NZXT Avatar Crafted Series Gaming Mouse Review

Zertz - 2008-08-29 15:11:37 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: Zertz   
Reviewed on: September 4, 2008
Price: $59.99

Introduction:

When it comes to gaming, there are many factors that can alter your playing experience. Having top end components like processors and video cards certainly helps as well as skill. But what if your mouse isn't up to task? Claiming the top spot in any game is never an easy feat, but having a high quality gaming mouse is a great start. It should be fast, precise and comfortable enough to keep playing for many hours nonstop. Gaming is not all there is though and nobody wants to switch mice when they go from gaming to general usage, so some level of customizability is also a very important feature to have. In this crowded market, there is already a ton of choices and our latest weapon, the Avatar, comes from NZXT.

Established in 2004, NZXT is headquarted in Los Angeles, California, where it has been designing and engineering cases, power supplies and cooling accessories. We've had many of its products reviewed here at OverclockersClub and we have yet to be deceived by the company's offerings. Now NZXT is entering into a new arena. The Avatar, part of NZXT's "Crafted" series, is its first entry into the gaming mouse market. According to some, first impressions is all that matters, so let's see if NZXT's first mouse is a hit...or a miss.

 

Closer Look:

The Avatar comes in an extremely sleek looking black box, simple yet attractive design. The only thing hinting you to a computer related device is the NZXT logo stamped on the lower right corner of the box. It kind of reminds me of Apple's packaging, except NZXT took it a step further by displaying minimal information. When you first take a look at it, it really makes you wonder what's going on with this box!

 

 

Once the cover is taken off, the beast finally shows up. It is proudly pictured with its name, Avatar, written right under it in a reflective silver color. Two main features are listed on the bottom right corner; instant DPI change up to 2600 DPI and seven customizable buttons. Printed on the back are the features and specifications listed in four different languages.

 

 

The front panel can be flipped open to show the real thing along with all the buttons and a few features like the rubber grips and the DPI indicator. The brushed aluminium look used for the logo is a great addition to already good looking packaging.

 

 

You can clearly see once again that NZXT paid great attention to detail when designing the retail packaging; the front panel can be opened so you can simply slide the manual out. The extra space is filled with a foam sheet to keep everything from moving. The mouse itself is held tight in a plastic shell inside yet another box.

 

 

Let's move along and take a closer look at the mouse itself.

Closer look:

As you can see, the included bundle is slim, really slim. Our sample did not come with a driver disc, however we have been told it will be included in the final retail version. No extra feet are included, NZXT must be confident that the stock ones will keep you going for long enough, which is probably the case since they are Teflon. The manual does a pretty good job at explaining the installation process, which will be covered on the next page. Also, instead of using a generic USB connector, NZXT has had one made with its name stamped on it, and the connector itself is gold plated. Both of the last two features have little benefit but are still a nice touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that the mouse is out there in the wild, we can have a better look at it. The matte black finish looks good, although not as fancy as many other mice. It is pretty small, so comfort, or getting used to it at least, might be an issue. More on that later. The rubber grips on both sides of the mouse are definitely a great feature, allowing one to have a more solid hold onto it. The Avatar has a total of seven buttons, which are all customizable in games and through the provided software. The scrolling wheel is vertical only and the rubber feet are in fact Teflon, so they should be more durable and cause less friction than regular rubber feet found on most mice. NZXT, unlike many others, did not forget the left handers and designed its Avatar with a symmetrical shape, so it will fit both right and left handers.

 

 

 

On the left picture, you can see both buttons right behind the scrolling wheel, which can be customized to various functions, although I would recommend leaving them at default settings if you want to retain on-the-fly DPI switching without having to load profiles. On the right side, you have a close up of the DPI indicator, which lights up depending on what it's set at, which will be shown in more detail in the coming pages.

 

 

Enough talk, let's get the real thing going!

Configuration:

If the Avatar is simply plugged in without installing drivers, it will only work as a basic five button mouse, the DPI being locked to its lowest possible setting of 600. Once you pop the CD in, you will be prompted with the usual installation screen; simply follow the instructions. At some point after it finishes copying files, Windows will give you a warning because it's trying to install a non-WHQL driver, just hit "Install." Finally, you will have to reboot, or else the software won't work at all. It's a very straightforward process, unless you are running Vista 64-bit. In this particular case, the mouse will completly stop responding, something that should be addressed before the final driver release.

By default, the thumb button will be set to use as back in your browser while the one on the other side will serve as forward. Both buttons on top, behind the scrolling wheel, are set to control on-the-fly DPI switching, the one nearest to the wheel makes it faster and the other one will slow it down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once your PC is restarted, a new NZXT icon will have added itself to the taskbar. It will take a little while before it actually becomes usable, which is quite annoying. I'm still wondering what's taking it so long. Anyway, after it is done loading, you are welcomed with a good looking user interface, everything is clearly labeled and thus shouldn't pose any problems.

The first tab, Advanced Funtions, allows you to customize every single button to any function and also easily lets you change to left-handed orientation if you wish. You can save up to five custom profiles with different button assignments, DPI setting and orientation. If for some reason you wish the change the polling rate, which is the number of times per second the USB controller checks for activity, that's something else you can do. The Sensivity tab is pretty self explanatory; in there you can change both X and Y axis independently. The third and last tab, (not so) Advanced Settings, lets you change the scrolling speed, sensivity once again and double click speed. All that with an area to test out your settings.

