Razer's new (but not new) Tartarus Chroma gamepad appeals to that crowd of people who want to add some pizzazz to their desktop setup. If you already have LED lighting in your case, keyboard and other peripherals, adding one more device to your collection is just another way of adding character to your PC gaming setup.
The box doesn't contain much. The Tartarus Chroma is accompanied only by a short manual and a sticker. The gamepad itself consists of 15 keys across three rows. There are two additional buttons on the right side, conveniently placed close to your thumb, and a thumbpad placed between them. As far as ergonomics go, there is another button located below the palm rest, which you can press to extend or retract it to accommodate various-sized hands. To the right of the 15 keys are three lights, indicating which profile is currently in use.
The box lists 25 programmable buttons, which at first sounds deceiving because there are only 18 visible buttons. However, the thumbpad can be programmed in eight directions: up, down, left, right and diagonally, bringing the final total to 17 buttons plus the eight directions on the thumbpad alone.
If this is your first time reading about the Tartarus Chroma, some of those features might sound appealing. However, Razer fans will be quick to point out that the Tartarus isn't exactly new, which is correct. There is one big difference to this version of the gamepad, though: Razer's new Chroma lighting feature. So if you already have a bunch of other Chroma devices, here's another one to add to your gaming desktop.
A New Setup
I tested the Tartarus Chroma by playing Final Fantasy XIV. Before the gamepad came in, I was playing the game with a mouse and keyboard. However, that can only go so far, especially in terms of the abilities, which are activated with the numbers 1-0, minus, and plus keys.
If you're playing the game on a regular keyboard, having that many abilities to play with can be difficult because you always have to take your eyes away from the screen and make sure you're pressing the right buttons.
With the Tartarus Chroma, the entire process is much easier because all the keys are placed in a small cluster that can be reached without you having to look down. Through Razer Synapse, I allocated six buttons on the 15-key area for movement and the other keys around it were used for activating abilities. That left me to use the right mouse to just click on the desired target and easily hack away with my Lancer character.
As for the other two buttons for my thumb, I had one set to access a different set of abilities and the other one to make the character jump.
The biggest issue for me was the thumbpad. Even though it was an eight-way button, I only used four of the directions to open various windows in the game. As I found out over time, it's a very sensitive button. Slightly bumping it would sometimes open an unintended window, which is a nuisance, especially during combat.
It's also important to note that the Tartarus Chroma has membrane keys, which felt a little strange for me because I'm so used to mechanical switches from the keyboard. However, Razer does have another gaming keypad, the Orbweaver, which has Razer's mechanical switches, in addition to five more buttons and better ergonomic features.
As for the Chroma feature, this was my first time using the software, as the only multi-color peripheral I used before the Tartarus was Corsair's K70 RGB keyboard. With the Tartarus Chroma, I could set one static color, have it switch between two chosen or random colors, or give it a breathing-like pattern for the whole color spectrum (or just breathe between two colors).
Unlike Corsair's Utility Engine, though, which allows you to have a custom color for each individual key, Razer's Synapse covers the entire set of lit keys so you only have one color for the entire group. It's disappointing for those who want to heavily customize lighting, but considering you're mostly spending your time looking at the screen instead of the gamepad, it shouldn't be a big deal.
Choose Your Style
Overall, the Tartarus Chroma isn't a necessary addition to your gaming peripherals, but for games that require a slew of buttons for multiple abilities, most notably in MMOs, it does come in handy. By placing the keys in a small area, you can easily reach for any ability without second-guessing its location or having to look down at the gamepad. The additional thumb buttons are also useful, with my only gripe being the sensitivity of the thumbpad.
There's nothing wrong with sticking to the traditional WASD setup on keyboards, but if games need a large roster of buttons for gameplay, you might consider gamepads like the Tartarus Chroma to set up the same buttons in an easy-to-reach configuration.