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IT & Systems Management

Review: Razer's Naga 2014 gaming mouse makes 17 buttons look good

The 17-button mouse feels like a punchline, something you'd flip past with a chuckle in a yellowed issue of MAD magazine. And yet here we are: third or so in its line, the Razer Naga 2014 brushes off any pretense of restraint and serves up a twelve-button number pad, coupled with a pair of buttons on the spine and the requisite scroll-wheel. It is, at a glance, the exact same mouse as later year's model. But grip it in your hands after installing Razer's Synapse software, and you're in for a bit of a surprise.

Razer claims that the Naga is the best-selling MMO gaming mouse in the world, and while I'd take issue with drafting such a narrow category to claim top honors in, credit should be given where it's due. The new Naga feels fantastic, eschewing the complimentary set of ergonomic grips that came with last year's model in favor of a one-size-fits-all mold that I found rather comfortable in my--admittedly large--mitts.

It's a mouse, and does its job amicably. You can tweak the sensitivity--all the way up to 8200 DPI, which I find ludicrous--and even calibrate the mouse laser's ability to track your particular mouse pad or surface. The twelve side buttons are mechanical now, which ostensibly offers improved accuracy. I do love the clicky sound of mechanical keys--hence my preference for mechanical keyboards--and the mouse's tactile and audible feedback should help you know exactly when buttons are being clicked. It's a marked improvement from the squishy buttons of Nagas past--you can check out PCWorld's guide to mechanical keyboards for the lowdown on why mechanical keys are, in general, pretty neat.

That's all well and good, but of far greater importance is the fact that each of those twelve buttons is arrayed in a seemingly haphazard but actually brilliant angled pattern, which makes it easy to find each and every button. This is crucial, as keeping track of twelve buttons can be a colossal pain--earlier Nagas featured buttons that were all uniform, which made firing off that critical spell or ability a confusing mess.

Razer's Synapse software has also stepped its game up, an attempt to evolve from onerous gewgaw to potentially useful tool. The Naga works out of the box, but you'll need to sign up for a Razer account (and thus, have Internet access) to customize any of the mouse's features.

This has always felt a little ridiculous. The general idea is that by requiring Internet access to use Synapse you're able to save your settings into the cloud and have access to your keybinds, macros and the like should you travel with your gear, replace something, or purchase a new PC. I'm sure this would be of use to professional gamers who frequent LAN parties, but many a connectivity headache could be avoided if this cloud-sync functionality were just made optional.

Gripes aside, Synapse's robust key-mapping functionality is as powerful and welcome as ever. This mouse can be programmed to do just about anything you can imagine, including firing off complex keyboard macros with a single button press. Better still, Razer has introduced an all new in-game configurator, a compact overlay that lets you tweak the Naga 2014's settings while you're playing a game. This is huge--being able to add new functionality or get DPI settings just right without ducking out of a fight or what have you is nigh indispensable--provided you're into that sort of thing.

That brings us back to square one: does anyone need a 17-button mouse? Pragmatists will dismiss this monstrosity as a fool's bauble, a toy for folks with more money than sense. But the rest of us are unabashed MMO-junkies, and have already mentally mapped important abilities to the first three or six buttons, debating which abilities could be shunted from keyboard down onto the rest of the 12-button number pad and wondering if we're dextrous enough to hit everything on the fly.

For what its worth the new Naga's updated design makes keeping track of individual buttons easy, and after a few hours slogging through my MMOs du jour (Guild Wars 2 and Firefall, if you're keeping track) I had no trouble at all. And all of this customizability will let you mold the mouse to suit your needs, instead of requiring you to change countless keybinds and the like to fit some finicky tool. That's always been the strength of pricey gaming hardware, and--despite my issues with Synapse's account requirements--Razer has always excelled at this sort of thing.

The Razer Naga 2014 will set you back $80 at the time of this review, and if you're a dedicated MMO player who spends time setting up keybinds and the like you will not be disappointed.  There are other options: Mad Catz's $99 R.A..T. 7 comes to mind, an ergonomical dream that's equal parts conversation starter and gaming gear. That said, it's marginally pricier and once you've molded it to fit your hand all of the fiddly bits start to feel a little comical. If spending this much on a mouse feels dumb, then you'll probably be set with two buttons and a scrollwheel and can look right past these. But trust me on this one; the new Naga feels fantastic in the hand, with buttons are far more functional than its predecessors. It's arguably only going to make sense for folks who need a lot of abilities and functions at their disposal, and excels in every way.

One more thing: Razer has pledged to offer a version of the new Naga for lefties. As a southpaw I've begrudgingly grown acclimated to mousing with my wrong (read: right) hand, so as to avoid missing out on all the bells and whistles my gaming peers are afforded. This is good news to say the least, if only because Razer is pretty much the only peripheral maker left willing to take a loss and cater to that forgotten segment of the gaming population. I'm loathe to replace my functional mouse, but as a lefty who's also an MMO junkie, I'll be putting some cash under my pillow and waiting for a lefty Naga to hit Razer's site.

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