Following on from my review of the Steelseries Sensei RAW, I figured that I keep with a mouse theme and move onto the other goodie that I got in my review box from NAG’s offices – the Razer Orochi. The Orochi is slightly unique in this regard because not only is it likewise ambidextrous, it’s also a wireless gaming mouse, with its diminutive size making it a perfect fit for those of you who own a notebook. But is it worth the consideration? Follow me and let’s find out.
The Orochi’s box is a traditional Razer black and green, with some shiny highlights to catch your eye. Inside is the mouse itself, a long braided cable about 60cm long with gold-plated USB connectors, a very nice carry bag for both and the usual paraphernalia, including a Welcome Letter, quick-start guide and two glow-in-the-dark stickers. The box is recyclable and so are the contents and plastic packaging. Razer seems to have implemented a rating scheme and one the side of the box this is marked as an “Elite” product. Below the “Elite” rating are the “Expert” and “Essential” categories.
Feeling up the Orochi it has a matte black plastic paint finish that doesn’t wear easily and feels slightly rough, but grippy. Because of its small size it’s actually even a perfect fit for claw-grip gamers, because you can keep it close to your palm and have all the buttons within comfortable reach. The left and right buttons have a nice response and they’re weighted the same, making switching between your right and left hands pretty easy. The thumb buttons require a small amount of force to push in and they make an audible click, loud enough to annoy some people. The scroll wheel is firm and reasonably quiet and clicking it in requires a little force, but feels strangely satisfying.
The rear of the Orochi is curved sharply inwards and this is how it achieves its short stature. People with small hands will appreciate its size, while those of you with larger ones might want to change to a claw grip because your fingers will go over the edge of the front. The lip that runs around the back of the mouse isn’t sharp in regular use, but run your fingers over it’s surface and you’ll know its there. There’s a small lip at the bottom where you can pull off the top, opening some of the mouses’ guts for your perusal.
The top snaps up and slides off, revealing space for two AA batteries and the mechanisms for the buttons. These are Energiser Alkaline and they’re not the crappy type of batteries you might normally find. They’re not rechargeable either, but Razer does quote them as having a three month life for regular use and 30 hours of constant gaming use. Alkaline batteries last pretty long in environments where power use is optimised and in a wireless mouse like this, it’ll be a while before you notice the Synapse software screaming at you to change them. A benefit to the batteries is that they weight the mouse down nicely at the back, giving it a solid feel and aiding accuracy.
The cable plugs in by another gold-plated USB connector underneath the scroll wheel and it fits in very, very snugly. I struggled to get it off after I first plugged it in and spent the next two days figuring if I had broken it or not. A deft tug is required to pull it out, but there’s no risk of breaking the buttons if you do it with the top off.
Interestingly, the end that plugs into the mouse is the same physical size as the mini-USB connector used on most mobile phones, although there are two tiny pins on the bottom that secure the male connector into the female one. The slim fit and the rubber lip on the connector, however, makes the cable design somewhat proprietary. Don’t lose it.
The underside is again adorned with rubber feet (is Teflon the right word to use here?) and you can still see some small scratches after about two weeks of use. This side of the mouse won’t be one you’ll be looking at often, though, so it’s not too much of a visual detractor. There’s a switch underneath the laser to turn the mouse on and off in wireless mode and when plugged in via USB. The laser itself is a class 1 and can’t be seen by the naked eye – opening your camera app on your cellphone and pointing it towards the laser will help verify that it’s working.
Some of the more eagle-eyed readers here will notice that the underside of the mouse is no longer made of a glossy surface – this is because the Orochi I have on hand is actually a revision of the older one. It no longer uses a glossy undercarriage and it also now has a maximum DPI of 6400, as opposed to the 4000DPI the first-generation Orochi had. The mouse pairs up with your PC wirelessly using Bluetooth.
So what’s the verdict then?
Hang on, we’re getting there, keep your pants on. The pairing process for the Orochi is a bit convoluted and requires you to have a working pointing device already available, along with a Bluetooth dongle or built-in to your laptop (invest in one anyway if you don’t have it, they can be time-savers). You launch your Bluetooth application on your computer and search for devices. Then you quickly flick on the switch underneath the LED and press in all four thumb buttons at the same time. Wait five seconds and then you’ll see the power LED that sits in the middle of the left and right buttons light up. Release all the keys and wait to see if its picked up. That’s all well and good to have a secure pairing process, but couldn’t Razer have done this using the Synapse software while plugged in via cable? Its a little weird, to say the least.
