Razer’s Deathadder Elite: Still The Old Faithful

Not long after the first Deathadder launched, there was discussion amongst Counter-Strike circles about what was the best mouse to buy. The Intellimouse Optical or Logitech’s MX500 were the two favourites. But Microsoft had canned production of the former, and the shape of Logitech’s offerings (with the concave indent for your thumb) was very particular, and not at all conducive for certain mouse grips. So if you were in the market for a new mouse, or your Intellimouse had just died, what was a gamer to do?

The go-to mouse became the Deathadder: it had the same shape as the fat Intellimouse Optical mice, the optical sensor was just as reliable at the end of a tournament as it was at home, and it felt good in the hand. Razer’s since refreshed the Deathadder line with the Deathadder Elite, and it’s just as good as the original Deathadder was over a decade ago.

What Is It?

The scroll wheel has some nice notches on it, and is an upgrade on the wheel that shipped with the Deathadder Chroma.

The Deathadder Elite (DAE) is the most advanced version of Razer’s long-running mice for gamers with palm grips and big hands. Sporting an “esports-grade” optical sensor with 16,000 DPI and a tracking speed of 450 inches per second, the DAE also ships with mechanical Omron switches. They’re rated to last around 50 million clicks, although you’ll probably find a way to wear the rest of the mouse down first.

Like all Razer products these days, the DAE also has full RGB support and seven customisable buttons (left/right click, the two side buttons, the mousewheel click and the two buttons underneath that are typically used to change the sensitivity). It’s not completely wired into the obtrusive Razer Synapse software, but it’s not far off: the second you plug the DAE into a new PC or laptop, you’ll soon get a prompt to install Razer Synapse. (More on Synapse in a bit.)

The whole unit weighs 105 grams and stands at 127 mm x 70 mm x 44 mm. It’s not one of the smallest mice on the market: it’s designed for people with big hands, or people who naturally rest a mouse in the palm of their hand. There’s also two rubberised grips on either side of the mouse where the tips of your thumb/ring finger/pinky finger naturally rest, same as what comes on the DeathAdder Chroma RGB.

What’s It Good At?

The DAE feels real good to hold in the hand. The exterior shell has a fine coating on the top and sides of the mouse that are a joy to hold, regardless of the weather. I was concerned Sydney’s recent heatwave might be a problem for the rubberised grips on the sides, especially in my apartment which is a) three stories high and b) has no semblance of air conditioning whatsoever.

But it survived long bouts of all sorts of games: Dawn of War 2, Endless Space 2 and Dungeon of the Endless for some strategy vibes, deathmatch rounds of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (as is customary) and Overwatch, general desktop, Photoshop and Premiere Pro usage, and other assorted betas and games on Steam and elsewhere.

The most important thing with the Elite is that the classic Deathadder shape, a slightly classier version of the arched design popularised by Microsoft with the first optical mice. There have been a few minor tweaks from previous Deathadder models though. The mouse buttons are a fraction higher on the Elite, and there’s also some mouse feet around the sensor to help gliding.

The main elements are good to use as well. The amount of force needed for the left and right mouse buttons is fairly light, but they’re not on a hair-trigger or anything. And the scroll wheel has gotten some bumps to make it more tactile, a handy upgrade from the equivalent found on the Deathadder Chroma.

What’s It Not Good At?

Razer’s Synapse software, which you’ll probably end up using even though you don’t want to.

There used to be a time when you could use Razer hardware without having the rest of their ecosystem humming away on your hard drive. That’s not possible anymore. As soon as you plug the Deathadder Elite, you’ll get a prompt to install Razer Synpase. There’s good reason to do so – if nothing else, being able to at least configure the sensitivity steps for your mouse is worthwhile.

But I can sympathise with people who want less software on their computers rather than more. And Synpase is pretty damn pushy. If you tell Synapse that you don’t want to install it now, you’ll get a second prompt asking whether you want to install it later – and if you choose that option, Razer takes that as an acceptance of Razer’s terms and conditions (rather than treating it as a “remind me later” kind of deal).

I’ve been fortunate in that it hasn’t resulted in any crashes or errors for me, but ideally I’d prefer a situation like BenQ’s Zowie mice – a lite-version where the Deathadder functions without any software or drivers at all. Razer pitches the mice as an esports-ready device, but any tournament admin will tell you that they will instantly prefer players not installing software and drivers on tournament PCs if they can.

For all of its annoyances – and don’t get me started on having to create a Razer account just to configure a mouse – the Synapse software is fairly flexible. The ability to track your mouse clicks, keyboard presses and mouse movements is handy as well, although it’s more style than substance for the vast majority of gamers.

One small gripe with the Elite is that the teflon mousefeet also have hard edges. Rounded edges generally last longer and are less conducive to catching on things, although that’s more of a long term issue. The Elite also doesn’t ship with a replacement set of mouse feet (or Hyperglides, as I used to purchase many moons ago) in case the originals wear out, which is a bit of a shame for a mouse that costs $90 or more.

Should You Buy It?

All the sensitivity, please.

No bones about it: the Elite is the best version of the Deathadder Razer has ever produced, hands down. The Omron switches are a handy upgrade and feel good to the touch, as does the rest of the shell. The shape is a classic fit for gamers with large hands, or gamers that enjoy holding mice in the palm of their hand. The buttons feel fantastic and are just light enough to the touch without the accidental click or two, and the braided cable is fairly light and flexible.

But is it worth more than the Deathadder Chroma, which ships with similar (if not identical) rubber grips, full RGB support through the same Synapse software as the Elite, and the same shape?

Yes. How a mouse feels in the hand is crucially important, because chances are you’ll be using it on a daily basis, for hours at a time, for the vast majority of the year. And the small tweaks with the Omron switches and the increased height make enough of a difference. Remember, a mouse isn’t something you change out every six months. You’ll use one for two, three, four or more years if it holds up. Hell, I’ve still got mice that I played national tournaments with over a decade ago. (I gave my original Deathadder away, funnily enough, to one of our developers in the office. The surface has been roughed up a bit, but it still works just fine.)

The Chroma also lacks the two buttons directly underneath the mouse wheel, which lets you quickly change sensitivity on the fly. And for a gamer, that’s probably essential: the ability to jump into something like Counter-Strike or any game with a low sensitivity floor, turn down the DPI to something reasonable, and then use a higher DPI with a couple of clicks once the match is finished. It’s a big quality of life improvement.

If I was buying a Razer mouse today, I’d get the Deathadder Elite without question. (And I use it on a day to day basis more often than the Zowie FK1, which is a good sign.) But the competition for the Elite doesn’t just come from Razer, but other manufacturers. Zowie’s EC line is a good alternative for those who want larger mice with none of the software issues. You can find Logitech’s G403 mice, which are shaped for those who prefer classic, Deathadder-style shapes, for around $70. The sensor in the Minoix Naos 7000 is solid too, and it’s a good bit cheaper than the Elite.

But cheaper in the context of gaming mice is about $10 or $20, which is not a great deal for a product you’re going to use ideally for years on end. And so I come back to the same point. If you’re not sure of what to get, and just want something that will feel good to use day in and day out – the Elite is a solid choice.

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