Category Archives: Controls

Razer Ouroboros Review

Mice are adapted to suit different purposes. The Naga boasts a huge number of programmable buttons, the Rat is incredibly customisable, but what happens when you just want something that is good at pointing and clicking? Enter the Ouroboros.

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The Ouroboros is a slightly customisable wireless gaming mouse that combines Razer’s trademark precision and accuracy with ergonomics and aesthetics. It’s certainly a good looking piece of kit and Razer knows it, selling it in a clear plastic cube on its charging stand. With sheek black curves and bold straight lines the Ouroboros is quite the looker, but it has been designed with the shape of your hand in mind first so it’s effortlessly comfortable no matter which grip you use. There are optional little sections on the side and parts of the mouse can be extended so even if you have giant hands you can still make it the way you want.

The sensor is ridiculously precise, 8200dpi to be exact, but that’s not really a number that means anything. Basically it’s incredibly sensitive and if you want to ramp up the sensitivity you can and you’ll be flying all over the screen. There’s a trigger clutch button on the side which is a feature we’ve seen on a couple of mice lately. It lets you dramatically reduce your sensitivity while it’s held, allowing you to make precision shots in games but freeing it up for broad movements afterwards. It’s a really nice feature and if you get in the bait of using it long distance shooting in FPS games becomes much easier.

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The mouse is wireless and that’s where the only problems with it lie. There’s no input lag that we could detect which is excellent, but despite the advertised 12h battery life, we couldn’t get it to hold a charge for more than about three hours of use. You can plug in a cable and use it wired (the cable is supplied) but having a wireless mouse that requires charging repeatedly in one long gaming session is very disappointing and we ended up quickly resorting to leaving it plugged in all the time. This might just be because this is a review model and people have been abusing it somehow, but it definitely seems like a significant issue.

Overall the Ouroboros would be easy to recommend if it was down to form factor, precision and features. However, with the incredibly hefty £129.99 price tag and the dodgy battery life it suddenly becomes a lot less attractive. If money is no object and you need a wireless mouse, then this is a great choice. Just be aware that there are plenty of cheaper wired mice that are just as good.

Verdict 7

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Razer Black Widow Ultimate Stealth Review

The Black Widow Ultimate Stealth is in many ways the same as the Black Widow Ultimate. Due to that this will be a shorter review and you should check out the Black Widow Ultimate Review if you want to read about the excellent macro buttons, USB passthrough and illuminated keys as that is all the same across both models.

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We love mechanical keyboards to the point where normal ones feel gross to us now. It’s hard to pin down what is so satisfying about them, perhaps it’s the extra travel distance, the way it bounces back or the clack it makes as you hit your fingers down. Unfortunately that clack also has a pretty severe downside, it’s incredibly noisy. When we’re typing articles it sounds like a family of woodpeckers and if you want to be doing any gaming at night in a shared house you’re going to make  your housemates incredibly angry. Thankfully Razer have stepped in to try and alleviate that problem a little with their Black Widow Ultimate Stealth – a quieter version of their excellent keyboard.

The stealth edition is the same price – £124.99 – as the regular version and it is very much a sidegrade as opposed to an upgrade. The main difference is that the switches under the keys have been replaced with quieter ones that cushion the blow and don’t make the clack at all. That’s not to suggest that this keyboard is silent, it’s clearly noisier than most regular keyboards, but the noise is less sharp and nowhere near as loud. The letter keys make a muffled clack and the spacebar makes a slightly odd ‘thud’ that still sounds satisfying but in a different way. It’s less likely to wake up your neighbours but those expecting something truly stealthy might be disappointed.

The muffled sound also comes with a bit of a compromise as the keys are slightly harder to press and slide in to switch rather than bouncing in and out. This makes typing a little bit more difficult and your hands don’t glide over the keys quite as naturally as they do with the regular edition. The travel distance also feels less and accidental keypresses seem to be more common with this model. Of course your hands may get used to the feel of it after a while but it’s not as immediately welcoming as the base model.

