Review: Swiftpoint Z gaming mouse dares to innovate

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If you can stomach the price and the rough-around-the-edges software, the Swiftpoint Z is an outstanding, innovative, and feature-loaded mouse that is unmatched by any gaming mouse.

Swiftpoint Z feature highlights and specifications

The Swiftpoint Z boasts 3 key features that differentiate it from the competition: It has pressure-sensitive buttons, it has a built-in gyroscopic motion sensor, and it provides force feedback.

And it doesn’t stop there. The Swiftpoint Z also has an OLED screen on its left (thumb) side for changing functions on-the-fly, and probably the best button ergonomics to be found on a multi-button mouse. In addition, 4 of the buttons can be physically replaced with alternate versions, and the Z mouse comes with a very sturdy travel/storage case for the mouse and all its accessories.

Swiftpoint Z features and specifications

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Credit: Swiftpoint
  • Right-handed ergonomic
  • Sensor: 200 – 12,000 DPI, 5G Pixart PMW3360 adjustable in 100DPI increments
  • 1000hz polling
  • 1.8 meter braided USB cable
  • 16 total buttons with ‘deep click’ and tactile feedback
  • 12 buttons under finger tips with two thumb
  • Pivot and Tilt sensor to provide 6 Axis In-Air Control of Pitch / Yaw / Roll
  • 4 analog force / ‘deep click’ buttons (left and right click, and the left and right fingertip buttons) for speed / throttle / power:  (Left/right click, & left/right fingertip)
  • OLED screen for adjusting settings on-the-fly
  • Replaceable Hand Grips
  • Dimensions: 5.12″ x 3.54” x 1.57” (13 x 9 x 4 cm (L x W x H))
  • Weight: 4 ⅛ ounces (117 grams) – without cable
  • Supported OS: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Mac OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.x or later ← take note Mac users!)
  • 3 year limited hardware warranty

The Swiftpoint Z rocks and rolls

The gyroscopic motion sensor gives the Z mouse the same orientation awareness that a smartphone uses, and you can assign different functions to the tilt of the mouse.

To enable the ’tilt’ functionality, the Swiftpoint Z includes accessories that attach magnetically to its underside. These accessories enable 1 of 3 different tilt levels, which I describe as:

  • No-tilt (“Lock out”): The no-tilt attachments make the underside of the Swiftpoint Z flush and eliminate the tilt altogether.
  • Slight-tilt (“Adjustable Tilt”):  The slight tilt attachments enable a modest left-right tilt.
  • Full-tilt (“Flightstick extender”): The full tilt attachment covers the mouse sensor completely and enables the Swiftpoint Z to tilt in any direction, basically converting the Z mouse into a large ‘palmstick’.

The motion sensors in the Z-mouse also enable it to detect when it is lifted, which immediately disables the mouse sensor and activates the OLED display on the left (thumb side) of the mouse. You can use the OLED display (in conjunction with the auxiliary buttons and scroll wheel) to quickly change the DPI setting (in 100 DPI increments) of the Z mouse.

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Pick up the Z mouse to view the OLED display and change settings.  (Credit: Bryan Edge-Salois)

You can also customize the OLED display and what it displays. For example, you can have it display an animated cube, which profile the mouse is currently using, or the current DPI (to name just a few options).

Move how you want

Using ‘slight tilt’, you can assign functions to the left-right tilt of the Z mouse. For example, in an FPS that uses Q and E to lean left and right, you can easily assign the ‘Q’ to left tilt and the ‘E’ to the right tilt, which is more efficiently and requires almost no re-training to acclimate yourself to the new controls.

I played with this function in Overwatch simply to replace the A and D movement keys. It’s definitely not particularly useful in this capacity (although it does make it easier to drink with one hand while moving into position before a match starts..)

If you’re willing to dig into the Swiftpoint Z software (more on that in a minute), you can assign more complex actions and macros to the left-right tilt, although I wouldn’t recommend it. (While the Z mouse is very stable in its ‘slight tilt’ state, an inadvertent tilt triggering a multi-action macro could be disastrous. Comical, but disastrous.)

The ‘full tilt’ mode that converts the Z into a large ‘palmstick’  is definitely more useful for vehicular controls, and it is definitely more precise than standard keyboard+mouse controls allow for.

At E3 2017, Swiftpoint’s founder and CEO Grant Odgers demonstrated the use of the ‘full tilt’ cradle to use the Z mouse to gracefully and fluidly fly a jet in one of the Battlefield games. After landing the jet, he simply detached the cradle to return the Z to standard operating mode. I also took the jet for a spin as well and definitely found it to be more intuitive and easier to control with the Swiftpoint Z instead of the default keyboard/mouse controls.

To take advantage of this feature you’ll need to dig into the Swiftpoint Z software to configure it. It takes some work (more than it should), but if it’s a feature you’ll use often it ‘s worth the effort.

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E3 2017: The Swiftpoint Z and it’s ‘rock-n-roll’ cradle. The cradle securely snaps onto the underside of the Z via magnets to enhance the Z’s range of motion for tilting. (Credit: Bryan Edge-Salois)

Swiftpoint Z under pressure

Another interesting feature of the Swiftpoint Z is that the main mouse buttons and the 2 auxiliary fingertip buttons (located on the primary mouse buttons but closer to the middle of the mouse) are pressure sensitive, and you can assign different functions to the button based upon customizable pressure thresholds (0-100%), also called ‘deep clicks’.

