After more than 30 hours of research followed by 100+ hours of testing ten gaming mice, there’s no question about the one I’d buy: the $60 Razer DeathAdder 2013. It’s affordable for a gaming mouse, comes with Razer’s straightforward and customizable drivers, and has quite possibly the best body design and buttons of any gaming mouse I’ve used.
That’s saying a lot. Even before doing this guide, I’ve used a lot of mice, ranging from popular brands like Logitech, SteelSeries and Roccat to the lesser-known Ozone and CM Storm. Furthermore, I didn’t decide on the DeathAdder by myself: I tested ten mice (on top of a few I already owned) alongside professional Battlefield 3 player Charlie Goldberg, who plays under the handle LevelCap, and we both agreed that the DeathAdder is the best gaming mouse we’ve ever used.
(Charlie is quoted under his handle LevelCap throughout this article, and he also wrote up his own impressions on all of the mice we tested.)
Now, a big part of choosing the mouse that’s right for you is finding one that comfortably fits your hand size and grip style. With that in mind, we’ve picked out three other mice from our carefully chosen testing pool that don’t quite match the DeathAdder, but are still great. Comfort matters, and personal opinion is always an important part of picking out the right mouse. But even more important is knowing what to look for in a gaming mouse to inform that opinion—button placement, click distance, weight, material grip and sweat resistance, driver software options and the mouse sensor itself. Switching to a new mouse can take some adjusting, but it can also pay off with better control and reaction time.
First we’re going to tell you what all that stuff means and why you should care about it. Then we’ll tell you why the DeathAdder and a rare few other mice get it right where so many other mice get it wrong.
Who Should Get This?
If you play PC games, especially first-person shooters, you should buy the DeathAdder. This is a great choice for just about anyone looking to upgrade to a new mouse, and it’s a pretty affordable buy at $60. (Amazon often sells it even cheaper.) The mouse’s CPI is customizable up to 6,400, which is so high that you’ll barely be able to follow the cursor as it flits across the screen. Even if you really love your current mouse, read up on why we recommend the DeathAdder. It’s possible that the DeathAdder (or a mouse with a similar grip, which we’ll explain in detail) could actually make you better at games than you are now.
Left-handed? Me too, although I’ve always used a mouse with my right hand. If you’re a left-handed mouser, though, Razer has you covered with a left-hand edition. Unfortunately, the left-hand model hasn’t been updated for 2013; the older DeathAdder has a great mouse sensor but inferior glossy plastic sides. We think mousing lefties will be better off choosing our favorite ambidextrous mouse, the Mionix Avior 8200, which we talk more about below.
If you’re a PC gamer but spend all your time playing MMOs, the DeathAdder may not be the mouse for you. It has only two customizable buttons on the left-hand side of the mouse, which may not be enough for players who like to bind multiple commands to their mouse. However, after talking to pro gamers who play shooters (Battlefield 3, Counter-Strike) and real-time strategy games (Starcraft), not one recommended a mouse with tons of buttons. In fact, they unanimously preferred simple, lightweight mice, saying more buttons tend to get in the way of a comfortable and highly-controlled grip.
Worse, too many buttons can cause you to even press buttons accidentally. “I can’t imagine any pro gamers would get a mouse for macro functions,” said Derek, one of the pro gamers I talked to. “Most of the time they stack them all right where your thumb goes on the mouse, like the [Razer] Naga and Logitech MMO mouse. I can’t control those mice for shit even with the same DPI/resolution. It feels off because I’m gripping the mouse differently. For an MMO they would be fine though.”
What Makes a Good Gaming Mouse?
To determine what really matters in a gaming mouse, I divided my initial research period between reading mouse reviews, getting in touch with professional PC gamers, and absorbing technical knowledge from enthusiast hardware forums. Most mouse reviews lean heavily on personal opinion and rarely include analysis of a mouse’s sensor or tracking performance. When I began testing mice on my own, I realized why; in most cases, it’s very difficult to pick up on and quantify minor issues in mouse performance. (And it’s a lot easier to write about packaging and the flashy LED lights most gaming mice are decorated with.)
Enthusiast forums, on the other hand, obsess over hardware. I found guides, reviews and discussions on Overclock.net enormously valuable in learning about the intricacies of gaming mice. For example, this 18,000 word resource titled An Overview of Mouse Technology hits on all of the significant technical aspects of mice. Here are the ones you should have at least a passing understanding of:
- DPI, or Dots Per Inch, is a common mouse metric that should actually be referred to as CPI, or Counts Per Inch (they’re used interchangeably in this article). Basically, DPI/CPI refers to the number of counts the mouse’s sensor reports over an inch of mousing surface. The higher the number, the further the cursor can move in relation relation to every inch the mouse is moved, which means the mouse cursor will cross the screen much faster at 3,000 CPI than at 300 CPI. CPI has become like megapixels in digital cameras—it’s an important figure, but it’s inflated as a sexy marketing bullet point when other things are just as important. An 8,000 CPI mouse is not necessarily more accurate than a 2,000 CPI mouse.
- Mouse acceleration and prediction (also called angle snapping) are bad words in the mouse community. To quote the Overview of Mouse Technology linked above, acceleration is “a function, sometimes referred to as pointer ballistics, that increases the mouse cursor speed based on the movement velocity of the mouse (the faster you move your mouse the more your cursor speed will increase).” Acceleration isn’t inherently bad—some gamers may prefer it—but it means mouse movements won’t be consistent at different speeds. Ideally, you know that moving your mouse two inches, whether you move it quickly or slowly, will make your cursor move the exact same distance on your screen every time.
