With the rise of competitive computer gaming and gamers who are willing and able to spend more on specialized gaming gear has come innovative hardware designed to make gaming more accessible and more accurate. Gamers demand top-notch comfort and precision, and are willing to pay for it. Luckily for us, several companies have stepped up to the plate in the last four years (starting with the original Razer Naga) and have designed products specifically to withstand the heavy-duty, sweaty-palmed use of the MMO gamer.
The three mice I'm discussing today are the Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse, the Steelseries World of Warcraft MMO Legendary Edition, and the Razer Naga 2014. All three mice easily make the cut as far as slick, sophisticated pieces of technology go. They all have adjustable sensitivity, customizable color options, programmable buttons with multiple profiles, varying degrees of game specific integration and user-generated macros. They are relatively the same price; expensive for a computer input device but with features that make them worth it to gamers who spend hours a day using them. But what makes one distinct from the others?
First, in terms of basic build quality all three devices are very high end. It’s clear that the best material and mechanical components go into making these mice, and that they are built to withstand a lot of use. That being said, there are enough differences between the three that plusses and minuses for each surface through use.
One of the first considerations when purchasing a device like this is aesthetic: how will this mouse look on my desktop? The answers fit neatly on a scale from low profile to slick and sporty all the way up to the loud and proud gamer.
The Logitech G600, while a little on the large side, is the most subtle and subdued of the three. Apart from the array of buttons on the side, it doesn't sport any of the lighting around the scroll wheel or logo that screams "gaming rig!" to casual observers. That suits the more casual, low profile business-by-day gamer-by-night attitude of this mouse.
The Razer Naga, on the other hand is as inconspicuous as a Lamborghini. The number buttons on the side, the click wheel and the Razer logo on the back of the mouse all pulsate in a customizable array of colors. The mouse itself has a swept-forward design with what look like air vents on the front of the mouse, indicating a device that was designed for performance. It leaves no question about its status as a gaming mouse.
In the third instance, the Steelseries MMO mouse uses licensed logos and artwork from World of Warcraft and is not ashamed to let its gamer flag fly. With the popularity of gaming rig glamor shots, a lightning streaked mouse like this could fit in nicely with a WoW themed desktop background and mousepad. With the hard shiny shell of this mouse, the glossy paint job has a little bit of a 1970's airbrushed van mural vibe, but that could be just what your gaming setup needs to tie the whole thing together.
Once the mouse has been selected and removed from the box, the next concern is, “How does it feel in the hand?” Each manufacturer has brought their own sensibilities into play. Each of our three mice has characteristics that make them better or worse for certain sets of tastes and circumstances.
The first words that came to me when I rested my palm on the G600 were “A couch for the hand.” The mouse is broad and high off the surface with a spacious area for the ring finger. The plastic has a textured, grippy feel but might irritate your hand until it gets broken in a bit. The width of the mouse is remarkable; it felt like I was just resting my open hand over the whole thing in a very relaxed position. This seems like it would be really nice for long play sessions, but because of the broadness I think people with smaller hands or players who control their mouse with the claw grip style of play might find this mouse less useful.
The Naga also has the textured, almost rubberized surface that provides enough friction to keep the mouse from slipping. Again, it might take some time to break in the surface a bit. The Naga sits a bit smaller in the hand than the G600, and this model of the Naga uses mechanical switches for the thumb buttons which are very responsive. As mentioned in the full review of this mouse, sometimes that responsiveness can make the Naga tricky to use for non-gaming purposes owing to accidental key presses.
The Steelseries Legendary has a broad base to stabilize the mouse, but the grippable surface is smaller, making this mouse a good one for players with smaller hands. The surface is completely different than the other two mice; Steelseries has chosen a hard plastic surface that is completely smooth to the touch. There is some concern that the surface could become slippery at a crucial moment. In practice, though, I found the hard plastic did a good job of rejecting the heat from my palm and keeping my hand cooler during play.
All the programmability and flexibility in the world isn't going to be worth a damn if there isn't a pleasant and clear way to get everything set up. This is where the manufacturer's software interface comes in. Each mouse has its own software package that lets you designate different functions for the buttons.
The Logitech software is fairly clear, and includes a nice feature where it will scan your system for games and create a profile with button options for specific games. Even within each profile, there are three different configurations that can be saved each with its own lighting scheme making it easy to switch and recognize which profile is in use during heated play.
The Razer software's most distinguishing feature is the ability to save settings to Razer's cloud service so that the settings will be available on different computers or quick to reinstall if you ever have to erase your hard drive. They've also added a heads up display overlay that can be called up while in game which can be used to switch profiles and adjust settings like the DPI.
The Steelseries software carries the same WoW branding as the mouse itself. The integration with the game is impressive. When the "enable in-game mode" check box is active and the "detect WoW gaming mouse" option is active in WoW, the key binding window in the game will read button presses on the mouse as keys and will allow you to assign any in-game command, including macros, to any of the buttons on the mouse. This is a really nice, thoughtful feature and is one of the big advantages of Steelseries having such a close relationship with Blizzard on this device. The downside of this, however, is that when the in-game mode is enabled the button assignments in the software become locked making the mouse less useful for other games. I was able to find profiles for a variety of games on the Steelseries website, and I downloaded and tested the ones for SWTOR and Rift. They worked nicely, but users of this mouse are still going to have to choose whether they want the tight in-game integration with World of Warcraft or the flexibility of programming the mouse on a game-by-game basis. It is possible to toggle the in-game mode switch in between games, but I found this to be finicky and the software seemed to lose integration with WoW if the switch was flipped too many times.
After spending some time with each mouse playing a variety of games, I found myself surprised by the remarkable differences between them. Cosmetically and theoretically, they seem like really similar devices. However, each manufacturer brought enough personality and innovation to the table to make each mouse appealing to slightly different players. If you are a weekend warrior who likes to keep his gaming on the down low during business hours (and has meaty paws that like to sprawl out while gaming), the Logitech G600 might be a good fit. If you are a high performance gamer that loves tweaking her gaming rig like a high end sports car and demands absolute precision and responsiveness, the Razer Naga 2014 might be your speed. For the World of Warcraft fanatic whose walls and desktop background serve as an altar to all things WoW, but who occasionally dabbles in other MMOs, give the Steelseries WoW Legendary Edition a try.
What gaming peripherals do you find essential while playing your favorite MMO? A clicky keyboard? A cool gaming keypad with only the most essential keys? A favorite touch screen app for tracking crafting and marketplace sales? Let us know in the comments below.