When Razer finds an idea people like, it grabs hold and doesn’t let go. Case in point: Its newest gaming mouse, the $39.99 Viper Mini, is Razer’s third variation of the esports mouse that launched in the summer of 2019. Despite the name, the Viper Mini is not simply a shrunk-down version of the Razer Viper. Yes, it cuts down the size, but it also strips down the specs with a less powerful sensor and cuts back certain features, like the second set of side buttons that make the Viper an ambidextrous mouse, to minimize its weight and its price. In doing so, the Viper Mini narrows its appeal to a subset of competitive players who may appreciate those tradeoffs, but loses the features that made the original stand out in the first place.
Viper’s Got Claws?
At 1.3 by 2.4 by 4.6 inches, the Viper Mini is smaller than its predecessor, though not as much as you might assume. The original Viper measures 1.5 by 2.6 by 5 inches, so the width and height are actually very similar. More than anything, it’s stubbier than the Viper and you can feel that when you hold it.
When I reviewed the original Viper last year, I noted that it had an incredibly comfortable shape—it’s one of the few ambidextrous mice that I, a right-handed palm player, feel no reservations about using. While the Viper Mini retains an approximation of that shape, the truncated base makes it less comfortable to hold. Holding it palm style, the base of my hand tends to sag down and drag behind the mouse.
A mouse this small is made to accommodate claw- and fingertip-style players. These styles, where players engage with the mouse using only their fingertips, benefit from a physically smaller device, because that makes it easier to push the mouse and make precise adjustments using only your fingers rather than your whole hand and arm. For those players, closely spaced buttons and low weight become more important than shape, because their stance negates the mouse’s potential ergonomic benefits. As we’ve seen in a couple of cases, like Cooler Master’s MM710, some manufacturers’ desire to minimize weight has led them to compromise the mouse’s broader utility to cater to a specific style of play.
Personally, I think it’s a flaw. Yes, that’s partially because I play palm. More important, there isn’t any indication in the name or design that specifies that the mouse is made for a specific style (or not made for one). Many players will see the Viper Mini online and buy it over the standard Viper because it’s only half the cost, only to find it doesn’t suit their needs.
It doesn’t help that the Viper Mini feels like a stripped-down version of its larger brother. It sports a standard six-button design: two clicks, a scroll wheel, and a small DPI preset switch on top, rather than underneath. Unlike the Viper and Viper Ultimate, the Viper Mini is a right-handed mouse, so there are two side macros on the left side, but not the right. I’ve seen other vendors make ambidextrous shells without macros on one side in order to ship the lightest design possible. It’s never a good idea—it’s the worst of both worlds, and not worth the small amount of weight it drops—but it’s especially problematic since the Viper is known as an ambidextrous line (and the Mini’s box claims it has an “ambidextrous design”).
At least the diet works—at 2.01 ounces, the Viper Mini is incredibly light, in fact the lightest mouse I’ve ever used. That’s a huge get for claw and fingertip players, for whom lower weight translates to mobility. For palm players like myself, for whom the mouse is an extension of your arm, the difference is noticeable and even novel, but the Mini is arguably lighter than you really need.
Like its predecessors, the Viper Mini uses optical switches that Razer claims should add durability and allow click signals to pass more rapidly by eliminating debounce delay. According to Razer, the Mini’s switches are rated to last through 50 million clicks, which is good but substantially less than the 70 million clicks of the Viper and Viper Ultimate.
The Viper Mini’s sensor is also a sizable (if reasonable) step down from the original. The proprietary optical sensor tracks at up to 8,500dpi and maintains accuracy at up to 300 inches per second. That’s down from the 16,000dpi and 450ips of the first Viper. Though that’s a big gap, the Mini’s specs are actually quite good relative to other under-$50 mice.
There is one thing about the Viper Mini that’s undeniably improved: the lighting! In addition to the illuminated Razer logo in the palm, the Viper Mini adds a curved “underglow” light bar beneath the back of the mouse. Of course, it doesn’t make the mouse more effective, but it’s nice to have at least a little RGB you’ll actually see while playing.
All Synapses Slithering
Like all Razer products, the Viper Mini supports the company’s very polished configuration software, Razer Synapse. Synapse is simple and easy to use, especially with uncomplicated mice like the Mini. You can easily create configuration profiles and macros, customize the five DPI presets, and set custom lighting. The mouse can store a single profile in onboard storage. While that’s less than I’d prefer, it’s realistically sufficient for a budget esports mouse.
The Viper Mini’s bargain price would be a good thing if it were a way to get the quality of the original Viper to more people. Unfortunately, the stubbier shape and asymmetrical side buttons mean that this mouse is really just for claw and fingertip players. If you play those styles, the Viper Mini is extremely light, which should make it easier to maneuver quickly. If not, it’s not painful to use, but it isn’t nearly as comfortable as the standard Viper.
Meanwhile, there are a number of strong competitive mice for left- and right-handed palm-style players in more or less the same price range, such as the Glorious Model D (right-handed) and Model O (ambidextrous). Compared to them, the Viper Mini underwhelms.