Roccat Kova Mouse and Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad Page: 1
Roccat Kova Gaming Mouse and Roccat Sota Gaming Surface
 
Introduction
 
Roccat have quickly established themselves as one of the big players in the professional gaming market, providing excellent quality at a reasonable price point. In June this year we had the pleasure of testing the Roccat Kone mouse, their high end offering with huge customisation options which we rated highly indeed. Then in July we tested their gaming surface the Roccat Taito which was good, but didn't really stand out from the crowd.
 
Roccat have four products in their Smart Desktop Management System (SDMS for short). The Roccat Arvo is a combination USB hub and mouse cable holder than ensures the mouse cable is held in a free position and so wont interfere at even the highest level of competitive play. The Roccat Arvo is an, as yet unreleased, compact Keyboard and the Kova and Sota we are looking at today round out the quadrilogy.
 
All four SDMS products demonstrate the clear vision that Roccat have for the way your desktop should look and how each will integrate with the other. Many of us have to make a decision between a stylish looking desktop with matching components or between a high performing one that utilises a variety of parts. Roccat hope to ensure that this decision is now easy, by providing a range of high performance products that are all designed with a central philosophy and provide a holistic approach to our input needs.
 
Today we will be having a look at two the latest offerings from the Roccat SDMS plan, the Roccat Kova gaming mouse, a stripped down high-performance product, and the Roccat Sota which is a very stealthy looking gaming mousepad, so let's see if Roccat have achieved their goal of exceptional performance without compromising the design aesthetics.
 
Features
 
Firstly we'll look at the Roccat Kova mouse with some specifications and features taken from the Roccat website.
 
* 3200DPI PRO-OPTIC gaming sensor with enhanced optical sensor technology
* Hardware based configuration for rapid use and simple operation
* 20G acceleration ensures smooth and precise movements
* V-shape ergonomic fit for left and right handers
* ROCCAT™ GRIPTECH sides with non-slip stablization surface
* Coated mouse wheel with optimum grip + comfort
* Customisable Light System for your favourite colour
* DPI change feedback LEDs indicate the selected dpi setting
* 5+2 Mouse Buttons with core task configurations
* Full system compatibility with Mac® and Windows® OS
* 2m USB cable
* Mouse weight approx 90g excluding cable
 
A high speed sensor coupled to excellent acceleration and light weight should ensure great performance.
 
The specifications for the Sota Gaming Mousepad, also from the Roccat site
 
* Granular coat for increased gliding speed and enhanced mouse movement
* Integrated metal foil for outstanding tracking characteristics
* Hard n flexible combination of hard pad and ultra-soft base – not just for high-sense-gamers
* Striking shape gives a smart operating range thanks to the wrist cut-out on the lower side
* High quality materials and space saving size, measures 350 x 270mm and just 3mm thick
* Easy to clean surface allows anything causing friction to be removed in a flash
 
Together
 
 Time to take a closer look at the packaging.


Roccat Kova Mouse and Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad Page: 2
Packaging
 
Roccat Kova Mouse
Starting with the Roccat Kova mouse. Roccat state that the Kova is designed as a stripped-down, focused, gaming mouse. It certainly is, more of which later. But if the mouse itself is stripped down, the packaging is reaching new heights.
 
The front of the box comes in a nicely sheened, very stiff black cardboard, with the usual Roccat colour scheme of light blue and black. The main features of the mouse are listed in a clear manner, and the box is dominated with a nice clear view of the mouse itself. Of special interest is the cutaway that displays the mouse, which perfectly follows the cutaway in the Sota pad, which you will see later. A very nice touch by Roccat and demonstrating how much consideration has been put into all aspects of their SDMS range.
 
The back of the box provides more detailed information about the highlights of the mouse, including handy pointers to each part, and a nice shot that accentuates the angular nature of the mouse.
 
