is how much resistance the mouse gets while sliding across the surface and glide is how essentially the opposite – how far it can slide before it stops. This is my first time using a hard mouse pad (previously used a cloth mousemat and before that the table surface) so I don’t have anything to really compare it to. However, I will say that the mouse pad surface has more glide than grip compared to a cloth mousepad or the table surface. This allow you to move the mouse cursor fairly quickly in game but without losing any precision.
The surface is also fairly scratch resistant, which is great if you have pets (especially cats) that like to test out their claws on your desk. This also means that the surface will stand a fair bit of wear and tear before you have to flip it to the other side (it still looks brand new after 3 weeks of usage). If you have used a Razer Vespula mousepad before, you will be sad to know that these two surfaces on the SWTOR mousepad are identical and do not offer a rough/smooth side like the Vespula.
The other important thing about mousepad surfaces is their treatment of the little rubber feet under your mouse. After about 3 weeks of heavy usage (avg 12 hrs per day/7 days a week), there are a couple of scratch marks on the mouse feet but no serious wear & tear otherwise.
Unlike the Vespula, the SWTOR mousepad does not come with a soft-gel filled wrist rest. Instead, there is a little downward slope where your wrist would be to help guide your wrist. I had been a victim of wrist pain before after extended gaming sessions so I was kind of hesitant about the lack of a gel wrist rest. However, after using it for about 3 weeks now my wrists feel quite fine, even after 3-4 hrs of nonstop raiding.
Under the removable/switchable white surface is the heavy black metal base. This base itself weighs just a little under a pound (about 1/2 of the weight of your average textbook)but it is extremely durable. You can drop it on the fleet, step on it, run over it with your chair and it will not break or bend. The other side of the base houses the rubber feet you seen in the pictures above. It does a wonderful job of holding the pad in place. Unless you are intentionally trying to move it, normal mouse/wrist/hand movements will not bulge it even an inch.
All in all, it is very nice little pad of solid construction. Not only does it look aesthetically pleasing, it also performs great. If you are looking for a SWTOR themed item to gift or for your own use without breaking your wallet, this would be a good option. You do pay a bit extra for the SWTOR branding and the heavy metal base but I think it is well worth it.
- Pros: It’s a Naga (12 side buttons), both wired/wireless modes, well constructed, heavy.
- Cons: The side buttons takes abit to get used to, had some issues with the mouse in wireless mode, interchangeable lighting only affects the scrollwheel.
A bit of introduction..
The Razer Naga mouse is probably one of the most recommended mouse in the MMO market. A lot of MMOs players swear by it but I was rather skeptical about the hype. I owned a couple of gaming related peripherals in the past, they were alright products by themselves but I didn’t find the extra feature they promised to be that great. Take the G15 keyboard from Logitech for example, the programmable G buttons were all the hype with the keyboard but turned out to be totally useless for me. They were hard to reach and difficult to use during a hectic boss fight. Since they are to the left of your WSAD keys, you actually have to move your hand off the movement keys to use them, which decreases their functionality.
After using the mouse for about 3 weeks, I have to say I am quite impressed. There is a common saying on the internet that once you own a naga, you can never go back. I found that saying to be quite true. It does take about a week or so to get adjust to the extra side buttons but they will greatly enhance your game experience. This is especially the case in a game like SWTOR where you are just swarmed with abilities and struggle to find easy to access keybinds for all of them.
The Importance of the 12 side buttons (skip if you have tried a Naga before)
If you have never owned a Naga before, you might be wondering what is the big hype about them. How can 12 buttons on the side of a mouse change my gameplay experience?
When you use a typical mouse, your index and middle finger will do most of work, click on the left and right buttons that all standard mice have. This leaves your thumb on the left side of the mouse (if you are right-handed) to grip onto the mouse. Gaming mice in the past couple years have captured the importance of the thumb and gradually started adding buttons that are specifically meant to be clicked on by the thumb. A fairly simple gaming mouse would have two buttons on the left side of the mouse, which are used as forward and back buttons when not gaming. The Naga mouse basically went all out and assigned 12 buttons to the thumb.
