VAXEE ZYGEN NP-01S Review
VAXEE is a company that hasn't even been making mice for more than a year and yet they've already managed to carve out a respectable position in the mouse market for themselves. It should perhaps come as no surprise: the people behind VAXEE are the same people who started Zowie, so they definitely know their stuff, but it's still interesting to see how quickly this brand has managed to convince both pros and regular gamers with their products.
Today we're taking a look at the NP-01S, a smaller and slightly changed version of their very first mouse, the NP-01. The most notable feature is of course the fact that it's smaller, but other changes have been made to the mouse as well: we see a different coating and the stock feet have been made thicker as well.
We sent the mouse over to our reviewer to give you the full rundown on its features and where it hits (and/or misses) the mark.
"It's pleasantly surprising that this NP-01S isn't just 'the NP-01, but smaller'. Yes, it is a smaller mouse (in height and thickness; the length is the same) but it also just has a slightly different shape."Our mouse reviewer
VAXEE ZYGEN NP-01S - First Impressions
Disclaimer: I received both the glossy version (NP-01S G) and the matte version (NP-01S) for this review. They are both identical in specs but I will talk about both throughout the review and mention both coatings in the 'Shape and Finish' section.
The very first thing that I noticed with the NP-01S is just how different it feels in the hand versus its bigger sibling, and how it's not necessarily a 'regular small version mouse'. The length, for example, is the same, meaning that this isn't just a shrunken down version of their NP-01S. I'll talk more about the shape further on in the review of course, but if you were expecting a carbon copy of the NP-01 you might want to adjust your expectations. There are definitely some differences between the NP-01 and the NP-01S.
Other things have been changed too. The coating has moved away from that slightly awkward glossy/matte mixture and the NP-01S now has the same (or at least something that's extremely close) coating as what you'll find on the OUTSET AX. It's a good move if you ask me, since I thought that the coating on the original NP-01 looked and felt a bit strange. I can't speak about changes in the glossy coating as this is the first time I'm reviewing a glossy VAXEE mouse.
All in all, this product follows the VAXEE school of design: it's a no nonsense, driverless mouse aimed at competitive gamers who don't want to mess around with drivers or RGB lights. I also like the fact that they once again kept the branding to a minimum. There's a subtle ZYGEN on the left front side of the mouse, but aside from that there's nothing to be seen.
Update: VAXEE have announced that the regular NP-01 will now also feature this coating instead of the 'mixed' style of coating that it originally had.
The NP-01S is definitely a small feeling mouse. The shape is once again a blend of an ambidextrous and an ergonomic shell, though I do feel like the S version feels a bit more like an ambi mouse compared to the NP-01. Aside from that it is a shape that I personally really like, and it's cool to see that the people at VAXEE follow their own path rather than taking the clone route like so many other companies do.
The mouse weighs in at 71 grams, which doesn't make it the lightest mouse of its size (that was never VAXEE's intention though) but I find it difficult to imagine that anyone would have an issue with the weight of this product. As far as I'm concerned it feels just right in that department.
The packaging that VAXEE uses won't win any design awards but I think it has its charm. The company only sells mice through their own website (so that they can guarantee personalized service and a high standard of customer care, according to them) so there's no real need to have boxes that draw the attention of window shoppers anyway.
Inside the box there's literally nothing but the mouse itself. Here it would be nice to have a tiny info card with the DPI levels and their corresponding colors, and as you may or may not know I always like it when companies include replacement mouse feet. I don't mind it if they don't do that though so I won't dock any points for that as it's just a neat extra to me.
Size & Dimensions
Shape and finish
The NP-01 made a name for itself in part due to its very interesting blend of different shape designs. It's very much a mixture of an ergonomic and ambidextrous mouse, with a neutral front portion and then a wider curve at the back right, along with an indentation for your thumb on the left. It's a shape that I absolutely love (I used the NP-01 as my main for a while after reviewing it) mainly because it feels super natural to me without forcing your fingers towards certain positions on the mouse. The S does feel a lot less 'supportive', however. That's just an observation and not a point of critique; some people don't like a lot of mouse/hand contact so it's good to see that VAXEE thinks about these people too.