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The layout of the keys is also unfortunately the American edition which means you either need to switch your keyboard to American in Windows and give up the pound sign, or you just need to remember where the keys are and that the enter button is now small thanks to backslash being in the wrong place. We’re not sure if a British edition is available but it’s a point worth considering if you’re ordering online, check the layout as getting used to a new keyboard plan can be pretty difficult.

Overall we’re a little disappointed with the Stealth. It’s still an amazing keyboard as it’s based on the Black Widow which is by far our favourite and has been for years, but there’s been too many trade offs for not enough reduction in noise. It sounds pathetic but our fingers actually ache slightly after typing this article on it and it’s still the loudest keyboard in the room. If you play a lot or type a lot at nighttime and the clacks of regular keys are too much to bear, then perhaps this is an option. If that’s not really a problem, we say go for the regular edition.

Verdict 7

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Razer Sabertooth Review

This is the second in our series of Razer product reviews. All products were loaned to us by Razer.

The Xbox 360 controller was the result of decades of refinement. From the awkward rectangles of the NES through the bizarre trident of the N64 controller up to the dual-sticks of the Gamecube and Dualshock controllers, engineers have been working to refine the ergonomics of controllers to make them accessible, precise and comfortable. For those of us with larger hands it seems like Microsoft came close to perfecting it with the 360 controller. It fits perfectly, has an incredible twelve buttons (not including the D-pad) and is robust enough to take a beating. It’s a beautiful thing.

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As with all third-party controllers that means that the manufacturer, in this case Razer, has to think of a different way to appeal to an audience. In the past they often did it with price, creating cheaper knock-offs as you can see with the plethora of third-party wiimotes. Razer have decided to do something different and go after the more hardcore market in a few different ways. Has it paid off? Not entirely, but that might be more down to us.

The most obvious difference between the vanilla controller and the Sabertooth is the extra buttons. There are now six extra buttons which are fully programmable. There’s an OLED screen at the bottom that lets you program these easily to fire off a single button or even a combination. The buttons are reasonably creative in terms of placement. Two are extra shoulder buttons located closer to the center, four are on two cradle-shaped protrusions on the back. They look incredibly weird but in your hand they’re surprisingly natural and easy to hold. Clearly 360 games aren’t going to make us of any new commands but being able to remap buttons (like jump in the Halo games or Killstreak buttons in COD) to more accessible places is really useful. Similarly games that use complex combinations of buttons (the Batman Arkham games or fighting titles) can now have those attacks remapped to a single button. It’s elegant and it works, although it’s clearly something you wouldn’t know you need until you try it. The morality of programmable buttons is always up in the air and since you can play online with this, maybe it gives you an unfair advantage. We’d say if there is any bonus to using it, it’s pretty slim and this feature is more about comfort than anything. One nice touch is the ability to set up profiles so you can switch between two for the different kinds of games you play on the fly.

The OLED screen is pretty neat. It only displays a few characters but it is bright and high quality and makes setting up the pad much, much easier. You can also do things like turning rumble off or switching off the lights on the controller if you want, although we can’t think why you’d really want to.

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The other big changes on the controller are to do with fighting games. The D-pad has been replaced with four discrete direction buttons, favouring precision over looks or comfort. Diagonal movements are slightly more awkward with them but for fighting game inputs it’s a massive improvement over the 360 controller’s weakest part. The face buttons (AXYB) have been overhauled as well and are now ridiculously shallow and sensitive. Both of these changes allow for precise, quick and careful fighting game controls, but they feel markedly worse for everything else. The 360 controller had a satisfying depth to the buttons and they looked and felt expensive. These little switches feel cheaper and less robust, although they are completely functional.

Other than those changes, it’s almost exactly a 360 controller. It’s a little lighter and smaller, the edges are slightly more angled, but your hands will feel perfectly at home, even with all the new buttons. It’s wired so works just as well with the PC and the cable has two breakaway points that top you from pulling your console/ PC off a shelf if you yank it to hard as you pick it up. The controller also comes with a new carrying case that is entirely superfluous but makes the package feel a little more substantial.

