I like newcomers. Any time that a new brand leaps into the market or into a new market they’ve never tried before, there’s usually some fantastic ideas that get thrown into their first attempts. Sure, throwing stuff onto the wall to see what sticks isn’t always the best idea, but occasionally it produces a complete gem. This was the case with Corsair’s entrance into tower cases, with OCZ’s entry into solid state drives, with Intel’s Core 2 family and with the Nintendo Gameboy.
Sometimes, those first ideas become defining moments for a brand and grounds them to knowing what it is they do best. With GAMDIAS, they’re still finding their feet after launching in 2012 with everything you can think of – mice, keyboards, headsets, gaming gloves and even headphone stands for your monitor – but they’ve found something special already in the ZEUS Esport GMS1100 mouse which I’m looking at today.
GAMDIAS since 2012
New brands and entirely new companies popping up with something aimed straight at the big guns isn’t something that happens all the time. Toyota, Honda and Nissan didn’t take over car sales in the US overnight, it was through a slow injection of reliable Japanese motoring over decades that got the public buying their products. Likewise Kia, a Korean-based car manufacturer, only became popular among budget buyers for what they offered at the low-end, choosing each year to instead invest money in making better cars, not crappier ones. At the top of the electronics food chain we have all-Asian brands duking it out for the spot on the throne but consider that many of them only started out with cheaper stuff and moved to the quality products later.
GAMDIAS, instead, leaves behind budget brands like Genius or Logitech and aims directly at the high-end part of the market with their products. Founded in Taiwan in 2012, the company has already produced a range of products for different markets and is “a group of passionate gamers with limitless creative ideas.” Along with the gamers, they rely on designers picked from the Red Dot Professionals groups and they use think-tanks to come up with new ideas and concepts.
The ZEUS Esport I have here today is one of their results and it not only has concepts and ideas taken from other brands, it has a crazy style that hasn’t been seen in any other mouse before, with possible exception to the Saitek Cyborg R.A.T. family. Retailing locally for just under R900 it is pitted up against heavyweights like the Logitech G500S, the Razer Imperator, Steelseries’ Sensei, Saitek Cyborg’s R.A.T. 5, Cooler Master’s Reaper and the Roccat Kone+.
Packaging is eye-catching
The ZEUS Esport edition comes in some rather nifty packaging. The GAMDIAS logo is everywhere and it’s literally a nod to the ZEUS itself – the logo is actually composed of the letters that spell “ZEUS”. Its printed onto every inch of the box’s surface in holofoil and it catches the light nicely at different angles.
The front flap is held down by a small magnet on the lid and it provides a clear view of the mouse itself. Packaging that completely hides what you’re buying is never a good idea because it lures consumers into making incorrect purchases on the floor.
The top of the packaging slides off to reveal the ZEUS in a plastic shell, which is a rather nice touch because the top isn’t fastened down by any stickers or flaps. You can look at every corner of the mouse and see whether the extreme design is to your liking or not.
As seen in the picture above, the USB connector is gold-plated and this is a trend I’m seeing recently with higher-end peripherals to combat rust and wear and tear in the device’s normal life. I’m happy that GAMDIAS chose this from the start, as many South Africans live in coastal towns and cities and rust becomes a major issue in places with high humidity like Durban.
The accompanying packaging hasn’t been overlooked and GAMDIAS has included some niceties. There’s a set of replacement Teflon feet in case your original ones wear down too quickly and this is a really nice touch. There’s the requisite manual which is quite sparse and the stickers, which are standard in pretty much any gaming product nowadays.
The ZEUS Esport also comes with a fabric pouch for the replacement feet as well as the weights. Yes, there is weight adjustment on offer here and the rubber holder GAMDIAS puts into the packaging is useful for keeping safe the weights that you don’t need.
The ZEUS itself is quite menacing. It sports a slightly higher profile than my Sensei RAW (yes, I did buy one) and it has lots of scuplted curves and angles. The vent on the side where your thumb would sit is one of many designed to keep your hands cool while gaming. The difference between the Esport and the regular edition is the rubber matte finish which helps with grip when you’ve been gaming for a while and have sweaty palms.
