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Review: Razer Mamba wired/wireless gaming mouse

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Back at CES, I got to check out the Mamba in its near-final form. I was impressed, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it to review. Now, after living with it for a good while, and after some serious initial problems, I can say it’s everything they wanted it to be, though I still think Razer’s true megamouse will be the Mamba’s successor.

Watch and read for optimum review experience.

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img_1534Great Expectations
I considered the Razer Death Adder to be the best mouse on the market when I reviewed it, as far as wired-only mice, it still is. Razer has never been satisfied with the responsiveness of wireless mice, leading to a long line of wired mice when everyone else was going wireless, but recently they’ve developed the wireless technology to have actual 1000Hz communication between mouse and hub. This led to the development of the Mamba, which is very Death Adder-esque in its design but is obviously set apart by the fact that it’s wireless.

Just as a note of explanation, the Mamba uses a modified USB cable which either connects directly to the mouse (making it wired and charging it while you use it) or to the charge station (making the mouse wireless; you charge it by setting it on the station). Great, right? Mmm, kind of.

A Mouse In Conflict
The honeymoon period passed quickly as I found that there were usability issues in both wired and wireless mode. First, the connector is awful. It’s difficult to get into (or out of) the mouse despite having little rails, and you’ll end up clicking every button on the thing while you grapple with it. Obviously it can’t use the same sort of system that worked so incredibly well with Microsoft’s X8, since the Mamba needs to send a data signal as well as charge, but this USB thing is really a pain in the ass. Plugging it into the station isn’t as hard, but still kind of strange-feeling, and it occasionally had trouble keeping its connection with the charge points.

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Now, in contrast to these issues, the mouse itself is a masterpiece. It feels great in the hand, perhaps better than the Death Adder. It has a narrower “waist,” which may or may not be to your liking, but the overall shape is very hand-friendly. There are two new buttons on the left side of the left mouse button which look like they’ll get in your way, but they never did for me. They’re useful for setting sensitivity if you don’t use the on-the-fly (why wouldn’t you?) but cut and paste or quick save and quick load would be just as good. The scroll wheel feel exactly the same as the Death Adder, which is a good thing; if anything, it feels more grippy.

The buttons are in the same convenient places, with the addition of two more that take a bite out of the left button. I thought that would bug me but it doesn’t. They’re quite difficult to hit on accident, or even on purpose really. Best to set them to something you don’t use often.

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The look of the mouse is more understated than Razer’s previous devices. The glow is limited to the sides of the scroll wheel, and a little triple-led display tells you the sensitivity you’re at with a glance. No longer will the pulsating Razer logo keep you awake at night, or the blindingly bright scroll wheel distract you while you watch Naruto reruns. The charge station is a bit too glowy around the base, though like all the other lights you can disable it. The whole mouse is covered in the velvety, grippy finish that has worked so well for so long, and now it’s also present where your thumb and pinky/ring finger hold the mouse. That’s a good thing.

I’d also like to acknowledge that Razer has a flair for presentation, as you can see here. The review packaging for this mouse included an entire briefcase. How decadent!

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Bad news, good news, bad news, good news

The bad news is that when I got this thing, it was crippled by a tendency to jitter when you clicked, moving it a few pixels in a random direction. It was bad enough that where this paragraph is now, there was a long rant ending in me saying not to get the mouse. The good news is they recognized this problem after launch and a few weeks later issued a firmware update. Yay!

But there’s more bad news. I bricked two mice attempting to install the new firmware, though Razer tells me they haven’t heard of anyone else having that problem. In any case, it’s all mooted by the final good news: Mambas are now shipping with the updated firmware, so you won’t have to worry about it. But I thought it was important that I note this stuff, not only to explain why this review took so long to publish, but to mention that it wasn’t good times from start to finish.

Now that the firmware is updated, there is very little click jitter, if any. The mouse also tended to sort of bounce the cursor back a few pixels when you stopped moving the mouse — an issue which has also been resolved. So allowing for the somewhat different grip I have to use on this thing compared to the Death Adder, I’d say its tracking and ergonomics are on par with my favorite mouse. Whether it’s better or worse in the end will be a personal preference thing.

The software to configure works great, though it takes ages to sync with the mouse’s onboard memory.

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Revised opinion

My original final word was basically “don’t buy.” But the firmware update has really fixed all my issues with the mouse and it now works like a charm. So the only problem left is the price. Sucker costs $130. You can get it for a little less than that if you look around, but I didn’t see it below $110. If you’re going to put out that kind of money, you better be sure you want it, because you can get most of the good parts of this mouse in a $40 Death Adder.

If you really want or really need the wireless, though, I’d say this is the best wireless mouse you can get, with the possible exception of the Logitech MX Revolution, but that’s a tough call.

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