Overall the Sabertooth feels very solid for a third party controller, but it’s clearly not for us. If you play a lot of fighting games or you’re sick of horrible button placement in your favourite game, it’s a worthy competitor to the official version, but if you’re neither of those it’s probably best to stick to the official pads.

Verdict 7

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Razer Black Widow Ultimate 2014 Review

Razer sent us a new box of some of their latest products to loan and review and we’re starting off with one of the most exciting pieces. The Black Widow Ultimate mechanical keyboard. We’ve used an older 2012 Black Widow keyboard for a couple of years now and can’t imagine going back to anything less – the mechanical ‘klack’ is just so satisfying and the bounce genuinely makes it a pleasure to type at high speeds. The new model features a fully illuminated keyboard, new switches and comes in at £124.99. That’s pricey for a keyboard but considering it’s one of the parts of your computer you’re going to interact with most, isn’t it worth spending that extra bit?

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A long time ago we used to associate Razer with style over substance, inflated prices for showy hardware that couldn’t justify the cost. Since then Razer have really refined their offerings and their hardware is now some of the best you can buy. Ok it is still very showy, the Black Widow lights up in their trademark neon green, but you’re paying for much more than that. There are a plethora of mechanical keyboards out there and often they have a slightly DIY or custom-builder feel that means to get the most out of them you need to do a tonne of research and if you want hands-on you need to track down some increasingly rare specialist shops (bearing in mind there are now zero specialist gaming hardware shops in London). With the Black Widow you’re getting something that has been crafted with years of experience for gaming.

The switches are the most important part of any mechanical keyboard and this is where Razer are almost right on the money. They are surprisingly stiff and noisy (quieter ones are available with the Black Widow Ultimate Stealth) but this means accidental key presses are a thing of the past. It fully supports multiple key presses at once and the keys are spaced out just enough that your fingers can find the keys easily when touch typing but you never slip onto the wrong one accidentally. Five macro keys are placed along the left side which are incredibly handy when games you play (such as MMOs or RTS games) require some complex keyboard commands that you use often, and they are all within reach of the little finger of your left hand. Compared to the old Black Widow the new switches seem to have a slightly more cushioned feel to them, so they’re a little less harsh and the sound is ever so slightly more muted. The keys are also an unusual slightly soft and textured plastic that feel expensive and solid. Supposedly the keys have been tested to withstand at least 60 million keystrokes, so even if you plan on pressing the same key once a second for the next couple of years you should be fine.

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A feature that’s sorely missing from some other gaming keyboards is a passthrough USB port. This is incredibly useful to avoid cable mess if you want to plug your mouse or headset into it and there’s also audio ports if you need to use those. The fact that the USB port is simply a passthrough means there’s no problems with power or anything like that, any device should work fine with it (although our PC wouldn’t recognise a Razer headset when using this port for some reason, everything else works fine).

The software that comes with Razer products has also been a bugbear for some but Razer Synapse is updated regularly now and to be honest we’ve had very few problems with it at all. It’s an excellent low maintenance little program that lets you easily set the macros on the keyboard and change how bright the lights are (or even turn them off completely). There’s also a clever little toggle to make it so when your main display is turned off the keyboard lights go off too. Good for people who leave their PC running overnight but don’t want to be bathed in the green Razer glow.

There have been a couple of problems with this keyboard but as with any hardware it’s hard to tell if it’s due to this particular unit ( a review unit that will have been used by others before use) or if it’s a problem with the range. At the moment the ‘8’ key tends to double press, implying there’s something slightly wrong with the switch. The material used for the surround to the keyboard is also prone to pick up any grease you might have on your hands at all, leaving black marks that can be rubbed off but look a little unsightly.

All in all we’d be happy to recommend this keyboard to any serious gamer, or even anyone who uses their computer a lot and enjoys the aesthetic of Razer. It’s not the biggest upgrade from the old Black Widow but the switches do feel a little softer and the illuminated keyboard is more than a gimmick if you play games in a darkened room. The macro keys are a huge positive for this thing, we even have whole text strings programmed in for things that we need to type out often. If you haven’t tried a mechanical keyboard yet and you can afford £124.99 for one, then we say go for it, you won’t be disappointed.

