Review: Razer Naga Hex

With six mechanical buttons under the thumb, Razer demonstrates that less is more.

I’ve been itching to try out the Razer Naga Hex for some time. With six mechanical buttons on the side, Razer claimed it was ideally suited for MOBAs and Action RPGs. But I had a sneaking suspicion it would also be fantastic in more recent MMOs such as Guild Wars 2, where the game’s limited action set would lend itself to the reduced number of buttons.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but the Naga Hex worked flawlessly with every game I threw at it. MOBAs, limited-action MMOs, shooters and RPGs were all ably assisted by those larger, more responsive and more tactile buttons. Available in Razer Green, Wraith Red (reviewed), and now a League of Legends Collector’s Edition, there’s a version to suit most desktops.

Super Hexagon

Opening the box, I was rewarded with the usual collection of Razer goodness – logo stickers, quick start guide and so on. Unusually, there were also a couple of replacement thumb rests that could be fitted in the middle of that cluster of buttons. The idea is that, by swapping the rest for one of the alternatives, thumbs of all shapes and sizes should easily be able to move around the hex button grid.

The Razer Naga Hex itself is a quite unusual specimen. The top of the mouse is crowned with a long tongue of smooth, glossy curves, forking at the front to provide the two main buttons. Grasping it in my hand was also unusual – it was as if a giant had reached down and gripped a Zonda F, his fingers drumming on the beautiful hood. Contrasting with that showroom feel, the sides are made from a much coarser plastic in order to provide grip while being flung round the mouse pad.

Nestled between the two primary buttons, the Hex’s scroll wheel is slightly rubberized and ridged, providing enough grip to respond quickly at the flick of a middle finger. In-line with the wheel are two smaller forward and back buttons which, like all buttons on the Naga Hex, use Razer’s Hyperesponse mechanical triggers.

Underneath the Hex, a 5600 DPI laser keeps the cursor moving, while five Ultraslick pads ensure smooth movement. A switch underneath allows the hexagonal grid to swap between binding to keys 1 through 6 on the top of the keyboard, or the same on the numeric keypad, although bindings can be changed completely in Razer’s downloadable Synapse software. A braided USB cable hooks the Hex up to the PC with a gold plated connector.

At just under 4.6” long and 2.8” wide, the Naga Hex fitted comfortably under my hand, with a bulge that peaked at 1.8” feeling snug in my palm. At 4.8 ounces it is on the heavier end of things but, as with the more decorated Naga 2012 Edition, those Ultraslick feet ensured I had no problem moving it around.

Surprising me the most has to be that hexagonal grid of buttons. After getting used to the Naga Molten’s grid over the course of many months, I expected to feel an acute shortage of buttons. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ll go into more detail with particular games later, but getting my thumb around that hexagonal grid was much easier – and more accurate – than the larger grid on the Molten.

The buttons also feels more responsive under my thumb, with mechanical switches making the experience much more tactile. Over time I developed the practice of hitting the further three buttons with the tip of my thumb, while the closer three could be triggered by the inside knuckle. Each button has a gloss finish button cap, which actually helps with sliding the thumb into position quickly. 6609876

 

Configuration Station

As with almost all modern Razer Mice, configuring the Naga Hex is performed via their Synapse 2.0 control panel. While not essential (the Hex grid buttons will use default bindings without it), this step is highly recommended to unlock more advanced features. Using Synapse, sensitivity can be adjusted from 100 to 5600 DPI in 100 DPI increments. It’s also possible to set sensitivity clutches (and clutch levels), and stages, all of which can be bound to a button of your choice. While these tweaks aren’t crucial for MMORPGs, those playing MMO shooters will be incredibly grateful for them.

Synapse also grants the ability to create profiles, where groups of settings can be stored with a particular game. For the Naga Hex these become even more useful, as it becomes possible to completely change those bindings to handle a wide variety of games from different genres. In Guild Wars 2 I bound the buttons to those healing and slot skills, while in Bioshock Infinite I took the iron sight off the scroll wheel, and added melee attack and reload to keep combat smooth.

