Gaming mice come in all shapes and sizes, but for the most part, they only play nicely with right-handed gamers. A few companies make left-hand-oriented mice, but players of the sinister persuasion generally have to use a mouse with their nondominant hand. Enter the Roccat Kova, an ambidextrous mouse that doesn't sacrifice performance for design. The Kova (€60, or $64; the device is not yet available in the United States, but should arrive within the next few months) is a natural companion for almost any game genre. A few software flubs drag down the overall experience, but the Kova is well worth a look from lefties and righties alike.
The Kova is a smallish mouse that still packs 10 buttons. With a low profile and a pleasing oval shape, the Kova measures 5.2 x 2.6 inches. It's a little bit longer than other ambidextrous mice, such as the Razer Diamondback (4.9 x 2.6 inches) and the SteelSeries Sensei (4.9 x 2.7 inches), which gives the Kova a more comfortable grip, and better purchase for both palm- and claw-grip players.
In addition to a left button, a right button and a clickable scroll wheel, the Kova possesses a dots-per-inch sensitivity (DPI) shift button in the center, as well as three extra buttons on each side. Two buttons are for the thumb, whereas one is for the index or ring finger. Each button is easy to reach (depending on your handedness), and provides a satisfying, responsive click.
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Because the mouse is evenly weighted and has the same button configuration on either side, it is one of the few mice I've reviewed that is truly suited to both righties and lefties. Switching from a right- to left-handed configuration is as easy as selecting it in the software, and I double-checked with some office lefties to make sure it was as comfortable for them to use as it was for me. The response was encouraging: Everyone liked the mouse's heft, button layout and overall ease of use.
From the slight elevation on the extra finger buttons to the pleasant, smooth finish, everything about the Kova screams comfort and quality. Other manufacturers should take note: This is how you design an ambidextrous mouse.
Aside from its impressive ambidexterity, the Kova packs some fairly nuanced software and backlighting. It's not quite as colorful as something like the Razer Mamba or as easy to use as the Logitech Daedalus Apex, but it's pretty enough and functional — if you're willing to be patient and experimental.
The lighting is simple, attractive and works just as intended. Both the scroll wheel and the palm rest feature colored backlighting. You can choose from a full spectrum for either one, and set them to shift colors, blink or stay lit on a specific color. (You can also turn them off, in case you feel Batman: Arkham Knight doesn't really need a hot pink color scheme, and you hate joy.)
As far as the rest of the software goes, it's a mixed bag. The Kova makes use of the Roccat Swarm software, which is the company's answer to other integrated gaming programs such as the Razer Synapse 2.0, the Logitech Gaming Software or the SteelSeries Engine 3. Swarm is still a relatively new program, and experiencing growing pains.
Using Swarm, you can customize the Kova's DPI settings (up to 7,000), its polling rate (how fast it communicates with the computer), its color scheme and its button assignments. You can also manage other Roccat gaming peripherals and communicate with the Swarm mobile app — eventually, once it becomes available. A few spelling errors make the program feel a bit unpolished, but it works as intended — mostly.
It can program multiple profiles and link them to games. However, you can't simply pick a game, program a profile and be done with it. Instead, there are only five profile spots; anything past that, and you'll have to start saving, importing and exporting.
To get a game to switch over automatically, you have to select a submenu and activate automatic profile switching. (When it's activated, the text reads "Automatic Profile Switching Off." What it means is that if you click again, it will turn the automatic switching off, but it just serves to confuse matters.) Even then, it took me a long time to figure out that for the profile switching to work, you have to press OK — Apply won't do it, and OK minimizes the program to the taskbar. Making changes to profiles can be very confusing, especially since if you want to unlink an application, you have to delete the whole profile and start again.
To be fair, the Swarm app is functional, and even robust, once you get the hang of it. But as an emergent piece of software, there's room for improvement.
I tested the Kova with Titanfall, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, Batman: Arkham Knight and Star Wars: The Old Republic to see how it performed across genres, and it excelled in every category. In Titanfall, switching up DPI on the fly worked well when I needed to pursue parkouring pilots, while mapping my grappling hook to one of the mouse buttons in Arkham Knight sped up my adventures in Gotham considerably.
Usually, all-purpose mice may not suit hardcore MMO players, but that isn't necessarily the case here. In addition to having an awful lot of buttons (if you can avoid clicking them by accident; I found it easier to disable some), Roccat mice feature an Easy Shift [+] mode. Assigning Easy Shift [+] to a button means that whenever you hold that button down, the whole mouse shifts to a secondary button assignment. In effect, this gives you almost 20 buttons to work with, rather than an already-pretty-generous 10.
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Granted, buying a dedicated MMO mouse like the Razer Naga or the Roccat Nyth could streamline the process, but these mice are also not ideal for other genres. The Kova gives you the flexibility to tackle just about any genre with equal aptitude.
In spite of some shaky software functions, the Roccat Kova is a keeper. Lots of mice try to be all things to all people, but the Kova is one of the rare few that succeeds. Regardless of your handedness or preferred genre, the Kova provides the comfort, the buttons and the performance to back you up. While competing mice may serve righties just as well, for lefties, the Kova is an easy sell. Roccat has taken your needs seriously, and provided something not just adequate, but excellent.