Razer Ouroboros review: As cool as it is hard to spell

[From my PC gaming column at Examiner.com]

Razer roars into Mad Catz territory with the bleeding edgeOuroboros Elite gaming mouse, a configurable, shape-shifting wireless “smart” mouse with a built-in 32-bit ARM-bit processor. So how does Razer fare in the house that Mad Catz built?

Welcome to the Elite

Razer certainly knows how to package their products. The Ouroboros rests atop a clear plastic pedestal inside a hard, clear plastic cube, awaiting worship. It’s like a futuristic alien artifact. You half-expect the box to be booby trapped to deter the unworthy.

Once the awe ears off and you tear into the lower part of the box, you’ll find the USB cable, charging pedestal, a tiny screwdriver, a 2500mAh NiMH rechargeable battery, and the replaceable side panels. Razer stickers and documentation are also inside.

The screwdriver is used to loosen two tiny screws on the underside of the Ouroboros. Once loosen, the back of the mouse slides open so you can insert the battery. Plug in the charging pedestal/receiver, turn on the mouse by holding down both top buttons behind the scroll wheel, and you’re pretty much good to go.

You may need to run the Ouroboros wired or charge it atop its charging pedestal for a while before using it, but the review unit had plenty of charge out of the box.

You’ll also want to download and install Razer’s Synapse 2.0 driver software, which is where you’ll program macros, adjust your DPI settings, polling rate, and other options. Razer’s driver software is intuitive, boasts a rich set of features, it enables you to store an infinite number of profiles for different games. You can also perform surface calibration and adjust the lift-off distance (the distance at which the mouse stops tracking when it’s lifted off the mat).

Tech specs & features

Razer Ouroboros in its plastic tomb.

The Razer Ouroboros contains virtually all of Razer’s latest sensor and software technology inside its sleek carapace. Here’s the basic rundown:

  • Built-in 32bit ARM processor
  • Customizable ergonomics
  • 8200dpi 4G laser sensor
  • Razer Synapse 2.0 enabled
  • 11 programmable buttons
  • 1000Hz / 1ms response time
  • Up to 200 inches per second / 50g acceleration
  • Approximate Size: 122 mm to 137 mm / 4.80″ to 5.39″ (Length) x 71 mm / 2.80″ (Width) x 42 mm / 1.65″ (Height)
  • Approximate Weight: 115 g / 0.25 lbs. (without battery) to 135 g / 0.29 lbs. (with battery)
  • Battery life: Approximately 12 hours continuous gaming on a single AA 25000 mAh NiMH battery

The Ouroboros is configurable but doesn’t boast as many points of adjustment as Mad Catz mice. The Ouroboros doesn’t lengthen or widen to the same degree Mad Catz mice are capable of, nor does it include weights to adjust the weight of the mouse.

But you still have plenty of options. The side panel “wings” (or finger “shelves”) are held in place firmly by magnets, but they are still easy to remove if you prefer the alternate flush, texture-rubber side panels instead. A small, ridged, metal dial on the underside of the palm rest raises and lowers the palm rest slightly.

And while the Ouroboros may be a little less physically configurable than Mad Catz mice, it has other advantages. It’s an ambidextrous design for one, whereas Mad Catz R.A.T. mice are purely designed for right-handers. In addition, the Ouroboros is easier to change on-the-fly.

Granted, it’s not something you’ll likely need to do often (if ever), but the magnetic side-panels are easy to quickly change and don’t require any tools. (The magnets are surprisingly powerful too—during a swap I casually placed a panel approximately an inch from the side of the Ouroboros, which after a second or two sucked the panel into place with an authoritative “snap!”)

The Ouroboros uses a single AA NiMH rechargeable battery rated for up to 12 hours of gaming life. The decision to use an AA battery is a good one and the included battery should be more than adequate for most gamers. Unfortunately, if you need to change the battery you have to open the mouse with the included screwdriver. Or if you don’t mind temporarily forgoing wireless freedom, you can opt to connect the USB cable directly to the Ouroboros in the event of battery-near-death “emergency”.

The charging platform for the Ouroboros is smartly designed. Not only does the mouse look like a model star fighter sitting atop it, but the pedestal has a slightly sticky, rubber underside to firmly root it in place—without ruining the finish on your desk but still enabling you to move it if need be.

Comfort and Performance

The Ouroboros is coated in faintly textured, brushed matte plastic, so it’s comfortable for extended use, stays dry, and is pretty smudge-resistant. Similar to the Mad Catz R.A.T. 9, the Ouroboros has a low profile. It’s lower but less ‘form fitting’ than the likes of the much taller Logitech G700S.

The side panels (just below the thumb buttons) of the Ouroboros double as additional, programmable mouse buttons. By default they are configured as ‘Sniper’ buttons to reduce the DPI of the mouse while held down. If you don’t plan to use the side panels as additional buttons, you can lock one or both of them by toggling small switches on the underside of the mouse.

Personally, I found the side panels a little overly stiff to use, although the stiffness is probably somewhat necessary to prevent them from being accidentally pressed. I got the best results by locking the outside (right-side for a right-hander) panel.

Regardless, I still had to adjust my grip and squeeze considerably hard to use the thumb side panel button. Once it’s pressed it’s not too difficult to maintain pressure, but extended pressure tires your hand in short order.

The 2 thumb buttons on each side of the Ouroboros are similar to those found on the Razer Taipan. They provide a well-balanced stiffness, stiff enough to negate accidental presses but not so stiff as to require excessive pressure to click. They also provide a nice, mechanical click when pressed, as do the two buttons behind the scroll wheel.

Aside from the arguably useless side panel buttons, there’s a lot to love about the Ouroboros. It’s definitely a contender to oust the Logitech G700s from my mouse mat. The Ouroboros is a little more comfortable, and though it has fewer buttons it generally has “enough”—which in my book is 3-5. (For most games, I typically use 3-5 mouse buttons for either macros or keystroke replacements.)

I also like the Ouroboros’ low profile, which I think is ergonomically a bit sounder than the taller Logitech G700s. You don’t have to arch your wrist as much with the Ouroboros. And generally speaking, the Ouroboros is certainly more adaptable to different grip types thanks to its physical configuration options and ambidextrous design. (The Logitech G700s can be a bit polarizing for some gamers—you either love it or hate it.)

Overall: 5/5 stars

Good ergonomic design, wireless freedom, and physical configurability all make the Ouroboros an outstanding gaming mouse. I love this mouse.

But there’s a “but” involved here. The Ouroboros, for all its star-fighter shaped sexy wireless awesomeness, commands a premium price: roughly $150+ (as of this writing). That puts it in line with the Mad Catz R.A.T. 9 wireless, but it’s also double that of that Logitech G700s (around $75).

All of them are wireless and offer their own unique advantages, so shop smart. (I smell a roundup or comparison coming soon). But rest assured an investment in the Ouroboros won’t be a disappointment.

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