Zowie's New Mice Haven't Evolved As Much As The Competition

zowie s s1 s2 gaming mice review kotaku

I own a lot of gaming mice. I'm talking two full draws of the things. And out of all the mice I've purchased, there's no brand I've bought more than Zowie, the esports-centric peripherals started by some of the oldest Counter-Strike professionals around.

Zowie, which has been owned by BenQ for the last few years, quickly established a reputation amongst gamers for being some of the best, no-frills devices one could buy. The company launched in late 2008, a time when gamers were crying out for reliable peripherals. Laser sensors were still a popular product among manufacturers, mouse sensors weren't as standardised as they were today, and some of the best mice weren't produced in mass quantities or had stopped production altogether.

So to get a mouse that fit the hand perfectly, required no device drivers and did the job without costing over $100 bucks? Zowie mice were a godsend. And just over a decade later, that's still the case for Zowie mice today.

The latest iteration in Zowie's lineup is the S series, with the larger S1 weighing in at 87 grams (sans cable) and the S2 weighing 82 grams. There's some slight differences in height and length between the mice, but they share the same rock-solid 3360 sensor, and four DPI settings (400/800/1600/3200).

The main appeal of the S series, at least compared to the other Zowie offerings, is a shorter overall design. It's meant for gamers who prefer to wrap their whole hand around the mouse, as opposed to the taller FK series. The front of the S mice are slightly thicker too, allowing more room for your fourth and fifth fingers to rest on the side.

If all of this sounds a bit anal, that's partly the point. Unlike Razer, Logitech, CORSAIR or a lot of other mice manufacturers, Zowie has never tried or attempted to compete on features or advanced software. The company's bread and butter has always been in providing a no-frills device with the perfect shape. What the perfect shape is obviously varies from gamer to gamer, which is where Zowie's various product lines come into play: the ZA series was designed for gamers who wanted shorter mice with a hump that fit into your palm, the FK and S series for those who preferred ambidextrous-style designs, and the EC series for right-handed gamers who wanted larger, Intellimouse 3.0-esque designs.

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But Zowie's problem in the past couple of years has been a lack of innovation. Whereas Zowie used to maintain a competitive advantage with relatively light mice, a top-class sensor and quality buttons, other manufacturers have swiftly caught up. Other mice have lighter clicks that cause less fatigue over longer periods. Other makers have better mouse wheels that are easier to scroll, and more satisfying to click. Chassis design has improved markedly across the board, and just about every mouse manufacturer uses one of two sensors (and the ones that don't, like Logitech and Razer, have improved their own to the point where most gamers can't tell the difference).

That's not to say Zowie hasn't made improvements. The S series is definitely the best physical iteration of a Zowie mice yet, with lighter mouse clicks than previous versions. The mousewheel is a little less spongy as well, although it's not the most comfortable to click in, but if you're the kind of gamer that frequently uses the mousewheel as a separate button, chances are you'd be looking at a mouse with vastly more functionality. The cable's a little more flexible as well; it's not the ultralight cords that have appeared on the Glorious Model O, the new Razer Viper or the Finalmouse Ultralight offerings, but it's not braided and it wasn't a distraction while doing full-length swipes on the mousepad.

It's never been a huge detractor for me, but the S series only has side buttons on the left-hand side, as opposed to side buttons on both sides. The black S1 and S2 series, which are selling in Australia for $119 later this month, have a matte back instead of the glossy coating of the Divina series. That style of coating isn't especially great for the Australian summer, and if you've got an especially sweaty hand it might be worth looking for a device that'll be more comfortable over longer sessions.

Otherwise, there's little else to note about the S series. The biggest differences with Zowie mice is typically the shape, as the company doesn't compete on advanced features and has built its reputation on selling a consistent product from time to time. But that's also the company's biggest weakness now: by not venturing forward into new offerings or new technologies, they've allowed other rivals to undercut them on price, performance and usability.

The Zowie mice aren't the lightest corded mice on the market. They're not wireless. They're not the most comfortable, due to the stiffness of the clicks and the mousewheel. The S series has improved significantly in both aspects, but compared to the rest of the competition, they haven't advanced far enough.

What Zowie still has in its favour is a solid, reliable shape that you can fling for days on any PC, anytime, anywhere. As a former competitive Counter-Strike player, that's brilliant. But I can do the same with other mice that cost less, mice that are lighter, and mice that are wireless. Zowie's calling card isn't a standout feature anymore, and while their chassis designs are still brilliant, it's about time the company took a proper step forward into the future.


Comments

    Maybe not the best question on a Zowie article, but Alex, I'm curious what your opinion on Roccat's range of mice is. Shape is more important than I think a lot of reviews give it credit for, and I've been through dozens of mice over the years before eventually settling on Roccat, which seems to give me both a great shape and the baseline features you expect from a gaming mouse. Still, I don't see them covered all that much outside of dedicated 'review all the things' sites.

      To explain the last bit first: it's partially outreach and time. Main reason you see a lot of larger brands is because they're better at working with media (or getting in touch), and it's a region based thing as well. I haven't seen an email from ROCCAT in a couple of years, and since I'm stretched pretty thin as is, it's pretty normal that I'd focus on the hardware pile I've got.

      As for the mice themselves, the last time I checked them out they were well priced. Bit large on the chassis design for my liking. I played a couple of national comps with mice that have thumb grooves (this was back in the MX518 / G5 ? The first Logi laser one half a century ago) and worked out that I preferred the ambidextrous, Intellimouse Optical-style designs.

      But definitely due to check in with them again. One thing I've found doing this job is that the more you cover something, the more competitors in that space notice the coverage and reach out off the back of that. So we'll see what happens. (Next mice after this are already locked in though: I've got the Razer Viper 69g at home, and the super-lightweight Cooler Master I saw at Computex is on its way.)

        Thanks Alex. I wasn't picking on you in particular in that last part, it was just a kinda general observation. I like to keep up on all the peripheral reviews you guys do because I'm not rusted on to any particular brand and I'm always on the lookout for improvements.

        I don't have a good past experience with Razer in general and their mice in particular but I'm keen to see how that review goes. Same for the ultralight CM, I'd love to see how that stacks up against the Glorious Model O.

          Oh for sure, wasn't taking it as a slight or anything. I just like providing that context because I feel like it helps people understand why some things happen or why some things don't come up.

          Re: the Viper - you can save settings and then delete the Razer software! It's great! I really, really like it so far. CM mouse will be interesting because it's a smaller shape than the Model O -- it's probably better compared to the Model O- that just dropped locally.

            Wish the Viper was wireless.

            Although at this stage I'm hesitant to move away from Logitech. I have a mouse-graveyard in my house from all the times I've tried other brands.
            Logitech's focus on one area (peripherals - particularly mice) seems to pay off.

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