Macro recording and playback are also supported by Synapse, with the software capturing each keystroke (and the delays between them if desired). Those macros can then be bound to a button, so that they can be fired off at will. Rounding out the set of features is a lighting control – if you don’t care for the Hex’s glow, you can disable the wheel and button lights, logo light or both.

Into the Game

Razer specifically states that the Naga Hex is aimed at MOBA and action-RPG games, so with that in mind, I cranked up League of Legends. Riot’s incredibly popular battle arena can sometimes cause intense button mashing, so I started by binding the four champion abilities and two summoner spells to those side buttons. In theory, this means that I could play LoL one-handed, but it would take a fair chunk of practice in order to pull it off reliably. In the end I went with keeping my summoner spells bound to the Hex, along with voice comm’s push-to-talk, which worked flawlessly.

Guild Wars 2 was the next test subject, with the Hex picking up bindings for healing, slot and elite skills. With my left hand already occupied with weapon skills and QWES for movement, the remaining skills would either get forgotten or used as an afterthought. With the Hex I was suddenly using these neglected skills much more often, even after moving over from my old Naga Molten. It’s a real indicator of just how much more accessible those side buttons on the Hex are.

Just to mix things up a little, I also tried the Naga Hex with 2K Games’ Bioshock Infinite. By binding reload, melee attack and iron sight to the button grid, I could keep my left hand free to move around Columbia. With this setup I felt like I was grabbing cover more easily and had much more mobility, while reloading became much more instinctive in the right hand.

Planetside 2 also got a touch of love, with the Hex grid being used for reload, sensitivity clutches and push-to-talk. Again, that thumb grid makes it easy to locate the right button, making actions less thoughtful and more instinctive. Much like when using the Razer Taipan, this also resulted in more enemy corpses littering the battlefield.

More than MOBA

Labeling the Naga Hex as a MOBA-specific mouse almost does it a disservice, with the reduced button set being ideal for more modern MMOs such as Guild Wars 2, The Secret World and Neverwinter. The new layout also makes the Hex versatile enough to tackle other genres, from RPGs like Bioshock Infinite to shooters like Planetside 2.

When I compare the Naga Hex with the recently reviewed Naga 2012 Edition, it’s clear to me that the Hex is the better choice for more versatile gamers. While the 12-button grid is still likely to be useful for those playing World of Warcraft or RIFT: Storm Legion, the Hex feels better under the thumb and can work effectively with a wider number of genres. That said, there’s definitely a place for both mice with the current MMO lineup.

That glossy finish on top might not be to everyone’s taste; while I didn’t lose my grip, the surface does attract sweat during intense gaming sessions. Almost anticipating this, Razer has since brought out the League of Legends Collector’s Edition in matte black for those who desire a coarser finish. It comes down to preference, with others preferring to focus on gripping between thumb and ring finger.

By halving the number of side buttons, but at the same time improving the tactile feel with Hyperesponse switches, Razer has aptly demonstrated that less is more. While the forward and back buttons on the crest of the Hex could be made slightly more accessible, the overall package is versatile enough to handle almost any game. If you’re a forward-thinking MMO player that likes to regularly dabble in other games, the Razer Naga Hex should be a strong consideration for that mouse-shaped spot on your desktop.

The Razer Naga Hex is available now for $79.99, €79.99 or £69.99 direct from Razer. The Razer Naga Hex League of Legends Collector’s Edition is $89.99, €89.99 or £79.99. Other retailers may vary.

Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Senior Contributing Editor

Comments

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Lefties?
# Mar 31 2013 at 9:57 PM Rating: Decent
1 post
Which of the razors come for us lefties? the Hex does seem interesting to me, but as a lefty with a mouse, not quite useful.
Lefties?
# Apr 01 2013 at 10:09 AM Rating: Excellent
Word Kludger
36 posts
Have you seen our review of the Razer Taipan? Not as many buttons, but completely ambidextrous. Other than that, there's rumour that Razer are going to release a left-handed Naga, but no details or confirmation yet.

http://www.zam.com/story.html?story=31989
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Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer
Senior Contributing Editor | ZAM Network
My Review
# Mar 29 2013 at 2:38 PM Rating: Decent
4 posts
I purchased this myself just yesterday.