Being made exclusively for right-handed folk, the ZEUS includes four thumb buttons, two middle buttons for DPI selection, a third middle button which by default launches the GAMDIAS website in your chosen browser and a button on the top-left under the left-click button, which changes the active profile. All of the buttons are easily reachable and the thumb buttons may take some getting used to in the beginning because they’re smaller than most other designs that just have two on the left-hand side.
The USB cord is also pretty long, measuring in at two metres. The cable is braided but not too thickly, so it’s easy to route around other things on your desktop. The ZEUS Esport runs on a 32-bit Cortex-A7 ARM processor with 512KB of memory, so storing all your profiles, hotkeys, shortcuts and button assignments is pretty easy. Configuring it is actually a one-off procedure thanks to that, so lugging it to a LAN or tournament without an internet connection won’t mean that you lose your customisations.
The right side of the mouse is devoid of buttons but has more sections for cooling and it looks really aggressive. The slight overhand on the top curvy-arm-thingy (come up with a better name, go on!) is actually purpose-designed to allow you to rest your right-hand ring finger on and getting comfortable is, for lack of a better word, automatic – you don’t consciously think about it, you just put your fingers there.
There’s also an overhang on the bottom curvy-arm-thingy where you’d rest your pinky. Now, one issue I have with the design is that I’m a very fiddly person and occasionally I’ll put off cutting my nails for two weeks or more. If you have slightly long-ish nails, there’s a good chance you’ll get them caught in that tiny gap between the two curvy-arm-thingies. I’m not sure if GAMDIAS’ test bed included gamers with long nails, but it’s a pretty small niggle to worry about anyway.
The front of the ZEUS Esport is a little busy with the braided cable coming out the front, the overhanging left and right mouse buttons as well as a tiny ZEUS logo in the front. I couldn’t catch the light properly at this angle but the front also has some extra chrome detailing, two LED light fittings and two rubber mats that make the front look like the face of a Lamborghini Gallardo.
As you can see in the picture, my review unit has an issue that I’ve noticed on other reviews on the net – the USB cable angles downward which makes it a little awkward to use with a mouse bungee. In addition, the downward pressure causes the cable to scrape and fray pretty easily. Fixing this at a design or assembly level is easy enough, but the fraying didn’t annoy me as much as it did for others.
The mouse wheel is smooth and has wavy lines set in the design to allow for LED lights to shine through. In the beginning it was a bit stiff to use and I initially thought this would be a deal breaker but after a week it loosened up nicely. It now feels very light and the action is smooth, with a noticeable “bump” when the wheel scrolls up or down.
Turning the mouse upside-down reveals the extra tricks that GAMDIAS packed up its sleeve. Just like the R.A.T. family, it has an adjustable frame moved by tiny gears at its base. These move out the thumb and pinky rests and give the mouse a more fleshed-out feel. Actual movement from the default is about 5mm on the right, 8mm on the thumb rest.
That’s not enough to change its shape too radically, but extending the thumb rest all the way out does make hitting the thumb buttons a tad trickier, making the action of sliding your thumb along the buttons to find the furthest one in front and pressing it less easy. The plastic shell that GAMDIAS is using for the top of the mouse is a solid piece so there’s no leeway for extending or retracting the palm rest as seen in the R.A.T. 5, 7 and 9.
The silver compartment on the underside of the mouse, towards the rear, can be pulled down and flipped open, revealing a storage compartment for the mouse weights. There are five 4.5g weights which allows you to tailor the weighting to your liking.
With a full load, the ZEUS Esport weighs 147g total, dropping to 126g without the weights. For its successor, I’d prefer if GAMDIAS makes the weight pouch completely removable. That way, people with larger fingers and shorter nails can switch out the weights with ease.
With the mouse powered on, you can see the front LEDs have this lovely red glow, making it look a bit more menacing. The scroll wheel LED cycles through the colours red, orange, light lime green, cyan, dark blue and then purple to correspond with the profile you’ve switched to. The LED under the profile switch button changes according to the level of DPI sensitivity and by default there are only 5 presets for colour coding.
Moving to the back, the ZEUS logo lights up in yellow and can’t be adjusted like the others. Underneath the mouse you can see the red LEDs which only have intensity adjustments. In the dark, it looks really good.
Moving on to HERA
GAMDIAS’ controller software is called HERA and it’s a little like Razer’s Synapse but shares more functionality in common with other GUI drivers from brands like Logitech and Steelseries. By default there are only six profiles available on the Zeus and more cannot be added due to the 512KB memory limitation for the ARM processor inside the mouse. However, five is enough for what most gamers would get out of it.