A valid concern one would have is how much of those 12 buttons are easily reachable and if there is a chance to mislick these buttons. In the first week of usage, I could only get used to the first 6 buttons and had some issues separating the buttons on the 2nd row from the buttons on the 3rd. 4th row was a bit hard to reach and felt awkward. However, after 3 weeks of using it, I have to say I got used to all 12 buttons. I still have trouble occasionally separating say button 4 from button 7 in the heat of battle but I reckon that will improve with time. 4th row is still a bit hard to reach since I have to retract my thumb a bit to reach the buttons but I learned to assign abilities that I don’t use super often to these buttons.
I have fairly small hands so I can only reach buttons 1-5 on my keyboard easily. This means that I can’t really assign abilities I use often to buttons like 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, –, and +. My options are either clicking on these abilities with the mouse cursor or rebind them to other keys. Clicking, as I learned early on in my SWTOR experience, is a big no no, especially in PvP. You simply cannot activate these abilities quick enough if you are a “clicker”. You have to move your mouse cursor to the ability icon, click it, and then move away. No matter how fast you can move your mouse and click, you simply cannot match the speed of someone who use keybinds.
Keybinds might be faster but it also has its flaws. SWTOR assigns a lot of its UI commands to commonly used keys so you are limited to a small arsenal of free keys for keybinding. Since a lot of those keys are in hard to reach places on the keyboard and I didn’t feel like rebinding all of the default SWTOR keybinds, I had to use modifier keys like Shift/Ctrl. An example would be Shift + 4 for my knockback (Overload). Pressing on two places on the keyboard at the same time is slower than pressing on one place and if you have small hands some combinations can be a bit stretching. More importantly, when you use these keybind combinations, you have to move your fingers off the WSAD keys, which basically stops your character’s movement.
Those 12 side buttons on the SWTOR mouse solves this issue. You can bind a lot of your commonly used abilities (and especially instant-casts) to those 12 buttons and use them without hindering your character’s movement. For example, I rebound the inquisitor Shock ability to the 2 button on the SWTOR mouse. Now I can use this instant-cast ability while moving. I no longer need to take my left hand off the W key, my right hand thumb will take care of it.
As a healer in MMO that loves to DPS whenever I get a chance, this means that I can assign all my heals to the 1-5 buttons on my keyboard and a lot of my DPS abilities to the Razer buttons. This allows me to help with the enrage timer on boss fights but at the same time have my left hand just hovering above the heal buttons in case things get out of hand.
Bottom Line: The 12 buttons are more than just extra buttons to bind abilities: they are 12 extra buttons that your right hand can utilize in conjunction with your left hand.
The SWTOR mouse is priced at $139.99 USD at the Razer Store. It has the same functionalities as a Naga Epic but has a totally different skin, shape and buttons (and only $10 more). This mouse is not ambidextrous, it is designed for right hand users only (a left handed Naga is coming out next year).
Lets take a look at the the overall package first.
Once you take it out of the box, here are the contents. Inside the box are the mouse itself, rechargeable battery, detachable cord, and some extra goodies not shown such as the Razer/SWTOR stickers, and the little black plate with faction specific icons.
Here is a closeup of the mouse itself. It looks very droid like, sort of reminds me of the architecture at the Imperial/Republic fleet.
The sidebuttons, the faction specific emblem and the scrollwheel lights up once you plugged it in. Here you can see the mouse in its wireless mode sitting on top of the charging dock. Unfortunately, you can only change the color of the scrollwheel, the side buttons and the emblems have the default yellow color that cannot be changed. Also, compared to the previous picture, you can see that I have switched the faction emblem plate from Republic to Empire.
In the wireless mode, you simply attach the USB cord to the charging dock and flip a switch at the buttom of the mouse to the wireless setting. Then you must initiate the pairing process by pressing another button on the bottom of the mouse and a button at the charging dock simultaneously. The battery inside mouse allow you to use about 12 hrs continuously in the wireless mode before you need to recharge. To recharge, you just need to flip the button on the mouse to the wired mode and place it on the dock (or detach the USB cable from the charging dock and attach it to the mouse. This will place the mouse in the wired mode and recharge the battery automatically) . Both the dock and the mouse have magnets at their attachment points so they simply snap together flawlessly.
When you rest your hand on the mouse, your palm will rest on top of the mouse curvature and your thumb will rest on top of the side buttons. Initially, this is going to feel a bit weird for your thumb, especially if it is used to the smooth curvature offered by other mice.