Kova Box    Kova Back
 
Moving back round to the front we find the Pièce de résistance of the packaging. Hiding under the embossed glossy Roccat logo on the right hand side of the packaging is a magnet that allows you to open the front of the box to get a proper look and feel of the mouse. Too often we find mice that look really comfortable but don't suit our hand size, or the way we grip. By vacuum packing the mouse and allowing the customer to get a hold of it before purchase, Roccat are bound to ensure way more satisfied customers.
 
Finally we see the side that demonstrates what parts of the mouse light up and the various colour options available. Much more on the colours later, but for now it's fair to say that Roccat have pretty much taken mouse packaging as far as it's possible to go, without including live lighting or a small test space to see how it feels in action.
 
Open        Kova side
 
 
Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad
 
Naturally being a mousepad the packaging is much simpler. However it doesn't mean that Roccat haven't come up with some nice touches, and one incredibly infuriating one.
 
Firstly as this is a semi-hard mouse mat it's great to see it comes packaged in a flat piece of plastic, rather than rolled up. Experience shows that rolling a mouse mat never quite flattens it out as much as one would desire, especially when we're all gagging to play with our new toy. However this comes at a steep price. Or at least a steep price in the eyes of this reviewer. If there is one thing guaranteed to make me swear harder than a sailor on shore-leave it's the use of that exceptionally stiff plastic that is stuck together with heat and only removable with a seriously sturdy pair of scissors or perhaps a chainsaw. With so little wiggle room between the seal and the mat itself, extracting it is a job for the sturdy of heart and steady of finger. Please, manufacturers, use plastic that can be prised apart.
 
The front also contains a superb touch that more manufacturers should take note of. Two separate pieces of the mats material have been inserted into the package and left for us to get a feel for the gaming surface itself and the grippy nature of the rear.
 
Sota Box     Sota Sample
 
Finally the back, as with most backs, lists a more complete specification and a nice exploded view of the mat including the metal foil insert.
 
Sota back
 
Enough of the externals. Move on to page three and we'll take a good look at what's in the box.
 


Roccat Kova Mouse and Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad Page: 3
Undressing the Roccat Kova and Roccat Sota
 
Roccat Kova
 
The plastic cover that protects the Kova from the fingers of the public as they test the mouse, isn't connected to anything thankfully and so just slides right out, revealing the mouse in all its glory.
 
From the left hand side we can see the main two buttons that most people will use, the back and forward buttons. In keeping with the simple design philosophy employed by Roccat, the front button goes forward and the back one goes back. This might sound very obvious but as this is supplied with no software as such, getting it right is vital and something that not everyone does.
 
On the right is the Roccat logo neatly embossed into the right mouse button, which provides handy grip during those frantic frag-fests, without compromising comfort at all. 
 
Both pictures show how large the central scroll-wheel is, and how the symmetrical nature of the design ensures comfortable use for both right and left-handed users. You can also see the rubber pads that provide extra grip underneath each pair of side buttons. As someone who uses their mouse in the "fingertip" style, these are a boon and not once did the mouse slip or slide.
 
Kova Left    Kova Right
 
Moving round to the front you can really get a feel for the aggressive design of the mouse, based upon the Lamborghini Revanton, and how smooth the whole design is. At the front left and front right you'll notice two of the panels that light up when it is powered.
 
The rear of the mouse is very tidy, with the two sections that light up at the bottom right and bottom left. This also unmistakably echos the design of the Revanton and looks exceptional in the flesh. The palm area provides a very comfortable, smooth, surface. A tiny amount of texturing keeps it within your grasp without becoming uncomfortable.
 
Roccat Front    Roccat Arse
 
Finally, turning it over we can see the four large pads that help the mouse glide on almost any surface. Apologies for the white specks, but such was my pleasure in using it that it had to be almost forcibly removed from my grasp for the photos. The box contains no software at all, with everything controlled by the on-board hardware as I'll explain on the next page. The manual is an exercise in restraint. It covers all the information necessary, without being the usual tome that provides almost none of the information you want. They've also wisely avoided the needless back-slapping that many companies employ, of the "congratulations on purchasing" variety. Once I've splashed the cash, just tell me how it works. So thumbs up to Roccat here too.
 