Installing HERA requires an internet connection for the first tune so it’s a bit like Synapse in that sense. Its available as a zipped folder and unpacks to your preferred location in Windows. On the first run, it downloads the firmware and drivers for your device and installs them in the background.
Once this is done, HERA becomes a portable app, so its possible to put this on to a flash drive and carry it around with you. Since it doesn’t install to the system, I recommend pinning the program to your taskbar instead. Under Windows 8.1, it’s recognised as a 32-bit executable and takes up less than 30MB of system RAM.
The landing page takes you straight to the key assignments and this is where most people will be spending their time tweaking the software. The buttons in the image of the ZEUS are selectable and offer a range of functions. Buttons can have only one function per profile, but with 11 programmable keys there’s a lot of leeway to making it your own. Each profile can be associated with up to three programs each.
HERA’s macro recording functions are quite involved and you’d be forgiven for spending a few minutes figuring out what each setting does. However, you can have as many macros as you want and they are stored in separate folders inside wherever you’ve unpacked HERA. In fact, because it’s stored in local folders and not in the cloud, it’s easy to create custom macros for a game and then share it with anyone who may benefit from using the same setup as you.
There is a lot of customisation here and HERA doesn’t discriminate against which keyboard you use either – including macros for your keyboard is allowed and launching them through key combinations is good to go as well.
Mouse control exposes some of the finely-grained settings for sensitivity, movement and general behaviour. Everything from the polling rate, double-click speed and the lift-off setting can be configured to your personal requirements and this is a lot more leeway than what I found in Synapse or Steelseries Engine. It feels like GAMDIAS took all the needs for the gamers they tested products on and incorporated them anyway, so there’s something for everyone here.
My two favourites are the options for straight path correction and cursor acceleration, both of which can be adjusted. Straight path helps when making precise movements in applications like Photoshop or as a sniper when you’re tracking your target. By default it is set very low to accommodate FPS and RTS players, but this can be adjusted according to your needs.
Lighting is an important part of GAMDIAS’ offering in the ZEUS and this can all be configured easily through the GUI. There are options for custom lighting setups for different profiles and you can even adjust the intensity of the underside lights.
There are also options to turn some of the lights off completely so if you don’t want the flash, you don’t have to keep it on. Nice.
Sounds and Timers host some of the really odd-ball settings, though. You can select different sounds to play when you press a key for your specified profile. For example, I can set an orchestral theme to play with I click the middle mouse button. If I had custom sound files, I could make my speakers blare out something like “Oooooh, snap!” whenever I switch the DPI profile. There’s also options to launch a timer when you press a button and the timers are selected from a configured timer in the Timer settings menu.
Finally, digging into the Hera menu itself, accessed from a link in the bottom-left corner, we are able to set up on-screen notifications for profile switches and the like. I can also change keyboard languages from here and set up sound notifications for changing profiles, DPI and changing the volume (although this is a bit redundant when you keep lowering it).
All things considered, HERA is a good piece of driver control software and I wonder how it’ll change over time to support devices like touch screens and smaller monitors.
Double Kill! Multi-Kill! Mega-Kill! Unstoppable!
For the last few weeks I’ve been playing multiplayer games with my friends and one of those is Unreal Tournament 2004. Despite the game’s relative age and the fact that it doesn’t look as pretty as Unreal III, it still holds its own today along with the more modern shooters and the saviour for the arena shooter genre, Titanfall, aims to pick up the legacy of these great games and run them straight into the modern games market.
Unreal’s fast-paced gameplay is a real workout for some mice and the ZEUS Esport handled it quite well, with cursor tracking being very accurate and never skipping a beat even when playing with six other people on Plunge, one of the faster maps in the game.
UT2K4 was the one of the few games in my possession that really show how much of a difference polling rate can make to your performance. Switching between 1000Hz and 500Hz, there’s a clear difference in how much time it takes to line up a shot and for the first few matches played with the ZEUS I wasn’t adjusting very well.