- Prediction is an algorithm implemented in mouse sensors to help the user draw a straight line. You can probably imagine why this could be bad for gaming—you want your mouse cursor to go where you want it to go, not where the mouse thinks you want it to go. Thankfully, few modern gaming mice feature prediction, and most have acceleration disabled by default in their drivers.
- Click distance refers to the distance mouse buttons have to be pressed to register a click. For the left and right primary mouse buttons, lower click distances are typically better, as they can lower the amount of time that passes between physical reaction and a game registering that click. Click distance could possibly mean the difference between snapping off a headshot in a shooter or getting shot first. Some mouse manufacturers also make a big deal of the microswitches their buttons use, and how many millions of clicks those switches can sustain. When switches go bad, mice can start registering single clicks as doubleclicks or not register clicks at all.
- Lift-off distance refers to the distance the mouse has to be lifted up before its sensor stops reading the mousing surface. This was once an extremely important consideration for first-person shooter (particularly Counter-Strike) players, who would play with very low CPI settings on their mice. The lower the CPI, the further you have to move the mouse to move the cursor, so they would play on large mousepads and lift their mouse off the pad and move it, then place it again. If the lift-off distance is too high, the mouse will keep reading the surface under it and create erratic cursor movement. Some mice drivers offer a customizable lift-off distance, but this isn’t a big issue for most gamers today.
Knowing these terms is helpful in understanding some of the criticisms levied at gaming mice by people who get technical about hardware. If you really want to know how a mouse sensor works, Tested got a detailed walkthrough at Logitech’s labs in Switzerland; you can see one of their experts break a sensor down piece by piece in this video.
No mouse, not even the DeathAdder, totally escapes criticism at Overclock. Personal preferences in grip and shape, among other things, certainly influence the discussion there, too, but no one knows more about gaming mice than the enthusiasts who scrutinize every new model as soon as it’s released. Even with a pure focus on hardware, there’s no consensus as to the single “best” gaming mouse. Turns out the same holds true for the professional gamers I talked to as well.
The pros come at mice from a different approach…they were much more focused on the feel of a gaming mouse, primarily the shape…
The pros come at mice from a different approach. They’re not as caught up in technical considerations—they were much more focused on the feel of a gaming mouse, primarily the shape of the mouse, tactile sensation, location of the buttons, weight and glide (how smoothly and easily the mouse moves over a mousing surface).
I ran into another problem while trying to find professional gamers to talk to—most of their teams are sponsored by companies like Razer and SteelSeries and are obligated to use their sponsors’ equipment. I talked to two members from Latest and Greatest Gaming who had no affiliation with mouse companies, however, and they offered some good advice.
First: DPI/CPI isn’t as big a deal as marketing makes it out to be. “It depends on the person and the [screen] resolution and the game,” Derek from Latest and Greatest Gaming told me. “You don’t want to play Counterstrike with 6k DPI or 3k DPI even. Less than 1,000 for a game like that. For Starcraft 2 I think you should use 3k+, as much as you can control accurately. For me its 3k DPI at 1080p.”
Another LaG player, Loi Doan, argues that most players don’t even need sensitivity options that high. “Currently I play on 450 DPI…You can be fast with even a low DPI. I average around 230 APM (actions per minute) on SC2.”
The higher the CPI setting, the more quickly the mouse moves across the screen, and the harder it is to be accurate. 5,000 CPI makes a great bullet point, but you’d need superhuman control to nail a headshot–and not accidentally spin in circles–at that sensitivity.
Second: Both pro gamers agreed that lighter and simpler is better.
Some mice offer removable weights that can be slipped into the bottom of the mouse to make it heavier. Customization can be good, but our pro gamer expert LevelCap, who helped me test mice, doesn’t think removable weights should be a priority.
LevelCap: “I feel that having extremely light mice, as light as you can get them, is beneficial. I’ve talked to a lot of Counter-Strike gamers and a lot of CoD gamers and people who are playing very hardcore, very competitively, and any mouse that has weights in it they just take them out immediately. They don’t want that extra weight cause it gives them a quicker reaction time.”
Competitive Counter-Strike and Starcraft player Jimmy Whisenhunt, a game designer at Sony Online, offered me a similar perspective on keeping mice simple.
“My problem was, and I know a lot of FPS players have this problem, we like to blame things,” Whisenhunt said. “We like to say, oh, well I missed that shot because I had the wrong weights and switching it around all the time is kind of a crutch for a lot of people. To improve you just have to get used to something, and having more variables you can switch out can keep you from becoming a better gamer, in my opinion.”
Simplicity is good when it comes to buttons.
Again, simplicity is good when it comes to buttons. “All those high end raiding guilds in WoW don’t have people laying back in their chairs with their [12 button] Razer Nagas,” Derek wrote. What’s the point in macroing buttons to a mouse unless you’re only going to use the mouse? Keyboard is just fine for that.” Loi Doan said the same thing, preferring one or two side buttons.
LevelCap explained why more buttons can be a bad thing: “I think three thumb buttons in some cases can be nice to have and be usable. I like to avoid pinky buttons because in shooters you need to move fast, sometimes things get hectic, you’re dragging the mouse off the side of the pad a lot, and you don’t want to misclick something…when I was at E3 playing Battlefield 4, they had these little Razer mice that had pinky buttons, and I could not move the mouse without accidentally clicking the pinky button.”
