The latest piece of gaming gear from NZXT.
For most of us, buying a mouse involves a lot of brand loyalty. While our preference of graphics card and motherboard brands will likely change with store sales or incentives, such as a better warranty or more features, chances are once you’ve settled on a particular brand for input devices, you aren’t going to stray too far.
Most PC users you meet will likely be running some combination of Logitech, Microsoft, and Razer input devices. These are the three big brands that have dominated the market up to this point. Microsoft is best known for a huge line of highly ergonomic keyboards and mice, suitable for extended office use, while they’ve been trying to push into the gaming market with their Sidewinder series. Logitech has the famous G-series in its corner, offering an awesome combination of ergonomics and general “gamer-ness”. Razer is of course all about gaming and performance with no compromises.
Keeping all that in mind, most of us might choose to ignore new input devices put forward by companies other than our preferred brand. This is especially true since most of us only buy a new mouse or keyboard at maybe a five year interval, while a few of you more than likely swap graphics cards every three months.
Going into this review, I am a die-hard Logitech fan. My previous mouse was a G5 and I’m typing this review on the excellent revision 1 G15 keyboard. Before that I used a Logitech Cordless MX Duo, which I have set up with my old Athlon rig at the moment. My brand loyalty is definitely in the Logitech corner. Every Logitech product I have purchased has been of the highest quality (the possible exception being the paint finish on the G15, but that’s no biggie) and has lasted through the extended abuse of me hammering away reviews and gaming my face off in my free time.
So with my loyalties where they are, it will be interesting to see how the NZXT Avatar Gaming Mouse fares. This is NZXT’s first product in the input device market and hopefully it’s a good one!
The Avatar exhibits excellent packaging design. It’s quite minimalist, but eye catching. It also isn’t a whole lot bigger than the mouse it contains.
Opening up the front flap on the box we get a look at the mouse itself.
As on most products the Avatar’s box has a feature rundown on the back of the box. NZXT were nice enough to print the rundown in English, French, German and Spanish.
An interesting piece of the package design is the front flap. The front flap is actually a smaller box of sorts and holds the manual in a foam insert.
The manual like the box itself has a simple and stylish design.
This time around the manual is very well put together. It is very comprehensive and is printed in full color.
At the back of the manual there is a mini-CD containing the mouse drivers. Personally I think it would have been cooler to include the drivers on a small flash drive, but this works too. Note that you can also download the drivers off the NZXT website.
Opening the main portion of the box we remove the Avatar itself.
NZXT has employed some rather impressive cardboard origami on this piece of the package.
Finally we get to have a look at the mouse out of the box. It looks great with its matte black finish and chrome accents.
The Avatar has a four-setting DPI indicator and rubberized “shoulders”. These rubberized elements lend a bit of extra grip to those of you with sweaty hands.
Looking at the right side you can see the chrome shoulder button and rubberized grip.
The same is true on the left side and this leads us to one of the Avatar’s selling points. The Avatar, unlike many Microsoft and Logitech mice, is entirely ambidextrous. This was a smart move by NZXT, since this is their first and at the moment only input device out there and it’s certainly important not to limit your market by limiting the design to right-handed mousers.
The cable on the Avatar is quite a bit longer than the cable on the G5 at about 8 feet. The cable uses a gold-plated USB connector.
Flipping the mouse over we get a look at the 2600 DPI IR sensor that powers it. The three feet you see are made out of Teflon to minimize friction.
Looking very closely we can see that the sensor is Kingsis branded. I’ve never heard of Kingsis, but hopefully they make a decent IR sensor.
Sizing up the Avatar beside my G5 and MX700 you can see that all three mice have about the same length.
Looking in from the back we can see that the Avatar is quite a bit shorter than the G5 and is far less bulky.
If you prefer simple aesthetics the Avatar certainly has the advantage in the appearance department. While the G5 uses orange, black, silver, and in my case a giant BF2142 graphic, the Avatar keeps things simple with black and chrome.
Flipping over both mice you get an idea of how much the G5 dwarfs the Avatar.
Doing a quick hand position check we see that it is fully possible to “land” one’s entire hand on the Avatar, which is nice since many of you out there prefer to rest your hand on your mouse, instead of landing your palm on your desk and using your fingertips to guide the mouse around. I use the fingertip-style myself, but that’s probably because I run with maximum sensitivity and need precise control. On another note you can see how ones thumb lines up with the side button. I couldn’t imagine better positioning for this button and it beats the heck out of the arrangement of the G5 and MX700.
Looking at the G5 we can see that its design is far more conducive to a “palm on” style of mousing. In terms of ergonomics the G5 has the definite advantage, but as I said earlier it isn’t ambidextrous.
In terms of lighting features the G5 glows orange from the bottom when powered up.
The DPI sensor lights up orange as well.
The Avatar’s DPI indicator is blue and the gap between the main buttons and the mouse body showcases cool blue accent lighting.
Once more, from the top.
