When it comes to specific gaming PC peripherals, there are two camps; those who think that the regular, non-fancy hardware gets the job done, and those who need the absolute best. This year’s version on Razer’s Blackwidow Ultimate keyboard is definitely for the latter, but it would be hard to call it an innovation.
The Razer Blackwidow is immediately recognisable. The trademark keyboard from Razer has been around for ages, with each year bringing a few refinements and adjustments to the table. The “Ultimate” suffix at the end just means that there’s a little more flair to the real hardware that you’re paying for, such as fancy green backlighting that is almost required in my taste for keyboards. The Blackwidow for this year has subtle, small changes that will only really make a difference to the hardcore online gamers.
On the surface, the Blackwidow 2014 is near identical. It’s a big, black piece of plastic that is more at home on a desk where it never needs to move. It also comes with an assortment of connection cables, which help power the keyboard and give it a few extra capabilities. You’ll be able to connect a USB and even headphones to the Blackwidow, something which has been a staple in the range for a while now. Despite the size, the elevated structure of the keyboard is extremely comfortable to use. There’s no palm rest, but that doesn’t really matter when your fingers feel at home as soon as they touch the surface of the keys.
As I’ve said, the Blackwidow is a large but comfortable keyboard. It’s comes packaged with a 10-key numpad and an additional row of Macro keys down the left hand side, with all the keys on the obese side. It’s takes a while to get used to, but once you’ve used it for a few minutes you’ll never want to go back to anything else. I’ve used my fair share of keyboards over the years, but the Blackwidow is by far the most comfortable I’ve ever used. I even think it helped with some of my nasty typo habits. (Ed’s note: Nope, it didn’t)
One thing that may take a bit more getting used to though is the noise. I’ve never used a mechanical keyboard before this, but I’ve always known that they’re far louder pieces of hardware thanks to the fully mechanical switches. That being said, nearly every keystroke on the Blackwidow sounds like a gunshot. You could opt for the quieter, slightly pricier Stealth Edition, but after a day or two I really didn’t mind the sound, and neither did those working close to me. It’s different, but the benefits of having mechanical switches is worth it. At least it is for the hardcore crowd.
Mechanical switches have faster response times and give you an edge in online games. Most mechanical keyboards go for the now popular Cherry MX mechanical switches, but even Razer isn’t completely satisfied with their performance. Instead of re-inventing the wheel though, Razer has decided to just tweak what already works quite well, creating their own brand of Razer Green switches. These aren’t meant to help your typing speed and words per minute, but rather make each and every click a little faster.
These new green switches are what set this year’s edition apart from last year’s. Razer’s own brand have a much shorter actuation, meaning that the take a shorter time to actually trigger a keystroke and return back up again. It’s a minute change that will go unnoticed on the regular gamer, but for those where a split second means the difference between victory and defeat it’s definitely important. It’s a switch Razer will probably stick with on future Blackwidow keyboards as well, but unless you’re competing in some seriously important eSports you’ll never actually need it.
What you will probably get out of them is durability. Regular Cherry MX switches are rated for around 50 million keystrokes. That’s an insane figure that you’ll probably never reach, but Razer wanted to make sure that you’d have some headroom if you ever did. That’s why their Green switches are rated for 60 million keystrokes, adding a bit more life to your keyboard should you ever use it that much. Unlikely, but it’s still there if you need it.
Funnily enough, the best part about the Blackwidow almost has nothing to do with the hardware itself. This year’s Blackwidow comes with Razer’s Synapse 2.0 software, allowing you to truly cater the keyboard to your every need. There might only be a limited number of dedicated macro keys on the keyboard itself, but literally every key is able to store a macro command using this software. Better yet, you’re able to store profiles for different games on your PC or in the cloud as well, with each profile launching as soon as you start a specific title. It gives the Blackwidow a whole new sense of flexibility, perfect for the gamer who has many different gaming needs.
There’s also other less useful features, such as setting the backlight to pulsate and ensure your descent into madness shortly after. You can customise the keyboard’s brightness to match certain saved profiles, but I found that I kept this setting at the same number for nearly every application. The green lighting makes the keyboard look stunning, but I was surprised that the alternate functions of keys were made completely opaque. That made finding a hashtag or percentage sign a bit confusing in the dark, something which would have been no issue if they had been a little transparent.
The Razer Blackwidow Ultimate is an expensive keyboard, retailing at close to R1800 at most places. The regular, non-ultimate version is a lot less but also sacrifices some of the smaller details such as backlighting. There isn’t any major reason to upgrade to this year’s version should you have last year’s blue Cherry MX switch model unless milliseconds matter to you. However, this is a solid, durable and comfortable keyboard that will gladly server you for years to come. If you’ve been looking for a reason to upgrade your old keyboard and want something that balances style, utility and purpose, then look no further.
Last Updated: August 25, 2014