In other words, you can assign a function to an initial press/click, and then assign an additional function when you press the same button harder. (For even more flexibility, you can  assign a different function to the button’s release.)

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Credit: Bryan Edge-Salois

The basic functionality was demonstrated at E3 using the Zoom on a sniper rifle in a Battlefield game: Right-clicking (and holding) activated the first level of zoom, and pressing (and holding) slightly harder activated the next level of zoom–effectively 2 mouse button functions wrapped into 1 button.

For my own gaming I experimented with using ‘deep clicks’ to activate macros and chain attacks in Overwatch. I started with a slightly streamlined attack with the Overwatch character Junkrat.

I first assigned the auxiliary button on the right mouse button to activate the SHIFT key (which launches Junkrat’s concussion mine). Then I assigned a ‘deep-click’ to activate the ‘right-click’ function used to detonate the mine.

With this simple configuration I had the option to press the right auxiliary button to simply throw the mine (replacing the SHIFT key), or I could press the button and hold it (to throw the mine), and then press the button a little harder to detonate it. The force feedback vibration of the Z mouse indicated when I pressed hard enough to trigger the detonation. While this is a very simplistic use of the ‘deep click’ feature of the Z mouse, it actually made launching and detonating the mine a bit faster without forcing a lot of retraining. (I’m still experimenting with combinations and other characters, too. I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface.)

Feel the Force

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Credit: Swiftpoint Z

As described above, the Swiftpoint Z provides customizable force feedback. Normally I would probably scoff at the idea of a force feedback mouse. (It’s the sort of feature I would expect a mouse manufacturer to implement in an effort to appear innovative without actually making it useful.)

But combined with the Swiftpoint Z’s pressure sensitive buttons, the force feedback is quite practical because you don’t have to guess if you pressed the mouse button or tilted enough to activate an assigned function.

And you can even customize both the strength (0-100%) and length (0-10 seconds) of the vibration effect.

Ergonomics and design

While the Swiftpoint Z may not look quite as sexy as its sleeker competitors, it’s generally more functional and no less comfortable. Functionally speaking, I think it’s one of the best designed mice I’ve ever used—possibly *the* best designed. Testament to that is that after weeks of using this mouse it now firmly rules my desktop. (Sorry Logitech Proteus, it’s not you. It’s me.)

Covered in a matte plastic shell with small rubberized side grips, the Swiftpoint Z is more comfortable than its bumpy exterior would suggest. More importantly, every single button is within easy reach of your fingers, and they all have sculpted shapes so they are easy to navigate by touch. You don’t have to crane your fingers or significantly alter your hand position to reach any of them. (Note that I have fairly ‘medium-ish’ sized hands, so I think all but those with very small hands would find the Swiftpoint Z similarly comfortable.)

Backed by solid mechanical switches, every single button on the Z mouse provides a firm, satisfying and responsive click. It’s also a relatively heavy mouse (they crammed a lot of tech into it) so it feels steadfast (but not cumbersome) under your hand.

Physically customizable buttons

Similar to some highly and physically customizable mice like the Mad Catz (rest in peace.) R.A.T. 9, the Swiftpoint Z includes 4 sets of buttons to customize the shape of the fingertip buttons (the 4 buttons located near the top-middle part of the mouse).

Soft skills definitely need work

The problem with throwing everything and the kitchen sink into a mouse is that the demands of the software grow accordingly. And the Swiftpoint Z drivers provide an extensive array of granular options for customizing virtually every aspect of the mouse, including its buttons, tilt behavior, pressure sensitivity, and more. swiftpointZ_driver_1

But the Swiftpoint Z software still feels like was built “by engineers for engineers.” It definitely has some ground to make up before it approaches the usability of Razer, SteelSeries, and Logitech driver software.

The most notable example is macro recording. With the Swiftpoint Z software, you basically have to select each and every key (using a series of awkward drop down boxes) to create a series of functions. It’s powerful and very flexible, but it’s also very slow and onerous. Most macro recorders just let you press a record button, tap out a series of key commands, and then click a button to stop the recording. Then you save the macro and assign it to a button.

Take it all with you

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Swiftpoint Z comes with a very nice hard shell case for storing accessories or traveling with your mouse. (Credit: Bryan Edge-Salois)

Swiftpoint truly wants to deliver the mouse that does it all. And you can also take it all with you in a sturdy case. Take it to a LAN party or competition and blow them away. At the very least, you’re almost guaranteed to have the coolest mouse at the party.

Overall: 8/10—Highly recommended

The Swiftpoint Z does more than I could or would ever ask of it. I definitely love this mouse and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

My only key complaint against the Swiftpoint Z is that the driver software could definitely use a UI/UX designer’s touch. Hopefully this will be addressed in future releases.

But the quality of its construction, functional design, and plethora of features offered by the Swiftpoint Z are virtually unmatched by any competitor. (I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this thing can do.)

Of course, with so many new and innovative features the Swiftpoint Z doesn’t come cheaply: You can pick one up off of Swiftpoint’s Web Site for a cool $229.

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