The Naga 2013: Improving on a classic by degrees

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One of the hardest things to do is look at something you've created and try to make it better. Because sometimes you can't.

I first picked up a Razer Naga back when I was first working at Massively, mostly because it suited my piloting style in Star Trek Online. Once I had it in my hand, I never wanted to let it go. It was small, which was a welcome fact for someone with small hands. It had a useful thumb-pad for keys that felt comfortable and intuitive. It was responsive, it was attractive, it was everything I could want from a gaming mouse.

Of course, the Naga was getting a bit long in the tooth. So it got redesigned. I was sent a review copy of the mouse to take for a spin, to see if this new edition of the product was nearly as good as the existing mouse that I've been using for nearly four years. Is the new Naga a worthy inheritor, or did something beautiful get ruined by a redo?

We are not forgotten, my small-mitted brothers and sisters!

The first thing you're going to notice about the new Naga is that it's bigger... slightly. Very slightly. The front end is less tapered, and the far right side protrudes more (or the far left side if you're using the southpaw variant.) As I mentioned above, I have small hands, so this did not immediately fill me with joy at the prospect of having a mouse which fit nicely in smaller hands suddenly scaled up.

I pretty much forgot about it within two seconds. The small increases in size don't change the overall profile of the mouse, which is still comfortably small. More to the point, it's lighter than its predecessor. I'm not sure how that happened, and part of me worries that it might have less long-term durability as a result, but the net result is that the slight change in size becomes immaterial after a moment. My smaller hands grip the mouse comfortably.

The two buttons on the left side of the mouse have been moved beneath the scroll wheel. This bothered me at first until I learned that the scroll wheel now has added tilt functionality, which I immediately fell in love with. It makes the secondary buttons a bit more useless, but the net result is two more inputs to use, and the tilt-clicks are nice and intuitive.

I'm fairly certain that the scroll wheel has also had its ridges raised slightly, but my Naga may have just been worn down from years of use. Either way, it's crisp and responsive.

Considering I already had the client software installed for my Naga, installation was fairly simple: Plug it in, reboot a couple of times, and it's running like a dream. It also offers an in-game configuration utility, which allows you to remap the buttons while you're playing, something infinitely more appealing than alt-tabbing back and forth. (Although I wonder how many games have so many functions that can't be remapped that remapping the entire mouse on a regular basis is that urgent.)

But the real reason you buy a Naga instead of one of the many other gaming mice on the market is for that thumbpad. The old version has been replaced with a set of mechanical buttons, with a more distinct layout for the individual buttons. It's a definite change, and one that I was worried would be a bit of a hurdle to get over in play.

First of all, it's worth noting that the layout has changed slightly from the original. Instead of the slight curve on the first Naga's layout, the pad is shaped like a rhombus. The buttons are no longer staggered quite the same, either, and I know that my thumb kept accidentally hitting the 12 when I was going for the 9 just because I wasn't used to the new layout. The raised buttons are a little easier to hit accidentally, as well.

There's... only so many pictures you can show of a mouse, really.

Some of that might just be a matter of muscle memory, however, because I've been using the old version for years. I'm accustomed to that layout. And there's nothing wrong with this one. The presses are quick and responsive as always, and the staggered layout down the center line (2, 5, 8, and 11) helps you know where your thumb is without having to glance at the mouse. It's going to be a transition for old-timers, but I think it's going to ultimately be easier for those who've never used a Naga before.

And in a lot of ways, it's the same old mouse, which is to say that it's well-engineered and reliable. The wire is nice and durable, the body is solidly constructed, the lighting can be turned on or off, and you can fine-tune sensitivity quite nicely. Each of the mechanical buttons provides a nice bit of tactile feedback without being difficult to activate in the heat of combat.

Is it worth buying? If you don't already own a Naga, yes, absolutely. The old version was spectacular, the new version feels like a general upgrade, and you'll get every penny's worth from the asking price. But if you do already own a Naga, the answer is a bit dicier, because it's not about whether the mouse is good, but whether it's better.

In that department... there are a few features about the old one that I liked better. Some of that comes down to personal preference (I sort of miss the grooved left-and-right click buttons) and some of it doesn't (the sub-scroll wheel buttons are a bit awkward until you've practiced with them a bit). But the functionality is all there, and none of the additions come at the expense of something else.

If you're thinking about replacing your Naga? Pick up the new one. And if you've never owned one before, you're in for a treat. Razer took the mouse and made it better, even if it's just by increments.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?