It’s a spider don’t you know
The Razer Arctosa is one of the more affordable products in Razer’s keyboard range. It’s not mechanical, it doesn’t light up in fancy ways and there’s really only the standard set of keys as well as a media control panel in the top right. In the advertising blurb the phrase ‘gaming 101’ comes up again and again, referring to the fact that this is simply a gaming keyboard, you’re not wasting money on bells and whistles that you’ll never use, but is it worth the £60 RRP (although you can find it for £40 without too much trouble now online)? Razer sent us a sample so we could find out.
The key selling points of the Arctosa are its weight and slim profile. At around half the depth of our Black Widow mechanical keyboard, it’s certainly slim and the keys barely move at all, it’s similar to a laptop keyboard in that sense, with just enough of a difference in height on a keypress to let you know you’ve hit something but no satisfying click. Indeed since the switches aren’t mechanical there’s no satisfying click except for the flex of the space bar. This could be a blessing for some people as it means the keyboard is much quieter than many competitors, but they keys feel spongey and cheap, with the plastic used to make the entire thing coming across as much lower wuality than the premium you expect (and are paying for) with Razer products. The whole keyboard is incredibly light and feels as though you could snap it in half with your hands if you tried, but this lightness means that it is extremely portable for a full-size keyboard, ideal if you’re shoving it into your bag to head off to a LAN party. The wrist rest at the bottom is detachable so that cuts the form factor down even further.
Another bullet point on the front of the box is the ‘hyperresponse’ technology that supposedly lets it register your key presses with a 1ms response time. While that definitely sounds like something you’d want in a gaming keyboard, not many keyboards have a noticable response time that would have a detrimental effect on your game playing. Your TV is likely to have a much higher delay, with the very best coming in at around 8ms, so an extra 1ms or so is unlikely to have an effect that you could observe. Certainly while typing and playing Starcraft 2 it feels much the same as any other keyboard in terms of response, there is no delay but then there hasn’t been on any of the other keyboards we’ve used.
There is anti-ghosting but unfortunately it’s just around the WASD keys. Ghosting is when a second or third or fourth key press isn’t registered because of the way some keyboards work. By having each of these keys on their own circuit they can make sure no matter how many keys you are pressing at once, they all register. This works as is one of the few tangible benefits of this keyboard over a cheaper non-gaming model, but higher end keyboards (and many of the same price) have this for every key. If you’re used to playing RTS, MMO or MOBA games you might be using a lot of the number keys too and they aren’t covered by this anti-ghosting.
The media control panel is a gimmick that features on many keyboards but rarely gets used. It is nice to be able to press pause or change the volume from your keyboard, but occasionally it doesn’t work and it’s too easy to forget that it’s there at all. On our testing machine running Windows 8 none of the buttons actually worked, and with out past experiences with the Lycosa we had the same issue intermittently. It could be a nice feature to have but is definitely not worth paying a premium for.
There are macro programmable keys but these are relegated to a combination of the razer button (on the top right of the keyboard on the media panel) and F1 keys. This ridiculous stretch makes them all but useless for gaming, instead finding use as shortcuts to open programs or for blocks of text that you type out regularly.
The USB cable is a typical rubber cable rather than the threaded nylon ones you get on the mechanical models. IF you are likely to be packing it up regularly be careful as these cables can easily start to fatigue and break, particularly if you wrap them around the keyboard or coil them up.
The biggest problem we have with this keyboard are the keys themselves. We could forgive the spongey feel and the low profile as an exchange for being extremely quiet and light but the biggest problem is that the letters on the keys are printed in black on to black keys. There is a difference in texture, with the key letters being glossy and the keys themselves being matte, but that requires them to catch the light for you to see which one is which. When typing out an article, that’s not a problem but when playing a game many of us still need to be able to see the keys, particularly when playing something new. If you’re playing in the dark, it’s almost impossible to see. Matters aren’t helped by the num lock, caps lock and scroll lock lights that shine an extremely bright white, hindering you even further when you’re trying to work out which key is which.
For the money you can get much better keyboards than this that are much more suitable for gaming. If you’re willing to splash out a little bit more you can get a good quality mechanical keyboard and enter a whole new world of excellent peripherals. Razer’s own mechanical keyboards are absolutely excellent, but it’s best to stay away from the cheaper products as they are only cheap in relative terms. Compared to competitors they are very expensive for what you are getting. If you are looking for something highly portable and quiet, then try to find one on sale, if you want something of a decent build quality with useful macros and better key presses, you’ll need to look elsewhere.