Verdict 9

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New Raza Naga Review

Naganna lie to you, it’s amazing

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We used an old style Cataclysm Razer Naga for years while we were heavily invested in MMOs. It was a decent mouse but the inclusion of a gird of 12 buttons on the side where your thumb rests was an absolute godsend. They functioned as your Numpad keys and let you put every ability (with the use of shift and ctrl modifiers) in the palm of your hand, which meant your left hand could focus purely on movement. Over time we started playing more FPS and RTS games and ended up shifting to the excellent Mad Catz MMO 7 – a truly awesome mouse for those types of games. Razer have been nice enough to send us one of their new Nagas and we have to say, it could be tempting us back over to the green side.

While the Naga is billed as an MMO mouse, it’s really handy for pretty much anything you’d usually use a mouse for. With 12 buttons on the side, the regular two clicks, two up and down buttons under your palm, a scroll wheel that can be clicked in and tilted from left to right, you’re left with 19 buttons on your mouse. Most of the buttons are easy to get to as well, other than the two which rest under the palm of your hand, but they can easily be bound to something like bringing up a map or scoreboard in a game, where you won’t want them to get in the way too much. This kind of versatility is a boon for even simple things like word processing where you can have formatting choices bound to the buttons, image and video editing where you always need a lot of commands, or simply browsing the web where having back/forwards/refresh buttons on your mouse can be easier than using the keyboard commands. We’ve found a huge amount of use for them and the Razer Synapse 2.0 software is much better than its predecessors at letting you set up profiles that automatically load with certain programs, having an entirely different set of keybinds for whatever you’re doing. In some games (notably World of Warcraft) there are even mods specifically designed for the Naga, bringing up the grid on screen so you can make it a part of your UI. In many games you can slot game icons into the grid so you’re not going to be forgetting what is bound where.

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The build quality is fantastic as it is with all of Razer’s higher-end products, the mouse has a matte black finish that gives enough grip while retaining the sleek look associated with the brand, there’s an illuminated logo on the palm rest, the scroll wheel has a streak of neon through it and the key grid on the side has a light for every button. The cord is a rope-like texture rather than an easily breakable rubber one, and the whole things seems incredibly sturdy and stylish. The shape of the mouse too is ergonomic and comfortable, although there is no opportunity to adjust is as there is with some other mice. For people with very large hands like me it might seem a little bit too small and it’s a shame there’s no way to alter that.

Similarly there’s no customisation anywhere on the physical mouse itself, so you can’t change the weight of it and you can’t change sensitivity settings on the fly, although you can from within the synapse software. After getting used to these features with some other high-end mice it’s difficult to get used to loading up a menu in order to change anything, particularly when some games (Battlefield 4) almost require you to be able to quickly change sensitivity when you get in an aircraft.

Playing a great deal of World of Warcraft lately with the new Naga we’d struggle to back to another mouse. While there are certain other games that make better use of features not present on the Naga, for MMOs and Strategy games it’s pretty hard to fault it. Razer make some quality devices for enthusiast gamers and from looks to performance they deliver on all counts. All we’d like to see from them in future is a little more customisation!

Verdict 9

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Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard Review

Isn’t it odd to name a keyboard after a spider?

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We’ve been using a Black Widow mechanical keyboard for a long while now. It’s sturdy, the keys give extremely satisfying feedback and it looks pretty awesome. Our only real complaints about it are the lack of lighting and the slightly cheap plasticky feel of the keys. Razer have been kind enough to send us the Black Widow Ultimate to review – quite frankly it’s blown us away.

If you haven’t tried a mechanical keyboard yet, you’re missing out. While the keys can be loud there’s an immense satisfaction in the kind of tactile response you get. It might not necessarily make you that much faster or better at games, but we find typing much easier for long periods and it’s a much more enjoyable machine to use. Mechanical keyboards come with different switches related to colours and each of these switches have a different kind of mechanism or a different weight associated with them. The Black Widow Ultimate uses MX Blue switches and they’re light and springy but still give a satisfying ‘clack’ when you tap them in. You don’t need a lot of force to use them and touch-typing is really easy, but thanks to the extra little bit of travel compared to regular keyboards you’re much less likely to accidentally hit the wrong key. The spring back also makes typing more rhythmic and your hands seem to flow over the keyboard when you get carried away typing like in this surprisingly long but ever so enjoyable sentence. Ahem, got carried away a bit there.

