Your mouse has been keeping a dirty little secret for you: You’ve got sweaty hands. For some, nerves or intense situations gets the sweat glands going. Others are just born with a moister grip, and some just can’t help getting a little clammy when clutching something like a mouse for a long time. But what if your best gaming mouse was a solution to the problem, rather than a cause?
Mindshunter’s Zephyr mouse launched on Kickstarter ($79 early bird pricing) with hopes of reaching up to $500,000, the vendor told us. It aims to discreetly solve this embarrassing issue with a built-in fan in the palm rest. That’s right, the Zephyr is an air-cooled mouse that, in theory, should provide enough airflow to prevent slipping or uncomfortable grips.
|Sensor Model||Pixart 3389|
|Sensitivity||Up to 16,000 CPI|
|Polling Rate||1,000 Hz|
|LED Zones||1x RGB|
|Measurements (LxWxH)||4.79 x 2.60 x 1.60 inches (121.60 x 66.15 x 40.70mm)|
|Weight||2.40 ounces (68g)|
The crown jewel of the Zephyr mouse is its built-fan, but that jewel could use some polishing. It’s not that the fan doesn’t keep the mouse cooler. The fan helped the Zephyr stay cool to the touch in my short time with a working prototype. However, it’s far from providing a burst of refreshing air.
The fan is angled at 45 degrees and lives in the palm rest. My prototype's fan only had two speeds, but Mindshunter told me backers will receive a mouse with three fan speeds: 4,000, 7,000 and 10,000 RPM, plus off.
My mouse had no software or RGB lighting cues. Activating the fast fan setting, using a button on the mouse’s underside, resulted in the buzzing noise, plus the sound of the fans fan blades turning. When using the slower fan speed I heard that buzzing, sans the whirring noise of the blades.
Mindshunter claims the maximum noise level is below 25dB and that it will get it quieter with the final product.
"The reason why the noise is a bit loud is due to the current model of the fan; it’s not perfectly finished debugging yet," a Mindshunter spokesperson told Tom's Hardware. "We’ll adjust the fan and make sure we reduce the noise [and] keep it [as] smooth and silent ... as we can."
To really see what the Zephyr could do, I usually opted for the max fan setting. With that much air cooling, I couldn’t just hear a lot of movement, I could also feel the mouse gently vibrating in my hand. It wasn’t so intense that I could see the mouse moving or for it to irritate my skin, but it was distracting.
It took about a minute before I felt the fan’s benefits. With RGB lighting on (there was no way to turn it off on my sample), mice can sometimes get hot. But the Zephyr never got very warm. With a claw grip, I could feel a gentle breeze, particularly on my fingers.
But isn’t the fan on the palm rest, you ask? It is, but holding the Zephyr is not like holding a face fan near your palm. The fan doesn’t blow hard enough to make a strand of hair move. If I paid attention closely, I could feel a gentle breeze on my palm. Naturally, this was less prominent with a claw grip.
Ultimately, it seems the fan just provided a slightly cooler sensation across the mouse’s chassis. Not cold like a piece of metal, but cooler than a gaming mouse that’s been on for a while or has RGB LEDs usually is during use. Interestingly, this was particularly noticeable by the left and right click buttons.
At the lower fan setting, noise was cut by about half. But the most annoying part of the noise, the buzzing, was still prevalent. It’s like that soulless, incessant buzzing you associate with fluorescent lighting in an old, neglected office.
Mindshunter made a bold move by incorporating a fan inside the Zephyr, and its outer aesthetic is just as bold. Popular among FPS gamers and anyone else seeking a lightweight mouse, the Zephyr has a honeycomb shell that helps keep the weight low. At 2.40 ounces, it’s comparable to other honeycomb mice, like the Glorious Model D (2.40 ounces), Glorious Model O Minus (2.08 ounces) and HK Gaming Mira-M (2.22 ounce).
But the Zephyr is more daring with cutouts. The cutouts aren’t uniform and take on a variety of shapes and sizes for a look that’s more reminiscent of a pile of pebbles than somewhere bees store honey.
Amplifying the effects of those crazy chassis cutouts is the RGB lighting. The mouse comes with 7 preset effects, most of which seem to look like some sort of rainbow. There's no software, so this is what you get for now, and, sadly, I couldn’t find a way to turn off the lighting. RGB effects are easily controllable by holding down the two left click buttons and pressing the forward side button.
