The Razer Viper is a Good Gaming Mouse, But the Fancy Switches Aren’t Obvious

Rating: 6/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $80
The Razer Viper has cool switch tech, but it's hard to tell if it makes a difference.
Michael Crider

How much is it worth for you to have lightning-fast clicks of your gaming mouse? Razer hopes the answer is, “at least eighty bucks,” as that’s what the new Viper mouse costs. It boasts fancy new optical switches.

Here's What We Like

  • Comfy, lightweight body
  • Slick looks
  • Good gaming software

And What We Don't

  • DPI switch is on the bottom
  • Optical switches aren't dramatic

 

These switches replace a conventional mechanical button hiding beneath the primary left and mouse buttons. On top of that, it’s a typical Razer design, with the company’s standard features and an ambidextrous, shooter-friendly body. Even understanding the science and advantages of the fancy new switches, I can’t say the mouse stands out in any major way. It’s good, and possibly amazing if your reflexes are super-human. The number of people who can see a tangible benefit from this gee-whiz feature, however, is much lower than I think Razer would like to admit.

Of course, that’s the nature of gaming-marketed gadgets: relatively high prices for functional differences that are sometimes questionable at best. The Viper is a solid mouse on its own merits, and worth considering if your super-fast clicking is getting in the way of victories.

Ambidextrous Design

It’s odd to think of a product from Razer, famous for bombastic designs that defined the “gamer” aesthetic, as dull. But the Viper kind of is: It’s using the matte black look typical of the company’s last few years of designs, with only a single RGB-lit logo to stand out. In a neat trick, this LED area disappears beneath the plastic finish if you disable the light, for a nice “unbranded” look. The lines are a little more angular than on mice like the Deathadder or Mamba, but it still feels smooth and functional in the hand, even with its ambidextrous body that’s equally useful for righties or lefties. I kind of dig it.

The Viper has a symmetrical ambidextrous design, with identical buttons on the left and right.
The Viper has a symmetrical ambidextrous design, with identical buttons on the left and right. Michael Crider

The mouse is amazingly light at only 2.4 ounces on my kitchen scale. With no option to add weight, those who are used to a wireless mouse or something beefier might need a bit of adjustment time, especially with Razer’s super-slick feet. Ergonomically it’s comfy, if a little low for my taste, and I prefer the bigger, beefier thumb buttons of the Mamba or my go-to mouse, the G603. The rubberized pads underneath the thumb buttons are a nice touch.

Gamers who like to adjust their DPI on the fly might be put off by the lack of dedicated buttons beneath (above? Distal, in anatomical terms) the clicky scroll wheel. I was, since that’s usually where I put my “ultimate” button in Overwatch. But you can move DPI up and down buttons to the thumb buttons you’re not using—left or right, depending on preference—without too much bother. It’s less than handy, but such is often the case with an ambidextrous design.

The bad: The DPI button is on the bottom. The good: It flashes different colors to identify the steps.
The bad: The DPI button is on the bottom. The good: It flashes different colors to identify the steps. Michael Crider

If you’d prefer to reserve those buttons for other functions or disable them entirely, you can use the DPI button that’s placed awkwardly on the bottom of the mouse body. Apparently, this was a feature requested by Razer’s pro gamer teams. Far be it from me to disagree with the pros, but keep in mind you’ll be limited to just four standard buttons and the scroll wheel unless you’re a talented finger contortionist.

About Those Switches

The highlight of the Viper is the new optical switches for the primary and secondary buttons, left-click and right-click. It’s a novel approach, replacing a conventional on-off button beneath the plastic covering with a metal bar that intersects an optical beam. This allows for near-instantaneous activation, and—Razer claims—eliminates the periodic problem of unintentionally “bouncy” clicking. Similar technology is beginning to replace mechanical switches in keyboards like the Huntsman Elite and the Gigabyte Aorus K9.

The Viper's switches break a beam of optical signal instead of pressing a conventional button.
The Viper’s switches break a beam of optical signal instead of pressing a conventional button. Razer

So, does it work? I’m sorry to say, I can’t tell. Try as I might, testing this on the most intense strategy and shooter games I own, I just couldn’t tell the difference between these optical buttons and the conventional ones on my other gaming mice. They click and return quickly, more so than a standard desktop mouse, with a mechanical action that’s a little stiffer and more satisfying than I’m used to. But as for whether it actually impacted my gameplay, I just couldn’t give you a definite answer.

It's hard to tell whether those cool switches make a difference during gameplay.
It’s hard to tell whether those cool switches make a difference during gameplay. Michael Crider

That isn’t to say there’s no difference. Someone who’s a better (and perhaps younger) player than I, with lightning-fast reflexes or the skills to hit hundreds of actions per minute in a strategy game, might be able to spot an appreciable change. But I can’t. I could say the same (and have) for the 16000 DPI laser sensor now standard on Razer mice.

Software Is Much Improved

When I plugged the Viper into my gaming desktop, Windows instantly started to install Razer Synapse. I’ve long loathed this and other gaming-specific driver programs, but I must begrudgingly admit Razer  made improvements here over the last few years. You no longer need to log in with a Razer account, for one thing, and button and macro customizations now work when it’s not running thanks to memory storage on the mouse itself.

The Synapse software is much better than it was and no longer needs a Razer account.
The Synapse software is much better than it was and no longer needs a Razer account.

Synapse can handle all of your button, macro, and profile programming needs, plus lighting customization, as you’re probably expecting if you’ve used any gaming gear lately. A nice touch: If you do use the bottom-mounted button as a DPI switcher, as intended, it cycles between five different LED colors automatically to quickly show you which setting you’re on.

The DPI settings page in Razer Synapse.

All in all, I have to admit Razer’s software is no longer the low point of its products, as was the case a few years ago. It’s relatively clean, unobtrusive, and focused on function, with the arguable exception of the Chroma lighting system.

Should You Get It?

At $80 retail, the Viper is about the middle of the pack in terms of value based on its features. It’s a serviceable ambidextrous design, especially if you like your mice low and light, with one of the best sensors around. Ignoring its headline optical switch feature, it would be, in a word, “fine.”

If you absolutely must have the fastest possible switches in your mouse buttons, the Viper is a no-brainer. I’m not personally able to verify Razer’s claims of increased performance over standard mice, but it works just as well as anything else according to my rusty reflexes and weak eyes.

The mouse is equally comfy in the left or right hand.
The mouse is equally comfy in the left or right hand. Michael Crider

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these switches show up in future revisions of Razer’s more standard mice, like the Mamba or the Naga. If you want those hyper-fast switches with a right-hand mouse shape or more flexible thumb buttons, it might be best to wait.

Rating: 6/10
Price: $80

Here’s What We Like

  • Comfy, lightweight body
  • Slick looks
  • Good gaming software

And What We Don't

  • DPI switch is on the bottom
  • Optical switches aren't dramatic

 

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »

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