The side buttons are called thumbgrids. The buttons on the SWTOR mouse are shaped differently from the Razer Naga (wired) and the Naga Epic (both wired & wiredless). The buttons are hexgonal in shape, with a pointy edge protruding from either side. This helps to separate the buttons that are placed side by side. In contrast, the Naga/Epic mouse have rectangle buttons (image to the right)
If you look at the arrow that is pointing to the button 6, you can see there is also a protruding edge on buttons 4. 5. 6 and 10, 11, 12. These edges help you to distinguish between that row of buttons and the rows above/under it.
I had no issues using the 1-6 buttons right out of the box. Buttons 7-9 took an extra day or 2 as I had some trouble initially distinguishing it from 4-6. 10-12 took about a week to get adjusted as I had to move my thumb inward a bit to reach it. If you have really big hands, you might have some issues reaching the last row.
Razer also provide you with trainers, these are essentially thick gel pads that you can stick onto the buttons to help orient your thumb. They are not meant to be placed on every button, only the buttons that will help your thumb locate its position in the grid (i.e. button 5 is a good place). I didn’t really had a need for the trainers but the option is there if you find yourself struggle a bit at first.
The other side of the mouse is a removable side panel that snaps in to cover the rechargeable battery inside. The side panel is rather flat, probably designed to accommodate a variety of grips/hand sizes.
Top of the mouse houses the scrollwheel and the forward/backward buttons. The scrollwheel is positioned rather low compared to other mice and doesn’t bend left/right. You can change its colors via the Razer Synapse software (you get a quite variety of colors, including my favourite, hot pink!). If you like it fancy, the software can also cycle through colors in the spectrum. Unfortunately, due to the low positioning of the scrollwheel, your fingers will block your view of the scrollwheel the majority of the time (you shouldn’t be looking at your mouse anyways!).
To give you an overall idea of the size of the mouse, here is a comparison picture with two other mouse that I own. To the right of the SWTOR mouse is a Logitech G5, to the left of it a Dell bluetooth wireless mouse for laptops. As you can see, the mouse is slightly smaller than the G5 but not by much.
The mouse is quite heavy as well, which I really like. It weighs about the same as my G5 with all the weight cartridges put in! Despite the weight, it glides effortlessly on my mousepad that you hardly notices it.
The Technical mumble-jumble
If you know all about DPI, polling rates and laser sensors, you will be happy to know that this mouse can go up to a maxium of 5600 DPI and 1000 polling rate with its 3.5 G laser sensor (both DPI and polling rate can be adjusted on the fly with the Synapse software covered below).
DPI is basically how far the mouse cursor moves in game when you move the mouse a certain distance. Higher DPI translates to a bigger movement of the in-game cursor (i.e. mouse is more sensitive to your hand movements). The default DPI, which works great for me is 1800 DPI.
Polling rate is essentially how smooth the mouse cursor moves in game (higher polling rate means the mouse reports more movements to the computer per second). The default is 500 and works fine but it can go up to 1000 if that is something you desire.
Oh did I mention that the mouse comes with 17 buttons? So there are the 12 buttons on the side, the left and right click, the scrollwheel click, and the forward/back buttons.
As mentioned previously, it is fairly easy to switch between the wired/wireless modes, you just have to attach the USB cable to either the mouse (wired mode) or the charging dock (wireless mode) and flick some buttons on the mouse.
Wireless mode worked for me great the majority of the time. I tested out playing in both the wired/wireless mode and didn’t notice any change in performance. Surprisingly, out of the game, I had some issues with the wireless mode. The mouse cursor would once in a while freeze on the screen for a second or two and one time the cursor just refused to respond until I put it back to the wired mode.
I suspect the occasional hiccup with the wireless mode is probably due to the large amount of electronic devices (especially cellphones) at my house that caused some occasional interference with the wireless mode.
The battery in wireless mode lasts about 12 hrs of continuous usage (i.e. a 3-4 hr raiding session put my battery from 100% to 70%, so I extrapolated from that).
