Improve your Mac gaming with Razer's Kraken Pro headset and Taipan mouse

If you like to game on your Mac, you probably want any extra edge you can find to improve your gaming performance. A good headset and a precision mouse are key to a good gaming experience, which is why I've been using Razer's Kraken headset and Taipan gaming mouse.

Kraken Pro

Razer Kraken Pro headset

"Kraken" is a range of gaming headsets made by Razer. The particular model I tested is the Kraken Pro. Available in white, black or green, the Kraken Pro sports a few features that make it a terrific option not only for gamers but for anyone looking for a flexible pair of cans to wear while listening to music, gaming and chatting online.

The cups are large and comfortable; inside are 40 mm neodymium drivers. The band is padded, comfortable and well-balanced for long-term wear. When you need to travel the cups fold into the band for maximum portability as well.

The Kraken Pro features a cleverly-designed retractable microphone — when it's extended, a flexible boom lets you position it wherever is comfortable, but simply pushing on it makes it go back inside the left earcup. That way you don't look like an air traffic controller when you're walking around outside.

Razer has cleverly designed the Kraken Pro to support both PCs with discrete headphone/microphone jacks, Macs and mobile devices, which use a combined headphone/microphone input. The headphone cable terminates at a right-angle plug with a four-conductor (TRRS) connector; a splitter is included to break out microphone input and headphone output to computers with discrete connectors. This way the Kraken Pro works equally well on a Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch - all your bases are covered.

The Kraken is incredibly comfortable. Lightweight and with big enough cups that I don't feel like my ears are being suffocated — a problem I've had with a lot of closed earphones over the years.

Audio quality is good, but like many headsets these days, the Kraken Pro emphasizes heavy bass reproduction over balanced sound. This is great in gaming and even adds some oomph for online chat, but it's less than ideal if you're looking for accurate music reproduction.

The closed design helps to isolate you from outside distractions without any noise-canceling trickery (and conversely, helps to isolate the outside world from your game noise).

The Good

  • Works great on Macs, mobile devices and PCs alike
  • Retractable mic keeps you looking like a dork
  • Different colors
  • Very comfortable

The Bad

  • Bass-heavy

The Bottom Line

A good choice for both gaming and Skype, the Kraken Pro is a comfortable headset that has booming sound, looks great and is supremely comfortable to wear for long periods. The retractable mic is my favorite feature; this way I can wear the cups while outside or commuting without looking silly with a mic hanging over my face.


Razer Taipan gaming mouse

The Taipan – which comes in either white or black – is an ambidextrous USB mouse, so if you're a lefty you're in luck. The optical sensor inside the mouse sports 8200 dot per inch resolution, which lends itself to extreme precision placement — just what you need when the slightest movement means the difference between in-game life or death.

It's an extremely well-balanced mouse that works well regardless of your hand style. Some gamers prefer a claw grip, while other prefer to rest their palm against the mouse. Still others maintain a light fingertip touch on the mouse. The Taipan is well suited to all of them, thanks to a combination of its high arc design, great balance and material composition. It sports nine programmable buttons in total and has a click wheel that illuminates (white on the white mouse, green on the black version).

Razer is one of the few game peripheral makers that takes the Mac as seriously as Windows, so you'll find custom drivers available for the Taipan along with online cloud support. You can customize your mouse settings extensively (really, exhaustively), then upload those settings to the cloud so you can use them wherever and whenever you need them.

The drivers are really something else. There's barely an aspect of mouse control you don't have total control of here - not only can you program individual buttons, but you can program very complex macros to execute an entire sequence of commands with a single button click. You can program sensitivity by dots per inch, acceleration and polling rate; you can even program the lighting on the mouse (turn the scrollwheel light on but leave the logo light off, for example).

The drivers also provide you with surface calibration, my favorite feature. If you've ever lifted your mouse off a desktop to reposition it, only to find the cursor jittering or moving while you're doing it, you know it can be frustrating when you're in game and all of a sudden you lose your target. Surface calibration compensates for that by cutting off tracking as soon as the mouse senses it's moved from that surface.

Of course, the Taipan is a great mouse even if you're not a gamer. It's an extraordinarily precise mouse, and works great with OS X's drivers, though you're obviously missing out on a lot of its capabilities if you're not using it for gaming and not using the Razer Synapse software downloadable from Razer's web site.

The Good

  • Surface calibration helps stop lift-off jitter
  • Cloud-based settings and game profiles
  • Ambidextrous design

The bad

  • Nothing of consequence

The Bottom Line

Razer's Taipan is a no-compromises gaming mouse from a company that's been making no-compromises gaming mice for 15 years. It's a comfortable, dextrous and extensively programmable mouse with some of the most sophisticated driver software I've ever seen in a Mac-compatible mouse. I don't promise that it'll improve your gaming, but if you use it to its full potential, it should.

$63.99 - Buy now

Peter Cohen