Compared to the NP-01, the S version has a lower hump, which leads to less palm contact/support. The curve on the left also feels less pronounced to me, and that combined with the fact that the S version is a lot thinner than the regular one makes for a mouse that feels a lot more neutral. It's an extremely safe shape, and the thumb curve on the left along with the asymmetrical curve on the right make for an interesting mix between both worlds of mice shell design without ever feeling awkward but it definitely feels like a small mouse so you generally won't get a ton of skin contact here.
If you love the idea behind this interesting shape and you don't want to have palm contact or you prefer a smaller mouse then this is a fantastic option. If you prefer a bit of a 'palm hump' and/or a wider grip width I'd steer towards the regular NP-01. Both have their merits but I personally prefer the regular NP-01. That's because I'm not a huge fan of smaller mice in general though, so that's not a knock on the shape of this mouse.
The coating, then. I actually really like the glossy coating that VAXEE is using on this mouse, despite not being a fan of gloss. It's white but it stays clean relatively easily and its got an amazing grip. It's also completely smooth all over: you don't feel a seam where two parts of the shell join, nor are there any irregularities anywhere on the shell.
The matte NP-01S is my favorite of the bunch but only because I personally dislike glossy coatings. VAXEE's matte coating attracts oils and fingerprint really easily, and despite the fact that I had no performance issues with the matte version I can't say that I'm a big fan of how the coating feels. They've been making progress for sure (I like this over the regular NP-01's finish) but it's not there yet if you ask me.
As with other VAXEE mice, the NP-01S has a slightly rubberized texture on the main buttons. I don't feel as if it performs any better than the regular coatings they're using for this mouse but I do like the feeling, even if only because it doesn't attract prints as easily as their matte coating. In any case: even if I don't really feel a performance benefit I also don't think that the special buttons detract from the experience so I'm all for it.
The stock feet are now 0.6 millimeters thick compared to the 0.45 millimeters on the NP-01. This was something that a lot of people complained about so it's cool to see that VAXEE has listened to their customers and went with a more traditional thickness for their feet. These skates aren't the fastest but there's no scratchiness (unless you put a ton of pressure on your mouse, but most people will be fine here) so I am good with them. I personally wouldn't change them out for aftermarket feet but then again I'm not someone who really needs extremely fast feet so your mileage may vary.
Buttons and scroll wheel
Underneath the two main buttons you'll find Huano switches. These are, on average, a touch heavier to click than some of the other popular options on the market but that doesn't have to be a problem for a mouse that's aimed at competitive shooter players.
How a switch feels is of course only part of the equation. The way in which buttons are implemented is way more important for the overall click feeling, and luckily that's done really nicely here. VAXEE mentioned that they purposefully added more overall travel to the buttons on the S version (because that's better for click timing, preventing misclicking and other misfortunes in competitive shooters) and there is indeed a little bit of post travel to be found, but it's not annoying in any way and it's so minimal that I doubt anyone will mind.
The travel does make for a click set that feels a fair bit heavier overall than what you find on the NP-01 but not annoyingly so. I wouldn't recommend it to people who need to spam their clicks but for competitive shooters it can indeed be nice to have a more reassuring click so I get what they're going for here.
The scroll wheel is still that very loud and extremely tactile wheel that VAXEE has been using, and I still have mixed feelings about it. Yes, for gaming it's a great wheel, as the reassuring and extremely tactile steps ensure that you won't make accidental scrolls but for browsing it can be a real pain. I would prefer more of a 'compromise' for their scroll wheel, with still a decent amount of tactility (though perhaps a bit dialed down) and less volume but given the fact that everything about this mouse is aimed at gaming (and not browsing or working) I do get the idea.
The side buttons (they're thinner on the S than on the NP-01) feel alright, but there's a bit of post travel when they're pushed towards the back. This is very apparent with the mouse 4 button, giving it a bit of a spongy feeling sometimes. It's not a deal breaker but it's something that can be ironed out regardless.