Speaking of grip, the way you hold your mouse can affect the type of mouse that works for you. There are three common grip types: the palm grip, where the entire hand lays flush with the surface of the mouse; the claw grip, where the rear of the mouse tucks into the palm of the hand and the fingers are arched over the left and right buttons; and the fingertip grip, where the palm doesn’t even make contact with the mouse and the fingers are doing all the control work. Many of the players I talked to use a hybrid of the palm and claw grip; their fingers aren’t quite as arched as they would be in a full palm grip, but they’re not lying flat against the mouse.
The palm grip is the most common, especially with large or high-arched mice like the Logitech G400s. The DeathAdder is built for a claw grip or a hybrid palm/claw grip. LevelCap believes using a mouse like the DeathAdder can actually make your hand more comfortable and make you better at games, especially in shooters where reaction time is key. The way you grip your mouse, and the way the mouse supports that grip, is really important.
LevelCap: “It’s kind of like a nice comfortable Mercedes car seat and then a Mini Cooper racing seat. The Mini Cooper’s not going to be comfortable when you sit in it, but when you’re actually out there racing, it’s going to give you better support. You’re going to perform better. I think that translates really well into the mouse industry…Gamers will sort of get sidetracked with mice that they think are comfortable. They’ll end up using a mouse that will make their gameplay suffer. I think one of the biggest revelations for me, recently—I used to be a huge Logitech fan. I used the G400, G500, and I thought those were the greatest mice ever because they fit my hand really nicely and they were super comfortable.
“I moved on to a Razer [DeathAdder] and immediately my hand didn’t feel quite as complacent. I found that switching between palm grip and claw grip—and it isn’t really a claw grip on the DeathAdder, just a little of a claw grip upgrade from the palm—just seems to make your hand a little bit more alert. I found the larger mice that have a bigger dome to them seem to relax your hand a little bit more. If they take your pinky or your thumb off the mousepad completely, you have a little bit less control over the mouse. The larger ones give you a little more comfort, which you might flock to immediately…you’d go ‘wow, this mouse is so comfortable, I can’t imagine why anyone would use a DeathAdder or one of these smaller mice.’ But I have to say my performance has improved greatly since I upgraded to a DeathAdder.”
Learning about grips, sensors and everything else was the first step for me in picking out which mice to test. Next came putting that knowledge to use in narrowing down the dozens upon dozens of gaming mice out there into a testable field of top contenders.
How We Picked
After interviewing LevelCap, I decided to bring him on board to test mice as someone who plays a first-person shooter for a living. Then I created a spreadsheet of more than 40 gaming mice from Razer, Logitech, SteelSeries, Roccat, CM Storm, Mionix and Zowie, among other lesser-known brands. I checked out every mouse I saw mentioned on Overclock and heard about from interviewees. From that list, I narrowed my top contenders down to 10 mice we eventually tested:
- Razer DeathAdder 2013
- Razer Taipan
- SteelSeries Sensei
- Logitech G400s
- Roccat Kone XTD
- Roccat Savu
- Alienware TactX
- Ozone Radon Opto
- Mionix NAOS 8200
- Mionix Avior 8200
Hours of research went into cutting thirty or so mice from that list. Those mice are addressed individually in the competition section below, but here were some of the big factors I used to eliminate them:
- Sensor criticisms at Overclock. Some mouse sensors have been shown to exhibit jitter or track poorly at higher CPIs. Thorough, descriptive and well-reasoned criticisms were the single biggest factor in ruling out many mice.
- Wireless. Wireless mice are almost universally too expensive, and the reaction time of a wireless mouse isn’t going to beat a wired one.
- Price. Mice that cost over $100 or were dramatically more expensive than the competition were struck off.
- Too cheap. Inexpensive mice are totally fine, but aren’t going to compete with the high-end gear from Razer and other companies.
How We Tested
How did we test our 10 mice after we picked them out? We played games. A lot of games.
How did we test our 10 mice after we picked them out? We played games. A lot of games, over the course of about six weeks. We spent at least a full day with each mouse, usually multiple days. LevelCap played Battlefield 3 with each mouse and also used them for out-of-game activities like video editing for his Youtube channel. I used each mouse for everyday working and web browsing and played a variety of games, including Bulletstorm, League of Legends, Battlefield 3, Fallout: New Vegas and Final Fantasy XIV.
In total, this amounted to more than 100 hours of game time and even more out-of-game time. We took notes on what we liked and disliked and observed about each mouse, from the buttons, surface material, and weight to the software driver experience. Ideally, we would spend months devoted to each mouse to see how it held up over time, but that would’ve been impossible to test; we had to rely on feedback from Overclock.net posters, Amazon reviewers and the like for longterm durability.
In our testing, we didn’t focus on closely analyzing the capabilities of each mouse sensor for these reasons:
- Fully and accurately analyzing the sensors was beyond our means in terms of necessary testing hardware (like a souped-up turntable to test a mouse’s maximum control speed, a huge variety of surfaces, skill, and time). Companies like Logitech have machines specially built to test mice.
- In choosing the 10 mice we eventually tested, I did my best to rule out mice that many experts have criticized for their sensor issues, minimizing the potential for poor sensor performance.
- For 99% of gamers, none of these gaming mice will exhibit any noticeable issues or differences in tracking. The sensor may be the most important mouse component, but ergonomics, button feel, button placement and software play a larger role in distinguishing the mice I picked out.
