By Leif Johnson
To hear non-gamers talk, most gamers never get to hold something firm and curvy that responds to the flick of a finger except when they use their gaming mice. All the more reason, then, for those mice to be a cut above the dull contraptions used by lesser mortals. There’s already an impressive selection of such gadgets on the market, but the marketing for Roccat’s new Savu hails it as the new “king” of optical gaming mice with all the presumption of a Targaryen. It’s not without some legitimate claims to such a title, but depending on how seriously you take your gameplay, you might be better off rallying under a different banner.
Viewed from afar, the Savu is a simple but stylish offering in a market stuffed with peripherals that looked concepts that never made it into TRON. The only feature that really screams “gaming” is the customizable light strip at the base, which you can set to your favorite of 16.8 million colors or keep on the pulsating factory setting. View it more closely, however, and you’ll realize that simplicity is part of its charm. Features such as its finely braided cord and understated logo and two side buttons render it something of a gentleman’s gaming mouse, and its pleasingly roughish side grips keep off the sweat from those vigorous sessions. A model of pleasing craftsmanship, it’s equally attractive in your sloppy gaming cave or on a mahogany work desk.
For the most part, it performs as well as it looks. The Savu bases much of its pretensions to royalty on its four optical sensitivity settings (400, 800, 1600, and 4000 DPI) and its 1000 Hz polling rate, and the good news is that it’s every bit as responsive as a device with those specs should be. I’ve used it on everything from Diablo III and TERA to InDesign projects without any issues, even to the extremes of playing on a flattened T-shirt and a glass desk without a mousepad, and never once have I felt I needed additional accuracy. It also has a tough little bugger of a padded scroll wheel that puts up a bit resistance than usual for an added degree of precision, although I found it a tad constricting when I tried to zoom in and out of battles in games like World of Warcraft.
But if you’re looking for the arsenal of buttons crammed on other gaming mice like the Razer Naga, you won’t find it here. Instead, the Savu relies on an “Easy Shift” option to achieve something approaching the same functionality via a traditional mouse design, which entails holding down one of the two side buttons to unlock secondary functions on the mouse’s other buttons. Master it, and you’ll have a total of 12 buttons at your disposal. It’s a good idea that keeps the Savu from looking like some clunky gizmo out of Men in Black, but the requisite finger acrobatics entail a steep learning curve, particularly if you have fairly big hands like mine. Worse yet, positioning your hands for better access usually requires dragging your wrist across your desk’s surface.
This is a biggie. If you’re not using the Easy Shift, you’ve essentially bought an expensive four-button mouse that’s just a few steps up from what you could have picked up at the corner office supply. Sure, the precise DPI settings might be nice and it’s got that snazzy color strip and all, but if you discover (as I did) that the side buttons sit a tad too far back for your thumb, you might only use the Easy Shift for relaxed actions such as mounting a horse in an MMORPG or opening your inventory in Diablo III—you know, actions probably best left bound to the keyboard. In battle, the two-step process simply slows you down too much.
If you’re determined to make it work, though, the Savu boasts an exceedingly intuitive driver application that lets you customize almost every aspect of the device ranging from the location of the Easy Shift button to more arcane settings such as sensitivity and scroll speed. This helps, but I still found the two-step clicking process confining. Want to take your hots for your mouse to the next level? The Savu even includes a collection of 13 achievements so you can brag about how you fondled your scroll wheel 30,000 times to riveted millions on Facebook. Apparently that’s a first for a mouse.
All of this makes for a solid gaming mouse for a decent price of $59.99 USD, but whether that makes it a “king” depends on if you associate the term with sweeping empires like Britain used to have or cozy realms like Denmark. Compared to most traditional mice with a similar price range, it’s quite remarkable, but the hardcore MMORPG or shooter crowd might be better served with more complex mice like the Razer Naga that don’t require as many two-step macros. If you’ve got medium-sized hands and value precision over easy button management, however, you might find Roccat’s latest offering worth a look. Just make sure you try it for yourself first if you can.