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As with all Razer products, a fair amount of attention has been given to the aesthetics of the unit and with a solid matte black covering but bright (adjustable) neon green lighting it certainly looks the part. The cable is a sturdy cord rather than the cheap rubber you might be used to and the keyboard itself is hefty without being overbearing or unwieldy. As a word of warning I dropped my Black Widow on a HTC One the other week and it absolutely destroyed the phone while the keyboard didn’t even get a scratch. It’s well built but just make sure you keep it securely on your desk.

One of our problems with the old Black Widow was the feel of the keys and this has been much improved with the Ultimate, Razer have opted for a hard to describe but ever so slightly rubbery texture to the top of the keys. Your fingers don’t stick to them at all, but they certainly don’t feel cheap, it’s like an expensive plastic coating that’s pleasing to the eye as well as to your fingers. We can’t fault the build materials of this product whatsoever, it might be expensive at £124.99 – but it’s definitely worth the money in terms of quality.

Our other issue with the Black Widow was the lack of lighting. The key markings are quite subtle and at night time you had to have a decent muscle  memory to play more complicated games. With the Ultimate that’s not an issue as the aforementioned neon green lighting is particularly effective. Every individual key is lit up (the maximum level is exceptionally bright) as well as the gaps between keys, giving a pleasing and impressive futuristic effect to the whole keyboard. The lights between the keys cast little shadows on the edges of each one – we’ve been really impressed at how it looks in the dark which is an odd thing to say about a keyboard.

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In terms of setting up, it’s as easy as it is with any keyboard. Plug it in and it will work straight away, but to make the most of the programmable macro keys and the gaming mode ( that deactivates certain key combinations like alt-Tab to stop you using them at the wrong time) you’ll need to install the lightweight and easy-to-use synapse software. Razer’s software has improved a great deal over the last few years, so now one program automatically detects which products you have and installs the relevant software and drives automatically. Setting up macros is a breeze and the five macro keys on the left of the keyboard are ideal for programming in large amounts of text you have to repeat or difficult key combinations you use in games.

We love the Black Widow Ultimate and are going to be sad to see it get sent back to Razer, it’s a phenomenal piece of kit and outclasses everything else we’ve tried by quite a long way. In terms of responsiveness, tactile quality, aesthetics, software and build quality it’s simply unmatched. If you’re using it for games it will do you well, if you use it for business, it’s still perfect, there’s not a bad thing we can say about it. As long as you can afford the £124.99 there’s very few other sensible ways to spend the money considering how much time you’ll spend using the keyboard compared to any other component. Well done to Razer!

Verdict 10

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Razer Arctosa Review

It’s a spider don’t you know

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The Razer Arctosa is one of the more affordable products in Razer’s keyboard range. It’s not mechanical, it doesn’t light up in fancy ways and there’s really only the standard set of keys as well as a media control panel in the top right. In the advertising blurb the phrase ‘gaming 101’ comes up again and again, referring to the fact that this is simply a gaming keyboard, you’re not wasting money on bells and whistles that you’ll never use, but is it worth the £60 RRP (although you can find it for £40 without too much trouble now online)? Razer sent us a sample so we could find out.

The key selling points of the Arctosa are its weight and slim profile. At around half the depth of our Black Widow mechanical keyboard, it’s certainly slim and the keys barely move at all, it’s similar to a laptop keyboard in that sense, with just enough of a difference in height on a keypress to let you know you’ve hit something but no satisfying click. Indeed since the switches aren’t mechanical there’s no satisfying click except for the flex of the space bar. This could be a blessing for some people as it means the keyboard is much quieter than many competitors, but they keys feel spongey and cheap, with the plastic used to make the entire thing coming across as much lower wuality than the premium you expect (and are paying for) with Razer products. The whole keyboard is incredibly light and feels as though you could snap it in half with your hands if you tried, but this lightness means that it is extremely portable for a full-size keyboard, ideal if you’re shoving it into your bag to head off to a LAN party. The wrist rest at the bottom is detachable so that cuts the form factor down even further.