Scroll down to the competition section for more detail on how I chose the 10 mice we tested, and our specific reasons for dismissing the ones we didn’t. Next it’s time to talk about our favorite mouse of the bunch: the Razer DeathAdder 2013.
Our Pick: The Razer DeathAdder 2013
Of all the mice we tested, the DeathAdder was our mutual favorite because it gets just about everything right. The mouse is comfortable in extended use in a claw or hybrid palm/claw grip. The entire body is a matte black plastic that keeps sweat buildup to a minimum. Previous models of the Deathadder had a smoother plastic finish, but Razer wisely ditched that and added a rubbery area on that bottom half of each side of the mouse that make it even easier to grip with thumb and pinky.
Of all the mice we tested, the DeathAdder was our mutual favorite because it gets just about everything right.
The DeathAdder’s scroll wheel also strikes a difficult balance for a gaming mouse: it’s large and easy to scroll, but still offers the notched resistance that’s vital for accurately scrolling through weapons in a first-person shooter. The two thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse are similar: they’re very large and easy to press, but offer enough resistance to prevent accidental presses, something I experienced with several of the gaming mice we tested.
The DeathAdder’s CPI can be adjusted in increments of 100 all the way up to 6,400.
At 105 grams, the DeathAdder is not one of the lightest mice we tested, but it’s a few grams lighter than Razer’s previous models, and it’s definitely not heavy. It’s a great weight and slides easily across a mousing surface. For comparison, the much smaller Roccat Savu weighs 90 grams, while the large sized Roccat Kone XTD weights 123 grams with all of its optional weights removed. Despite not being quite as light as some of the smaller mice we tested, the DeathAdder still glides extremely easily along a hard plastic mousing surface.
LevelCap put aside his older model DeathAdder with the goal of finding a mouse that could best it. After testing all 10 mice, LevelCap found only one mouse better than the old DeathAdder: the 2013 edition.
LevelCap: “When comparing top-end mice it’s easy to see how some stand out in their areas of expertise. Some have great grip, others have competitive click speeds, others have great software. But when one mouse rises to the top of each category without compromise it becomes clear that you have a truly great gaming mouse. The grip of the DeathAdder is simply perfect. Your hand may not fall in love with it on first contact, but like a finely crafted racing seat it gives you the support where you need it and the ergonomics for endurance. Even when accessing the perfectly placed thumb buttons your grip is still not compromised. The low friction scroll wheel allows for effortless access to alternative game functions, and the left/right click distance and pressure is unrivaled for fast response. Oh, it’s also inexpensive compared to many of its top competitors.”
The DeathAdder is also one of the rare gaming mice to use an optical sensor. There are loads of arguments on the web about laser vs. optical mouse sensors; while some enthusiasts argue that optical sensors can be more accurate, we didn’t notice any real tracking differences in our testing. Both the DeathAdder and the Roccat Savu use optical sensors, but we didn’t find them noticeably better-performing than any of the other mice. That said, the DeathAdder 2013 has a new optical sensor that scales up to 6,400 CPI, a major increase from the previous model’s 1,800 CPI (some longtime DeathAdder fans were concerned about the sensor change, but it performed flawlessly for us).
An Overclock member created this short video to demonstrate that the DeathAdder has no built-in acceleration. The mouse pointer returns to the same point on the screen when the mouse is moved both slowly and quickly.
The DeathAdder’s default lift-off distance is fairly high, but the mouse can be calibrated based on mousing surface; once calibrated, the lift-off distance can be adjusted on a scale of 1-10. I found that the lift-off distance was extremely low after calibration. The width of an SD card was enough to stop the mouse sensor from tracking.
Razer’s software drivers for the mouse put the DeathAdder over the top. Instead of giving the DeathAdder on-board memory like some other mice (the SteelSeries Sensei, for example) Razer created a driver platform that stores user settings in the cloud. When the DeathAdder 2013 was first released, Razer was launching its Synapse 2.0 cloud-based driver software. The launch was a mess.
Here’s the thing about Synapse that got a whole bunch of people riled up: You need an Internet connection the first time you install the software and register a profile. Of course you need a connection to go online. Granted, this isn’t ideal, because there’s no way to bypass the first-time login and get to the mouse’s advanced settings. That’s dumb, and you’ll only have access to basic plug-and-play Windows functionality. Once past that initial registration, though, which takes about 30 seconds, the mouse can happily be used and customized with no Internet connection at all—a lot of gamers thought the software always had to be connected to work. I think what you get from the software is worth that potential hassle.
The Synapse 2.0 drivers had some issues with Razer’s older hardware, but they’re great with the DeathAdder 2013. If you want to use the mouse with another computer, you can simply install the software, log in, and have all your mouse settings at your fingertips. Synapse 2.0 is easy to find on Razer’s website and is the only software download you need for any Razer product, whereas most mice manufacturers require you to seek out the drivers for a specific mouse model. And the software itself is straightforward, easy to use and unencumbered with unnecessary features—LevelCap and I both preferred it over the other interfaces we used.
Roccat offers the most feature-filled software, but it’s also bloated with a lot of unnecessary junk (like mouse “Achievements” for lots of clicking) and an extremely busy interface. Razer puts the basics front and center: CPI is an easily adjustable slider and keybindings are broken up into submenus for different functions (like assigning a simple keystroke, launching an application or triggering a macro).
Even if you don’t want to use the cloud storage, the DeathAdder will remember the last CPI you set it to. I cranked the mouse up to 6,400 CPI, unplugged it from my desktop, and plugged it into a Mac with no drivers installed. The pointer flicked across the screen at an almost untraceable speed.
