The Razer Naga
Razer keeps a peculiar naming convention for their product lines, with keyboards named after arachnids, mousepads named after non-arachnid insects, audio gear after aquatic predators, and finally gaming mice after snakes. The cleverly named Naga is taken from the Sanskrit for cobra, but as Mike pointed out in his hands-on report, everybody who plays WoW is familiar with those snake-men that pester us all over Azeroth. Razer is taking square aim at World of Warcraft players and there's nothing subtle about it.
One of the first impressions I got of the Naga when I saw it on Razer's website when it was launched was that it looked bulky. I mean, after all, it had a full 12-button keypad on its side. After seeing it a BlizzCon and playing with it now, I found that it isn't actually the case. Compared to other gaming mice (I'd been using Razer's DeathAdder and Lachesis prior to the Naga), it's actually rather small. Pictures, as they say, add ten pounds, and this is certainly true of the Razer Naga, which is actually slimmer and more compact than the gallery suggests.
This compact form factor should appeal to female gamers, who generally have smaller hands than most males. Considering that over 400,000 women play World of Warcraft in the US alone, this should be a good thing. The keypad is also the same size as that found on most mobile phones, so its size shouldn't be a problem for men, either. The Razer Naga sports 17 buttons, which is a whole freaking lot, even for a gaming mouse. These buttons are the most significant hardware feature of the Razer Naga, which we'll explore in-depth later.
It is an ergonomic mouse -- which means that lefties are out of luck -- with the keypad accessible by the thumb, three buttons for the index finger, a scroll wheel button, and the right mouse button for the middle finger. Opposite the keypad is a small curve where the ring finger can rest while the pinky can grip the side. It has a 7-foot lightweight, braided cable that terminates in a gold-plated USB connector. The braided fiber cable seems to be the new trend for Razer mice, lending itself to fewer tangles.
One other feature that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere is a small toggle found underneath the Naga that allows the 12-button keypad to register as the normal number keys (including - and =) or as the numeric keypad on a full size keyboard or Advanced [NUM] mode. Combined with the regular number keys, the Naga toggled to the Advanced [NUM] mode provides more buttons than players will have use for. Combine that with the ALT, SHIFT, CTRL and combinations thereof, then there are roughly a gajillion-zillion keybindings at players' disposal. One caveat: toggling the Caps Lock will affect the Naga when in [NUM] mode.
One of the biggest hurdles in making the jump to the Razer Naga is adapting one's playing style to take advantage of the mouse. Most players are used to accessing spells through their keyboard, with the default action bars bound to the number keys. Many players use basic, two-button mice, and use the keyboard W, A, S, D keys to move. The Razer Naga "tips the balance, so to speak, between the keyboard and mouse," according to Steve Chevrie, aka Razer|Fakesteve. It frees up the keyboard hand to focus solely on modifier keys or even movement such as strafing to complement forward movement with the mouse.
The most basic way to use the Razer Naga after installing it is to have it toggled as the normal keypad and use the keys as you would the 12 buttons on the default action bar. The Naga's default keypad values out of the box correspond with the keys bound to the default UI from 1 to =. New players or those who like to use the default UI can use the Razer Naga to shift all spell commands to the mouse, freeing the keyboard hand for modifiers, movement, or even munching on Cheetos.
In its default settings, the action bars can be toggled using the SHIFT+X command, where X is the page of the action bar. There are a total of six action bars in the default UI, so players starting completely fresh can hit the ground running with the Razer Naga without having to configure anything and still effectively having easy access to up to 72 buttons. On Windows, the two buttons beside the left mouse button allow forward and backward movement. On Macs, these buttons are ignored but can be configured for forward and backward movement (or anything else) through the Key Bindings interface.
Right out of the box, without any configuration, the Razer Naga immediately changes one's game and can eliminate 'clicking'. But why stick with the default interface? Razer|Fakesteve says that "in order to efficiently display the many commands (
World of Warcraft players) can bind to the Razer Naga,"
the developers had to "kick the default interface out the door."
This is where the power of the Naga is truly unleashed. In the next part of our review, we'll take a look at how the Naga performs with custom UI and settings.