What if you could attach an analog joystick to a gaming mouse? Asus, maker of the new joystick-equipped ROG Chakram wireless gaming mouse ($159.99), hopes the concept will inspire you to think up and dream about an infinite array of new ways to play PC games. At the risk of bursting someone’s bubble, the joystick reality isn’t that joyous (or even appealing). The Chakram successfully slams 360-degree movement controls onto a mouse, only to reveal that it isn’t a particularly useful design. Even if its signature feature falls flat, though, the Chakram is a comfortable, well-made wireless mouse for those who don’t mind its premium price.
Stick It Out: The Chakram’s Thumb Joystick
Before we get into the design merits and pitfalls of the analog stick, let’s take a moment to recognize that the Chakram has all the hallmarks of a good all-around wireless gaming mouse. Measuring 1.9 by 5.2 by 3 inches and weighing in at 4.5 ounces, the Chakram has a tall stature that makes it a better fit for larger hands than mine, but it has an accommodating shape that’s still relatively comfortable for everyone. Asus’ unnamed “gaming-grade” sensor offers a strong 16,000dpi peak sensitivity and stays accurate at up to 400 inches per second. These specs won’t break any records, but they add up to make a more-than-capable mouse, especially for a wireless option.
Right-handed with a short thumb wing, the five-button Chakram feels a bit like a first-person shooter (FPS) mouse, with a knobby twist. It sports two main click buttons and a scroll wheel on top, plus two macro buttons on its left side. Push past those, to where the end of your thumb rests, and you’ll find the detachable analog stick, which can add four extra inputs—pushing up, down, left, and right—should you want to incorporate standard joystick controls. The underside of the mouse features three additional, non-customizable controls: a power switch that toggles between Bluetooth and 2.4GHz modes, a DPI preset select button, and a Bluetooth pairing button.
Though novel, grafting a thumbstick to a mouse isn’t entirely unheard of. Last year, French indie manufacturer Lexip released the Pu94, a crowdsourced design with an analog stick and an “internal pivot” that let you tie inputs to tilting the mouse chassis. My experience with it was marred by technical issues, so I can’t really say whether or not it would have worked well with the kinks ironed out. I can tell you that both using and configuring the analog stick was more complicated than it should have been.
With the Chakram, the analog stick is, of course, the star of the show. The default, short version of the stick actually looks more like a disc, which fits flush against the side of the mouse. Technically, the stick can operate as a four-way directional pad or a 360-degree control stick, akin to one of the sticks on a controller gamepad. In theory, the analog stick mode allows you to get that naturalistic, fine-tuned movement in third-person action games that normally require a controller.
The Chakram, by contrast, feels like the first mouse that has figured out a way to add a joystick that works without a painful configuration process. Essentially, one of the mouse’s three onboard profiles can be recognized and programmed as a gamepad. It isn’t 100 percent plug-and-play, but it isn’t hard to manage once you do it for the first time.
That said, I’m not entirely sure that you should. Though the thumbstick works, it isn’t especially convenient or comfortable. For one thing, pushing and holding in any direction feels like stretching a rubber band. Unlike gamepad analog sticks, the Chakram thumbstick moves 100 percent horizontally, so you feel that it wants to snap back into its natural, centered position. (Gamers of a certain age might recognize the joystick as a descendant of the low-profile analog stick from Sony’s first handheld console, the PSP.) Making fine adjustments using the muscles in the base of your thumb is comfortable in short bursts, but the action wears on you over time. I can only imagine what my hand would feel like after playing a 100-hour open-world action game like the next Assassin’s Creed.
More important, it’s unclear how or whether the Chakram form factor is an improvement over using a standard gamepad. Since the Chakram needs software to recognize it as a gamepad, your ability to create a hybrid mouse-plus-keyboard-plus-analog-stick configuration is very limited. Technically, it varies from game to game, but every situation feels like a compromise. Sometimes, you’re just better off setting aside the mouse and picking up a controller.
