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The Razer DeathAdder 2013 ($69.99) is a good example of how to benefit from the wisdom of crowds. Go to any gaming forum, and ask for an all-purpose gaming-mouse recommendation, and the DeathAdder's name is almost sure to pop up.
The DeathAdder sells itself as a simple, comfortable, efficient peripheral, and delivers on all counts. For gamers who like a little bit of genre variety and need a mouse for all seasons, the DeathAdder is a strong contender, with only a few niggling limitations.
The DeathAdder is a sleek, black mouse, available in both right- and left-handed conformations. At 5 x 2.76 x 1.73 inches, the peripheral sports a comfortable size and elevation for just about any hand. In addition to the standard left- and right-mouse buttons, Razer's device has a clickable scroll wheel and two large buttons within thumb's reach.
MORE: Top Gaming Mice 2014
Although the DeathAdder appears straightforward at first, it's actually riddled with subtle contours to make a user's grip more comfortable. Both the left and right buttons are grooved, and the left side of the palm is elevated ever so slightly. Textured pads on either side of the mouse provide a comfortable place for the thumb, ring finger and pinky to rest.
While the design is excellent in theory, in practice, it leaves something to be desired. The contours do not exactly match the average finger, which makes them feel like they are bending slightly the wrong way. The palm rest meets the palm too high up, and the thumb pad curves outward at too steep of an angle. These annoyances do not make the mouse uncomfortable, but they do prevent it from being as ergonomic as its designers intended.
Although the mouse is optimized for a palm-style grip, a claw style will work as well, albeit with a slightly unnatural resting place for the palm. The buttons extend far down enough to support a fingertip grip, but not comfortably.
For what it is, the DeathAdder has a good design, but that design could have been better with only a few tweaks.
For a relatively simple gaming mouse, the DeathAdder boasts a robust feature set. The mouse functions via the Razer Synapse driver software. This software is not included in the mouse's packaging, and installing it manually from the Razer website, while not much of a hassle, could have been more streamlined.
Users can set up dozens of individual profiles, each with different commands for extra buttons, dots-per-inch (DPI) sensitivities and lighting options. By default, the DeathAdder displays a green scroll-wheel light and pulsing logo, but these can be distracting if they're not disabled.
Of the mouse's six buttons, users can program five; the left mouse button is set in stone. The Synapse software makes it extremely easy to select commands for the two extra buttons. These commands can be anything from keyboard letters or numbers — useful for hot keys in real-time strategy (RTS) or massively multiplayer online (MMO) games — to volume control.
Users can also program macros — long sequences of buttons with specific timed intervals — to these buttons. This is useful for gamers who utilize specific sequences of abilities in MMOs or want to select a certain structure and pump out a certain complement of units in an RTS. Programming macros and mapping them to buttons is intuitive and works well.
One of the DeathAdder's best features is also one of its most inconsistent. Since Razer touts the DeathAdder as a genre-agnostic mouse, it lets users link custom profiles to individual games. Launching "BioShock Infinite," for example, will give you access to a different set of customized buttons and sensitivities than opening "Batman: Arkham City."
This feature is a great idea, and it works well for the most part, but it's by no means perfect. There is no "default" profile to which the mouse resets upon returning to the desktop, so unless you program profiles for everything from Chrome to Windows Explorer, get ready to grapple with a variety of commands and sensitivities whenever you're outside of a game.
Additionally, Blizzard games, such as "World of Warcraft" and "StarCraft II," require a workaround. Because these titles employ stand-alone launchers, getting the games to link to mouse profiles can be a cumbersome and confusing process. This was not a problem with other titles that required launchers, such as "Batman: Arkham City."
In terms of responsiveness and precision, the DeathAdder is nearly flawless. Not only does the mouse track movement and respond to clicks with pinpoint accuracy, but it's extremely forgiving of liftoff. Picking up the mouse does not affect its z-axis tracking. In fact, the mouse will still function even when it's held at an angle of roughly 45 degrees off of the surface, up to a height of a few millimeters.
Every button, including the extra two thumb buttons, is big, offers just enough resistance and responds with a satisfying click. The pads for the thumb and two nondominant fingers ensure that a user's hand remains comfortable even during marathon gaming sessions.
The DeathAdder's best feature is that it delivers a good gaming experience across multiple genres. Moving down distant foes and hurling biological superpowers was a snap in "BioShock Infinite." Constructing vast armies and ordering them across a map was similarly comfortable in "StarCraft II."
Even "Batman: Arkham City," which was designed with a controller in mind, felt responsive and relatively intuitive with this mouse. Specifying directions for counterattacks was not as simple with the DeathAdder as with an analog stick, but guiding Batman around the map and solving puzzles were much more painless than we expected.
Sometimes a product is popular because it feeds on its own momentum, and sometimes a product is popular because it's legitimately excellent. The Razer DeathAdder is definitely in the second category. Despite a few design quibbles and game-linking oddities, the mouse is an easy recommendation for PC gamers of every stripe.
|Smart, uncluttered design
|Contours feel slightly off
|Synapse software is both robust and simple
|Profiles remain in use after closing linked programs
|Precise and adjustable performance
|Laser Depth: 2 mm
|DPI: 200 – 6,400
|Size: 127 x 70 x 44 mm
|Weight: 105 g
|Grip Type: Palm
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.