Razer sent us a new box of some of their latest products to loan and review and we’re starting off with one of the most exciting pieces. The Black Widow Ultimate mechanical keyboard. We’ve used an older 2012 Black Widow keyboard for a couple of years now and can’t imagine going back to anything less – the mechanical ‘klack’ is just so satisfying and the bounce genuinely makes it a pleasure to type at high speeds. The new model features a fully illuminated keyboard, new switches and comes in at £124.99. That’s pricey for a keyboard but considering it’s one of the parts of your computer you’re going to interact with most, isn’t it worth spending that extra bit?
A long time ago we used to associate Razer with style over substance, inflated prices for showy hardware that couldn’t justify the cost. Since then Razer have really refined their offerings and their hardware is now some of the best you can buy. Ok it is still very showy, the Black Widow lights up in their trademark neon green, but you’re paying for much more than that. There are a plethora of mechanical keyboards out there and often they have a slightly DIY or custom-builder feel that means to get the most out of them you need to do a tonne of research and if you want hands-on you need to track down some increasingly rare specialist shops (bearing in mind there are now zero specialist gaming hardware shops in London). With the Black Widow you’re getting something that has been crafted with years of experience for gaming.
The switches are the most important part of any mechanical keyboard and this is where Razer are almost right on the money. They are surprisingly stiff and noisy (quieter ones are available with the Black Widow Ultimate Stealth) but this means accidental key presses are a thing of the past. It fully supports multiple key presses at once and the keys are spaced out just enough that your fingers can find the keys easily when touch typing but you never slip onto the wrong one accidentally. Five macro keys are placed along the left side which are incredibly handy when games you play (such as MMOs or RTS games) require some complex keyboard commands that you use often, and they are all within reach of the little finger of your left hand. Compared to the old Black Widow the new switches seem to have a slightly more cushioned feel to them, so they’re a little less harsh and the sound is ever so slightly more muted. The keys are also an unusual slightly soft and textured plastic that feel expensive and solid. Supposedly the keys have been tested to withstand at least 60 million keystrokes, so even if you plan on pressing the same key once a second for the next couple of years you should be fine.
A feature that’s sorely missing from some other gaming keyboards is a passthrough USB port. This is incredibly useful to avoid cable mess if you want to plug your mouse or headset into it and there’s also audio ports if you need to use those. The fact that the USB port is simply a passthrough means there’s no problems with power or anything like that, any device should work fine with it (although our PC wouldn’t recognise a Razer headset when using this port for some reason, everything else works fine).
The software that comes with Razer products has also been a bugbear for some but Razer Synapse is updated regularly now and to be honest we’ve had very few problems with it at all. It’s an excellent low maintenance little program that lets you easily set the macros on the keyboard and change how bright the lights are (or even turn them off completely). There’s also a clever little toggle to make it so when your main display is turned off the keyboard lights go off too. Good for people who leave their PC running overnight but don’t want to be bathed in the green Razer glow.
There have been a couple of problems with this keyboard but as with any hardware it’s hard to tell if it’s due to this particular unit ( a review unit that will have been used by others before use) or if it’s a problem with the range. At the moment the ‘8’ key tends to double press, implying there’s something slightly wrong with the switch. The material used for the surround to the keyboard is also prone to pick up any grease you might have on your hands at all, leaving black marks that can be rubbed off but look a little unsightly.
All in all we’d be happy to recommend this keyboard to any serious gamer, or even anyone who uses their computer a lot and enjoys the aesthetic of Razer. It’s not the biggest upgrade from the old Black Widow but the switches do feel a little softer and the illuminated keyboard is more than a gimmick if you play games in a darkened room. The macro keys are a huge positive for this thing, we even have whole text strings programmed in for things that we need to type out often. If you haven’t tried a mechanical keyboard yet and you can afford £124.99 for one, then we say go for it, you won’t be disappointed.