Central Laser    Kova Manual
 
If the packaging and initial impressions are anything to go by, this could be a true stunner.
 
Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad
 
The Sota mousepad is available in both black and the almost electric blue that you see here today. As someone who tends toward black hardware and very muted colours, this is a revelation. It appears very blue indeed in the pictures, but once in the dingy corner of OC3D towers it is very muted and barely noticeable. The perfect blend between good looks and not being so blinding as to interfere with the task in hand.
 
Measuring in at a quite sizable 350mm wide and 270mm deep, it takes up a sizable amount of real-estate. However the very subtle nature of the logo in the corner means that it actually doesn't appear as big as it is.
 
The granular surface feels very similar to a lot of the high-end gaming surfaces, but when something works, why change it? It's not rough enough to be uncomfortable or to hinder the speed of the mouse, but enough to ensure that the mouse tracks correctly all the time.
 
Sota Mat  Surface Close up
 
The underside has an exceptionally fine weave pattern embedded in the rubber, which provides good grip on all surfaces. Whilst not quite as ludicrously sticky as the CM Storm Battle Pad SSK, it nonetheless wont shift at all, even under the most heavy handed use. From glass to wood to shiny hardback books, it stayed exactly where it was put.
 
Sota Bottom
 
Time to put some juice through this and show you how it looks all lit up.


Roccat Kova Mouse and Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad Page: 4
 
Lighting and Configuration
 
Initially it would appear that with so many elements to adjust, light pattern, light colour, mouse resolution and illumination level, this would be quite a complex beast to control and how it would be done without software would seem confusing until you try. In fact it is so easy it becomes second nature and within 10 minutes I knew which button combination I needed to use to obtain which effect. Some effects naturally cannot be captured in a photograph, so I will do my best to explain.
 
Kova Buttons  Light Cyan
 
Lighting
 
The lighting on the mouse is adjusted by pressing button number 4 and button number 6. This cycles the illumination between off, on and what Roccat call "breathing". In breathing mode the light smoothly fades in from black, before fading out again in a very nice subtle effect. 
 
Buttons 4 and 7 adjust how the Kova "breathes". It cycles between changing colours every single breath, every two breaths, every three breaths, or holding the chosen colour and just pulsing it. This was one of the elements that really made me long for some form of software feedback, because it's quite difficult to work out where you are in the cycle and therefore where you need to be. This problem doesn't' effect any of the other modes for which Roccat has devised some brilliant solutions, but here it's not so obvious.
 
To change the colour the mouse uses, assuming you aren't cycling colours with the breathing mode, press buttons 5 and 6 together and it will cycle from the default power-on colour of Roccats own cyan colour visible above, through the six alternate ones shown in the pictures below, before returning to cyan and going round again.
 
Finally, to switch between the available resolutions of 400, 800, 1600 or 3200dpi, press the 5 and 7 buttons together and the mouse will indicate by pulsing twice the current chosen resolution. The mouse defaults to a healthy resolution of 800dpi, but a quick press of the buttons and it flashes green twice, showing you are now at 1600dpi. Another press, two blue flashes and you're at 3200dpi. Press once again to move to the red flash indicated 400dpi, and once more to flash purple and you're back to the 800dpi default. Switching resolutions is a very speedy process indeed. The change is instantaneous and the lighting is merely an indicator. So if you've been doing some detail work at 400, and fancy some gaming, three quick presses and you're instantly at 3200dpi and ready to frag.
 
It might appear from that explanation that you would need the manual to hand at all times. This is simply not the case as there are only four combinations to remember and the feedback from the mouse is sufficient to show you what you're currently doing. If you can remember WASD keys, you can use this mouse.
 
Lighting pictures.
 