Razer Synapse Software
The SWTOR mouse comes with its own version of the Synapse 2.0 Software. Set up was pretty simple but it does requires internet connection to login and make a profile. The Synapse software worked for me pretty well, my only annoyance with it was that I can’t find a way to turn off automatic updates. There were two occasions in the weeks after I got the mouse that the Razer software decided to update itself during the middle of my gaming session. It basically tabbed me out of the game and started downloading/installing updates. I wasn’t doing anything important at the time so it didn’t really matter but I would be a bit upset if it did that while I was raiding in SWTOR.
Inside the Razer software you will see four tabs – Customize, Performance, Lighting and Power for the mouse and 1 giant tab for macros.
Customize is essentially where you can go and create individual profiles for specific games, each with their own set of keybinds. By default, pressing 1-12 buttons corresponds to the 1 to = buttons on your keyboard. There is also a switch at the bottom of the keyboard where you can switch to the keys on your Num pad instead. Every button except the left click can be assigned to a variety of keyboard combinations, mouse functions, profile switching, and macros.
Switching profiles is fairly easy. You can even link programs (games) to a particular profile. If you have multiple profiles and forgot to activate the correct one when you start a game, you can simply tab out and change the profile without needing to restart the game.
Performance is where you can fine tune the DPI of your mouse, you can go from a min DPI of 100 to a max of 5600. I have mine at the default 1800 and it works fine. There you can also set up other technical stuff like acceleration and poling rate (I have no idea what they do, the default settings just work fine).
Lighting tab is where you can adjust the lighting of the scrollwheel. Here you can select from a small preset of colors or select the option SpectrumCycling where the color of the scrollwheel cycles through many colors.
Power tab is mostly for the wireless mode. Here you can change the LED brightness to converse batteries, adjust when the mouse goes to sleep mode after a certain period of inactivity, and when the warning lights come on for low battery.
Making macros is pretty easy and quite a familiar process if you owned a gaming keyboard before. Essentially you press record and press a bunch of keystrokes you want to record. You can either record the delay that occurs between your keystrokes or change it to a fixed value (or completely removes it). After you are done with the macros, you can assign it to one of the mouse buttons.
One of the things that is so great about SWTOR patch 1.2 is the UI customization, which complements the SWTOR mouse quite well. You can setup one of your hotbars to mimic the mouse thumbgrid. This speeds up the learning curve for the mouse and give you nice visual in-game representation of your thumbgrid which helps if you havn’t played the game for a while.
As you can see in the picture, I placed my that hotbar directly in between the two targeting bars, smack middle on my screen. Each row corresponds to the row of buttons on my SWTOR mouse. This allow me to easily track the cooldown on these abilities and also have a very clear visual representation of the buttons & their associated abilities on my mouse.
If you have played a sorcerer before, you might have noticed that for the last row of buttons, I put in some of the abilities that I don’t use too often/situational (the empty slot corresponds to my auto-run toggle button).
Purchasing the SWTOR mouse will also grant you an unique in-game color crystal. This crystal is different from the one you get via the Rakghoul event and can be upgraded to the +41 endurance/crit/power versions via the vendors on Dormund Kaas/Coruscant.
Here is an image showing you the differences between the two, the more fluorescent green is the Razer crystal.
If you never owned a Razer Naga/Epic mouse before, you should definitely give this type of mouse a try as it can drastically change your gameplay experience. If you don’t like the SWTOR branding for some reason, you can always give the wired Naga or the wired/wireless Naga epic a whirl. The price is a little bit steep for the SWTOR mouse but I think it is a worthy investment if you are a SWTOR fan looking to play a lot of MMOs for the next couple years.
- Pros: The sound quality is great and its not too heavy. Fairly comfortable for extended usage. The sound/mic volume/mute buttons are located in a convenient place for easy access. Extremely thick wires.
- Cons: Not a fault of the product but a lot of headsets these days have mic on the left side. This in combination with the really thick wires means that it will rub a lot on your chest, which can get uncomfortable. The customizable lighting is only limited to one tiny strip on either side of the headset. The headset is kind of tight the first few days/weeks.
Gaming headsets are pretty standard these days for MMO players. If you are looking to do any type of raiding, you are typically asked to use some kind of voice program like ventrilo/mumble to communicate. A vast majority of the good gaming headsets are those with big headbands and big ear cups that completely cover your ear.
I might be in the minority here as I don’t using headsets all that much. I don’t like the feeling of something over my head and in warm temperatures they can get a bit uncomfortable (for this reason I use earbuds while playing). Regardless of my personal preferences, lets take a look at the Razer SWTOR headset.