The bottom of the Avatar has no lighting to speak of.
When the lowest DPI is selected the indicator is completely dark.
When the highest DPI is selected the three bars are lit up.
Unlike the G5, the Avatar lacks obvious branding. In fact this small logo on the heel is the only piece of branding that would normally be visible (there is branding on the bottom of the mouse as well).
The Avatar software gives plenty of options to customize the mouse. The mouse itself supports up to 2600 DPI and polling at 1000Hz. The software allows you to change the DPI and polling settings, but does not offer the same level of DPI tweaking as Logitech’s Setpoint software for the G5. The Avatar software also allows you to modify the various button assignments as well.
As you can see you can rebind anything from scrolling to DPI switching depending on your preferences.
Using the “Advanced” option we can even assign specific keyboard keys, macros with delay insertion, media controls, or system operations like copy and paste to specific keys on the mouse. This is probably the most feature packed key customization system of any mouse on the market today, and I applaud NZXT for including these options with the Avatar.
The software also allows you to change the master sensitivity, Windows pointer speed and pointer acceleration.
You can also change the scroll speed, pointer-specific sensitivity and double click speed. The double click speed simply dictates how rapidly you must execute two clicks in succession to trigger the double click.
After using the Avatar for two weeks, I can honestly say that I’m a convert.
The Avatar looks great and its design fits my mousing style better than the Logitech G5. Mind you that if I had the tendency to land my whole hand on my mouse, I would likely have preferred the G5. But as it stands, the Avatar will be my mouse of choice for the foreseeable future. This is not only due to its shape but also to the way the buttons are laid out. Since my G5 was a Rev. 1 it lacks a forward button, limiting the mouse to 6 buttons – which was perfectly alright, but I’ve found that I actually get some usage out of all of the Avatar’s 7 buttons.
Take a game like STALKER for example. Since I’m playing the Oblivion Lost mod at the moment, I needed a button assigned to start up various vehicles. When I was using my G5, I had this command bound to the F1 key on my keyboard, which was okay, but occasionally I would have to look down at the keyboard to figure out where F1 actually was. This type of key-hunting isn’t akin to surviving in STALKER, especially when there is a horde of angry mutants on your tail. So this command got bound to the left shoulder button on the Avatar. Mind you I could have done a similar binding on the G5, but since the G5’s shoulder button is not naturally where I rest my thumb, it wouldn’t be much faster than finding the F1 key.
That is one of the great things about the button placement on the Avatar – my thumb naturally rests on the thumb button, meaning I can smack that sucker down in a split second. As such this button is great for often used commands that WON’T get you blown up. I say this because you may encounter cases where you accidentally press this button, since your thumb has a tendency to rest on it. As far as the right shoulder button is concerned, I use it for bringing up the PDA in STALKER. The right button takes a bit of getting used to though, since my pinkie finger isn’t normally asked to do anything useful.
Similar to the left shoulder button, my pinkie naturally gravitates towards the right shoulder button, so I never have to swing my finger around to find the button. This functionality is a testament to the Avatar’s excellent design. It’s surprising to find that the arrangement works so well even though the mouse is almost completely symmetrical (the only asymmetry is the DPI indicator). One would expect a reduction in usability because the mouse has to accommodate both the right and left handed users, but somehow NZXT have pulled off a design that rivals the usability and comfort of the Logitech G5 and they deserve to be commended for it.
Since I’ve already said so much I’ll just do a quick recap before I get into the Pros and Cons.
I love the Avatar, the design, the performance, and the usability. But as always there are a few little suggestions/issues here and there. For one I think it would be a little small for “palm on” users, and certainly not as ergonomic for right-handers as the G5. Another thing is that while the matte finish looks great, it does seem to pick up greasy finger prints like crazy. That’s pretty much it, so onto the Pros and Cons:
- Slick looking in matte black and chrome
- Blue accent and DPI indicator lighting
- DPI switch buttons are easier to press and locate by touch then the G5’s
- Flat design works well for “fingertip” mouse users
- Software offers macros and an excellent selection of key bindings
- 2600 DPI IR Sensor
- Up to 1000Hz polling (shaves a few milliseconds off mouse movement response time)
- Priced fair at $60 USD MSRP (G5 is about $80)
- Packaged well
- LONG USB cable
- Teflon feet for minimal friction
- Solidly built
- Not as ergonomic as bigger mice like the G5
- May not suit “palm on” mouse users
- Tends to pick up greasy fingerprints
- Fairly standard feature set (no 4000 DPI, no weight system, no built in memory for profiles)
- Retail availability (we would all like to be able to walk into a BestBuy, go to the keyboard/mice section, and try it before we buy it)
To sum it all up, the Avatar is another excellent NZXT product and it gets my recommendation. Hopefully NZXT expands its input device line, because they seem to know what they are doing. While the Avatar isn’t exceptional in terms of features, it is a solid product with a good price. Now if only I could walk into BestBuy to purchase one…..