The gaming arm of Cooler Master, CM Storm, have produced some excellent peripherals since their inception back in 2008. Whether it's the excellent QuickFire keyboards, the Xornet which is still the best value for money mouse on the market, or their incredible range of cases, the quality of the main Cooler Master brand has continued to run through the DNA of CM Storm.
Today we're going to take a look at their latest gaming mouse and surface, the Havoc and Control-RX respectively. Mice are our connection to the systems that dominate our daily lives. The gateway between man and machine. Because we use them so much there is a tendency to always want to upgrade, move on and get the latest and greatest.
The Havoc fits just below the Sentinel Advance II in the CM Storm range, combining a high quality sensor with some customisation options, but continues the trend of the high-end CM Storm offerings being strictly right-handed affairs. Has the Havoc got enough to stand up and be counted in an incredibly cut-throat marketplace, and more importantly is there enough mojo to have us reaching for our wallets?
Certainly the specifications of the Havoc tick all the boxes. The Avago sensors are found on nearly every high DPI mouse around, and the use of Omron switches means that it should outlast the technology within. But mice are better looked at than discussed, so let's take a look at it shall we.
We'll start with the enormous Control-RX surface. 17 inches wide by 13 inches high, only the most gigantic of desks need apply. It's great to see a plain top though. So often manufacturers cannot resist the urge to splash some image or other on so vast a space. We like the subtle logo placement on an otherwise plain expanse of black.
The top is designed to work with all types of mice and all variants of sensors. Naturally one this large is tailored for the low-DPI people. Realistically at the DPI available from the Havok you could get away with something an inch bigger than your mouse, even on a triple screen setup. It's very thick though, 5mm, so your wrist will be nicely cushioned throughout your use.
The Havoc itself comes in the regulation CM Storm packaging with a clear, bold design that puts all the specifications within easy reading, and just has enough of the black, white and red iconography that's the CM Storm trademark.
The Havoc Mouse
The top of the Havoc is coated in a very grippy rubber so often found on mice these days. The hump is pronounced and in keeping with the aim of CM Storm to produce a palm style mouse. Although the claw style is popular amongst the hardcore, the palm style is still the most popular and so it makes sense to have a mouse in the medium price bracket to use the most commonly used design.
As a right handed mouse the two sides of the Havoc are very different. The left hand side has the standard front and back buttons, with the profile switch at the rear of the three. It's well placed as you can easily switch profiles without it being somewhere you're likely to catch by accident. Below the buttons is a textured rubber section to ensure maximum control over the Havoc in all situations. It does seem strange to have the glossy piano black piece on the right hand side. Perhaps you're only supposed to move the mouse to the right..
The scroll wheel is very smooth both in looks and action. Behind the scroll wheel are two separate buttons to tweak the DPI between the four settings available within the software. The underside has a large percentage of teflon sliders. No weight adjustment on this particular model, something which is becoming more common even at this price point.
On the left hand side of the Havoc are the LEDs that indicate where in the DPI range you currently are. Bright enough to be spotted without being distracting.
It's great to see that when you switch profiles the whole of the Havoc changes colour. We've seen a few mice that only change in certain places, so having the entirety of it adjust to the colour chosen is nice.
The Havoc software is quite large compared to the competition at 54MB, but it's fully featured and easy to use. There are images you can use for each profile, although they only appear here and we think the colour change is a better indicator. You're unlikely to need an image to remind you which is which, especially when you can name the profiles.
The main settings page has a lot of options, whether it's adjusting the DPI, either in locked axis or separate, as well as the lighting, colour choice and every other tweak imaginable. Although there are only a handful of colour choices per profile, with only four profiles you'll at least be able to choose clearly different ones for each profile. If, like some of us, you prefer orange lighting then you're out of luck.
Macro editing is extremely easy. Like nearly every macro package on the market the software doesn't track mouse pointer positioning, but in general it's clear enough how to create a macro. Admittedly because the mouse lacks a 'spare' button you'll be forced to concede some functionality somewhere to apply it.
Assigning the macro to the buttons is simplicity itself. Pick the button, pick the macro, and click the arrow. The mouse memory is instantly updated and you're ready to go.
As we have so often said here at OC3D Towers, the mouse market is probably the tightest contested on of any PC related sector. For every fiver that you go up in price there is an overwhelming array of choices. It takes something very special to stand out amongst the herd. Whether it's brand loyalty a la Steelseries/Razer, a particular look like the Mad Catz RAT, or a sheer wealth of features like the Gigabyte Aivia, every mouse must have that certain something. The CM Storm Havoc has a heck of a lot going for it, but is just let down from taking all the spoils by a few niggling design choices.
In general the three primary elements that make a mouse attractive are the quality of the sensor, the comfort in use, and the customisation options. The Havoc has an incredible sensor. We've seen it before on a few mice we've reviewed and it remains as excellent here as it was there. It tracks smoothly and with a great degree of precision on almost any surface. Whether you're capable of extracting the most from 8200DPI that the Avago sensor is capable of delivering is another matter, but you certainly will run out of talent before the Havoc runs out of capability to deliver the goods.
Comfort is a slightly harder thing to explain. For 90% of the Havoc it's glorious. The top rubber coating is the perfect blend of soft and grippy, and the heavily textured thumb rest on the left hand side is equally suited to the task. Sadly the gloss right hand side lets the whole shebang down. A mouse needs to move both ways, and having one side be very shiny and slippery and the rest of it grippy ends up with a distinctly schizophrenic experience. It's a real shame because the Havoc is very comfortable to hold and fits your hand nicely. Although you can't change the weight it has just the right amount of heft for the average user. The buttons are lovely to depress as we've come to expect from Omron switches. Just leave the gloss black at home next time.
Finally the customisation is reasonable. The whole mouse changes colour when you switch between profiles, and although there are only 8 colours to choose from they are all represented well. The software is easy to use, the buttons are well located although the DPIs are perhaps a little too far back to hit regularly in the heat of battle. Snipers would be better having a separate profile for low DPI sniping. Speaking of profiles there is only a profile switch button, so in that scenario you would have to have alternating ones, because you can only cycle through them rather than between two. The macro editor is easy to use but without a spare button on the Havoc you're forced to lose a feature to apply it. You could stick with having macros on the DPI buttons, but they aren't readily hittable, so you'll have to choose between back and forward or the profile button.
The Control-RX Gaming Surface is excellent. It is so sticky, weighty and large that once in place it would be impossible to move it by accident, and pretty hard to do so deliberately. It's one of the most well-cushioned cloth pads we've ever tested and if, like some of us, you suffer with wrist pain during extended sessions is a big help. It's designed for low-DPI users, hence the size, but works beautifully on any sensor and at any resolution. If you have room for the sheer size of it then it's definitely worth investigating, although the apparent £20 price tag means we can only award it our OC3D Silver Award.
The Havoc itself ends up being less than the sum of its parts. The Avago sensor is probably the best on the market, we have nothing but positive things to say about the Omron switches, and the CM Storm Havoc software is easy on the eye and easy to use. However, with an expected street price of around £40 the market is stuffed with similar or better quality mice and the Havoc, lacking a button for the macros, fairly short of colour choices and the insane decision to have one side of it glossy means that these minor niggles become almost insurmountable. One any other product it would be about whether you could live with those little flaws. If you can then the Havoc is still very much worthy of a purchase. Personally we'd look for something with the sensor and switches in a better designed package, but those are so important that the CM Storm Havoc still scrapes in with a Silver Award.
CM Storm Control-RX Surface
CM Storm Havoc Gaming Mouse
Thanks to CM Storm for supplying the Havoc and Control-RX Surface for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.