Zowie S2-C Review
Zowie is one of the most used brands in the competitive gaming scene. Their mice are tailor-made for (tactical) shooter games, and that shows in their usage numbers. The brand has consistently been on top in our most used lists for games such as CS:GO, which is not a surprise seeing as their most used line (the EC) was co-developed with professional Counter-Strike players.
In recent times, however, the brand had fallen behind the 'market standard' a bit. In a world where lightweight mice, complete with shoelace-like cables are commonplace it could be argued that Zowie was resting on their laurels a bit. With the release of the C series of mice that discussion seems to be well and truly put to bed. This is Zowie's way of bringing their mice up to par without ignoring what has made them so well-loved among competitive gamers in the first place.
Today, our reviewer is taking a look at the S2-C, Zowie's updated version of their newest line of mice. Is this worth it in today's market, or is Zowie stuck in the past? Read our full Zowie S2-C review (and click here to check the full specs on Zowie's website) to find out everything that you need to know!
"I think this C line of mice is a great marriage between Zowie's core design fundamentals (which is what made them such a loved brand in the first place) and modern mouse tech."Our Mouse Reviewer
Zowie S2-C - First Impressions
As is tradition with Zowie mice there is little to note about the S2-C. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that that's a bad thing. Rather than trying to draw attention by using garish design choices or compromising on the performance of their product by adding unnecessary RGB strips or what have you, Zowie chooses to go for a no-nonsense design. I've always appreciated that design decision, even though I'm not really someone who cares about the look of their peripherals.
In case you're not familiar with this 'C' line I'll quickly go over the main changes that Zowie has made to their mice. The most important changes have been made to the weight (the C is lighter), cable (lighter and more flexible), and the scroll wheel (which is now a 24-step wheel instead of a 16-step wheel). I of course will be covering all of these changes in depth further on in the review.
The S line isn't exactly new anymore so you might already be familiar with the shape. It's a medium-small ambidextrous mouse (side buttons can only be found on the left side though) with a comfortable shape. More on that in the next section though.
Aside from the obvious changes this is your typical Zowie mouse. This means that there's no RGB to be found, and that everything that you need to adjust the mouse to your preferences has to be done on the mouse itself rather than in some kind of driver program. Zowie has always operated in this manner because shooter pros generally don't bother with macros and the likes, and I personally also rather like the plug-and-play approach.
Inside the black Zowie box you will find a bunch of documentation, as well as a Zowie sticker and a pair of replacement feet.
Zowie has always included replacement feet in the box, and I always take the time to applaud them (and other brands who do this) for that. If you're a competitive gamer you're likely to pay attention to factors such as the glide of your mouse feet, and having the peace of mind knowing that you can just swap out your feet once they start degrading (this will happen to all mouse feet) is great. These days, Zowie also sell their own 'speed skates' if you prefer a faster glide.
Size & Dimensions
Shape and finish
The S is the third symmetrical mouse (click here to see our article on the differences between the 3 different lines) to join Zowie's lineup, which initially made some people think that it would be very similar to either the ZA or the FK, but it really isn't. Whereas the FK is a very flat and 'long' mouse, the S has a more tightly packed design with more of a hump towards the back. The ZA is similar in that regard, but the S is a lot shorter and smaller feeling in the hand than the ZA.
In any case: the S, like other Zowie mice, flows naturally without any awkward curves or any of that. It's rather neutral design (the back does flare out a bit, but it's not extreme in that regard) and its shorter overall length makes for easier crosshair adjustments on the y axis, which is one of the reasons Zowie made this design in the first place. I really love this design. The back of the mouse is just high enough to touch my palm (which is something that I prefer with mice) but the S2-C is small enough for me to make small micro adjustments without having to move my entire arm or wrist, even as someone who uses a rather low overall sensitivity. It's not the most comfortable design I've personally ever used, but it does feel really good and reliable for aiming and playing games. For reference: my hand is 18x10.5 cm and I use a claw-dominant grip.
