Since the release of the Razer Boomslang back in 1999, gaming mice have become nearly the only mouse you can buy. No longer are we forced to remove the ball and clear fluff off the rollers, even the most basic mouse has an optical sensor and you'd be hard pressed to find one that doesn't come with a scroll wheel or a back button.
Of course that doesn't mean that all mice have incredibly high quality sensors and parts though. Many companies have attempted to leave their stamp upon the Gaming Mouse market with only a few doing so successfully.
Nonetheless though it's such a lucrative marketplace that companies will continually try and create the next must have mouse. The great benefit of not having the latest and greatest is that you can always justify your average performance by blaming your tools. It's the "if I could afford a Stratocaster I'd be Hendrix" argument.
Enter Zowie and the EC1 Gaming Mouse. Zowie are a small California-based company founded in 2008 that have enlisted some of the best gamers around to help design their products and so ensure that they genuinely provide what the end-user needs, rather than merely what a huge faceless corporation thinks they need.
Discounting a re-release of an early Microsoft Intellimouse this is Zowies first foray into the world of Gaming Mice. Of course following the good quality of their previous products we had to take a look.
A quick trip across to the Zowie website to grab the technical specifications also brought with it some of their own explanatory text, so rather than regurgitate it, here it is in their own words :
1.5 mm lift-off distance - one of the lowest on the market to date
One of the primary features of the ZOWIE EC-series is the lift-off distance. ZOWIE EC-series has made it possible to create one of the lowest lift-off distance currently available in any optical mouse on the market - 1.5 mm.
1,000Hz USB Report Rate - plug and play with 1.000Hz
Most optical mice are 125Hz which can be artificially raised to 500 – 1,000Hz through driver installations. The ZOWIE EC mice are the only optical mice which has 1,000 Hz from standard, without any installation of drivers.
Improved mouse wheel
The mouse use an optical encoder instead of the cheaper traditional mechanical system and added a new optimized rolling system developed by ZOWIE, which ensures that the mouse wheel is the most durable and precise mouse wheel on the market today.
Adjusting DPI on the fly is not really an innovative feature, but ZOWIE decided to put it on the mouse anyway, as it's important for a gamer to be able to optimize the settings to create the perfect feeling when playing.
Two shapes - four mice
HeatoN's EC-series consist of four mice with the same features and specifications. The only difference is coating, color and size.
EC1 and EC2 black, has a rubber coating to increase the grip when holding.
EC1 and EC2 pure white, has the popular smooth coating which reduces sweaty palms.
Quote from Emil "HeatoN" Christensen:
"In my 10 years as a professional gamer, every day I have wanted to develop the ideal mouse for competitive gaming." .. "as a competitive gamer, you have to be able to rely on your equipment to be functional at all times. The mouse is probably a gamers most important tool, so it is important that you can trust it to deliver. We have put our focus on precision, stability, durability and comfort. No more excuses. It's up to you now!"
- 100% stable optical mouse developed for gaming by HeatoN
- Ergonomic designed right hand gaming mouse
- 1.5 mm lift-off distance due to custom developed ZOWIE-lens
- Improved mouse wheel system
- 500/1,000/2,000 DPI adjustment
- 1.000Hz USB report rate
- Operating System: Win2000/XP/VISTA/7 or Mac OS X v10.2 after
- Frames Per Second: 6,500
- Inches Per Second: 40
- Dots Per Inch: 500/1.000/2.000
- Max. Acceleration: 15G
- 1,000Hz USB report rate
- Connector: USB
- Buttons: 5
As you can see the lack of drivers mean that the mouse is compatible right out of the box with anything you can plug it into. Let's have a look at it before we get down and dirty.
Up Close with the EC1
Firstly it's a long way from California to the OC3D office and clearly the postal services were none too kind with the EC1. The box was rather battered by the time we finally got our hands on it but thanks to the sturdy plastic cover the mouse itself was none the worse for wear.
By virtue of the Zowie not needing any drivers, and mice being more user friendly than a t-shirt, there is nothing at all in the box apart from the mouse. A slightly curious thing because at minimum you normally get a "thanks for purchasing the ... " type leaflet, but it's not a problem.
