The hardware is all as it should be, but a few cosmetic design flaws put this keyboard with potential down on the typing and gaming food chain.
Razer is known for its top-of-the-line gaming products, with the tagline, ‘For Gamers. By Gamers.’ Compared to earlier offerings from Razer, the BlackWidow Ultimate makes us believe all the gamers at Razer went on holiday while they drew up the plans for this one.
Mechanical, tactile keys provide quick response with a 1ms response time thanks to 1000Hz ‘Ultrapolling’ along with that gorgeous, mechanical click sound on every key press that was designed just for keyboard fetishists. Type on a normal keyboard before trying out the BlackWidow and you’ll understand…
The glossy black finish with mat-black keys lined with blue backlighting that can be switched between five levels of brightness make this a visually pleasing piece of work, but there are a few less appealing design traits. While the main keys are all lit up, the secondary Shift+ keys like brackets, dollar signs, etc, don’t light up. On the converse, they’re inked on in a gray colour that makes them a mission to read – and don’t even bother trying in the dark. Add to this the subtle mind-screw of swapping the orientation of the number keys and their Shift+ functions and this keyboard is sure to make you gradually go insane without even realising why.
Razer have packed in the features for gamers, including handy USB and audio/mic jacks onto the right side of the keyboard so that you don’t have to go fishing around the back of your tower looking for the headphone-in slot every time you want to switch between speakers and earphones. Since most people use their mouse in their right hand, you’d want to make sure you use the keyboard on a wide desk before using these haphazardly positioned ports though. More important, though, are the macro functions.
Just to add more keys to the fire, the function button that turns the F- keys into media-friendly macros is placed awkwardly on the right side of the keypad while the macros start on the top left hand corner. What this means is that you’ll need a gigantic hand or need to use two at a time to press stop, fast forward or mute. The gaming button for switching to gaming mode is in convenient placement to make the one handed manoeuvre simple at least. F- keys placed extra close together rather than bundled clearly in groups of four as is the norm tend to make things confusing if you don’t compulsively use the F- keys and know them off-by-heart.
For a premium-priced gaming keyboard, the lack of a screen to display context sensitive info or CPU info is a bit of a drag, especially considering competitors like the Logitech G15 feature one at the same price point. Also, having only five extra macro-friendly keys on the left side of the keyboard might not feel like enough for the macro-keen like WoW players. If you’re not a big macro hotkey fan like myself, you might find that occasionally pressing one of the extra keys instead of Ctrl or Esc just gets annoying.
While the multiple levels of lighting makes a very convenient additive (though the pulsing option is a little pointless), not being able to highlight certain keys or macros that you can program is a pretty big flaw for what is supposed to be the top edition of Razer’s gaming keyboard range. Really Razer? Not even a WASD configuration? Even the Razer Lycosa has that option at $120 cheaper.
Besides that, the programmable macros and hotkeys that you can configure on the fly with the macro/ALT key makes in-game configuration a breeze once you get the hang of it, and Razer’s simple software for setting it up pre-game-time is even easier.
At $200 for this self-proclaimed “Ultimate” gaming keyboard, this attractive piece just isn’t worth the price tag. Even if it was cheaper though, the awkward re-arranging of key labels and lack of features outside of enhanced macro support fail this keyboard – even if all you want to do is type.