I’ve been meaning to do this ever since I got my greasy fat little hands on it, namely review the Razer BlackWidow gaming keyboard. I’ve gotten to play with it for exactly a week now and I can safely say that I’ve come to love it while the part of the population which doesn’t sit with headphones on in my house, has grown to hate it. But more on that later on!
Razer has been around for quite some time now and although I don’t necessarily enjoyed all their products, some of them I even grown to hate, they do get things right every once in a while. Now the question of course would be – did they get the BlackWidow right?
As someone who spends roughly 10-12-18 hours a day in front of the computer, there are a number of things I consider when purchasing new gadgets or hardware to have around the house. Price is of course an issue, but for roughly $80 the Razer BlackWidow is as far as I know the cheapest mechanical keyboard you can buy (new that is). Moving past that, let’s get down and dirty with the review of this thing.
As with all Razer products, the BlackWidow came in a box which looked like it could take the full blown wrath of a woman who has been cheated on and if you thought of using a nuclear weapon you obviously haven’t seen a pissed off woman before. BUT, moving on past this somewhat successful metaphor and looking at the packaging itself – it’s a box.
Moving past the well know black and green design of Razer boxes and their excessive use of the company’s logo, inside the box you’ll find the keyboard. There is no chance of your precious mechanical baby suffering any form of damage as the keyboard is protected well within that box. Even if you rough it around and throw it around, the keyboard will remain well protected.
Inside all of this you’ll find a manual, a product certificate of authenticity, advanced user guide and another small booklet which contains some images and descriptions for other Razer products. All in all, you get anything you could basically need and on top of that you’ll also find a couple of stickers. No installation CD/DVD or any of the sorts, since you can download the drivers, firmware updates as well as the Razer BlackWidow software directly from Razer.
Some might night like that choice but personally I prefer it seeing as I don’t even have an optical drive setup in my PC at this time. No CD? No problem!
Razer BlackWidow – click click click!
Once you take the keyboard out from this bank security level box you’ll be greeted by an all-black keyboard. The glossy finish looks good, but the problem with glossy finish in general is that it reveals even the smallest of smudges while at the same time being a true dust magnet. If you don’t like that or in case you wish to keep your keyboard clean for as long as possible – don’t go for this one. It’s a real hassle to keep it clean.
Moving on, the layout is pretty standard and I personally enjoyed the slight slope the keyboard has to its keys making typing a real pleasure (a dirty, noise, sweaty… pleasure). The only difference between this keyboard and a good portion of mechanical keyboards out there is the presence of macro keys. There are 5 macro keys on the left of the keyboard and the other esthetic difference is that the Caps Lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock LEDS are hidden under the glossy finish. This means that when they are turned off you won’t know anything is there.
The keyboard comes at a very pleasant angle and I can say that I haven’t been forced to use the little legs of the keyboard to raise it at any point. However even those come with a nice rubberized finish making this one hell of stable keyboard. The weight of the Razer BlackWidow is also a great help as the keyboard itself is pretty hefty, meaning this baby will stay on your desk irrespective of the abuse you subject it to. However, I don’t feel as comfortable punching it as I did with the Steelseries 6Gv2 which seems sturdier.
For those living in a cave, the Razer BlackWidow is an excellent keyboard mainly because of its mechanical key switches. Razer employed Cherry MX Blue switches in the BlackWidow and boy can you tell. The click and the tactile feedback offered by these switches is simply excellent, but we’ll get to that as well.
In order to test the Razer BlackWidow I set up a few “controlled” environments and some comparisons to see if the keyboard was worth the money of if you’d be better off with a $10 rubber dome keyboard. As a quick fact, since last week I have gathered a total of 378,723 key presses and I can safely say that the keyboard is working like a charm.
No matter how much work I had to do, the Razer BlackWidow delivered excellent tactile feedback and excellent typing position for my hands. Using Tipp10 I have also run a couple of tests to see how my typing speed matches up. The test employed was the first test of the application which focuses on developing touch typing skills starting with the “asdf jkl;” keys and topped it off with another 5 minute test for all the keys.
These tests consisted of 5 runs on each of these 2 tests, to get a decent average. I used a simple rubber dome keyboard for comparison, the Logitech Media Keyboard 600 and of course, the Razer BlackWidow. The testing conditions for as follows:
– Time limit – 5 minutes
– Block typing Errors
– Correction with Backspace
– Show keyboard OFF
– Instructions OFF
The best result for the rubber dome keyboard was 271 cpm for the first test and 250 cpm for the free lesson (in case you were wondering which one, it’s the first one, Animals). This is also partly because it’s the keyboard I’ve been using for a while now since it’s rather quiet so it won’t be disturbing any of my oh-so-sensitive “neighbors”.
Now the best results for the Razer BlackWidow surprised me even more. I did these tests at 1 week difference between them so I wouldn’t have the opportunity to like memorize any sequences of characters or anything of the sorts. In the first test I managed to reach 298 cpm with a smaller error rate while the second test got me up to 333 cpm for the Animals free lesson.