To start off, I tried to register for Razer Synapse 2.0, and instead of a seamless process I was sent on a hellish roller coaster ride. 24 hours later, I am still not registered, or if I am, it won't let me into the software so that I could update my firmware for my mouse. I've contacted support to no avail (once yesterday and once today) No response as of yet.

The mouse seems to be designed for those that "palm" their mouse because as a claw/fingertip grip person the awkward hex button placements makes it difficult for me to move my mouse w/o accidentally triggering one of the keybindings.

I've actually never been so angry at a product before, and being that this is my first experience with Razer. I doubt that once I return this mouse, I will ever shop with them again.
My Review
# Mar 29 2013 at 4:37 PM Rating: Excellent
Word Kludger
36 posts
Sorry to hear you've been having problems with Synapse - I can understand that it'd be pretty frustrating if you can't get it to work. And while I've had no problems with it myself, that doesn't mean they don't exist.

I completely agree about the claw grip - both this and the Naga Molten are much better for palmers. I can imagine that claw types would have it even worse, as the gloss doesn't provide enough grip when you're just using fingertips alone. Great for me, but not so ideal for your own situation. For your particular grip, I'd suggest the Taipan - it has some really great control surfaces for claw grip users, but you lose out with those hex buttons on the side. Really quick and accurate though.
____________________________
Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer
Senior Contributing Editor | ZAM Network
My Review
# Mar 29 2013 at 6:57 PM Rating: Good
This reply goes to Markadis. There is an issue I'm going to have to ponder on about the software. I use a Razer Naga and a nostromo. When setting up the nostromo I had major issues, mainly getting the software to even open. As of this post, I don't remember what it was...and that isn't helpful at all, but I know I had to do some kind of update or download something 1st from Razer's site and then the program (synapse, but Nostromo uses it's own similar program)) would work. I emailed support and I'm pretty sure I never heard anything from them. If the software is crashing when you try to open it, does it give an error?

As for the "palm", my mouse has 12 buttons. So 2 birds one stone here:
1) I would NOT suggest people buy a Hex. If you are going to spend the money for a Hex, you can find a Naga for the same price (I Paid around $80 for my Naga). It comes with 6 MORE buttons. Why pay for the same for less? I do not use all 12 all the time, but again, price. They are there if/when I need them.
2) Try putting your thumb's upper part above the 2. Terms to use here... your thumb's distal phalanx above the 2 and your thumb's proximal phalanx to rest in the middle (Fingers had 3 segments, a Middle, the thumb does not :p). Then it will be come muscle memory and touch to know if you are on 1-6. the middle of my thumb's proximal or lower part of my thumb rest on my 5, but I have 4 rows of 3 buttons. It took a few days at a few hours each time to get use to it. Ring and Small finger on the other side, and mouse movement become a push and pull while twisting wrist to go up/down and left/right. I also "hold" my mouse at an angle; " \ " <- at almost this angle
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Sandinmyeye | |Tsukaremash*ta | Dihydrogen Monoxide (it kills)
My Review
# Mar 29 2013 at 10:59 PM Rating: Excellent
Word Kludger
36 posts
I get your point about the 12 buttons versus six - I have a Naga Molten myself. But to repeat the point I made in the review, the Hex buttons are a lot better. They're laid out better (and therefore much easier to use) and they're much more tactile and responsive because the buttons are mechanical rather than membrane. Plus, newer MMOs just don't need 12 buttons - six is plenty. Then again, I said all this in the review :)
____________________________
Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer
Senior Contributing Editor | ZAM Network
My Review
# Mar 30 2013 at 4:13 PM Rating: Decent
4 posts
I agree with Gazimoff, that the 6 button placement on the side is perfect for these upcoming big title'd MMOs. That is why I purchased the Hex myself.

Now if only I could get it to work.... I'm still waiting on their reply. I am going to send them an e-mail everyday for the next week. If by then I don't get a reply then I guess I am forced to return the product. Which sucks because I am slowly getting the hang of the mouse too.

But the fact that I can't update or download any current and upcoming firmware is a big problem. I don't want issues anymore issues down the line if I can't avoid them.
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