Here it is in all it's glory. A very simple looking affair with a matt-black top portion and glossy sides. The wheel is white, as is the Zowie logo at the base. A decent length cable ensures that even the most bizarre PC placement will leave you plenty of wiggle room.
Upside down is, in keeping with the rest of the mouse, a stripped down affair. Besides the barcode and logo sticker we have a small Zowie logo, the 2000dpi sensor and a button to switch between the three pre-programmed dpi settings.
The white variant of the EC1 is made entirely from the same material as the gloss black sides here, whereas the black model has this very lovely soft coating to it. It does seem slightly odd to only cover one section with this grippy material. If you're a fingertip gamer then you'll never get the benefit of the grippier top, and if you're a palm gamer then the difference is jarring.
So why is the mouse-wheel white? Well it's actually translucent. When you adjust the dpi settings using the underneath button the wheel indicates what mode you're in.
Red for 500dpi Purple (although it looks pink here) for 1000dpi
And Blue for 2000dpi
All very simple and it's nice to see a clear indication of which mode you're in. Time to put it through its paces.
Testing and Conclusion
Unlike many of the mice we test this really is a no-frills affair.
We haven't got any software to configure, no light patterns to play with, or macros, or... well much of anything really. This is very much a hardcore plug and play mouse.
So what's it like in use?
Starting with the good, it has a superb balance to it. There is a slightly rearward bias to the weight distribution that really helps keep it planted and under control. When you consider that the arse end of a mouse you either move with the ball of your thumb, or if you're a fingertip user you don't move intentionally at all, then to have it more planted makes perfect sense. It leaves your fingers themselves able to make far more accurate adjustments of the lighter button end.
That isn't to say it's hugely noticable. At most it feels like about a gramme difference, but it's just enough.
The coating on the main body of the mouse is glorious and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used a Razer mouse. It's almost identical to that found on the Imperator and that's a good thing. It does however make the mouse a little bit Jeckel and Hyde.
Zowie say that the white model, which has the gloss coating all over, is better for reducing sweaty palms, whereas the black model has the rubber coating to increase the grip when in use. They can't both be good things? Either it's better to have a gloss surface, in which case provide the black model with it too, or it's better to have a rubber surface, in which case why doesn't it extend to the sides? Especially on the right side as this is a right handed mouse and so your ring and little fingers tend to just make those tiny adjustments. It's curious to say the least.
The sensor is very good. It gives strong results in of the games we tried the mouse with. At 2000dpi FPS games were as responsive as we like and the buttons have a very crisp response to them. Dialing things down to 1000dpi for RTS and other games still saw high accuracy whilst reducing the twitchiness which is the essence of FPS games.
However this does end up with our penultimate beard-stroking moment. Who on earth would ever use the 500dpi mode? Unless you've brought a decommissioned aircraft carrier to use as a mousemat it's just hopelessly insensitive. And with the mouse so devoid of other buttons to fill the acreage, why is the dpi switch underneath? It makes it all-but-impossible to make on the fly dpi changes although with the gap between the settings as large as it is you probably wouldn't want to.
So all in all it's a very capable mouse. It lacks any real flash or flair, but if you just want something that works without needing to set it up for ages beforehand, it's the ticket.
Well, it would be. If you're one of those people who doesn't look at the price then, knowing what you know about this, take a guess then have a look. I know we were amazed too.
Mice roughly should be 20-30 pounds for a basic gaming one, £40 for a good one, and more than that if it's got some serious bells and whistles. Pushing up against the £50 mark makes the Zowie EC1 more expensive than the CM Storm Sentinel, Roccat Kova, Razer Deathadder and a host of other mice with better sensors and more features. If this was £25 it's a good buy, £30 it's still fine. For £35 you could just about make an argument if you really like the look or the pared-down nature. Once you get past £40 there are just too many, much better, mice to even consider the Zowie.
Thanks to Zowie for providing the EC1 for todays review. Discuss in our forums.