Synapse didn’t even turn out to be much of a bother and it was well-featured. There’s options to turn off the scroll wheel’s LED (it lights up in green), you can record Macros (though it’s not as well-featured as the Steelseries software the Sensei RAW came with) and you can set custom sensitivity ranges and link it to a particular program, so that your profile automatically loads without you having to change things yourself.
The buttons on the right side of the mouse, by default, switch the DPI levels up or down, adjusting them in steps of 1000, then 1700, then 1500 and finally 1400DPI steps, all the way to the mouse’s maximum of 6400DPI. That’s just the defaults though, you can configure the stage jumps manually inside the “Performance” tab and selecting “Configure Sensitivity stages.” There’s even the option to separately configure the X and Y axis in terms of sensitivity, giving you less movement going up and down and more when moving horizontally. That’s pretty nifty. You can also have more stages if you want, but five is the limit. You can optionally mimic the Sensei’s layout by having two stages and many profiles for different apps.
Two problems crop up with Synapse, though. You have to be connected to the internet for the initial sync-up of settings and data and when you don’t have a Razer device plugged in it turns itself off after a reboot. Even when you click to load it, it first has to sign in to the Razer servers, double-check that your settings are right and only then does it hide itself inside your system tray. So long as you have a Razer products plugged in, however, it does start up automatically, at least in my experience.
Synapse 2.0 is, overall, good and I found myself setting it up to my liking pretty quickly. After my week with the Sensei RAW, I found myself mimicking its setup to a T and it shows how powerful Razer’s drivers really are. Any sensitivity setting, any program is doable. The only thing that isn’t as well designed is the macro tools. The macros can only be assigned to buttons and you have to create different mouse profiles for the mouse that you can then assign to programs or switch between them manually through the icon in the system tray. Its not a bad way to do it and the software does work, but its not very intuitive either. Perhaps someone who uses macros with the Synapse software can chime in down by the comments section?
Its damn cheap for a wireless mouse…
It is and at around R700 its not that bad either, considering you’re getting a highly customisable setup and it’s really comfortable to use. There are, however, a few niggles with the Bluetooth mode. For example, say you let the mouse sit idle for three or so minutes and it turns off to save on battery power. Now the mouse is off and you have to switch it on again – how do you do it? The manual tells you to switch off the mouse manually when you’re not using it, but it doesn’t specify when it’s asleep.
You can do the first thing most people will attempt and that is to switch the power off and on again. There, problem solved. It takes about thirty seconds to pair up again properly, Synapse does its checks again and away you go. Or you double-click the right mouse button. It takes five seconds to wake up and another two to pair and be useable, dropping to three seconds on consecutive sleep and wake events. Bluetooth isn’t the most sophisticated of technologies and it requires that both devices pair up to each other every time they’re switched on. This isn’t a problem when you’re first setting things up or even when you’re gaming, but if you’re writing or reading something on the net and it goes to sleep, it breaks your concentration.
Another thing is that when Windows 8 was in the early design stages, one of the things that was rewritten was its networking stack, including Bluetooth. Bluetooth pairings, compared to Windows 7, take a little bit longer and even discovering devices takes about twice the time it used to. I’m also using a slightly older bluetooth adapter, so it’s not the best solution.
Boom! Bada ba da da woosh! “Maximum Armor”
In games, things were much better and I found that the mouse was comfortable to use for extended sessions. The fact that the batteries aren’t rechargeable means you’ll have to buy more Energisers or invest in a rechargeable set with a charger because these wouldn’t last a full weekend of gaming, much less a day at the rAge NAG Lan with a flurry of activity going on. In Crysis 3 it handled things well, although I found that tracking at the highest DPI setting (2000) was a bit jerky in some places via Bluetooth. Using the supplied cable, however, fixed that and I was able to use the full 6400DPI resolution. Since Crysis 3 requires you to aim at absolutely everything everywhere, I didn’t change the X or Y axis settings.
Borderlands 2, however, relies on aiming laterally, never really requiring you to aim at enemies on higher ground than you, with the exception of one battle and the annoying Buzzard helicopters. I tweaked the sensitivity to be more sensitive for sideways movement than horizontal and my sniping accuracy was much improved. Its little adjustments like that that make the mouse worth its asking price. I couldn’t overwhelm it either, although when playing on Bluetooth mode there were times when it had trouble keeping up when I tried my best to confuse it. Even then, it recovered pretty quickly, but it might not be a good fit for twitchy shooters.
