- Razer Deathadder
- Razer Vespula
With the release of the third Michael bay Transformers film this summer, Razer has decided to refresh its lineup with special-edition licensed peripherals—specifically, the tried-and-true DeathAdder 3500 mouse, the new dual-surfaced Vespula mouse mat, and a Transformers-only hard laptop case. Of these, we managed to get our hands on a new Bumblebee-yellow DeathAdder and a Vespula mouse mat in order to answer two major questions: Is a reskinned two-year-old gaming mouse still worth its salt, and should you really spend $35 on a mouse pad?
Razer’s DeathAdder has gone through more special editions, reskins, and refreshes than any other mouse I can think of. If you visit Razer’s website, you will find no less than eight different versions, ranging from the venerable original to the niche left-handed edition to the four brightly-colored, brightly-lit Transformers special editions. This, I think, is a testament to the mouse’s quality: not one of these versions (apart from the lefty one, obviously) has changed anything about the mouse beyond aesthetics. (This also means, of course, that this review will also apply to the standard edition.)
First off, the presentation. Aside from the obvious—giant robots on the front cover and a yellow mouse where there used to be black—there’s not much different about the packaging for this special edition. The velcro-secured front cover opens to reveal a molded plastic cover that lets you “hold” the mouse while it’s in its packaging, very useful to quickly determine in-store if the shape is right for you. The included Certificate of Authenticity, guides, and stickers are also the same.
The mouse itself is glossy, unlike the normal matte finish. I initially thought this might hinder grip, but it really doesn’t—there wasn’t any point in use when I felt the mouse slip. Up top, the two main buttons are scalloped to cradle your fingers comfortably. The scroll wheel and the faction logo (Autobot or Decepticon, depending on which version you choose) light up, with the lights’ color varying based on model. The lights have a slow, fading “breathing” effect that’s attractive but isn’t distracting at all. On the left, the back and forward buttons are placed right under your thumb and are wide enough for easy use. A black, rather understated Transformers logo on the tail end of the mouse rounds out the aesthetics.
If you looked only at a spec sheet, you might think the DeathAdder—even in its new(er) 3500-dpi form—seems a bit outclassed by other mice in its price bracket. Logitech’s G500, for example, has a higher-resolution (5700 dpi) sensor, and their G9X has interchangeable grips and weights. The CM Storm Sentinel Z3RO-G we reviewed a little while ago has weights, multicolored lights, and a screen. All of these mice can be had for about $50-70. The DeathAdder doesn’t have any flashy, complicated features or gimmicks.
And, frankly, that’s why it’s good. It’s simple, easy to use, and built with unquestionable fit and finish. The two main buttons have extremely low resistance and therefore effortless clicks. APM (actions-per-minute) -obsessed RTS players will enjoy that. The two side buttons (by default back/forward, but they’re customizable) have more travel than I expected, but the buttons are light and the action is smooth. The entire mouse feels very natural—the high back sits under comfortably under your palm and the right-handed contours let your fingers rest comfortably (Sorry, southpaws, there aren’t any Transformers-themed left-handed versions). Extended gaming marathons are no problem; your eyes will go before your wrist does.
Although the DeathAdder will work fine straight out of the box, to unlock its full potential—and to take advantage of the profile-cycle button on the underside, next to the 3500-dpi sensor—you’ll need to download the driver software from Razer’s website. It’s strange that Razer didn’t include such a critical utility in the box, but the installation is still quick and painless and I do appreciate having one less CD to keep track of.
Because it’s a pretty simple mouse, the utility is very straightforward. Adjustment of sensitivity, acceleration, double-click speed, and buttons are intuitive. The DeathAdder supports separate sensitivities for the X and Y axes. You can set each button to one of ten functions (plus “off”). Although I would’ve preferred a dedicated physical switch, the software lets you assign that function to any of the buttons. The sensitivity isn’t infinitely adjustable: you can choose from 450, 900, 1800, and 3500 DPI. The polling rate is also adjustable, but I’m not sure why you’d set it at anything other than the 1000Hz maximum.
I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely put any serious thought into what mousepad I use. The Vespula, however, demonstrates that a quality surface can have serious gaming repercussions. Unlike most mouse mats you see today, the Vespula is completely rigid. Measuring 300mmx240mm (11.8×9.5 inches), the mostly-trapezoidal mouse mat should be more than large enough for enthusiastic use. The rigid surface itself is separate from a soft rubber underlay and wrist rest. This rubber pad is extremely high-friction and keeps the top surface from moving around. There’s cutouts at the top and bottom of the surface that remove about an inch of usable space—the bottom on is filled by the gel wrist rest, but the top cutout just reduces surface area. Versus the wholly black standard-edition, the Transformers edition Vespula’s hard surfaces are adorned with detailed action shots of Optimus Prime and Megatron.
The two surfaces—dubbed SPEED (Megatron) and CONTROL (Optimus Prime) for their respective purposes—are not just a marketing gimmick. The textures are markedly different, with the Speed surface being a bit rougher, giving it much lower fricdtion than the Control surface. The mouse can slide around much more freely on Speed, and I felt the surface was more suited to RTS games where pinpoint precision is a bit less important than lightning-quick reactions. The smoother Control surface gives you serious confidence in pinpoint-accurate mouse movements, making it more suitable for lining up cross-map headshots. In my usage, I found the Control surface more natural on a day-to-day basis.
One word of warning: The Transformers logo on the gel wrist pad is a thin rubber sticker. After about a week’s use, the sticker began to fall off; a couple days after that there was no trace of it at all. To be honest, it doesn’t look that different without the sticker, since your wrist is covering that area anyway, but it’s rather ugly when it hasn’t fallen off completely yet.
Unfortunately, there’s no real quantitative way of measuring the advantage of one mousepad over another, but I promise you that the natural, effortless comfort of the Vespula and the highly-tangible difference the two surfaces make are beneficial. $35 might seem high for a mousepad, but if you want the highest standard in comfort, versatility, and visual appeal (once the TransFormers logo falls off), there’s really no contest.
Neither of Razer’s offerings today could be considered “cheap.” The DeathAdder’s price sits right in the middle of the range, but the Vespula is–for a mousepad–downright expensive. But the mouse and mousepad are your immediate connection to your machine, so if there’s anything you should spend a few extra dollars on for quality’s sake, those (and the keyboard, but that’s another day’s post) are it. Both of today’s products are well-made, well-designed examples that are supremely comfortable for daily use and perform admirably in a gaming environment. At about $80 total, the DeathAdder and Vespula are a bundle to be reckoned with.