Last year I wrote a review about the Acer Nitro 5 gaming laptop, demonstrating my lack of knowledge in the arena of PC gaming. I’ve spent no small amount of time learning about gaming on PCs–building your own rig, benchmarks and FPS performance indicators and the monitors with the best refresh rate for the highest demand games, but I’ve never fully understood the obsession with wired mice and keyboards (and specifically, mechanical keyboards). I decided it probably wouldn’t be something I could read about and understand, so I did what any reasonable human being would do, and got my hands on some gaming peripherals from a company called Fnatic to see if the hands-on experience would shed any light on the topic for me.
Let’s start with the mouse. Any time I go to Microcenter, I’m often find myself amazed at how inexpensive a basic wired optical mouse is. So, at $60 for exactly that, I had my doubts…then again, I’m accustomed to paying upwards of $100 for a good wireless mouse (i.e., the MX Master 2S), so maybe this wouldn’t be so far off.
I was immediately surprised at how basic the Fnatic Clutch 2 looked…standard curved mouse design, a couple of side buttons, scroll wheel, and a few lights–but that’s it. It is also very lightweight, which I imagine is important if you’re an avid gamer. The size is perfect for someone with larger hands, and it’s very comfortable to hold and use.
Inside a gaming session, it’s equally comfortable and understated–which is an interesting juxtaposition for me. When I buy a mouse, something like the MX Master 2S, I want to be reminded constantly that I bought that mouse–I want to love the mouse and recognize that it’s always under my hand. That said, I learned soon during a game of Rocket League that the less I’m thinking about the mouse, the better off I’d be…I don’t want to be reminded of the mouse I payed $60 for, because in that moment the only thing I should be focused on is the game. The Clutch 2 helped accomplish this goal–with it’s light and simple design, I didn’t have to think about where it was, how it felt, or where the buttons were…it is a basic mouse that is great for being exactly that.
Then again, an $8 optical mouse from Microcenter might accomplish the same thing…at least in-game. And in some sense, that’s true–but what it would be missing are a couple extra touches that make this gaming mouse (and others just like it) special: customization. Because I’ve spent some time watching folks build gaming PCs, I understand the obsession with RGB lighting. I’ve seen enough “Office Tour” and “Desk Setup” videos to have purchased my own RGB light strips for the back of my desk…I get it. There is one primary piece of the customization for these products: utilizing the OP software to change the lights on the mouse to any color your heart desires.
And of course, a fancy light show isn’t the only thing that the OP software allows: as expected, CPI and Polling Rate customization options are available there, as well as key binding capabilities…along with the ability to save up to 4 different configurations for the mouse so you can easily swap between fully customized presets. My only real complaint about the OP software was how long the install took on Windows…it is totally possible it was a system performance issue, but the installer hung multiple times during my initial installation attempts, but after a while I finally got it figured out.
In tweaking this mouse to my liking, it really got me thinking about how a customizable mouse could make a difference in my standard work, not specifically for gaming. So, I downloaded the OP app for Mac (I was surprised there was a Mac installer in the first place), and applied those same preferred settings for my standard workload…and I have to admit, my opinion on wired gaming mice may have changed: this is certainly a different experience from my standard Logitech choices, better in most ways aside from the cable.
But of course, the Clutch 2 wasn’t the only new device I was test driving; I also picked up the Mini Streak mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches.
I’ll start with this–although mechanical keyboards speak to the reminiscent part of my brain when it comes to computers, the reminiscent part of my brain is relatively small and I’ve never found them particularly enticing. Again–I’ve read and watched A LOT of reviews on these, and lately have been interested in checking them out. As a point of reference, I typically prefer a chiclet-style low-profile keyboard, something like the Apple Magic Keyboard or Logitech’s Craft Keyboard.
The Mini Streak is a standard keyboard without a number pad on the right–and that may be a deal breaker for some right away (Fnatic also makes full-size keyboards with 10-keys, for what it’s worth). I would describe the keys and key travel as the opposite of my preferred low-profile keyboards, but I was surprised that after a significant amount of typing I didn’t feel any fatigue in my hands. This is something that I’ve noticed as I’ve become accustomed to lower-profile keyboards, over time; the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards are an example of my ultimate keyboard, because so little effort is required to engage a key and register a key press. Any time I stray away from a low-profile keyboard, I find myself struggling to, after some time with the keyboard, push the keys down in order to register a key press–and while that probably sounds whiny and stupid, it is nonetheless something that I’ve discovered about my own preferences.
That said, no fatigue at all with these keys, and I credit the Cherry MX Brown switches and solid wristpad design for that. Speaking of the wristpad, the Mini Streak comes with a detachable wrist rest that can be customized to sit right below the keyboard (flush with it), or further away with an inch-and-a-half gap between the bottom of the keyboard and the top of the wrist rest; this is a nice design touch and helps accommodate folks with larger hands.
All of the things that the OP software does for the mouse, it also does for the keyboard: key binding options, customized colored lighting (down to the individual key), and the ability to deactivate certain keys with Fnatic’s “Competition Mode” so that no accidental system actions are triggered during your gaming sessions.
Inside a gaming session, the Mini Streak operated no differently than any other wired keyboard, from my perspective. I understand that avid gamers may notice a difference between a 500Hz and 1000Hz polling rate, but I’m not one of those people. I also thought about using the Mini Streak in place of my standard wireless keyboard, but was less excited about that experience than I was replacing my regular wireless mouse with a gaming mouse.
So at the end of the day, I sit the fence. I think the Mini Streak and the Clutch 2 are both well-built products that are comfortable to use and perform well during a gaming session. The Clutch 2 could easily replace my wireless mouse because of its smooth operation and simple design, but the Mini Streak is a little too “gamer” for me to switch to it permanently. The pair will set you back $160, which is not out of the realm of reasonable (for me) when it comes to computer peripherals. As long as you like the looks, and the customization is something you’re looking for, I think Fnatic might have a product you’ll enjoy, even if you’re not a gamer.