Light Blue  Dark Blue
Light Green  Dark Green
Red  Purple
 
A huge disappointment
 
The lighting is one of the most disappointing aspects of the entire mouse. If you'll recall the packaging demonstrated an entire spectrum of colours and promised the possibility to "have the mouse illuminated in your favorite color [sic]". Well Roccat it most definitely doesn't. Personally, as anyone who has visited the forums will attest, my favourite colour is orange. Orange is unavailable. Nor for that matter is yellow. Or pink. The box promises much but the mouse actually delivers little. Due to the subtle approach Roccat have taken with the lighting the cyan is almost indistinguishable from the light blue. Plus it never remembers what colour you've set it at. Sure it remembers the dpi setting, the breathing settings, but each time you turn your PC on you get the light blue/cyan colour and have to change it to what you prefer, unless of course you love light blue.
 
I know not everyone wants colours that they don't provide, and to be honest neither would I if the box was more honest and said "pick your favourite colour to customise your mouse with. You can have any colour you like as long as it's two similar light blues, a dark blue, a pea green and a dark one, a red and a purple". Considering this is designed as a stripped down mouse, the lack of colours wouldn't even be an issue if they hadn't promised more than they deliver.
 
Luckily once you accept these are the colours you're going to get it's easy to pick one you can live with. Of course every time you boot your PC up it's in cyan so you have to change it to your own colour, but all your other settings are stored and it's a 2 second job to cycle to the one you want.
 
One does have to wonder though why they didn't use a variation on the Kone system, if only for the lighting. So you can have those basic colours if you'd like the swiftness, portability and ease of switching if you don't mind those, but for people, like myself, who want another colour we could pick it using the Kone software and maybe replace one of the default firmware colours to retain the portability and ease of changing colours.
 
Thankfully, as we'll see on the next page, this is about the only bad thing this mouse has to offer.
 


Roccat Kova Mouse and Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad Page: 5
Testing and results
 
One of the great problems that face any mouse and mousepad review is that there is never an easy set of benchmarks with which to provide the reader with hard numbers. Nor for that matter is there any set application and gaming suite with which to provide comparative results.
 
Test Setup
 
CPU : Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard : Biostar T-Power X58A
RAM : 6GB Corsair Dominator
GPU : ATI 4870X2
OS : Windows 7 64
Input : Roccat Kova Gaming Mouse and Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad
 
The test setup was reasonably beefy to ensure that it would run a constant frame rate regardless of what was being tested, so that any lag or missed input was solely a result of the mouse, rather than frame issues.
 
Polling and Response
 
Direct Input Mouse Rate was used to track the response time and polling rate of the Roccat Kova. As the sensor did the same 3200dpi that was available on the Kone, I was hoping for similar results. However despite trying various ports and dpi settings it remained rock solid at 500MHz polling rate and 2ms response time. Quite a strange result for something aimed at being built for pure performance. It's by no means slow, but at the ultra-highend competitive level that 1ms can make the difference between glory and gibbed.
 
Applications
 
Naturally the two items of software almost anyone can be guaranteed of using are the operating system, and a browser. Not the stiffest of tests, but the Kova tracked well and the pointer was always exactly where I wanted it to be. The experience was repeated with a CM Storm mousepad and the result was identical. So the Sota mousepad certainly can hang with the best.
 
Adobe Photoshop CS3 was next up for testing. If there is one area in which accuracy of movement is paramount, it is graphical work, and particularly image editing. The lowest 400dpi setting enables even the most ham-fisted editor to get accurate results, then switching up to 1600dpi enables those of us who are experienced, but can't quite splash for a Wacom, to move around the interface with speed and, most importantly, precision. The tracking sensor is superb and wasn't even phased by the always difficult test of slowly hand-drawing a circle. That is a test in which a lot of mice fall demonstrate some "sticking" in their sensor, but the Roccat Kova passed with flying colours.
 
