If you think that manufacturers these days are really milking gamers’ willingness to pay good money for top-notch gaming accessories, then you’re not looking in the right spot for affordable ones. While it is true that the market is saturated with pricey peripherals, it’s also filled with economical options that don’t compromise on performance.
Take the Cougar Airblader, for example. This gaming mouse with a uniquely hollowed out design is lightweight in more ways than one, including price. However, it also delivers a hefty performance and is heavy on customizations, which makes it among one of the best gaming mice for the money. It certainly more than makes up for its unusual, beetle-esque look.
The Cougar Airblader is an easy recommendation to make, even to those who can afford a more premium one.
Cougar Airblader review: price and release date
A fairly new release, the Cougar Airblader hit the shelves on July 20, 2021, giving gamers another budget-friendly peripheral that can keep up with the latest and fastest PC games.
This wired offering will only set you back $40/£45/AU$59 and is now available for purchase globally.
Cougar Airblader review: design
The Cougar Airblader doesn’t look like any gaming mouse in the peripherals market. Well, it does, but it also doesn’t. The first thing you should know about this mouse is that it aims to be the most lightweight mouse out there. However, instead of going for the usual honeycomb design that most lightweight mice have, it presents its hollowed-out center in a much different way – with a floating palm rest. So, what you’re getting is a gaming mouse whose bottom half has cutaways on top, at the end and underneath – and something reminiscent of a beetle.
It’s certainly a unique approach, but it’s also a very effective one. The Airblader is just 62g (2.2oz) – that’s 8g lighter than the Mad Catz M.O.J.O. M1 that I’ve tested before and 11g lighter than the highly-rated Corsair Katar Pro XT. And measuring 11.5×6.4×3.8cm (4.6×2.5×1.5in), it’s only a tad smaller than these.
While there are even lighter options out there, this is still an impressive feat and more than enough to deliver gaming comfort to its users. Plus, I do love that bit of bounce its floating palm rest offers.
Because of its inherent design, it’s not a completely balanced mouse, with the front part being ever so slightly heavier. However, the difference is minuscule, and it’s so incredibly lightweight anyway, it hardly matters.
Other than the cutouts, the Airblader looks and feels like any other mouse. It has a standard gaming mouse layout with 6 buttons – a left, a right, the middle scroll wheel, the DPI, and two side buttons. While its side buttons are on the left, it does have an ambidextrous shape to it, which means lefties would find it comfortable to use. That is, as long as they’re okay using their ring and little fingers to press the side buttons. Palm grippers, on the other hand, might not find it that supportive, as this is geared more towards claw grip.
As cheap as it is, the Airblader might just last you a lifetime, utilizing mechanical switches and a middle wheel to last 50 million clicks and 2 million cycles, respectively. While we can’t exactly confirm those numbers, we can definitely attest that all the buttons feel solid. And, Cougar’s Bounce-On tension system beneath the left and right buttons allow them to offer just the right amount of resistance and satisfying feedback. Meanwhile, its matte finish keeps your fingers in place while keeping oily fingerprints at bay.
The “Ultraflex” braided cable, which isn’t detachable, is supposed to be very flexible with minimum drag. However, I have found it to be a little less so than advertised, even if it does have less drag. And, unfortunately, because it is a fixed cable, you don’t have the option to replace it if (or when) it gets frayed.
RGB fans will be disappointed here. There’s no RGB lighting on the mouse, nor is there an LED indicator for the DPI, which is more important for actual gaming use. Sadly, you won’t quickly know the DPI setting you’re on until you use it or go into the settings.
Cougar Airblader review: Performance
The Cougar Airblader is designed for competitive gaming, touting a DPI of up to 16,000 and a fairly impressive polling rate of 2,000Hz, which is 1,000Hz more than average. It also prides itself on its low-friction virgin-grade PTFE skates, though I found them to be just as reliable as the ones other well-performing gaming mice I’ve tested.
The speed is definitely there, however. When coupled with its light weight and PTFE skate pads makes the whole thing a very effective tool for fast-paced FPS games, just as it is great from MOBA and RTS titles. If you’re expecting very intense moments in your game, the ability to disable the DPI button – by holding it down for three seconds – is a nice touch to prevent accidental presses and ensuring that your DPI stays consistent throughout your session.
The Airblader is just as impressive in real-world scenarios as it is on paper. Testing it with Iron Harvest, I found the buttons to be extremely responsive and the mouse wheel very accurate when zooming in and out. It’s just as great in Doom Eternal, keeping up with my gestures – moving and turning as fast as my hand is to the extent that it almost felt like an extension of it – and registering every press I make, regardless of how quickly in succession I make them.
Its movements are just as fluid, fast and accurate in Cyberpunk 2077. And, thanks to its instantaneous snipe button feature, scoping out and shooting enemies is effortless. You just have to make sure to assign it first using the customization software.
Cougar Airblader review: software
Speaking of software, the Cougar UIX reflects the straightforward nature of the mouse, and is therefore very easy to use. This is despite being a bit finicky to install when you have anti-virus software installed.
It’s barebones, in a way, but full of customizations you’ll find very useful when personalizing the Cougar Airblader to suit your gaming needs. On it, you have access to several very customizable profiles as well as sliders and buttons to toggle and adjust things like the DPI, Polling Rate, and Angle Snapping. It’ll even let you set different DPI settings for the X and Y axes.
Finally, for macro fiends, there’s a whole section for remapping any of the six buttons and recording macros, which is a lot more than some pricier mice offer. Of course, remapping and creating macros is just as easy. You have the option to do basic, advanced, and macro assignments. It’s all very simple as you can simply drag and drop icons from the side menu into the slots on an image of the mouse. For macros, it accepts both keyboard and mouse presses as well as relative and absolute mouse coordinates. You can also add or remove delays, and have four different options for playback.
As a plus, any change you make using the software takes effect right away, making the whole process extremely convenient. Finally, there’s onboard memory, which I only realized it had when a macro I created on one computer carried on to a different one.
Cougar Airblader review: verdict
In all, there’s a lot to love here. The Cougar Airblader is cheap and it might not be what you’d call conventional in terms of design. It looks different from other ultra-lightweight gaming mice out there and doesn’t have RGB lighting. However, it doesn’t compromise on performance and it won’t leave you wanting in terms of customizations and software-related features. It’s actually feature-rich where it matters – improving your gaming performance. This one’s a win, even if it may not seem an outright obvious one.
Cougar Airblader review: Also consider
Luckily, if the Cougar Airblader gaming mouse isn’t quite to your liking, it isn’t the only economical gaming mouse out there.
Both the Corsair Katar Pro XT ($29/£34) and the Corsair Sabre RGB Pro Champion Series ($59/£49) prove to be excellent alternatives, and have their own advantages over the Cougar Airblader. As is the Logitech G305 Lightspeed ($49/£51) if you fancy a wireless option and want to stray from the usual black option.