I’m also playing a lot of Killing Floor and to my surprise it’s been one of the better shooters from an indie developer that I’ve tried so far. Its standard fare where the zombies are concerned and there are parallels where Left 4 Dead is concerned, but overall it’s been a lot of fun and it greatly favours skilled players with better accuracy over players with bigger guns (even though the gun seller really seems to like big guns, too!). The game can’t be faulted for a lack of variety and makes most of its money from DLC sales despite it being a paid-for game, but it isn’t designed to require you to purchase the DLC at all.
Performance here was pretty good and the extra thumb buttons meant that I could do more than just throw out grenades and equip my knife for melee attacks. I can now select my two primary weapons from the thumb buttons and the 1000Hz polling rate really helped with lining up shots and getting away from the walkers quickly.
Yes, I still have love for Borderlands 2 and I haven’t completed much of the DLC yet because I’ve been waiting on my friends to finish up whatever’s grabbing their attention so we can plough through it. I loaded up into the Bandit Stronghold and proceeded to wipe out all the enemies I encountered. Because I play with Gaige for the most part, I rely a lot on the use of grenades and Deathtrap to aid me and the Zeus helped here as well.
Borderlands 2 is one of the games that I wished had catered to the PC crowd more because the controls are more simplified than the first game, which took a lot more time getting used to. Still, as far as I can attest to here, the ZEUS works pretty well. So then, what about a game that doesn’t have things to shoot?
I’m particularly fond of Audiosurf because it provides me with a new way to enjoy my music collection and I’ve always been a fan of music visualisers from the day when I first booted up my PS One and just played music to look at the pretty colours. Audiosurf is pretty much an interactive form of that, allowing players to pilot spaceships on the highway that is your chosen music track, hitting notes for scores and avoiding the dead blocks which just take up space. Its as addictive as it is entertaining and being a fan of rhythm games even though I suck at most of them, this is the equivalent of digital candy…
Candy™, Crushed™ into some Saga™ drink served in a glass with the name Banner™ on it. Hey, does anyone know how long it takes King.com to serve you with cease and desist notices?
Back to Audiosurf though, I used the game to test the acceleration capabilities of the ZEUS Esport because this game requires some really quick, deft movements of the mouse to steer your ships around the dangers that hurtle towards it. It appears to be sensitive to polling rate with 250Hz being the minimum for playability but it’s a lot more reliant on DPI levels – raise them too high and you lose accuracy, too low and you end up picking up blocks or colours you don’t need. Overall, the ZEUS Esport is a better performer than my Sensei RAW in Audiosurf, but the slight increase in weight does affect my ability to move quickly.
Its pretty easy to make a mouse these days. You can buy a sensor, some software and drivers from Avago, you use a 3D printer to settle on a design and get them made in bulk through impression moulds (I think that’s the term, someone feel free to correct me) and then get things like USB connectors, buttons, cables and PCBs and LEDs from various suppliers. Contract out a factory in China to assemble them for you and then get a marketing team working on design, packaging and target markets. Although I’ve simplified the process greatly, building peripherals these days is a lot easier when there are many OEM companies willing to sell you their products which you can later rebrand.
Throughout my review, I noticed how GAMDIAS’ approach to what a mouse should be and how it should behave is simultaneously standard and unique. The design is certainly different and they’ve settled for the middle of the road with four mouse buttons instead of the smorgasbord of them on the Razer Naga Hex or Logitech’s G600. Its a busy design but it’s very uncomplicated at the same time – there’s not much to fiddle with or break unless you’re ham-fisted and change the weights every hour.
Its not the mouse I would have chosen on first glance, to be honest and when I was contacted by their offices in Taiwan I had no idea they even existed. Despite being listed by a few retailers and even having Esquire registered as their local dealer, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the first thing about them or their products. Being new in a market full of stalwarts doesn’t help their case either.
But I believe that they have a genuinely good offering here and they need to continue refining the design and the capabilities of the ZEUS Esport even further. The review unit I received was mostly faultless (aside from a tiny piece of plastic going askew and creating friction on non-fabric surfaces) and I never once had a driver issue or a hardware issue either. The extensive settings inside HERA and the programmability of the buttons means it has something to offer power users as well, even if they don’t have much care for the gaming capability of the ZEUS.
All in all, it’s a great product from the company for the high-end market and I’d be very interested to see how they go from here. Already reviews of the ZEUS Esport and other products are hitting the net and people are taking notice. Its up to GAMDIAS now to keep up that positive publicity and coverage and turn it into a brand that people turn to first before their competitors.