NZXT: Avatar Review

Author: Gabriel Vega
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/nzxt_avatar/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

NZXT brings a huge array of technology to PC gamers: they are probably best known for cases that fit consumer niches from the value segment, into some of the higher end levels as well. Today we take a look at a tangent venture made by the company to the gaming device market, the NZXT Avatar mouse. Like many gaming mice the Avatar packs a large array of features and buttons, but beyond that, NZXT's focus here was on design and shape. The Avatar carries a sleek look and ergonomic styling allowing left or right-handed users to use the mouse, and it uses a rubber grip with resistance to keep it comfortable without slip. Add onto this the support for those with longer hands, and adjustable DPI and this mouse starts to look promising.

The Avatar has a list of features to satisfy the semi-active gamer or enthusiast. Let’s hit the basic specifications:


The list is impressive and it borrows many innovations brought by the industry to this point. We did a side-by-side with past Logitech reviewed mice and found the size to compare on par with the Logitech G3, but the ergonomics and length to challenge the G5. The Avatar doesn’t pack a weight cartridge so the palm has a lower arch for the palm to rest on. We took a hand-to-hand feel of the lineup and felt the mouse delivers a great feel and inches ahead of the competition being one of the few ambidextrous mice with serious features.

While the specs above are a great source of info on the Avater, one thing that wasn't mentioned is the software driving the mouse. The configuration panel allows players to dial the sensor to 2600 DPI and it also holds a polling rate adjustment of 125Hz, 500Hz and 1000Hz to get the fastest response levels possible for the mouse. For gamers this is a key feature to mention as it makes a huge difference in shooters. Many users often hack lower end mice to get to that rate so having that out of the box is a great addition.

Enough spec sheet talk, let's seen how the mouse moves in some hands-on time. We’ve taken the Avatar through two of the latest shooters on the market, and one older one, for some play-test impressions. First up is Modern Warfare 2 by Activision.

The Avatar isn’t the fastest sensor on the market; as a result every twitch and whip of the mouse makes a difference. We ran through our entire review of Modern Warfare 2 and the online portion using the mouse, and our findings put the mouse closer to being a Logitech G9 competitor than we thought. The increased sensitivity settings, and feel of the mouse, had us swinging and targeting everything on-screen, going in with iron sights to pick off enemies at a distance or using the scope to hit key targets to stop enemy advances. The Avatar had no problem binding keys to the function buttons allowing us to crouch, reload and sprint to our next objective. As the hours poured on in the review our hand never slipped off or missed a key, the texture on the mouse gives it a drag when the hand is resting on it or directing it. We were able to grip and react fast when we hit the online portions of the game, swapping our settings to go prone when playing sniper to help our team advance.

Our next trial was in the depths of Left 4 Dead 2. When a game relies on medical supplies, adrenaline, melee weapons and more it calls on one to prioritize their keys. In our case we used the assignment features to once again lock health and pills to our side buttons allowing for quick health. Zombie rushes are a pressing challenge in Left 4 Dead 2 and the Avatar helps make survival a lot easier with both its comfort and functionality. However we noticed the mouse got a bit difficult to control once we cranked up the mouse speed in game for better melee action. The sensor is riding on the limit so the added speed proved too much, our aiming had a jitter to it and focusing on distant targets became a problem. Taking speed back down to normal we found the mouse was responsive and stable again.

Our final test took us back in time. The game is Battlefield 2 and we’re running it with the 1.5 patch. Quick shooting and fast swapping are great choices in games like Call of Duty and Left 4 Dead; in Battlefield they will not spare your life though. We take to the skies in Battlefield 2 using the Avatar, the definitive test for us being the ability to fly at high-speed and dogfight using jets and choppers. It is here the Avatar will soar up with the G9 or where it will fall into an eternal abyss. Our first test took us to Dragon Valley, the test being the AH-1Z Super Cobra and versus the WZ-10 helicopter. The speed of the choppers can level out using quick handling and fast mouse response, being able to tuck through narrow passes and ditch incoming fire. Our handling with the Avatar was a positive impression; we were able to navigate just a bit faster using the extra 600 DPI over the G5. When we went for precision the stock acceleration settings kept us from hitting trees and buildings, had we pushed them like in Left 4 Dead 2 we would have burned horribly.

The next level was waiting for us, we moved onward to the MIG-29 in the Zatar Wetlands -- our supreme test with any mouse has come down to this map. Handling the mouse at highest sensitivity levels as we come down full speed to buzz under the pipelines is our goal. With the G9 we’re able to barely pull this off, using full hand control to keep the jet steady, with the G5 we can rarely do it. With the older MX518 and DeathAdder our success rates drop through the floor with lower DPI limits. With the Avatar we were able to sweep the deck with afterburner and clip the pipeline resulting in a horrible mess of fire. It took a while but eventually we were able to pull this off -- the key is stabilizing the axis of the plane as we hang just above the water. Without a fast enough reaction speed to level the plane it’s easy to chop the tail or dive in. We will say the Avatar did a great job in the game and it eventually finding success in air does mean a lot for its potential.

With all of that said for gameplay we have to praise NZXT for putting their reputation on the line with a mouse like the Avatar. It comes in at a respectable price point and offers some solid performance as a result with customizable buttons and on-the-fly DPI adjustments. One thing we didn't like about the Avatar was that the design of the mouse doesn’t make it easy accessing the programmable DPI buttons at a lower plane than the wheel, which is a shame. But we were able to enjoy the most modern games with precision and ease making them less of a struggle when the AI raises the offense. In Battlefield 2 we took a game loved by enthusiasts and put it to the test for those who don’t feel like investing in a flight stick. The Avatar couldn't top a flight stick but for new users upgrading from a stock mouse the difference will be night and day.

For new gamers the NZXT Avatar is a great gateway mouse to start on. The design allows left or right-handed players, which is a key bonus, and the mouse also delivers respectable performance in action. The size and shape of the mouse mean that players with longer hands will no longer have their palms dragging on their mouse mats or desks which is a relief for many. We’d love to see the mouse get a sensor upgrade in the future and offer some variation in the LED colors given the great accent lighting under the buttons.

We look forward to see how NZXT product line expands after this successful foray into gaming mice.
 

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