 

 

 

For those who aren't familiar with this, DPI stands for dots per inch. Basically what it means is that for every inch the mouse moves, the cursor will travel a set number of pixels - 600, 1200, 1800, or 2600 in this case. A higher DPI doesn't really make the cursor move faster; it simply travels a longer distance on-screen when your hand makes the exact same movement. On the left side of the mouse, three LEDs indicate which DPI setting the mouse is currently set at, every LED off means 600, one on is 1200, two is 1800 and all three is for 2600 DPI. Lower DPI is usually good for web browsing, while higher settings are better suited for gaming. The pictures show some of the four available modes. Switching between every speed setting is pretty easy; hit the the button right behind the scroll wheel shown on the previous page to increase the DPI settings while the one on the back will decrease it. I preferred this over a single button solution since I did not have to go through every mode if I accidentally clicked it. The chrome finish on both thumb buttons along with the LED lit lines on both sides definitely gives the Avatar a sharp look.

 

 

 

 

Now let's move on to the manufacturer's specifications and features.

Specifications:

Max speed 40 Inches/Second
Max Acceleration 15g
Max Frame Rate 6469 Frames/Second
Resolution 650-2600 DPI
Image Processing 5.8 Mega Pixels/Second
USB Reports Up to 1000 Reports/Second
Buttons 7 Buttons, 5 Million Clicks

 

Features:

Testing:

Since you cannot really benchmark a mouse, I am going to take the NXZT Avatar, the WolfKing mouse tested previously along with two other popular mice from Logitech, in a series of subjective tests to try and find out which is the fastest, most comfortable, accurate, and customizable mouse. The results will be based on my experiences playing Crysis and World of Warcraft, and general use like Internet browsing and office tools, with every mouse.

Testing System

Comparison mice:

 

Speed:

For the speed test, I have compared how fast I was able to move the mouse across the screen, as well as making quick movements in games. Results are on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being very slow and 10 lightning fast. NZXT comes out as the winner in this test since its fastest setting is a blazing fast 2600 DPI, which slightly edges out WolfKing's gaming mouse by 200 DPI. For this reason, the Avatar will take the speed crown over the Trooper.

Comfort:

For this aspect of the testing, I will be comparing the comfort and "feel" of the mice; 1 means the least comfortable mouse ever, and 10 means that you just don't want to take your hand off of it. Unlike the rest of the crowd tested here, the Avatar does not have that shape that fits your hand like a glove. Its small footprint does feel kind of weird at first, but its lower profile allows your wrist to lay down in a more natural fashion. They are simply different designs and both are comfortable, it's more of a matter of personal taste.

Precision:

Accuracy is very important for a gaming mouse since you don't want to miss all those frags just because your opponents can successfully hit their targets faster than you. So for this test, I compared how many headshots I was able to pull off, along with how easily I could hit whatever I was aiming for. 1 means I was never able to get a good shot at a target, while 10 means hitting head shots was like a walk in the park. The fact that my hand layed almost flat on my work surface helped with precision to some extent. Both sides have rubber grips which greatly helped with keeping a steady hold onto the mouse, one of the weak points on the Wolfking mouse.

Customizability:

Every mouse has some form of basic customization, but I will be comparing, again on a scale from 1 to 10, how many settings I was able to change - 1 being no changeable settings, and 10 meaning that everything can be changed. The Avatar is, by far, the best contestant in this category. As shown a few pages before, the bundled driver software allows you to change just about everything that can be changed on a mouse. It also has four different available DPI settings, effectively giving it a wider choice as far as speed goes. Once again, NZXT stands above its competition!

Let's wrap this up!

Conclusion:

Your first time doing something is never easy and you never know exactly if you're doing it right or not. So is the Avatar a hit? NZXT definitely got most of it right, not a perfect shot, but nobody can truly achieve that. When it came to speed, not only was it the fastest, but it also allowed for a great level of customizability including four different speed settings, in 600 DPI increments. The Teflon feet might not seem like a big deal, but, surprisingly, it does make a noticeable difference. There is so little friction that it seems like the mouse is hovering over the surface and that gave it a boost on both the precision and comfort scale.

As I said, everything isn't awesome about the Avatar. The driver software was custom designed by a third party company since NZXT doesn't have its own software development team, which is alright as long as the job is done right. Unfortunately, that was, by far, its weakest point. It does allow for a lot of customization, great, but it was often slow to respond, especially at startup. Although, when changing DPI settings directly from the mouse it was fast enough to smoothly change gears. Hopefully, the software will receive an update that will optimize the code to be faster and to support a wider array of operating systems, especially 64-bit. When enthusiasts like you and me are packing more memory than ever in our computers, 64-bit OSs are getting more popular every passing day.

Looks are usually quite an important feature, if I can call it that, in gaming products and the Avatar really delivers in this aspect. Packaging is very well done; not only does it look great, it also does a fine job at keeping the mouse safe and sound. Being so impressed by the exterior, I was hoping the mouse itself would be as great and it really is. The LED lighting is just bright enough to give it a sweet, head turning look and its shape sets it apart. The cord is long enough to easily fit any desk setup and still have some slack to give you and the mouse some freedom. Software aside, and that can be polished, the NZXT Avatar is a great choice for a gaming mouse!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: