The top gaming mice of 2014

Zowie Gear EC1 Evo CL review: One of the best gaming mice you'll find

Zowie EC1
At a Glance
  • Zowie Gear EC1 Evo CL

    PCWorld Rating

The top gaming mice of 2014

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Full disclosure: I’ve used a Zowie mouse (the AM model, to be specific) as my everyday mouse for more than a year. I love it because it’s a plug-and-play device: There’s no need to install manufacturer-specific software on my machine. It has an incredible sensor, a very low liftoff distance, and absolutely zero frills. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

The EC1 Evo CL is similar in many ways. Zowie’s optical sensors are some of the most accurate and responsive I’ve ever played with, and the 1.5mm liftoff distance is right in the sweet spot for me. Most devices on the market run a little (or a lot) higher than 1.5mm, especially as a default—devices by SteelSeries and Razer will let you set a similar liftoff distance, but only after you install their software.

Like the SteelSeries Rival and the AM model I use, the EC1 Evo is a bare-bones model with just five buttons: Left-, right-, and middle-click, plus two on the thumb. That’s what I like: A mouse that moves my cursor around the screen so reflexively I barely have to guide it. The shape is clearly ideal for palm grippers, with a broad and elongated base, but I had a fine time using the mouse as a claw gripper. The thumb buttons are enormous and placed far enough back that you can hit them no matter what grip you’re contorted into.

Zowie EC1 Michael Homnick

You won't find better sensors in a gaming mouse.

As with other Zowie products, the EC1 Evo CL has a CPI switch on its bottom its bottom. This one can switch between settings of 450-, 1150-, and 2300 CPI, with the settings identified by the shade projected through its translucent scroll wheel: red, purple, and blue respectively. Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn that light off. Love to run your mouse at 1150 CPI? Prepare to have a blinding pinkish-purple light in your peripheral vision as long as you use this mouse.

There’s also no way to program the thumb buttons to do anything useful unless you’re running software. That’s fine in a game, where you can map buttons in the options menu, but it renders those Hail Marys in standard usage. If you’re using a web browser, for instance, you can use those buttons to navigate forward and back through your browing history. But that behavior is pre-programmed inside the application—you can’t change it to act any other way.

The EC1 version of the EC Evo CL was designed with feedback from professional Quake player Anton “Cooller” Singov. The big change that resulted from his feedback: The mouse wheel is stepped at 24 intervals instead of 16. As it says on Zowie’s website, “Zowie Gear have made this choice together with Cooller because Quake gamers tend not to use the scroll wheel to change weapons compared to other games.” The end result is a mouse wheel with a lot less friction than what I’m used to, and I’m not a huge fan.

Finally, the matte black coating on the top of the mouse is a fingerprint magnet. My hands tend to be dryer than average, but I still found ugly oil marks all over the top of the EC1 when I let go of it. We’re talking very minor aesthetic issues here, but they’re worth noting.

I love Zowie’s mice. They’re fantastic, they’re responsive, and the sensors are works of technical wizardry. The EC1 Evo CL is one of the best gaming mice in this roundup, and it’s better than a lot of mice that I didn’t have room to cover here.

Still, there’s room for improvement. This company was built on the strength of its sensors, but it has much to learn in terms of vanity features and atypical user needs.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The EC1 Evo CL is a great mouse, but Zowie Gear could make it even better with just a few design tweaks.

    Pros

    • One of the best optical sensors on the market
    • Simple, stripped-down aesthetic
    • Truely plug-and-play

    Cons

    • Can't disable scroll-wheel backlight
    • No way to customize side buttons
    • Matte finish picks up skin oil
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