The Zephyr is also tiny, which may leave those with bigger hands struggling to palm grip. However, the new mouse evokes an ergonomic design fitting for both lefties and righties. The two side buttons on the left side are well-located and have a surprising amount of travel and clicking noise to them. At 4.79 x 2.60 x 1.60 inches, the Zephyr employs a similar, slightly wider, build as the HK Gaming Mira-M (4.88 x 2.52 x 1.55 inches) and Glorious’ Model D (5.04 x 2.4 x 1.65 inches). However, the Zephyr’s sloping and squared off left and right click buttons may take some getting used to.
An easier adjustment is the Zephyr’s paracord-covered cable. This helped prevent dragging and snagging while gaming and is a nice premium inclusion for a crowdfunded product that suggests attention to detail, build quality and enthusiast needs.
Zephyr’s plastic is supposed to be easy to clean, as well as sweat and fingerprint resistant. That last one didn’t hold true in my review unit’s case, as fingerprints accumulated on the left and right click buttons, as well as on the side grips. However, the matte finish did stay slip-free.
" The outer shell is detachable, and we provide a free blower to help you get rid of dust that accumulates inside," a Mindshunter spokesperson told Tom's Hardware. "We've made the conscious decision to create a mouse that doesn't have rubber grips on the side, so the entire outer surface is easy to wipe clean."
The Zephyr uses the PixArt PAW3389 optical sensor rated for 100 - 16,000 CPI (counts per inch) over 400 inches per second and over 40G max acceleration. A CPI button south of the scroll wheel is set 800, 1,600, 3,200, 6,400 or 16,000 CPI, with the scroll wheel and lights on the side color coded, to match each setting.
I played some Battlefield V at 3,200 CPI, and in that short time the Zephyr performed as reliably as any other PixArt-sensor equipped mouse I’ve tested recently. Because it’s so lightweight, it was easy to flick the Zephyr across my best RGB mouse pad without my arms getting exhausted. Meanwhile, the paracord cable prevented cable drag, which also made large or erratic movements easy. There are 5 instances of PTFE feet on the mouse’s underside, although the serving isn’t as generous as I’ve seen on other mice, such as the Razer DeathAdder V2 Mini, that made moving the mouse feel like ice skating.
That subtle quivering the mouse does with the fan at max speed exhausted my fingers in a unique way, in that I quickly grew tired of them feeling that vibrating session. The loud fans on the gaming laptop I happened to be testing simultaneously were louder than the Zephyr’s fan, but I could still hear the pointer’s fan in concert with the laptop’s.
If your hands get particularly moist, as mine were at one point when I washed my hands and then went to use the Zephyr, the air coming from the fan may be more noticeable on your hand. In my experience, however, where my hands get clammy at most instead of sweaty, the cool touch of the mouse’s chassis and the very gentle breeze felt like a small gain for the uncomfortable buzzing under my hand and in my ears.
The Zephyr uses Omron switches rated for 50 million clicks in its left and right mouse buttons. These provided a fast and snappy response that was a satisfying replacement for a gun trigger. However, I’ll need to get used to the sloping and shape of the left and right click buttons before I’m in love.
A sturdy wheel led to firm and assured scrolling through my weapon arsenal. Ridges on the scroll wheel are spaced out significantly, and it’s quite stiff when pressing in. Those who use side buttons frequently will appreciate the Zephyr’s thick ones, with deep travel, that are very easy for the thumb to find.
The Mindshunter Zephyr gaming mouse is the type of product that makes you wonder why you don't see similar offerings more often. Sweaty and clammy hands are more common than we’d like to admit, and a good grip is essential for victorious gaming, as well as comfortable productivity.
We've seen other air-cooled mice before, including the USB OptiWind announced in 2007 and ones from small brands. However, the minor vibrations caused by turning fans may be why air-cooled mice haven’t taken off. My prototype always made noise with the fan on, but Mindshunter said it's working on this.
The good news is the entire mouse stayed cooler than your average gaming mouse. With a claw grip I could detect a mild breeze, especially if I paid attention. Most of the perceived benefits, however, were where my skin touched the mouse. Additionally, the Zephyr manages to stay lightweight with pretty RGB, a good number of buttons and a quality optical sensor.
If Mindshunter can reduce the noise fallout and eliminate the buzzing feeling that will distract gamers, there’s potential. In the meantime, some reliable grip tape may be a better option for at least preventing sweat from ruining your grip.
Mindshunter said Zephyr shipments will begin October 2020.
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Scharon Harding has a special affinity for gaming peripherals (especially monitors), laptops and virtual reality. Previously, she covered business technology, including hardware, software, cyber security, cloud and other IT happenings, at Channelnomics, with bylines at CRN UK.