|Min OS X: Any Version Requires: USB Port|
Among a plethora of hardware vendors, only three companies have managed to separate themselves from the veritable explosion of input devices that saturate the market today. While the eldest of the three, Microsoft and Logitech, have largely made their fortune in the market by selling unostentatious, utilitarian mice to the common computer user, Razer has been the Apple of the input peripheral industry. Known for its visually boisterous designs and uncompromising dedication to performance, Razer has enjoyed a small but loyal audience since it introduced the first high-precision mechanical ball mouse in 1998. Late last year, Razer took a break from its policy of independent development by teaming up with Microsoft to create the Habu, a futuristic, laser-powered mouse that remains Microsoft’s arguably best input peripheral to date (and narrowly topped the former king of the mouse world, the Logitech G5). However, Razer apparently reserved a few choice design concepts during the Habu’s development process, because shortly thereafter, the Razer DeathAdder--nearly the spitting image of the Habu--came slithering out nowhere to steal the crown from its younger brother.
Why Reviewing Mice Is Fraught With PerilIt’s hard to be objective when reviewing mice. After all, the diminutive mouse represents the most personal link between the user and his computer (with the possible exception of the keyboard). Humans come in an infinite number of shapes and sizes, but mice do not; meaning that picking out a mouse can be like picking out a new pair of shoes--if your latest new super-rodent is the wrong size, having the latest gigapixel x-ray sensor, Teflon pads polished to a nanoscopic gloss, and an internal vacuum to literally suck the moisture out of your right hand doesn’t do you a bit of good. Therefore, it pays to get a grip (no pun intended) on the hands of the reviewer. After a good deal of pacing around and around my desk, I think that I might have formulated a decent system of measurement that should be readily accessible to almost anyone with a computer and penchant for caffeine. In order to participate, you need two things: a soft-drink can of your choice, and a ruler, although you can get away with a USB connector (which happens to be almost exactly one half-inch wide). To see how your hand compares to mine, pull the tab on the can and wrap your hand around it as tightly as you can without denting the sides. Measure the distance between your thumb and your middle finger with the ruler or the USB connector--if the distance is greater than exactly one inch (or two USB port widths), then your hands are smaller than mine (and vice versa). Bonus points if you can stand up, drain the can, and burp (with vigor), “Stupid, frail, non-compartmentalized organic meatbags!”
Razer's “Less Is More” Design PhilosophyIf you’ve spent any amount of time with the venerable Microsoft Intellimouse 3.0, then the DeathAdder should be immediately comfortable and familiar. While both the Microsoft Habu and the Razer DeathAdder employ the same basic foundation, Razer had the advantage of being able to scrutinize Microsoft’s final design and further refine it. Instead of simply slapping on more buttons, more lights, and a higher-resolution sensor, Razer polished the design down to the bare essentials--removing nearly every every external element of the mouse in the process. Gone are the light rails, the vast majority of the seams, the onboard 32 KB of memory, the nifty (but ultimately unnecessary) swappable thumb button bay, and even the hardware sensitivity adjustment buttons. This “less is more” mentality proves decidedly beneficial--with most of the clutter out of the way, the DeathAdder’s design team managed to shave a bit of weight off the mouse while making some small, but valuable tweaks.
The most obvious departure from the Habu’s design is the way that the entire top of the mouse is covered with an extremely fine and soft rubberized material, instead of just the primary buttons. This material was obviously designed to wick away moisture, but by some happy quirk of fate, also happens to be be delightful to the touch. Not satisfied by that improvement, Razer deepened the grooves on the left and right buttons, which are now cavernous enough to give your fingers a bit of extra leverage while keeping them centered on the buttons as you violently move the mouse from side-to-side. By eradicating the on-the-fly sensitivity buttons behind the scroll wheel, they were able to install a bigger, fatter wheel that’s perfectly placed (for my hands). In another serendipitous happenstance, by removing the lighted rails that ran along the perimeter of the Habu, Razer’s engineers were able to increase the vertical width of the thumb buttons so that they’re even easier to hit than before, and as an added bonus, you no longer have to worry about the rails’ bright blue light marring your ability to play games that require you to see in the dark (like the popular Splinter Cell series). Lest you worry about finding your mouse in the blackness after being blinded by your rush to the refrigerator for refreshments, the DeathAdder retains a bit of superfluous illumination in the form of a pulsing blue Razer logo. Once your hand hits the mouse, the light is completely smothered--a blatantly obvious improvement, but one that has been rarely (if ever) attempted before now.