“I don’t know how much further Razer can take this mouse design as it’s tiptoeing on perfection already.”
It’s true that Razer could have stored all of their driver settings, including keybindings and macros, in onboard mouse memory. But I think cloud storage is an acceptable and maybe even preferable solution. LevelCap illustrates why:
LevelCap: “I love the idea of incorporating your mouse settings into a memory chip in the mouse. The only problem is the more parts you add to any piece of hardware, the greater its chances of breaking down are. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews on SteelSeries reliability.”
Sure enough, in our testing, the SteelSeries Sensei’s drivers, which store mouse settings in onboard memory, were laggy and crash-prone, while Razer’s were problem-free. I’ll give LevelCap the last word on the DeathAdder 2013:
LevelCap: ”I don’t know how much further Razer can take this mouse design as it’s tiptoeing on perfection already.”
Who Else Likes the DeathAdder?
The DeathAdder 2013 has a 4/5-star average on Amazon with more than 1,300 customer reviews. Nearly 850 of those reviews give the mouse 5/5 stars. A poster on Overclock.net recommended the mouse in a review, writing “The DeathAdder 2013 is an improvement over the previous versions,” citing a “MUCH better grip and many more dpi options,” though he mentions he wishes the mouse had on-board storage.
The DeathAdder also won Overclock’s Community Choice Award for best gaming mouse, though of course dozens of posters chimed in wondering why their favorite mouse wasn’t on the list. Still, it beat out two of the other top competitors we tested, the SteelSeries Sensei and Logitech G400s.
A reviewer at CustomPCReview put the DeathAdder 2013 through its paces and found the sensor performance flawless at 6,400 CPI; he also praised the change to a matte plastic finish and the added grip from Razer’s new rubber side pads. His only criticism was that the mouse could use a pair of buttons for changing CPI on the fly.
BenchmarkReviews echoes most of our favorite things about the mouse, praising its weight and noting that its ergonomics promote a more active hand than the palm grip of the Logitech G series.
My friend Evan Lahti, the executive editor of PC Gamer, tried out the DeathAdder 2013 and gave me his input, too: “It’s the side panels that make me love the DeathAdder 2013. That rubber ribcage glues the mouse to my hand, which is particularly helpful to me since “twisting” the mouse on my thumb and pinky (rotating it clockwise or counterclockwise) tends to be one of my gestures.
“The side grips also jive with the very low sensitivity that I play FPSes at (1.75 of a maximum 20 sensitivity in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive), because I need to be able to sweep the mouse five or six inches and keep a firm grip when I turn my character beyond 90 degrees.
“The only missing feature on the DeathAdder 2013 is a hardware sensitivity button, which I appreciate as a low-input way of changing sensitivities when I move from the desktop to a game. The Logitech G5 (out of print) is still my all-time favorite, though. There’s a reason that new G5s go for $240 on Amazon, four times their original price—mine’s survived five years of daily use.”
On the topic of durability: Razer has been criticized in the past for poor build quality with some of its mice. I’ve seen mostly positive feedback about the DeathAdder 2013′s construction and haven’t seen any reviews indicate problems with clicks not registering or other parts of the mouse breaking after light use. Regardless, Razer offers a two-year warranty with its wired mice, so if the mouse breaks or begins to misclick within that time, you’re covered.
These Mice Were Really Great Too
The DeathAdder was our favorite, but it was a close contest—of the 10 mice we tested, several others impressed both LevelCap and I, and we mostly agreed on the next-best models. We tested these mice at a variety of CPIs and didn’t experience any issues with tracking or accuracy. As a result, most of the reasoning below explaining why they were our second, third and fourth-favorite mice focuses on the mouse grip, buttons, and software.
After the initial round of testing, LevelCap added the $70 Kone Pure, which has a smaller body and loved it. It ended up fitting his hand and hybrid palm/claw grip better than any other mouse—even the DeathAdder.
If your hands are on the small side, the Kone Pure should fit you well; we even preferred the grip to our main pick. But its buttons and scroll wheel require a bit too much pressure and the included software drivers are bloated.
LevelCap: ”The Kone Pure is lightweight and grip-tastic! This mouse may be too small if you have a large hand, but for me the grip has been unrivaled by any mouse I have ever tested…the best around if you have a medium-sized hand. The steeply-angled mouse sides allow for both the pinky and ring finger to get a nice grip pressure giving a sense of control I don’t find with other mice.
“The thumb buttons have great placement and low click pressure. The distance between them initially struck me as too far but then I learned how to rest my thumb on the brace between them and rock it back and forth for quick access.
“Maintaining control while performing fast clicking, thumb clicks and scrolling are the quintessential features anyone should want from a gaming mouse and the Kone Pure does them all masterfully. Unfortunately its grip may not be a one-size-fits-all, large hands beware!”
If LevelCap liked the Kone Pure’s grip even more than the DeathAdder’s, why isn’t the mouse our top pick? A few reasons. He noted that its buttons and scroll wheel require slightly more pressure to active than we’d prefer, and the catch to the Pure’s grip is that it’s not going to work as well for larger hands as the DeathAdder will.
The biggest negative, however, is Roccat’s almost-but-not-quite-great driver software. It’s extremely powerful and customizable, but also bloated with features you won’t want or need. A gravelly voice will yell at you when you “level up” through extended use of a mouse, and will probably scare the bejesus out of you unless you disable the feature.
