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The Microsoft Habu: Mouse Review

Today, Carolyn Koh takes a look at The Microsoft Habu, a mouse that came out of a collaboration between Microsoft and Razer.

The Microsoft Habu
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The Microsoft Habu is a Razer / Microsoft collaboration. The technology of Razer melded into the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer form factor. The resulting offspring, the Habu (a particularly venomous snake found in Japan & other Southeast Asian countries) - a lightning fast mouse with Razer's signature "fanged" head and the Microsoft IE 3.0 mouse's round back and plump butt.

Out of the Box

The Microsoft Habu arrived with a sheet of instructions and a software CD. The gold-plated jack was covered with a green sticker warning you that proprietary software was necessary run the mouse and to install the software on the CD before using the mouse. The Quick Start Guide then of course instructed the user to... Ha-ha... 1. Plug the mouse in, and 2. Install the software.

The fact is that you probably should install the software first. Although I was fool enough to ignore the warning and did not have any issues, some users warn that you're going to need to be a rocket scientist to discover how to install the Habu driver if you did not install the software first before installing the mouse. Perhaps it's because I ended up uninstalling and reinstalling the software.

Take a look at the CD. If yours is version 1, surf onto the Razer support site at http://www.razersupport.com and download the latest Habu software and firmware. If you install the older version, you'll just double your installation time as you find yourself uninstalling the original software and installing the new version as the software prompts you to seek updated software, and the new version prompts you to uninstall whatever older version you've already installed!

Installing the software & firmware will provide you with some pre-programmed features and I highly recommend it. The mouse starts out with the darned slowest speeds and sensitivity as a default and the software makes programming the mouse much easier.

Physical Features

Size wise - I've compared it to the Logitech G5, a regular Logitech mouse and the Razer Diamondback - the Habu doesn't look much larger, however, the high profile hump makes it a larger mouse that is designed to be moved with the entire hand, unlike the Razer Diamondback - admittedly a high-sens mouse - a feather-weight which is designed to be moved with the fingers.

Designed for the right hand, the Habu has a pleasant smooth textured feel and large rubber coated buttons which provide good friction-contact. Sweaty or cheeto-oil laden hands won't slip off this mouse easily.

The mouse measures 5.08" with a height of 1.7" - the surface length measures 6" from the base, over the scroll button to the edge. The high-profile hump and hence, more surface real estate makes it a pretty large mouse and for my small hands (6.5" from base of palm to tip of middle finger) - uncomfortable. The buttons take up almost half the mouse and that was a good thing as I tried getting used to using it.

The Habu has a total of seven programmable buttons - the right and left buttons, the wheel, two buttons in the wheel well and two thumb buttons. In what I feel is a great feature to make the mouse more ergonomically compatible for users, Microsoft provides an interchangeable panel for the thumb buttons. Depress a button on the underside of the mouse and the panel pops out. I switched that panel out almost every day as I strove for comfort in using a much larger mouse than I am accustomed to.

Also on the feature-plus arena, a spare set of Teflon pads are included in the Quick Start Guide - do not throw that out. Again a nice extra, even if I don't think I'll ever use it.

Why Choose The Habu?

The Habu has an impressive list of features plus bling, starting off with the most important to a gamer:

Sensitivity - The default is 800 DPI but is adjustable from 400, 800, 1600 to 2000 DPI either via the control panel or on-the-fly by selecting a mouse button that activates this feature when pressed down continuously. While the button is held down, the sensitivity is adjusted by moving the scroll wheel. If enabled, an on-screen bar will show the selection as it is being made. If the Razer software is installed, the selection is pre-programmed into the two buttons in front of the scroll wheel. The front steps it up, the back steps it down. The scroll wheel is stepped and that allows for better control of things like the on-the-fly sensitivity as well as scrolling of web pages.

High-speed motion detection, 16 bit Data Path and 1000 Hz Ultrapolling - the Habu has a 16 bit data path for increased bandwidth with high-sensitivity mouse activity. Increased data path improves response time and the Habu is designed to allow for 20-G acceleration and more than 7,080 frames of measurement per second. What this means is that the Habu is fast, accurate and has the bandwith to transfer that data to your PC very quickly.

32KB onboard memory - Razer's "Synapse" cache of 32KB of onboard memory, is also present on the Habu and that allows the user to save up to five customized profiles for specific games directly on the mouse. That means that you can take your mouse and software profiles with you from PC to PC. Even if you have a hard drive crash, you won't lose your customized mouse profiles.

Always On - this is a particularly nice feature for the MMORPG gamer as the laser engine is always on, no lag while waiting for the mouse to wake up and catch up after a spell of inactivity if you're resting up after a fight or waiting while a raid forms up.

Wired - the Habu is wired. Make no mistake about it. This mouse is a gaming mouse. Until wireless technology can match the speed of wired, the gaming mouse of choice will always be wired.

Bling - What's a nifty gaming gadget without the bling? The Habu has a gold plated USB port and side pipes and a wheel that glows a pleasant blue. Gold does not corrode like copper or steel, and the blue glow is just pretty darned cool, and adjustable through the software control panel.

Razer Configurator

The Razer control panel is a doddle to use, making the programming of the Habu a piece of cake. Each button has a drop-down menu to select its function and advanced functions allow you set a single key - again with drop down menus available for Basic commands such as Cut, Copy, Print & Save, etc. Additional commands such as Open Explorer and Close Windows, and Media Functions such as Play/Pause and Volume control - or set a Macro.

The control panel further allows for setting the universal scroll speed and mouse click speed as well as set the X & Y axis sensitivity, pointer speed and acceleration. The light on the glow-pipe around the mouse and the scroll wheel are controlled separately, and as mentioned in the features, there are five profiles that can be saved onto the mouse itself.

A tray icon is installed but the menu allows it to be disabled. No need to hunt around for that. A rather nice feature for those of us wanting to reserve processing power for the game itself and begrudge even the littlest bit taken up by tray icons.

Reviewer's Opinion

The Habu is a low-sens mouse. In comparison to the Diamondback, it requires your entire hand to move (unless you have very large hands), although with the high sensitivity, a little movement goes a long way. All the buttons have a long click and require some definite pressure. Something that I actually preferred as I thought of the number of times I accidentally clicked the buttons of my Diamondback when I picked it up or just put my fingers on them.

I've tested the mouse on a cheap cloth pad, the slick bare wood of my desk, a textured as well as a smooth "precision" mouse pad. The large Teflon feet slid very well over every single surface and as MMORPGs are in essence, low-sens games, it performed just as well on each surface although I preferred the performance on the smooth plastic pads over the textured pads (including cloth). In fact it flew on the surface of my desk.

Likes - The on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment. I enjoy having the high-sens when fighting, in turning my characters, changing my camera views, and being able to switch it easily to low-sens for GUI heavy functions such as tradeskills. I absolutely love the 2000DPI setting as I like my mice to fly and yet stop on a dime.

The "Always On" feature is great for MMORPG applications and I particularly like the idea of the changeable thumb button plates and the convenience of the on-board mouse profiles for different games as well.

Dislikes - Unfortunately for me, the shape and size of the mouse just does not work. I've never liked the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer because of its size, and I cannot wrap my hand around the Habu either. If not for this, this review would be all "pros."

The bottom line - As your input gadget, you need to be comfortable with your mouse. Whether you like the feel of a mouse is a very individual thing. For features alone, I would definitely recommend the Habu, and it is easily recognized as one of the top gaming mice on the market at this time.

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.