With a new lineup of keyboards, Razer is attempting to please a wider swath of customers. The company announced its “X” line, headed by the BlackWidow X Chroma, and in doing so the company has tripled the number of its available mechanical switch keyboards.
The X Line
The major change is that the X line eschews the standard BlackWidow top panel cover in favor of a Corsair-like design, with the switches mounted on an exposed backplate. This look will surely draw interest from keyboard enthusiasts who haven’t been enamored of the older Razer keyboard look.
With the X line, Razer has also moved away from that chunky font on the switches. The new look is more mature, with thinner, smaller text. (The new Razer Blade Stealth has this same new font on its keys, and it shares the same issue: Only the primary functions on the number keys and F keys are backlit. The secondary functions are not.)
None of the new models offer USB passthrough ports, so the cables have a single USB connector.
A final and surprising change is that Razer has reintroduced Cherry MX switch options on three keyboards. Considering the extensive work Razer has done to produce and market its own branded switches, this seems an odd decision, but like many other keyboard OEMs, the company is simply trying to offer more options at more price points.
In the case of the new X line and the Cherry variants, the idea is to hit lower price points, specifically, while maintaining its existing lineup of pricier BlackWidow keyboards.
More Keyboards, Less Money
It’s no secret that Razer is routinely criticized for marking up its products. For many consumers, “Razer” means “expensive,” and that perception is partially what Razer hopes to chip away at with these new keyboards. The X line keyboards will all cost $10 less than their non-X counterparts, and the Cherry versions are priced lower still.
Below is a handy chart showing all of Razer’s mechanical switch keyboard models and their variants. (Note that the only “old” models are the BlackWidow Chroma, TE Chroma, Ultimate  and TE. The others are all new.)
|BlackWidow TE Chroma||Razer||Chroma||$139.99|
|BlackWidow Ultimate (2016)||Razer||Single color (green)||$109.99|
|BlackWidow X Chroma||Razer||Chroma||$159.99|
|BlackWidow X TE Chroma||Razer||Chroma||$129.99|
|BlackWidow X Ultimate||Razer||Single color (green)||$99.99|
|BlackWidow X TE||Razer||None||$69.99|
|BlackWidow Ultimate||Cherry MX Blue||Single color (green)||$99.99|
|BlackWidow X Ultimate||Cherry MX Blue||Single color (green)||$89.99|
|BlackWidow X TE||Cherry MX Blue||None||$59.99|
The most expensive keyboard in the bunch is the BlackWidow Chroma, which has Razer switches, a full keyboard layout, and Chroma (RGB) lighting for $169.99. However, you can snag the BlackWidow X TE (Cherry switches, TKL layout, no backlighting) for $59.99. Obviously, there are numerous configurations and price points in between.
In what amounts to a subtle dig at Cherry, Razer told me that the reason there’s no RGB option with Cherry switches is that its requirements for "Chroma" are too high -- that the white of Cherry’s LEDs aren’t as “true” nor as bright as Razer’s.
Also note that the Razer BlackWidow X lineup has a 2-year warranty, whereas the Cherry versions have a 1-year warranty.
Along with the announcement of the new keyboards, Razer also made it a point to discuss improvements to its switches. The company said that it has some of its own production lines now, on which it has performed significant R&D on factory equipment. The result, so far, is that Razer switches are now rated for an 80 million-keystroke life span. Razer’s partners are still performing the actual manufacturing, although we can’t help but wonder if this is a sign that the company may try to open its own switch manufacturing facility someday.
Although some of the newly-announced keyboards are still forthcoming, today you can purchase the BlackWidow X Chroma, X TE Chroma, X Ultimate with Cherry Blue switches, and X TE with Cherry Blue switches from Razer’s store.
Update, 3/24/16, 10:19am PT: It would appear that the BlackWidow X Chroma, X Chroma TE and X Ultimate are the only three new models available at the moment.
MORE: Razer BlackWidow Chroma, BlackWidow Ultimate Review
Seth Colaner is the News Director for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter @SethColaner. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.
As I wrote above:
"Razer told me that the reason there’s no RGB option with Cherry switches is that its requirements for Chroma are too high -- that the white of Cherry’s LEDs aren’t as “true” nor as bright as Razer’s."
Yeah, I should have called that out better: $60 for a good mech keyboard is a sweet deal!
Two Model M Space Savers have been retired, and replaced with Black Widow Tournament models, one Chroma, one not.