The drivers do offer some great options, though, like auto-switching profiles when booting up certain executables. You can set a default profile for Windows, then have the mouse remap buttons and alter its CPI when you boot up a specific game. If you regularly switch between settings for, say, shooters and strategy games, it’s a handy feature, and made Roccat’s drivers my second favorite behind Razer’s—I just wish they got rid of some of the unnecessary junk.
The Mionix sits firmly in third place, but does have the most comfortable palm grip (when your palm fully rests on the mouse). Overall it’s a very comfortable mouse, though it’s held back by disappointing click pressure and click distance.
While I didn’t get to test it myself, LevelCap’s second-favorite mouse was the $73 Mionix NAOS 8200, which he spent several days playing with after we’d tested every other mouse. We added the NAOS to testing after being impressed by Mionix’s Avior 8200, an ambidextrous mouse. The NAOS is Mionix’s ergonomic right-handed model, and it beat out every other mouse but the DeathAdder and Kone Pure. While the NAOS’s grip makes it the most comfortable, it’s not designed to support a claw grip like the DeathAdder.
LevelCap: “I have to give Mionix credit for trying this finger divots on the side, which is less conventional and it works for the most part…The unique shape of the mouse is very comfortable to use but not as effective for maintaining grip while lifting the mouse…It takes a little while to get used to the pinky and ring finger placement but once you do it’s very comfortable. The only issue I can see with the grip is that it’s slightly loose which would be an issue for low sensitivity players that perhaps need to drag a lot in game like Counter-Strike.
“Left & right click: Good but not the best. Medium pressure click, medium click distance. Can’t spam click as fast as I can on mice like the DeathAdder. Weight & feel: Feels lighter than the DeathAdder which is a huge plus in my book. The mouse coating is extremely comfortable and it maintains that expensive feeling while still being one of the lighter mice we have tested. Thumb buttons [have] excellent placement, able to maintain decent grip, and they have nice rubbery coating to avoid slippage. Would like to see that coating on all other mice. I would like to see the thumb button pressure lower than it is and click distance less as well.
Unfortunately, small areas such as click pressure and click distance hold this mouse back from reaching its full potential.”
The NAOS 8200 weighs 99 grams without the cable; it’s a few grams lighter than the DeathAdder 2013. Its 8,200 max CPI is a bit overkill. Both of us agreed that the driver software that accompanies Mionix’s mice comes close to matching Razer’s, though it falls a bit short; it doesn’t have Synapse’s cloud support but offers the important settings in a straightforward interface—profile keybindings, sensor adjustment, and macros—without lots of junk cluttering up everything. There are no annoyances like Roccat’s announcer voice.
I’ve seen multiple people call the Mionix NAOS’s right-handed grip the most comfortable they’ve ever used—and the best right-handed palm grip ever molded from plastic—though it’s not as conducive to lifting the mouse off the pad. If that’s not a concern, consider it a strong alternative to the DeathAdder 2013. Mionix’s rubber coating also feels great in the hand.
If you’re left-handed or need a mouse that plays well with both hands then this is the mouse to get. It’s not as comfortable as a mouse that’s built solely for one hand, but it’s as close as possible.
Our last runner-up was the ambidextrous $90 Mionix Avior 8200. Despite not being built for a right-handed grip, the Avior 8200 was one of the most comfortable mice I tested thanks to Mionix’s soft touch plastic coating. And unlike the ambidextrous SteelSeries Sensei, I didn’t find myself accidentally pressing the right side buttons while moving the mouse.
Still, LevelCap and I agreed that it’s hard to beat the design of a mouse built just for the right hand, and the Avior is pricey at $90.
LevelCap: “When it comes to ambidextrous mice, the Avior stands apart from the crowd. As can be expected from Mionix, the drivers are powerful and elegant, the build quality of the mouse is top notch, but what really sets the Avior apart is its grip. An ambidextrous mouse with great thumb button placement and grip control is something I had yet to experience until using the Avior…I am able to use a hybrid grip or full on claw grip and still maintain a comfortable rest on the mouse. Thumb buttons [have] good placement on the left. Right side buttons generally drive me crazy on ambidextrous mice but the shape of this mouse has your pinky and ring finger rest in an area that doesn’t seem to interfere with them.
“I think ambidextrous mice will never be as comfortable as a right-handed mouse but this is probably as close as you can get to the perfect gaming mouse that’s also ambidextrous. Grip is good but not as good as a DeathAdder, [and the] scroll wheel is a little stiff to turn.”
Because Razer hasn’t updated the left-handed DeathAdder in a long time, we’d recommend the Avior as a better solution.
Among the rest of the mice we tested, there were several that were still very good—and you would probably be happy with any of them. But they’re not quite as good as the picks above. I’m going to list those mice first and explain why they made the shortlist, and also explain why we ultimately didn’t like them as much.
The next runners up after the Mionix Avior 8200 were two Roccat mice: the $90 Kone XTD and the $40 Savu. Size was one thing that held these mice back; the Kone XTD is too large for the average hand, and the Savu is too small–it’s even smaller than the Kone Pure. The Kone XTD is feature-packed: It’s an 8,200 CPI right-handed mouse with removable weights, two thumb buttons and a pair of CPI adjustment buttons on top. The scroll wheel can tilt left and right to add two more buttons, which is a feature I love in Logitech mice for regular web browsing (I usually map back and forward shortcuts to the left and right clicks). Is it especially important for gaming? Not really, but it’s a nice feature.