The coating, then, performs just fine. It never feels oily or disgusting to me, nor does it feel slippery when using it with completely dry hands. Whether or not this is true for you will depend on your preferences (and the amount of sweat that you produce while gaming) but I didn't notice any performance issues with this coating. It's still a fingerprint/oil magnet though. If you play a particularly intense match of your favorite competitive shooter and your hands sweat even a little bit you will be able to notice it on the mouse itself. That's not a massive issue in and of itself since it doesn't have an impact on the overall performance of the mouse (and, like I said, I never felt as if the mouse started feeling 'icky') but it is a bit of an annoyance to me as it means that I have to clean it rather often.
On the bottom of the S2-C there are two large feet (plus a tiny ring around the sensor) and these provide a smooth and reliable glide straight out of the box. It's not the slickest or fastest glide on the market, but that's by design. If you prefer a faster glide you can always order Zowie's speed skates (I've tested these too and they're indeed faster than the regular ones, though they're not as slick as certain aftermarket feet) but for most people I suspect these stock feet will be fine. If you're mostly playing tactical shooters, where precision matters a lot more than fast flicking, it could be argued that having a more locked in and reliable gliding experience is beneficial over that ultra slick feeling, though this of course also comes down to personal preference.
Buttons and scroll wheel
For as long as I've been reviewing mice, Zowie has been using Huano switches for their clickers. A couple of years ago, these seemed to be somewhat disliked by certain people in the enthusiast scene, but these days it seems to be widely accepted that different people prefer different things, and that ultra light clicks aren't objectively better than slightly stiffer ones. I myself have never had a problem with Zowie's buttons: I prefer a more substantial feeling clicking experience over super light ones (I tend to misclick with very loose triggers) so Huanos are completely fine by me.
I am aware of the fact that Zowie has been improving their overall click feeling over the past couple of years of course (some of the older models could indeed feel really stiff) and the ones that they've arrived at today are just great if you ask me.
Getting the right switch (and click feeling) is one thing, getting pleasantly feeling buttons overall is another. The Zowie S2-C feels absolutely amazing in that regard. On my copy there's almost no pre travel, post travel, or sideways travel, leading to a set of main clicks that feels extremely solid and reliable no matter how you're holding the mouse. I myself don't really mind a touch of pre travel (which is, if you're being very nitpicky, present here) but large amounts of post or side travel can get annoying very quickly and it's remarkable how there's almost none of that to be found here.
The side buttons on Zowie mice haven't always been great in the past, but they definitely are here. They actuate with a pleasing click, and they don't travel into the shell no matter where you're pressing them. The fact that they're rather large can come as either a hindrance or a blessing depending on your personal style, so do take note of that. I found myself accidentally pressing the mouse 4 button in tense moments on occasion. That didn't really bother me because I usually have that bound to voice chat and there's not a lot of travel on the button, meaning that it didn't alter my grip when spraying or adjusting my aim, but it could be something to note regardless. The fact that these side buttons have a glossy coating on them is a cool touch, as it allows you to easily feel when your thumb is resting on them and it gives you a touch of extra grip.
The scroll wheel, then, has been changed from earlier models. It now has 24 steps instead of the usual 16 and this really is a blessing. I never really had a big issue with Zowie's old wheels, but then again I also have the luxury of using different mice for different purposes. I can imagine that Zowie's loud 16-step wheel got old for a lot of people fast so I think they've made a good change here. It's still a bit loud and it's not the most secure feeling wheel to me (it can feel a bit 'flimsy' when scrolling, and the definition between steps isn't as crispy as it should be) but all in all it performs fine. It is rather difficult to press down though, so if you use your mouse wheel for important/'spammy' purposes in your game of choice you will want to consider this.
Sound test in order: left click, right click, scroll up, scroll down, scroll click, mouse 4, mouse 5.
Quality and cable
Despite the fact that the S2-C is quite a bit lighter than its predecessor (82 grams versus 69 grams) it doesn't seem like any compromises have been made as far as the build quality goes. The S2-C does not creak or flex anywhere, and that combined with the fact that there's no noise when shaking or tapping the mouse makes for an extremely solid feeling product. Of course us reviewers have no way of testing how durable a product is after years or usage, but there's no doubt in my mind that you can just throw this mouse in a cramped backpack on your way to a LAN tournament and have it come out the other way absolutely fine.