Sound test in order: left click, right click, scroll up, scroll down, scroll click, mouse 4, mouse 5.
Quality and cable
I haven't had any build quality issues with a VAXEE mouse so far, and that trend continues with the NP-01S. You can shake it, squeeze it, and tap it and it won't budge or make a sound. I obviously can't talk about how well the mouse will hold up over the years since I spend a limited amount of time with these review products before I put them in a closet, but as far as I can test this is a rock solid mouse.
Speaking of rock solid: this mouse has a rather rigid (at least compared to some other contemporary gaming mice) cable, but that's for a reason, according to VAXEE. A stiffer cable is more durable than a hyper flexible specimen, and another argument that they give is that a shoelace-like cable can actually end up being a bother if it (for example) ends up underneath your mouse after a violent swipe. I can sort of follow them here (and they're not the first manufacturer to make the durability claims) but I personally prefer a lighter cable. Perhaps that's because I'm so used to wireless mice though.
Personal preferences aside: this cable is definitely serviceable, especially if you end up sticking it in a bungee. Due to the rigidity of the cable it actually stays suspended in the air a bit more easily than a hyper flexible cable, so if you have a bungee you could definitely argue that this type of cable has an advantage over a super flexible paracord.
Performance and sensor
VAXEE mice have the 3389 sensor on the inside, and that's a flawless one. Flawless sensors have been standard on top gaming mice for years now, so unless someone horribly messes up the implementation of a sensor all modern gaming mice (from reputable manufacturers) should track your every move with pixel perfect precision. I found no evidence of any sensor issues on the NP-01S so as far as I'm concerned this performs flawlessly at all times.
As all the other VAXEE mice (so far) this NP-01S doesn't come with any software. On the bottom of the mouse you'll find buttons to tune the DPI, polling rate, and click response time, and aside from that there's nothing much to configure. That does mean that people who love their macros or rebindings are out of luck, but this mouse isn't necessarily aimed at those people. There is a way to change the LOD too should you want to do that, but I feel like the default setting (~1.2 mm) will be great for the vast majority of players and setups.
The click response times can be set to a value of either 2ms, 4ms, or 8ms. You might think that it's obviously best to go for 2ms but that's not necessarily true. Different people have different playing styles, so depending on your setup, aiming style, and even the game you're playing, the optimal click response can vary. For myself I found 4ms to be the sweet spot (though 2ms also works) but everyone is different so if you do decide to get this mouse I recommend you to play around with this feature a bit instead of just going for 2ms and forgetting about it.
Due to the lower hump on the NP-01S I wouldn't immediately recommend it to palm grippers (VAXEE also advertise this mouse as one for people who don't like palm contact) but thanks to its fantastic shape it's a good bet for all other grip types, provided you're into smaller/thinner mice.
As usual, a disclaimer. Everyone is different, and how suitable a mouse is for a certain person is something that's completely personal. People on the internet (including reviewers such as myself) can only give you some pointers on this subject, so take everything that's mentioned online about grip compatibility with a grain of salt.
Conclusion & Recommendation
It's pleasantly surprising that this NP-01S isn't just 'the NP-01, but smaller'. Yes, it is a smaller mouse (in height and thickness; the length is the same) but it also just has a slightly different shape. If you like what you read/heard about the regular NP-01 but you prefer a smaller feeling mouse and/or less palm contact this can be a great choice.
For those who haven't heard of the NP-01: this mouse beautifully marries ergonomic shell designs with ambidextrous shell designs into a fantastic shape that flows naturally and should suit a large variety of grip types.
This mouse is made for competitive shooter players, and that shows in certain aspects. The scroll wheel, for example, is rigid and rather loud. Great for gaming, less so for browsing. There's also the cable that feels a bit stiff in today's market, and the matte coating needs some work (though I am aware that this can be very subjective) so while it's not without its drawbacks this is, yet again, a very impressive mouse by VAXEE. They're building up quite the impressive arsenal of mice here, and I'm already looking forward to what they'll come up with next.