In addition to the software driver drawbacks mentioned above (bloated with unnecessary features), the Kone XTD is an expensive mouse at $90. Unless you have an especially large hand, we don’t think it’s one of the best choices.
Unless you have a very small hand, the same goes for the $40 Roccat Savu, an optical mouse with a rough, extremely grippy texture on the side. The Savu is an optical mouse that can only be adjusted to a few specific CPI steps: 400, 800, 1,600, and 4,000. The Kone Pure is a better choice for small-to-medium hands.
The $66 SteelSeries Sensei was a divisive mouse. The shape/body design of the Sensei is incredibly popular, and it’s easy to tell why—it looks just about ergonomically perfect. Unfortunately, it’s dragged down by a number of problems. Changing settings in the Sensei’s driver software caused the software to lock up for me every time I used it. The drivers caused LevelCap’s computer to blue screen, and the grip bothered him after a few hours.
LevelCap: “The Sensei is a great looking mouse. Beyond that I have a hard time finding nice things to say about it. The drivers are unforgivably bad…the mouse blue screened my computer multiple times! (Mind you my gaming PC has like 4 programs installed on it: Chrome, BF3, Skype, Dxtory, so I can’t imagine what it would be conflicting with.) Drivers are laggy, take multiple seconds to save settings and then freezes your cursor. A quick search online will reveal multiple people crashing and blue screening from this mouse. Who ever heard of such a thing?!”
While we didn’t get to test it, some of our concerns may be alleviated by the stripped-down version of the Sensei that SteelSeries calls the Sensei RAW. It ditches the Sensei’s glossy surface for a rubbery plastic option and only offers onboard mouse memory for one profile instead of five. If the multiple profiles caused the frequent driver hitches and crashes, that would fix one of the Sensei’s major problems. Unfortunately, it would still be an ambidextrous design with right side buttons that are too easy to press and a shape that isn’t great for long-term comfort.
The $60 Ozone Radon Opto made the list for being a well-reviewed optical mouse, and I liked its ergonomic right-handed grip and the rubbery material in the thumb groove. But the software drivers were probably the worst of any gaming mouse I’ve used, both ugly and light on features. For a mouse that costs about $60, the same price as the DeathAdder, there’s no question Razer’s mouse is the better product.
The $80 Alienware TactX Mouse was similar to the Radon Opto. It has a good right-handed shape, which is actually an exact replica of the old, very popular Logitech G9x. But its drivers were terrible. Dell/Alienware doesn’t make many accessories, and this is the company’s only mouse. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it discontinued in the near future. And at $80, it’s way too expensive for a languishing design.
LevelCap: “What was kind of surprising was the Alienware mouse was really comfortable to use. Except that it’s very old school in that the click distance is very far. It’s heavier than it needs to be. The drivers were shit–the drivers look like they were made in the 90s. Small modifications and I felt like that mouse could’ve been a good competitor.”
The $45 Logitech G400s has stuck with a dated design that we can’t recommend. As explained above, a more alert grip (which the DeathAdder encourages) can make you more responsive. Palming the large body of the G400s feels comfortable at first, but we think it’s better for your hand and your K/D ratio to use a different mouse.
LevelCap: ”My least favorite mouse out of all of them was the G400s. It’s weird because I used that exact same form factor mouse for years, and because I had no comparison I thought it was great. There’s a really big problem with the ergonomics of that design, where aside from the grip being horrible for gaming, you’re literally using the wrong muscles to click. Because of the way your hand fits in the grip, you have this sort of relaxed cupping grip, which seems really unergonomic, I think you need a hybrid grip to get something that’s not going to stress out your muscles too much. I used to do video editing and 3D animation all day, and my hand would just ache. I finally switched over to a DeathAdder just for work stuff, and it’s so much more comfortable.”
The $70 Razer Taipan is a good mouse that offers the same excellent driver options as the DeathAdder. It simply didn’t impress us as much as the Mionix Avior or the SteelSeries Sensei, which are also ambidextrous mice. If you want a left-handed design (and aren’t interested in the left-handed DeathAdder variant), check out one of those mice.
Now for the rest of those 30-odd mice that didn’t make it from spreadsheet to mousepad: Price was the first criteria I used to cull mice.
- Razer Ouroborus ($190)
- Razer Mamba ($130)
- Mad Catz R.A.T. 9 ($120)
- Thermaltake Level 10 M ($63, down from $100)
- Logitech G700s ($83, down from $100)
Most of these mice have something in common: Wireless functionality. In the past, wireless gaming mice have been plagued with responsiveness issues that wired mice don’t have. They’ve gotten better, and some wireless mice like the G700s will transmit data over a USB cable when plugged in. But the absolute best-case scenario is that a wireless gaming mouse will perform as well as a wired one, and cost significantly more, in most cases. I don’t think wireless is worth the money.
Other mice got knocked off the list for a variety of reasons. While the R.A.T. series offer some cool customization options, they’re extremely heavy, which goes against the advice of every pro gamer I talked to; they unanimously recommended light mice. That eliminated the $100 Mad Catz R.A.T. 7.
- I struck off the Logitech G9x, which is still regularly mentioned in “best mouse ever” discussions, because it’s no longer in production.
- I considered the new CM Storm Havoc, but the mouse was released in June 2013 and had no user feedback or professional reviews to go on.
- I eliminated the $40 Anker High Precision mouse, popular on Amazon, because it’s a cheap mouse that didn’t have a shot at being the best; most reviewers on Amazon praise its bang-for-your-buck value, but it didn’t match the body design or software of Razer or Roccat.