This headset is priced at $129.99, which isn’t too bad of a price for a gaming headset with 7.1 surround sound. Here is the packaging and the headset itself.
Here is a closer look at the headset, with some of the features pointed out.
1 & 2: Volume controls for both the mic and headphones are located where the back of your ear would be. This allow you to quickly adjust your sound settings and/or mute sounds/microphone input quickly without having to fiddle around with the sound settings in-game. The mic controls are located on the back of your left ear and the controls for the sounds are on the back of your right ear.
3 & 5: The little lighting strip is the only place where you can change the colors. The strip also points downwards when you wear it, which further obscure the lighting. Unfortunately, the faction emblem plates have the default yellow coloring that cannot be changed. It would have been super awesome if the faction specific plates actually glow red for Empire and blue for Republic.
4: The headband is plastic with foam under it to receive your head. The plastic is extremely thick and rigid so the chances of it breaking from abuse is fairly slim.
6. One of my worst experiences with headset failure are either the wire attachment gets bent too much or the wire itself breaks. That should never be an issue with the way this headset is constructed. The wire is extremely thick, it is so thick that I swear you can hang someone with it and it still won’t break (don’t try it at home!). Due to its thickness, it is actually very rigid and still retain some of the curves from the packaging. This might not be an issue for most of the male gamers out there (unless you have really large chest) but for a female gamer like myself, the rigid wires tend to rubon my chest which can get a bit uncomfortable when you move around wearing the headset (after a while the wires loosen up a bit and you kind of get used to it).
The most important part of the headset from a comfort standpoint is the cushioning between the headset and the sides of your head. I am happy to say that the cushion is fairly thick and comfortable. It is kind of squishy but at the same time it is kind of bouncy so the cushion doesn’t go all flat when you press it against the side of your head. The cushion is bigger than your ear and is hexgonal in shape so it cups your ear and rest on your head. There is quite abit of space inside the cups so there is some breathing room for your ear as well. The cups also swirl around to fit your specific head shape.
Due to the rigidity of the headband, it is going to be pretty tight for the first few days, especially on large heads. This will get better with time as the plastic loosens up a bit. You get feel a bit uncomfortable in the first few days/weeks of using it but it should loosen up with time.
The mic has a rotating base so you can rotate it to point up in the air when you are not using it. Also, the mic is designed to be quite far away from your mouth to be as un-obstructive as possible. This means that you can grab a bite or sip a drink without worrying about the mic head getting in the way. The mic attachment itself is also quite bendy, which means that if you accidently smack the mic head with your hand, you don’t have to worry about breaking the attachment arm if it was rigid.
The headset is surprisingly light for its appearance. It weights a bit under a pound (a bit heavier than the mouse it self it feels). Lightweight headsets are always good as then you avoid of the feeling of getting your head crushed after longs hours of gameplay.
Sound and Mic quality
The sound quality is pretty amazing. If you have never used a surround sound headphones before, you will be in for a treat. With a surround sound headset, the sounds are positional, so if someone is casting something behind you, you can tell. The sound are also a bit loud, which is a good thing as you can just turn down the volume. I am not an audiophile and I owned mostly crappy earbuds so unfortunately I can’t give you a more precise review than just sounds good!
Mic quality is also pretty clear, there are no statics or echos. I called a couple of my friends on skype with the headset and they all said the sound is fairly clear.
Razer Synapse software
Much like the SWTOR mouse, the headset also uses the same synapse software. There are three tabs: volume, equalizer, and lighting.
Under Volume, you can adjust the volume, mute, cancel surround sound, select mic boost if you have a low voice and turn on/off echo cancellation. I don’t use this tab much I simply use the volume/mute buttons at the back of the headset.
There is the equalizer tab if you are extremely picky about your sound and want to manually tweak everything.
Under Lighting, you can tweak the color of the light strip. I think the in-game lighting effects is suppose to change color based on your actions in game but I don’t think if Bioware has released a patch to accommodate that yet.
If you are looking for a surround sound gaming headset to play SWTOR (or any other MMOs/games) with, this is a pretty good option. The design is rather unique and it is not too heavy. It might be a bit tight initially for those with big heads but it should get better with time.