Zowie ZA12 Review
When we first started doing gear reviews on this website we thought Zowie's EC2-A would be an ideal starting point, since Zowie is by far the most dominant mouse manufacturer for our analyzed CS:GO pros. Since then we've also reviewed their FK line, and today our journey throughout the 'OG line' of Zowie mice comes to an end with this review of the ZA12.
The ZA line has always been the slightly less popular brother of the three, with the FK and EC being in the spotlight far more often, but there really shouldn't be any reason for that. The ZA series offers Zowie's familiar no-nonsense approach and has found its way into the hands of legends of the CS:GO scene, such as Xyp9x and coldzera.
Today we'll put the ZA12 to the test and see whether or not it could be the right mouse for you. For anyone wondering: a review of Zowie's new S line is on the way as well, so stay tuned for that one.
"The ZA12 could be a perfect solution for palm grippers who like the Zowie credo."
Zowie ZA12 - First Impressions
The thing about Zowie mice is that there's not a whole lot to notice about them. Don't get me wrong; that's not a bad thing at all. I don't really care about the looks of my gaming gear all too much, but if I had to choose I'd go for an understated and sleek design over a loud 'gaming design' any time of the day.
The ZA12 is a sleek looking black mouse, finished with a small red Zowie logo towards the back and a really small and barely noticeable BenQ logo on the left hand side of the mouse. There are no RGB lights on the mouse (except for a DPI indicator on the bottom) and it features two side buttons on both sides, making this one of the few truly ambidextrous mice on the market.
The ZA12 is an ambidextrous mouse which can be used by left- and right handed gamers alike thanks to the two side buttons on each side. The ZA series comes in three different sizes (with the 12 being the middle ground) and as far as the ZA12 goes I'd definitely say that it's a medium sized mouse, but I'm happy to report that no compromises were made when it comes to weight; mine weighed in at about 84 grams.
One of the most prominent design features of this mouse is the rather pronounced hump towards the back, which means it could be the ideal mouse for palm grippers who like the Zowie credo.
The packaging of the ZA12 is pretty much the same as the mouse itself: no unnecessary fluff is added to the packaging whatsoever. No marketing mumbo-jumbo or outrageous promises. You get an outline of the mouse, the name of the mouse and that's pretty much it.
Inside the box you'll find the actual device, the usual documentation, a Zowie sticker and a pair of replacement mouse feet. I always love it when companies include spare mouse feet so extra points there for Zowie for including this.
Size & Dimensions
Shape and finish
The ZA12 is an ambidextrous mouse with a rather pronounced hump towards the back. This makes the design slightly less safe than ambi mice with a lower profile (such as the FK series, for example) but since Zowie wants to offer a shape for everyone out there it makes sense that they also have an ambidextrous model with a fuller profile. You can check out the major differences between all of their mice on this website.
The mouse, as mentioned before, can be used effortlessly by lefties as well. The side buttons aren't really in the way for me and by default the right side buttons are deactivated (you can disable a set of side buttons by way of pressing in a certain button combination) but since the mouse is perfectly symmetrical in design and there are buttons on both sides this is one of those rare high end mice that can be used by lefties as well as righties.
The coating on this mouse is this sort of hybrid between matte and glossy, which I found did its job excellently when it came to grip but I have to say that it's pretty easy to notice fingerprints and oils on the mouse. Some people don't mind that at all, but my hands get sweaty pretty quickly when gaming so this was something that I noticed. Fair warning: I am more of a fan of rubberized and matte coatings, so people who like glossier coatings probably won't have any issues with this one.
The DPI button on this mouse is located on the bottom, along with an indicator LED that tells you what setting you're currently on. This design choice obviously makes it impossible to accidentally change your DPI ingame, but it will be something that's annoying for gamers who like to switch their DPI on the go when gaming.
Two large mouse feet on the bottom of the mouse provide a very consistent and actually rather speedy glide. The stock mouse feet are never a problem with Zowie mice (at least not to me) and the ZA12 isn't an exception here.
Buttons and scroll wheel
Zowie uses Huanos in their mice, which are (by design) a bit stiffer than Omrons, but that doesn't have to be an issue. I don't like my mouse clicks to only require a feather-light touch to activate, since that can and does lead to misclicks for me, but this is obviously more of a personal thing.
What isn't personal is the fact that both main mouse buttons feel exactly alike to press. Both provide a rather robust and tactile clicking sensation with a travel time that's just right for these sorts of switches. The right click does sound a bit higher in pitch but that doesn't impact performance at all so it doesn't bother me.
