Razer’s been around a long time. If my memory serves me correctly, they’ve been pitching products to hardcore gamers since the days of the first Cyberathlete Professional League, way back at the turn of the millenium.
Their pitch then was pretty much the same as it was now: we’re hardcore gamers and we understand what you need. And for the large part that’s worked out pretty well, except for one small thing.
If you’re one of those individuals with, well, massive hands, then Razer’s the company for you. Take the Razer Naga, for example. The MMO-themed offering, marketed as one of Razer’s “elite” products, weighs 134 grams and is just over an inch and a half tall by and four and a half inches long. The “elite” Mamba’s just as bulky at 136 grams and even bigger, standing 1.69” tall and just about as long. Even the stock standard Deathadder is massive at 5” long and 1.73” high – and that’s not factoring in that it’s a heavier mouse too.
Filling that niche
It might seem odd that I’m harping on the weight so much, but it makes more sense when you consider my history. I’m a bit of a mouse freak, unfortunately, and years spent obsessing over headshots in Counter-Strike 1.6 make you a little bit paranoid. After using literally every major release from Microsoft, Logitech, Razer, Steelseries and even a couple of the smaller manufacturers, I eventually picked up a small Razer Salmosa off eBay.
The idea was simple. I’m currently in a team that’s sponsored by Razer, and as such I needed a suitable product to take to competitions. Having used almost all of their products in the past, I opted for the Deathadder because I knew it’d be reliable when travelling to LANs. But the combination of typing tens of thousands of words a week for work made it too difficult to use on a regular basis, and so I needed something that was easier on the hand. So you can imagine my interest in the Taipan – something with more functionality than my ridiculously tiny Salmosa that wouldn’t force me to quit my job.
Where does it fit in?
Now while Razer isn’t exactly the Lowes of the peripheral manufacturing world, opening the box instantly confirms that Razer have plugged a hole in their lineup, or more specifically, developed a product to try and lure back gamers who have fallen in love with the Steelseries Sensei.
The Taipan’s largely the same dimensions – it’s a little bit slimmer and lighter, but largely the same ambidextrous, four-side button style that you’d expect. Retailers should be selling both for about the same price, although the Taipan has a slight edge with its 8200 dpi dual sensor, which reportedly uses not only a laser and optical sensor, but also a coven of witches to accurately determine that you definitely got that headshot (even if the server disagrees).
While it’s described as a “4G” dual sensor, a bit of research found that the main sensor is the Avago S9818 (confirmed here), a variant of the 9800 which is already the top-of-the-line sensor for laser mice. I didn’t discover any lift-off issues – which have been a bit of a bane for laser mice in the past – during my time with the Taipan.
The same can’t be said for negative and positive acceleration. Using Counter-Strike: Source – a game that accepts raw input – I tested the Taipan at 1800 DPI and 500hz with a Razer Goliathus and a Steelseries Fnatic QCK+. (For those playing along at home, you can replicate the test yourself using the method outlined here.
The test works in Quake Live as well and any other game that accepts raw input.)
The existence of acceleration is a major factor in why a lot of old-schoolers still swear by optical mice and if this sounds awfully close to describing you, then you’re going to be bitterly disappointed.
For everyone else that’s now suddenly concerned: you shouldn’t be. The acceleration only appears when making very extremely slow or extremely fast movements, which most people rarely do – and that doesn’t include the occasional quick swipe that you’ll need in shooters. Even more importantly, the negative acceleration only occurred on my Razer Goliathus (Speed Edition), an all-black pad save for a small green Razer logo in one of the corners, but not my Steelseries QCK+ or my Razer Megasoma hybrid pad.
Extended testing within Starcraft 2 found no problems, except for an occasional moment where the mouse’s DPI would suddenly tank towards 400 for no reason whatsoever. This was an issue I’d had with previous laser mice and it seemed to be largely connected to my Razer Goliathus. Different surfaces like the QCK+ and the control version of the Razer Goliathus (which has a textured weave as opposed to the flat surface of the Speed), found that the problem was indeed my all-black pad, so that’s something to keep in mind.
But the fact that I had any issues with my Goliathus at all was interesting given that there’s a section in the Razer Synapse 2.0 drivers, a new cloud-based service that covers the majority of Razer mice (excluding basic models like the Salmosa). The Calibration lets you choose from a list of predetermined mouse pads or manually calibrate with any mouse pad to determine, well, whatever black magic is required to best work with your setup.
The feature brings Razer drivers more in line with the powerful customisation software provided by Steelseries, although it still has some catching up to do. While you can set your sensitivity to any range (in bands of 100) between 100 and 8200, there’s no onboard memory to actually save the settings. You need Synapse to lock it in for you – but unfortunately, if you don’t have an internet connection, Synapse won’t load.
Putting aside the picture of DRM on your mouse aside for a second, Razer Synapse is clearly software that will grow with time. It’s not bad right now – the macro editor is solid and rebinding all the buttons is a pleasure – but there are just far too many areas that need improvement. The DPI switcher, for example, doesn’t work unless Razer Synapse is loaded. When it does work, it brings up a little meter on your screen showing you the current setting – which you won’t see in-game, but you’ll know because it’ll freeze your game to a halt for about half a second.
Thankfully, what the software lacks in punch is balanced out by just how comfortable the Taipan feels in the hand. The centre features with a rubberised coating that’s resistant to sweat, while a mesh-like texture envelops both sides. The ambidextrous design and the low profile of the Taipan makes it a dream for those who prefer the claw or fingertip grips, although it’s not unpleasant to hold in the hand either.
What users of all persuasions might find a little frustrating are the side buttons. They’re fairly small and they’re also angled downwards to fit in with the curvature. Sadly, this makes them more difficult to press unless your thumb (or ring/pinkie finger) approaches them from underneath. It doesn’t make going forward or back in a browser Mission: Impossible, but the design is nowhere near as user-friendly as a lot of other mice.
But provided that you have a nice, colorful (or hard) mousepad and you’re not doing anything silly like using 0.000001 sensitivity, the Taipan honestly is a joy to use. It’s one of the few mice that have made me want to play a game as soon as it was resting in my hand. It’s truly comfortable and it didn’t skip a beat after I changed mousepads.
The Synapse drivers will improve over time – see the mountain of updates for the Deathadder as proof – and the acceleration isn’t anything unusual for high-grade laser mice. What you’re left with beyond that is an extremely attractive, comfortable and powerful piece of hardware. See how it feels in your hand first – particularly the side buttons – but if you’re in the market for a light, low-profile mouse that doesn’t slack on features, the Taipan is hard to look past.
- Great sensor with no lift-off issues
- Solid customisation and macro editor
- Good ergonomics, ambidextrous design
- Light and low-profile
- Some infrequent acceleration
- Side buttons are difficult to hit
- DPI-switching can cause games to freeze for half a second
- Synapse software requires an internet connection
The Razer Taipan retails for around $99 AUD.