Another bullet point on the front of the box is the ‘hyperresponse’ technology that supposedly lets it register your key presses with a 1ms response time. While that definitely sounds like something you’d want in a gaming keyboard, not many keyboards have a noticable response time that would have a detrimental effect on your game playing. Your TV is likely to have a much higher delay, with the very best coming in at around 8ms, so an extra 1ms or so is unlikely to have an effect that you could observe. Certainly while typing and playing Starcraft 2 it feels much the same as any other keyboard in terms of response, there is no delay but then there hasn’t been on any of the other keyboards we’ve used.

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There is anti-ghosting but unfortunately it’s just around the WASD keys. Ghosting is when a second or third or fourth key press isn’t registered because of the way some keyboards work. By having each of these keys on their own circuit they can make sure no matter how many keys you are pressing at once, they all register. This works as is one of the few tangible benefits of this keyboard over a cheaper non-gaming model, but higher end keyboards (and many of the same price) have this for every key. If you’re used to playing RTS, MMO or MOBA games you might be using a lot of the number keys too and they aren’t covered by this anti-ghosting.

The media control panel is a gimmick that features on many keyboards but rarely gets used. It is nice to be able to press pause or change the volume from your keyboard, but occasionally it doesn’t work and it’s too easy to forget that it’s there at all. On our testing machine running Windows 8 none of the buttons actually worked, and with out past experiences with the Lycosa we had the same issue intermittently. It could be a nice feature to have but is definitely not worth paying a premium for.

There are macro programmable keys but these are relegated to a combination of the razer button (on the top right of the keyboard on the media panel) and F1 keys. This ridiculous stretch makes them all but useless for gaming, instead finding use as shortcuts to open programs or for blocks of text that you type out regularly.

The USB cable is a typical rubber cable rather than the threaded nylon ones you get on the mechanical models. IF you are likely to be packing it up regularly be careful as these cables can easily start to fatigue and break, particularly if you wrap them around the keyboard or coil them up.

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The biggest problem we have with this keyboard are the keys themselves. We could forgive the spongey feel and the low profile as an exchange for being extremely quiet and light but the biggest problem is that the letters on the keys are printed in black on to black keys. There is a difference in texture, with the key letters being glossy and the keys themselves being matte, but that requires them to catch the light for you to see which one is which. When typing out an article, that’s not a problem but when playing a game many of us still need to be able to see the keys, particularly when playing something new. If you’re playing in the dark, it’s almost impossible to see. Matters aren’t helped by the num lock, caps lock and scroll lock lights that shine an extremely bright white, hindering you even further when you’re trying to work out which key is which.

For the money you can get much better keyboards than this that are much more suitable for gaming. If you’re willing to splash out a little bit more you can get a good quality mechanical keyboard and enter a whole new world of excellent peripherals. Razer’s own mechanical keyboards are absolutely excellent, but it’s best to stay away from the cheaper products as they are only cheap in relative terms. Compared to competitors they are very expensive for what you are getting. If you are looking for something highly portable and quiet, then try to find one on sale, if you want something of a decent build quality with useful macros and better key presses, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Verdict 5

 

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Mad Catz M.M.O 7 Gaming Mouse Review

Cats beware, this thing’s a beast

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Mad Catz kindly supplied us with an M.M.O.7 gaming mouse for us to try out this week, and we’ve been putting it through its paces over the last few days. The M.M.O.7 is (as the name suggests) designed first and foremost for the complex demands of MMO games, but Mad Catz claim the multi-programmable features are useful in a wide variety of scenarios including the workplace, so we’ve been testing it with everything from extended Starcraft 2 sessions, frantic Borderlands 2 and Shootmania action, and web editing, image editing and word processing.

Continue reading Mad Catz M.M.O 7 Gaming Mouse Review

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