The scroll wheel is the 'standard Zowie experience'; it seems that most people either love it or hate it. I'm kind of indifferent to their scroll wheels (and I'm also immediately contradicting my previous sentence, oops) and that's no different here. The ZA12 has a wheel with very clearly defined steps but it also feels a bit... 'sandy' and messy. I'm wondering if that's just an issue with my unit though, as I never had this problem on any of the numerous Zowie mice that I've used over the years. The scroll wheel is not too loud and I didn't have any issues with it (I use my scroll wheel to jump so I definitely get a lot of mileage out of my wheels when gaming) but it's not great either. It's just kind of there.
The side buttons are pretty darn good, however. They've got a satisfying click to them and don't feel mushy either. They also don't have a lot of travel time and when clicking them you don't feel as if you're going 'into the shell' as is the case with some other mice out there. Nicely done.
Summarizing: the ZA12 has nice and responsive buttons with a slightly heavier clicking experience on the main buttons, but the scroll wheel can definitely use some work.
Quality and cable
All of the mice that I review go through hours of testing, both as browsing devices and as gaming mice. I'm ashamed to say that those gaming sessions often feature some bump tests on their own, but I also like to tap a mouse against my desk a couple of times to see if anything rattles or feels flimsy. The ZA12 is perfect in that regard. Nothing's rattling around or making any sound it shouldn't be making and the mouse feels really sturdily built.
There have been some improvements made to stock cables by some manufacturers since the ZA12 came out, but this one still holds its own with relative ease. It's a thin rubber cable, which does exactly what it has to do: transmit data and stay out of your way. I test mice both with and without a mouse bungee and I had no issues with this cable in either scenario. Zowie makes, in my opinion, one of the better stock cables out there so expect no issues with this whatsoever.
Performance and sensor
The Zowie ZA12 is an older mouse by now, and as such it uses an older sensor. The Avago 3310 can be spun out under very specific circumstances (namely 'tilt-slamming', where you slam your mouse on the pad at a specific angle) but realistically the odds of this happening under normal use are very, very slim. Technically there are better sensors out there, but the fact that the 3310 has been used for so long and is still being used by professionals who are currently at the top of their game speaks for itself in my opinion.
If you can choose between two mice that are exactly the same apart from the sensor I'd say to go for the better sensor every time, but if you're eyeing a certain mouse and it happens to have a 3310 in it there is absolutely no reason to skip that one.
That being said: the implementation of a sensor is still a part where manufacturers can mess up, but as expected that isn't the case here. I found no evidence of smoothing, acceleration, or any of that nonsense, so you're not going to be able to blame your gear if you miss that crucial headshot on an enemy.
All Zowie mice are plug and play, meaning that you can just plug it in (surprise) and everything works. All settings can be changed on the mouse itself by using a certain combination of buttons, meaning that a Zowie mouse is an excellent choice for gamers who are travelling often or changing PCs all the time. There's no need to mess around with software or anything like that.
Zowie markets the ZA line as being developed for palm and claw grippers and I definitely follow them there. The hump towards the back really fills in nicely when you're palming the mouse but it doesn't get in the way when you're clawing it either.
Depending on your hand size I think that the ZA series could work for practically any grip style out there (certainly since the ZA comes in three different sizes) but if you're a pure fingertip gripper I would recommend you to try and get a hold of a mouse in real life before buying, since the pronounced hump means that it could get in the way.
Zowie mice are famous for (among other things) their excellent shapes, and the ZA line is a testament to that. It feels great to hold and due to the design of it I'm pretty sure that a majority of gamers would be glad to use this mouse for gaming.
Conclusion & Recommendation
The ZA12 is the perfect mouse to round out Zowie's 'classic lineup'. It will undoubtedly be compared with the FK line the most, but it does have its place next to the FK and EC series as far as I'm concerned. Thanks to the more pronounced hump towards the back it's going to be a better option for palm grippers or people who just like their mouse to fill their hand a bit more.
The scroll wheel on my unit feels a bit flimsy and the coating isn't exactly a favorite of mine either, but aside from that it's a fantastic mouse, provided you're into this sort of shape and you like slightly heavier clicks. The ZA12 is also a rare breed in the sense that it's a truly ambidextrous mouse that can be used by lefties without any issue.
If you want a lightweight, medium-sized ambidextrous mouse which nicely fills up your hand then you should definitely be looking at the ZA series. It's still a really strong contender even a couple of years after its initial release.