I managed to play a bit of Company of Heroes and Bastion and with both games it tracked pretty well, keeping up because the pace was a bit slower. I even went and dug out Starcraft and the mouse on its 800DPI setting was great, with 1600DPI being really useful for navigating and commanding units across large maps. Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2 were both tested for the “bob” I mentioned in my Sensei review and I could maximise the vertical axis pretty easily and get the bob, re-setting the cursor to center inside the virtual desktop that Steam overlays to track resolution. Annoying as it is, its only really apparent in testing and in regular gameplay the Orochi was good.
Left-handed, I could actually get some stuff done and it was just as comfortable switching between hands as my experience with the Sensei RAW. Ambidextrous mice are getting really good and even if you aren’t a lefty, the extra two buttons should come in handy. I still can’t get a headshot with my left, though.
What are my alternatives if I can’t find one?
There are other versions of the Orochi, such as the Chromed one with a blue LED, although it’s slowly being phased out. The original one with the glossy bottom is also out of stock in most retailers and it looks like the Orochi, unlikely as it may seem, is just as unique and different as the Sensei is. The Sensei RAW is literally unmatched in its own price range and it scored really well in my rather subjective benchmarks. Then again, my left hand is totally unbiased because it never sees any mouse action (or at least that was the case previously) and it says it was a good experience, if a little bit weird.
If you’re looking for a heavy, small, well-made mouse that has both wireless and wired capability, is relatively cheap but still offers a lot of tinkering headroom, then you’ve just described the Orochi.
Right, onto the verdict then!
I once read a quote by an unnamed author that said, “Nothing perfect is ever beautiful, nothing beautiful is ever perfect.” That was probably a line to his girlfriend to help deal with self-esteem issues, but nevertheless it rings true for a lot of things. The Lexus LF-A is, in many ways, a beautiful car, but its never perfect nor is it indisputably the best choice of car . In the same vein, a Golf 7 is the perfect four-door family hatchback, but it’s not what I’d consider beautiful. Handsome? Maybe a bit, I’ll give it that. Perfect and beautiful aren’t qualities you can have in the same object, be it a person, car, mouse, gun, or cat. In House M.D., Gregory and his team meet a woman found to only possess Estrogen in her body, making her moody, occasionally manic-depressive and sometimes violent. House himself remarks towards the end of the program that even “the perfect woman is flawed.”
The Orochi is beautiful and striking. Its an unusual design compared to other mice and it doesn’t quite look the same. It has a mean edge to it and the green LEDs contrast well with the matte black painted surface. Despite the top coming off easily, it feels sturdy and moderately heavy, something you don’t expect from a mouse this size made for carrying around with your laptop. Even if you don’t have a laptop, it benefits claw-grip gamers especially with good button response and it’s small size.
Its not perfect, however. Though the Alkaline batteries should be enough for most users, gamers should invest in a rechargeable set of four batteries and possibly you should carry another set of Alkies just in case you’re at a LAN and run out of juice (the included bag fits in another two batteries perfectly). The Bluetooth mode works, but it has its own flaws when coupled to the power-saving measures of the mouse itself. 2.4GHz wireless would have worked just as well, although the 2.4GHz range is rapidly becoming very, very crowded and is still affected by the likes of microwaves and other wireless devices.
In addition, Synapse 2.0 is itself flawed because it requires saving everything into the cloud and being connected to the internet for the initial setup. Its not ideal and I don’t know how many people actually need this kind of functionality – just how many tournaments out there actually use the same Razer mice and keyboards that you have in your own house, giving you perfect reason to actually use the software? I suspect
In the end, though, it’s not a total train smash. These are irritants that detract from what is a really great mouse and could even be fixed with an update to Synapse and a firmware revision. It works well, the laser tracking is good and putting the Orochi on a felt-covered mousepad seemed to give it more weight, making it feel even heavier and more precise. If Razer overhauls it again, all they need to do is have the option to charge it using the USB cable and switch to 2.4GHz wireless mode. Pro gamers use a USB cable anyway and the fact that I can choose to use it or not is welcome. Even if you don’t own a laptop, it’s still something to consider.