There are a lot of gaming mice worth considering these days. But curiously, for a company that was at the forefront of marketing directly to Counter-Strike professionals and StarCraft teams, Razer's name had drifted a little from that conversation.
It's a strange remark, given Razer's history with the original Boomslang, Copperhead, MMO-oriented efforts like the Naga and even region specific versions of the Salmosa that targeted the demand for lightweight mice, over a decade before it became popular to sacrifice structural stability for weight.
This story originally appeared in August and has been retimed to coincide with the Viper appearing in Aussie retail stores this week. As an extra note, it looks like a wireless version of the Viper is on the way - keep an eye out for that!
But apart from the stoic Deathadder, the most exciting Razer mice have largely been promotional reskins like the D.Va themed Razer Abyssus. It's been strange watching companies like Corsair, Logitech, Roccat and even bespoke manufacturers like Finalmouse, Ninox and recently Glorious move in on what used to be Razer's turf, but fortunately, the Viper is a solid return to form for the Singaporean gaming giant.
The Viper is aimed squarely at mouse fetishists, the kind who can never find the perfect mouse, or the "endgame" as it's commonly called. It's a wired 69 gram ambidextrous mouse, sharing the same general shape as the recently released Glorious Model O or Zowie's FK mice (albiet the smaller versions). The kicker is that Razer, like Logitech, have refused to perforate the chassis to save weight, meaning you can spill a drink on the Viper accidentally without worrying that you've just torched all the internal components.
Retailing for $139.95 — which isn't that much in the over-inflated esports mice market, where Finalmouse wired offerings go for almost $190 and the best Logitech wireless mice first sold at $249.95 — the Viper also ships with Razer's take on a "paracord". Paracords are basically custom-made, flexible lightweight cables designed to reduce the extra weight and stiffness that a cable adds. Their adoption isn't entirely universal yet — Logitech and Corsair have gone down the wireless route, avoiding paracords entirely, while smaller manufacturers like Glorious and Finalmouse have tried to make their own lightweight solutions.
The cord on the Razer Viper is probably my favourite of the last year, save for what shipped with the Finalmouse Ultralight Phantom. It's as nimble as what you'd find on the recently released Glorious Model O, but it's not as thick, so it'll fit in any standard-size mouse bungee without issue. (If you don't have a mouse bungee, that's fine: you can get the same effect by applying a bit of blu-tak to the side of your monitor and sticking a section of the cord to that.)
Razer's in-house optical sensor, much like Logitech's, holds up well during intense swiping. I didn't have any lift-off issues with the sensor, and it tracked as equally well across multiple soft and hard surfaces, particularly the dull black of my preferred, ancient cloth pad.
It's a relatively small, but long, unit in the hand. A DPI switcher is located on the underside of the mouse, although the design of the Viper and the width between the left and right buttons makes me think there's enough room to pop a special DPI button on the top in a future revision. The lower left and right sides of the Viper have a rubberised texture that's akin to what you'd find on the Deathadder and other Razer gaming mice. Because the Viper's a smaller unit, there's less surface area being worn out and the rubber is more likely to stay on over a longer period.
Razer's optical switches in the Viper are a nice touch as well. What you'll probably notice most is that they have a duller, quieter click than most mice on the market. I'm a big fan: it meant my incessant clicking late at night didn't bother Tegan when she was trying to sleep, and they were light to the touch. The mousewheel doesn't require much force to scroll either, although you wouldn't describe it as loose. It's definitely a plus if you use the mousewheel for jumping (a layover from my Counter-Strike days).
Probably my main beef with the Viper's physical design is the mouse feet — they're a little small, shallow, and don't have quite the level of glide I'd like for a mice that's designed to compete with the Zowie's, Logitech's, Finalmouse, Coolermasters and co. of the world. All mouse feet require a certain degree of breaking in, but the Viper reminded me of an era where deciding whether to buy aftermarket Hyperglides was more of a necessity, rather than a choice. (Plenty of people still go down that route in 2019, but the quality of mouse feet across the board has improved to the point where it's not as necessary as before.)
My main criticism of Razer devices has been blunted to a degree, too. The Razer Synapse software doesn't have to be a permanent blight on your system. The Viper has on-board memory, and the beta version of Synapse allows users to login as guests. That means you can login without handing over your personal data, fix the settings you want on the Viper, and then uninstall the Synapse software altogether.
The initial user experience is still remarkably annoying, though. Plugging in the Viper resulted in the installation of Razer software that required three separate restarts, and I already had a version of Razer Synapse installed for a Razer capture card. The mouse didn't detect that software though: it installed a second version of Synapse over the top of my system, so I had the original Synapse software and a beta version of Synapse running in my system tray and processes at the same time.
The fact that I could delete all of this doesn't get away from the fact that it shouldn't be necessary to begin with. It's 2019. If I plug in a mouse, a system restart shouldn't be necessary, let alone multiple restarts. It's a bloody mouse.
But that's really the only major gripe, and it's not one you have to live with long-term. And Razer has always been transigent with their prices: $139.95 is a bit much now, but within a few months it'll come much closer to $100, and even further than that when Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Christmas/Boxing Day sales are on.
I was pretty impressed with the Glorious Model O earlier this year, and even though Glorious' perforated creation is noticeably cheaper than the Viper, it's hard to recommend something so structurally vulnerable with how well Razer has done here. And I'm specifically comparing these two because their shape is so similar. The chassis of a mouse is still the biggest factor in its comfort, and if you have a much larger hand or use a fingertip-style grip that makes the length of the Viper (or Model O, Zowie FK or S series) a problem, then all the other innovations are irrelevant.
So: well done Razer. For the last few years, the most exciting innovations in gaming mice had been from tinier companies. Razer's properly back into that space now with the Viper, and it's about time.