Gaming
 
Nobody buys a high-end gaming mouse and pad without wanting to test their mettle against some gun-toting bad guys so it's time to run through a few of your and my favourites. The dpi was upped to the maximum 3200, and battle commenced.
 
Call of Duty Modern Warfare was been a favourite both with OC3D, and the gaming community at large, since it's release. Recently we've all had the pleasure of Infinity Ward releasing Modern Warfare 2 and so it was there that we headed next. Any doubts about the 500MHz, 2ms sensor were quickly dispelled with the mouse responding crisply and accurate even in the most intense firefights. Armed with the Kova the terrorists never knew what hit them as everything from the close-your-eyes-and-fire minigun, to the deep breath sniper rifle tracked accurately, and always put the bullets on target.
 
One of our most popular titles to use in benchmarking just happens to be my all-time favourite game, so it will surprise no-one to see Company of Heroes : Tales of Valor up next in the test suite. Tales of Valor provided a new game mode alongside the normal RTS goodness, and so whilst it never quite reaches the frenetic heights of a FPS, nonetheless speed and accuracy are, as always, vital. Accuracy in strategy games is almost more important than in FPS games, because whereas you can re-spawn, in an RTS that unit has always cost you resources so they are much harder to replace. Luckily the Roccat Kova shone. Selecting pioneers amongst a swathe of armour was easy, directing artillery in the midst of battle was as natural as you could hope and the mouse and pad consistently put the pointer exactly where you wanted it to be.
 
All in all a very high performing mouse and pad that easily covers Roccats aim for a stylish, but uncompromising, part of their SDMS.
 
Phew. Time to head toward the conclusion, that might not be what you're expecting.


Roccat Kova Mouse and Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad Page: 6
Conclusion
 
Roccat Sota Gaming Mousepad
 
Roccat Kova
The Roccat Sota is by far the easiest of the two items on test today to both review and to draw a conclusion about. It's packaged well, well built and designed well to match the whole of the Roccat SDMS range. Priced at £17 from Scan Computers it is in the upper price echelons of gaming surfaces.
 
It performs as well as most other high-end mouse pads. It's quite large at 350mm x 270mm but looks fantastic in its electric blue with the subtle Roccat logo adorning the bottom right corner in crisp screen print.
 
So is it recommended? Definitely. There is no reason at all to not purchase it. It is reasonably priced, looks great, performs admirably and is packaged well. Especially nice to see is the use of the two test materials built into the front. They are definitely of the same type as in the pad itself, rather than some extra high-quality items to tempt a purchase. Available in both black and blue it matches the colour scheme of Roccat.
 
It's often the case that when a manufacturer designs an entire product range around a single theme that one element of it is compromised in quality, or they introduce a steep price premium knowing that if you wish to indulge their holistic approach you will pony up the cash. So whilst it's pricier than I'd like to see, there is no doubting its performance and if you're in the market for a large gaming mousepad, the Roccat Sota should definitely be on your list.
 
   Recommended
 
 
Roccat Kova Gaming Mouse
 
Sometimes the life of a reviewer is particularly difficult. You get a product that is, to all intents and purposes, fantastic. It does everything you could hope for, looks brilliant, works well and yet has has a couple of reasonable flaws, and one very big one, that make it extremely tough to recommend.
 
So I'll start with what it does fantastically. Roccat are marketing this as a pure performance mouse. No frills, no software to set up, just high performance. It has that in spades. No test thrown in it's direction made it flinch in the least. From detailed work solely requiring precision, to frantic gaming sessions needing accuracy, speed and comfort.
 
The design initially looks like it's a bit too angular to be comfortable, but it actually withstands enormous use without ever causing the famous "claw of death" long sessions can lead to. It's been used on average 14 hours a day continuously for the last week and not once did I find myself needing to stretch my fingers out. It works equally well in both grip styles. Personally I'm a fingertip guy, mainly due to having large hands, but it coped admirably. Spending some using it in the palm style also demonstrated what a fantastic design Roccat have come up with. All the angles keep the mouse right where you put it, and the two rubber pads either side do their job perfectly.
 
