Monday, October 1, 2012

Hand's On: Razer Orochi

A while back I decided to get myself the Razer Orochi mouse for use with my Macbook Pro.  Generally speaking I love the MBPro’s trackpad, and the smooth integration and wide host of gestures make for a dynamic duo.  But for those times when I am sitting at a desk for extended periods of time and doing a lot of work on the computer, even the trackpad gets uncomfortable, and I longed for a mouse.  Is this a suitable replacement?  Let’s see.

As with most (or all, really) Razer products, the Orochi is geared towards a gaming audience.  Thus, even as a mobile mouse it’s surprisingly feature rich.  You have the standard stuff like high, customizable DPI (the max is 4,000 I think) for adapting to various environments and situations.  For those who don’t know, DPI basically adjusts how sensitive the mouse is to movement.  The higher the DPI, the more sensitive it is.  In a gaming context, this is good if you’re running indoors in a first person shooter and need to be able to react quickly to whatever danger lies behind each door or corner, or maybe when playing a real-time strategy game.  On the hand, any time you’re handling sniper rifles, you would want lower DPI.

In addition to the left and right click buttons, the Orochi features four programmable buttons, and a clickable scroll wheel.  The scroll wheel doesn’t tilt, but feels sturdier as a result.  It’s actually one of the better scroll wheels I’ve ever used, with an excellent tactile response.  I can’t say the same for the rest of the mouse, which feels somewhat flimsy, not to such an extent that I constantly worry it’ll break or something.  The mouse comes in two versions; chrome and matte.  I only bought the chrome version because at the time it was about five dollars cheaper.  In retrospect, if they had been the same price I would have gone for the matte version, because the one I have is extremely glossy, and attracts smudges and fingerprints like nothing I’ve ever seen.  It’s not as big a deal because it is jet black, but if you have the choice I’d probably recommend the matte one.

The mouse is also a little bit smaller than I thought it would be, but that’s because I’ve never had a mobile mouse before.  I have pretty long fingers, so for me using this thing is definitely not as comfortable as a full-size mouse.  But I suppose the tradeoff is worth it for the mobility.

The Orochi is completely ambidextrous in its design.  The four programmable buttons are paired up symmetrically, two to each side.  Looking through the mapping, you get the feeling that Razer only expects you to use one side or the other (not both) ingame, depending on which hand you use your mouse with.  Still all four buttons are programmable.

The real reason I picked up the Orochi however was because of its dual connectivity.  It’s able to connect over Bluetooth and USB, which was very attractive to me.  In both modes, the mouse is pretty much plug and play, at least with Mac OS X.  You can get it up and running either over Bluetooth using the Bluetooth Setup Assistant built into OS X, or instantly by plugging it in, and you can even adjust a few options like sensitivity in System Preferences.  However, to access to mouse’s fancier features like DPI customization, macros and button mapping, you’ll need to download Razer’s drivers and install them.  It’s a brief download, only about 2mb.  In OS X, the drivers are installed as another pane in System Preferences.

 Naturally, the drivers make the mouse a far more robust product.  You can remap literally every single button the controller—assigning macros to them, keyboard buttons, etc.—and change what the scroll wheel does.  You can also make macros, and generate separate profiles, if for some reason multiple people use the same mouse.  The drivers are also where you can set the DPI.  You can even change how the LEDs behave on the mouse.

As the picture demonstrates however, you can only use the drivers with the mouse when it’s connected over USB.  Connected via Bluetooth, you cannot configure the mouse at all using the drivers.  The maximum DPI is lowered, as well, probably to conserve power.  The mouse comes with a high quality threaded micro-USB cable (yes, it is long enough to comfortably use even if you’re a right handed person having to connect to the MBPro’s left ports), a pair of AA batteries, and a cushiony carrying pouch that will store both it and the cable, and probably an extra set of batteries to boot.  Incidentally, I tested the mouse and drivers in OS X 10.6 and 10.8, and it worked flawlessly in both versions.

So is the mouse a suitable replacement for the trackpad?  Yes and no.  Trackpad gestures are so intrinsically tied into OS X at this point there are some areas, like general file system navigation, where you’ll probably want to just use the trackpad.  OS X’s hot corners feature goes a long way to compensate, however.

Overall, I like this mouse a lot; it feels versatile.  For $60, it's not exactly an amazing value, but I hardly feel cheated.

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