The cable has seen some notable improvements. Despite the fact that Zowie's old cables were still somewhat fine if you used them with a bungee it can't be denied that it was about time for an upgrade. What you get now is a pretty thin and decently flexible paracord-like cable that feels great to use, even without a bungee. Put it in a bungee and you will almost never even notice that it's a wired mouse. That's also partially thanks to the angled stress relief part at the point where the cable exits the mouse shell. This ensures that there's no cable contact right in front of your pointer device so that you never have those 'I just ran into my own cable' moments that you might have with extremely flexible paracords.
I know how a real aftermarket paracord feels (they are more flexible still, but that's because companies have to follow certain industry standards when producing electronic devices such as mice, and that mostly doesn't allow them to compete with ultra flexible aftermarket alternatives) but I wouldn't bother switching out this cable if I were to main this mouse (and I might, since I love the S2 shape and the updates that they've made to the mouse).
Performance and sensor
Zowie is still using the 3360 in their mice. That's an older one but if you ask me it doesn't really matter. It's a flawless sensor either way. I found no traces of any malfunctions during my testing either, so Zowie has implemented it well if you're asking me.
The default LOD is just over 1 DVD (1.2 mm) and, just like with the EC3-C it's not possible to lower it to be under that point. Is that a problem? That depends. Not for me, as I'm fine with an LOD of under 2.4 mm (which is the case here) but if you're someone who really needs their Lift Off Distance to be under that 1 DVD mark then this is definitely something to note.
The S2-C is, just like other Zowie mice, completely plug and play. This means that there is no software to download (not even optionally) and that everything is configured on the mouse itself. I kind of like that approach (there are times where I have over five different driver programs installed on my PC, and that can get annoying fast) but I also have to say that I don't really mind a mouse that requires a lightweight program to customize it. It's definitely a plus for competitive gamers though, who often take their mice to play on different computers so I see where Zowie is coming from.
You can adjust the DPI, polling rate, LOD (well, in theory: the different settings don't seem to do much for me), and the click response time by using either a dedicated button on the bottom of the mouse or by pushing a combination of buttons when plugging in the mouse. Everything that you might want to configure is there, but if you're a hardcore macro user you might want to look elsewhere as this mouse doesn't offer that functionality out of the box.
I mainly see the S2-C as a perfect mouse for claw grippers and, perhaps to a lesser extent, also palm grippers with smaller hands, though fingertip grippers could certainly use this one as well seeing as you can still actuate the buttons from the middle of the mouse, though they obviously get stiffer the further back you press them. It's a testament to how well the shape is designed: if the size is right for you and you like this sort of shape then the mouse could work for a very wide variety of grips.
As always, you should take this section with a grain of salt. Us reviewers can only give you a rough guideline when it comes to grip and size compatibility. You might have huge hands and prefer smaller mice, for example, or you might be a fingertip gripper who likes ergonomic mice. All these 'grip/hand size guides' should be used as a baseline.
Conclusion & Recommendation
Some might argue that all of these changes that Zowie has made fall into the 'too little, too late' category, but I don't agree with that. I think this C line of mice is a great marriage between Zowie's core design fundamentals (which is what made them such a loved brand in the first place) and modern mouse tech. What you get here is a very reliable plug and play mouse made for (competitive) shooter games with no frills or distracting elements. It's not the most groundbreaking piece of equipment I've reviewed this year, but it doesn't have to be and that's also not what Zowie is aiming for I think.
The S2-C is one of the better ambidextrous mice out there if you're looking for a smaller/shorter mouse of this type for your competitive gaming fix and it's one that you should definitely take a look at if you're in the market for an ambidextrous mouse. Doubly so because the S shape hasn't been copied to death like Zowie's FK and EC lines, meaning that it's still rather unique in today's market.
There are some things that aren't perfect, of course. I don't particularly like the feeling and look of the coating (particularly after using the mouse) and the scroll wheel could be better, but these are minor annoyances that aren't so pronounced that they impact my enjoyment of the mouse. Do note that the LOD is a touch over 1.2 millimeters, with currently no way of lowering it, so if that's something that would bother you it's important to know this ahead of time.
If Zowie released this in a wireless version with a slightly improved coating and scroll wheel this would be an absolute smash hit I think, but this wired version is also very much worth looking at.