Special mention has to be made of the Roccat logo embossed on the right mouse button. It definitely seems to be a combination of flagrant advertising and uncomfortable design when you first see it. But actually it's very useful. The depth of the lettering is perfect to just give your fingers a little extra something to grip on, without you being overly aware that it is there.
 
The main event, the sensor, is fantastic. Fast, smooth and accurate, it is every thing that someone could possible ask for from a mouse. The multiple dpi settings enable it to be an all-rounder and not a specialist tool. Thankfully it doesn't suffer from the normal issue with all-round devices in that they aren't great any everything, merely good. This is great at everything. The buttons provide a firm tactile response and the scroll wheel, although a little notchy for my personal taste the size of it and excellent grippy coating ensure it's a winner.
 
So why the hesitant recommendation then? So far it's everything anyone could ask. Unfortunately Roccat have really shot themselves in the foot, both with the claims and the pricing. Let's start with the problem I mentioned earlier.
 
When we purchase a mouse that illuminates we normally have a choice between two or three colours and have to decide which best fits our needs. So allowing for that the six colours available would normally be a bonus. But as Roccat show us a full colour spectrum and promise the ability to have it in our favourite colour, it's quite a selling point and therefore quite a disappointment. Especially because it defaults to Cyan every boot and the light blue is extremely similar to that. Ah well, lighting is a disappointment but not a deal breaker.
 
Unfortunately one of the things that puts a big crack in the deal is the method employed by Roccat to enable hardware adjustments of the various features. Firstly, although the right hand two buttons have to be where they are to enable the left-handed users to take full control, without software there is no way to move the back and forward buttons from the left to the right. Sure you can switch the LMB and RMB in the control panel, but when a mouse retails past £40 I shouldn't have to use the control panel to adjust things, especially as it's so limited.
 
Secondly, the button combinations are easy to learn and it's quite an ingenious solution. But the main two elements you want to adjust, the colour of the mouse (because it always defaults to Cyan) and the resolution. Both of which use button 5, which is the back button and using it as part of a combination doesn't disable it's main feature. So it comes as no surprise that I've gone back on mouse pages, back on weapons, thrown grenades at my feet, undone Photoshop work etc. A pretty serious flaw in the design. Especially as utilising the forward button for the combination would eliminate most of these problems.
 
Finally the major fly in the ointment, the problem that splits the deal asunder, Scan Computers currently have the Kova listed at £44.91. This puts it firmly in competition with the Razer Deathadder, the CM Storm Sentinel and, most tellingly, Roccat's own Kone. If we compare it to the Kone it's obvious Roccat haven't fully considered their own range. The Kone comes with proper customisation software allowing re-assignment of all the buttons and the mouse sensitivity, along with a profile manager. It has 38 colours available and you can assign them without having to cycle through a fixed order. It has adjustable weights to suit all users. And the sensor has the same adjustments, but has a 1000MHz polling rate and 1ms response, double the Kova.
 
So the Kone is by the same company, has a vastly richer feature set, more illumination options, more customisation and comes at the same price point. Which makes the Kova, apart from it's ability to fit in with the design of Roccat's SDMS, almost wholly redundant. This is before we even look at any competitors products.
 
Summation
 
I know that is a lot to get through, but it's important to understand that if the look of the mouse and the ability to just plug it in anywhere without having to install drivers or software are the key part of your needs, this is highly recommended. It does everything it should with style and panache.
 
If what you want is the best performing, fullest featured mouse available in the highly competitive forty pounds mark, there are lots of choices and the most likely product to leech all the sales from this mouse come from Roccat themselves. If it was priced in accordance with its features, at maybe 25 to 30 pounds, then it would be a no brainer recommendation. At £45, I just can't recommend it compared to the alternatives.
 
 
 
Many thanks to Roccat for providing both the Kova and the Sota for todays review. Let us know your thoughts in our forums.