If you find yourself not using the analog stick, it conveniently snaps off. The Chakram comes with a small case of replacement parts, including a longer analog stick and a flat cover plate. The case also includes a small plastic disc, which you swap in for the ROG logo in the base of the mouse, as well as a pair of replacement mouse switches. (Both the original switches and the replacements are Omron switches, rated to last for at least 50 million clicks.) While giving people ways to physically customize and, in some cases, extend the life of the mouse is always welcome, none of these options makes the mouse feel more fully featured.
The real selling points, I’d argue, are in its wireless capabilities. The Chakram offers a 2.4GHz wireless connection via USB dongle—a must for gaming mice—as well as Bluetooth support, which uses less power and makes it compatible with more devices. As you would expect, the Chakram creates a strong wireless connection in both modes without noticeable lag. That said, you can set up a wired connection as well by connecting it to your PC via its USB Type-C charging cable.
The Chakram gets very good battery life. According to Asus, it should last 48 hours in 2.4GHz mode and 53 hours while using Bluetooth, assuming you keep the RGB lighting on. If you turn it off, those rated numbers balloon to 79 hours in 2.4GHz mode and a whopping 101 hours in Bluetooth mode. Personally, I found that the mouse lasted about five days from a 50 percent charge in 2.4GHz mode, and haven’t needed to recharge the week since. Plus, if you have a Qi wireless charging pad, you can always top off your battery. Simply put, it’s one of the best power solutions I’ve seen in a wireless gaming mouse.
Customizing in Crate
The Chakram is the first mouse to support Asus’ new configuration software, Armoury Crate. Crate, I feel, is a big step up from the company’s legacy app, Armoury II: It looks nicer, reads clean, and loads quicker. As I’ve written in the past, poor config software has held Asus ROG peripherals back from competing fully with top brands like Logitech and Razer in the past, so a new, improved software platform feels like a big upgrade for the brand in general.
That said, the Chakram also works with Armoury II, should you need it. All of the settings and customizable features for the Chakram are available in both apps. If you have any other ROG peripherals that were released before 2020, you will likely need to continue using Armoury II. It’s nice that the Chakram supports both, so legacy users won’t need to go back and forth between two apps.
The mouse features onboard storage that can hold up to three configuration profiles; you can add additional profiles and store them locally on your PC using Crate. In each profile, Chakram users can set up to four DPI presets (which you can switch using the underside button), create macros, map buttons, and customize the mouse’s three lighting elements. All of these things are quick and easy to do, even with the analog stick. Other configurable joysticks, like the one on the Lexip or on keypads like Razer’s Tartarus Pro, often have confusing settings that make it hard to do simple things like inverting the X and Y axes. Crate keeps it simple for the Chakram.
The Chakram has two clutch battery-life-related settings that not all manufacturers add on the software side: You can adjust the amount of time before the mouse enters sleep mode, and you can tweak when and if the RGB lighting will flash to warn you about low battery life. There’s also a battery percentage indicator in the app, which is great, but I would have also loved to see an optional indicator widget or some other way to quickly check your power level.
Solid Despite the Stick
The Asus ROG Chakram is a pretty great wireless gaming mouse, even though I don’t consider its signature feature particularly useful. It’s comfortable to hold, has an accurate sensor, gets great battery life, and has wireless charging. What’s more, while the analog stick isn’t a revelation, it’s removable and thus relatively benign. On the minus side, given the $159.99 price, I would expect something groundbreaking or pretty much perfect.
There’s a lot to like about the Chakram, but it doesn’t quite reach the lofty highs of elite, super-premium wireless gaming mice such as the Razer Basilisk Ultimate or the Logitech G502 Lightspeed. I generally feel mouse manufacturers don’t push the envelope far enough year to year, but ironically, the Chakram would have been more appealing if Asus had played it safer and omitted its flashy hardware hook.
Asus ROG Chakram Specs
|Number of Buttons||7|
|Interface||RF Wireless, Bluetooth, USB Wired|
|Sensor Maker and Model||Asus Gaming-Grade Optical Sensor|
|Sensor Maximum Resolution||16000 dpi|
|Power Source||Internal Battery, Qi Wireless|
|Warranty (Parts and Labor)||1 year|