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Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 Keyboard, Hands On

Although Razer has been trying to vary its keyboard line with the Chroma X series of top plate-designed keyboards, it hasn’t forgotten about its previous designs in the BlackWidow Chroma series. To wit, the company announced the BlackWidow Chroma V2, which, like Corsair’s new K95 Platinum RGB, is a variation on a flagship.

What’s New

We previously reviewed the BlackWidow Chroma, and you can see that the Chroma V2 is strikingly similar. The chassis is the same, with a top panel covering the switches and backplate, but the right-side passthrough ports are slightly different: The Chroma has one USB passthrough port and two audio passthroughs, whereas the Chroma V2 has one of each.

The Chroma V2 also comes with the wrist rest we first saw on the Razer Ornata keyboard. It attaches to the keyboard magnetically, and it has a big, soft cushion. The magnet remains a bit weak in our opinion, and although it easily attaches to the Chroma V2, it doesn’t snap into place horizontally--you have to be sure you have it lined up correctly left to right. The design does, however, make it incredibly swift and simple to pop the wrist rest on or off. The cushion feels like a bit much--it stands in contrast to the flatter and firmer rubberized wrist rests you typically find on keyboards--but certainly some people will be glad for the extra squishiness.

A quick glance at both keyboards reveals that on the Chroma V2, Razer abandoned the old chunky key cap font for the more svelte font that it’s been using for the BlackWidow X keyboards and Razer Blade laptops.

The new Chroma V2 also has a slightly altered top-right indicator panel. Instead of being seamlessly integrated with the top panel, it’s now set off by a shiny plastic insert, as on the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate (2016).

The BlackWidow Chroma V2 does not, however, have a new bottom row; it’s still an oddball layout, as before, and it still uses Costar-like stabilizers under the wider keys.

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A New Switch Option

The most notable change to the BlackWidow Chroma V2 is the option of a new switch, the Razer Yellow. It’s a linear switch, similar to the Cherry MX Red and MX Speed switches (more the latter than the former, in fact), and it serves to round out the company’s other two desktop mechanical switch options, the clicky Green switch and the quieter but still tactile Orange switch.

Presumably, the Yellow switch option will be in place for any subsequent Razer keyboards. For now, you can configure the Chroma V2 with the Yellow switches, Green switches, or Orange switches.

Razer has yet to distribute any Yellow switch models that we're aware of. The one we have on hand has Orange switches, and we had just a few minutes to press on Yellow switches at a CES meeting, so we can't comment much on the feel of the Yellow switches just yet.

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On Iteration, Stagnation, Innovation

Other than the above, you can pretty much take our BlackWidow Chroma review and copy/paste.

That isn’t necessary a bad thing. As we noted in our hands-on of the Corsair K95 Platinum RGB, if you’re on top, there’s little reason to mess with what works, and Razer and Corsair are currently doing quite well in the mechanical gaming keyboard market. However, if one rests on one’s laurels, one becomes vulnerable to threats from upstart innovators.

Razer, for its part, seems keenly aware that it must keep moving. While it sells a merely iterative version of its flagship keyboard, it also built a whole new switch for its launch. Granted, Razer is arguably many years late in producing a linear switch, but it’s important to remember, as we noted, that the Yellow switch is really a competitor to the linear Cherry MX Speed switch more than the linear Red switch. The former actually may be quietly gaining traction over the latter, as evidenced by Razer’s investment and the fact that Corsair’s new flagship comes with either Speed switches or Cherry MX Browns, with no Red option at all.  

Further, Razer is playing in the not-quite-mechanical space with the Mecha-Membrane switch, and more importantly, has tapped into the nascent trend of super-slim mechanical keyboards with its Ultra Low Profile Switches. (We would be surprised if the next Razer Deathstalker keyboard launched without them.)

We knew that both Razer and Corsair, among others, were investigating optical switches, but nothing has come of it yet. (Possibly nothing will.) Neither company has said anything about whether or not they’re interested in pursuing analog switch functionality, either.

For now, Razer fans must remain content to have a BlackWidow Chroma V2 that is more of the same, save for the new switch option and a few new tidbits such as the cushy wrist rest. That’s not to downplay the appeal of the Yellow switch--it’s likely to draw in a host of customers who were perhaps interested in a Razer keyboard but have balked at the lack of a linear option.

All versions of the Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 will cost $170. Razer said that “select models” start shipping today. You can go order one from Razer’s website.