The result shows both the fact that despite using the Logitech for 4-5 months now, the Razer BlackWidow with its Cherry MX Blue key switches managed to grab the front-row in this one. But we are dealing with a mechanical keyboard here designed for gaming. Now in order to get a solid grasp, this is what the Razer BlackWidow specs tell us:
– Full mechanical keys with 50g actuation force
– 1000Hz Ultrapolling / 1ms response time
– Programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording
– Gaming mode option for deactivation of the Windows key
– 10 customizable software profiles with on-the-fly switching
– 5 additional macro keys
– Gaming optimized key matrix for minimized ghosting
– Multi-Media controls
– Braided cable
– Approximate Size : 475 mm / 18.70” (Width) x 171 mm / 6.73” (Height) x 20 mm / 0.79” (Depth)
– Approximate Weight: 1400 g / 3.09 lbs
We’ve went already over the mechanical key aspect and typing, the 1ms response time is “hard to test”. The on-the-fly macro recording will allow you to record macros on the fly (I feel like I’m repeating myself) and this should be absolutely no problem if you’ve finished setting up the drivers for the keyboard. There is also a game mode to deactivate the Windows key, however, I feel that it’s rather unnecessary since most games already include that option, with Starcraft 2 going as far as even disabling ALT+Tab.
The 10 profiles should provide plenty of customization and with the additional 5 macro keys you should be fine in raids or in any strategy title. Some shooters might allow you to use the macro keys to keep your previous setting stored in form of configuration files, but I won’t dive into that.
Now the gaming optimized key matrix is the one which intrigued me quite a lot. In order to see how well the Razer BlackWidow does in games I went through exactly 3 tests. The first one was for Starcraft 2, the second one for Counter Strike 1.6 (because I’m old and I don’t like graphics which make me feel in a realisticenvironment) and last but not least League of Legends.
Starcraft 2 is a true endurance test for any keyboard really, as during a “slow” game I averaged around 8,000 key presses. This meant that at any point of delay at any point in which information would not be sent, I could lose units or the game. I did lose (and plenty of games at that) but for not one second did I blame the Razer BlackWidow, but rather my lack of skill. Despite being as awesome as I am, the keyboard will not get you into that GrandMaster league! BUT RAZER! YOU SAID THAT PROS USE IT! WHY AM I NOT PRO YET!?!?
Moving on with this small test, the second game was Counter Strike where I did get the chance to play around with the macro keys. I didn’t use those in SC2 mainly because I am already accustomed to setting up my own shortcuts as I please and its part of my early game routine. Getting to actually use the macro keys would be annoying at best. In CS I played for about 3-4 hours and even at the most intense moments, during the most complicated maneuvers (like strafe left or strafe right) the keyboard kept up with me.
The keyboard behaved excellently offering great feedback at all times and I didn’t get any issues in this regard with the BlackWidow.
Last but not least, we had League of Legends and although I have been using the game rather to see how a mouse moves and acts, I went for a couple of “faster” heroes to see how the 1-6 keys would handle items which can be activated, to see how spamming Q/W/E/R would affect the keyboard and if I didn’t drink my pot (you’re drinking it these days apparently) or activate any items. However, I was disappointed, hoping that after Starcraft 2, LoL could best the BlackWidow. The keyboard passed and in a blaze of glory even.
The only test which the keyboard did fail was to see how many key presses the keyboard would register. The keyboard did fail the “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” test in which you keep both Shift keys pressed down and type said phrase. The only keyboard I’ve gotten the chance to play with and managed to type that one out was the SteelSeries 6Gv2. But unless you plan on pressing 20 keys at once all of the time I think you will be just fine.
It’s time to finalize this Razer BlackWidow review with a quick look back on what I just rambled about earlier. In terms of typing a mechanical keyboard will always be better than its rubber dome equivalent, both in terms of feel, stress on your fingers as well as life expectancy. Seeing as mechanical keyboards are good for roughly 50,000,000 keystrokes, compared to the 500,000 of average rubber dome keyboards.
Gaming was a blaze, the layout is familiar and you can easily reach all the keys (if you have stretchy fingers) and the overall setup seems solid and well put together. At 1.4Kgs it isn’t what you would call light but we all know “Heavy means it’s reliable. If it doesn’t work you can always hit him with it” (Snatch!).
So, apart from the missed fox test and the fact that the added macro keys can be of use to some but useless to others, despite the glossy finish which will make even photographing the damned thing hard, I do recommend the BlackWidow in this price range. There are better build alternatives, but seeing as pricing for those does go up quickly, for $80 this baby is a steal. If you are worried about the noise done by the Cherry MX Blue switches, you might want to check out the Stealth version of the keyboard or go for one with Cherry MX Black switches or even Reds (Meka G1, Zibal 60, 7G and so on).
Rating – 8/10!