- I eliminated the Perixx MX 3000 on LevelCap’s advice; he tested the mouse, which is praised for its extremely low click distance, and found the difference negligible compared with the DeathAdder, which he preferred.
- I eliminated the $30 Razer Abyssus, which was too simple. It has no side buttons—just a little barebones for most gamers.
Most of the other mice on my list I decided not to test based on heavily critical posts on Overclock.net. These posts had to do with the sensors used in the mice, and while the problems they exhibited may not be noticeable to the average gamer, I found these criticisms serious enough to rule the mice out. These clearly weren’t the cream of the crop:
- The $70 Razer Imperator uses both laser and optical tracking, but users noted issues with mouse acceleration when moving the mouse at low speeds.
- The Razer Orochi uses Bluetooth, which introduces the potential for some latency issues.
- The $50 SteelSeries Kana is an optical mouse, but I read concerns about mouse acceleration and their switch quality. It also tops out at 3,200 CPI, which is less than many of the mice I considered, but is still probably high enough for just about anyone.
- The $60 CM Storm Sentinel Advance II, a mouse I used for more than a year. During that time, the paint on the metal grill on top of the mouse wore off and rusted, creating a pretty nasty surface.
- The $40 CM Storm Inferno uses a sensor that many Overclock posters criticized for extremely poor lift-off distance. This isn’t a huge concern for most gamers, but was enough for me to knock it out of the running.
- The $37 CM Storm Spawn saw reports of severe lag issues when used in combination with keyboard buttons being pressed, as well as problematic negative acceleration.
- The $65 Zowie FK and the $60 Zowie EC2 EVO are popular models among Counter-Strike players thanks to extremely low lift-off distance, and they are actually fairly praised on Overclock. The EC2 EVO was Counter-Strike veteran Jimmy Whisenhunt’s recommended mouse. However, critics have pointed out that Zowie’s custom lens can cause jitter, and I think the LOD may actually be too low for people who don’t typically lift their mouse and reposition it (most gamers today). More importantly, they only supports three CPI settings—450, 1,150, and 2,300. 450 is great for old-school low-sensitivity Counter-Strike, but the lack of customization there is too limiting.
Finally, there were the MMO mice. Based on advice from the professional gamers I talked to, the extra buttons on these mice often makes them awkward to grip and harder to control. For that reason, I didn’t think any of these mice could be considered the best gaming mouse for most people:
- Razer Naga ($80)
- Logitech G600 ($60)
- Mad Catz MMO 7 ($106)
- Corsair M95 ($80)
To keep our testing pool manageable, I decided not to include MMO mice, and didn’t heavily research them like I did the rest of the mice mentioned above.
If you’re still dead set on an MMO mouse, the Razer Naga and Logitech G600 both have 4/5 star averages on Amazon–the G600 has 317 reviews, while the Naga has 1,470. The newest model of the Naga, the 2014 Edition, has a redesigned grip and slightly-reshaped side buttons designed to be easier to distinguish from one another. It’s been positively received at Overclock.net, and it runs the same Razer Synapse software as the DeathAdder (bonus: Razer also released a left-handed version of the 2014 Naga).
The Logitech G600 is a popular MMO mouse, like the Naga, but Overclock users have reported input lag issues with the G600′s sensor, the Avago 9800, which is also used in some other popular mice. These issues are also reported on Logitech’s forums. I can’t authoritatively recommend any MMO mouse, but if you do decide to buy one, keep weight, sensor performance and software drivers in mind—any mouse from a company represented in this article will offer the same software experience that we’ve described above.
You Should Probably Get a Mousepad
No matter what mouse you use, a good mousepad is important. Every major mouse brand sells a variety of pads, and most of them will work just fine for you. Keep in mind that laser mice—the majority of gaming mice on the market, including our runners-up the Mionix NAOS and Avior and Roccat Kone Pure—track better on hard surfaces. Softer fabric surfaces can give those mice problems, resulting in erratic pointer movement. Optical mouse sensors, like the ones in the DeathAdder and the Roccat Savu, can work on softer pads.
Decals and other major differences in surface color/pattern can potentially disrupt a sensor, so simpler patterns are generally better. If you pick the DeathAdder, the choice between a hard or soft surface just comes down to preference. The mouse will glide more smoothly on a hard surface and require more exertion on a softer pad.
Wrapping It Up
The DeathAdder 2013 is now my primary gaming mouse, even though I spent the past few years accustomed to a more relaxed palm grip. The placement and feel of its side buttons is the best of any mouse I’ve used, and Razer’s drivers, despite some controversy, hit the right balance between features and simplicity. And for $60, it’s cheaper than most of the flagship gaming mice out there.
With only two extra buttons, the DeathAdder is one of the simplest mice we tested. And as all of the pros I talked to reiterated again and again, simple is good. It gives you better grip and control, makes you less likely to accidentally press buttons and makes for a lighter mouse. And two extra buttons is enough for most video games, especially first-person shooters—there’s plenty of room on the keyboard for extra functions.
Ultimately, we think the DeathAdder 2013′s design makes it the best mouse for the vast majority of gamers. But if it doesn’t sound quite right for you, check out the Mionix NAOS (for extra comfort) or the Roccat Kone Pure (for small hands). Both offer different grip designs and a couple extra buttons on top. After researching dozens of models and testing ten of the most popular, we’re confident in saying these are three of the best you can buy.
This guide originally appeared on The Wirecutter on 8/27/2013 and is republished here with permission.