Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2013
Razer has been criticized in the past for its very odd company image. Marketing itself as a more extreme peripheral developer dedicated to the interests of competitive gamers, Razer tends to invoke one of two reactions: exasperated sigh, or gleeful enthusiasm. Either way, over the past few years they have proven themselves to be exceptional peripheral manufacturers. Love or hate their brand, if your passion is gaming, the company probably makes something that is at least worth a look.
For our purposes, the $140 BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 is just that piece. Not too long ago we tested the BlackWidow Tournament Edition, a smaller, more portable version of its full-sized cousin. From a simple construction perspective, the keyboard was just fine. Sturdy, efficient and with an appropriate feature set for a slimmer, smaller board, the little board earned our endorsement.
The Ultimate Edition differs from the Tournament in a few key ways, the most notable of which is size. Being designed for portability, the Tournament edition lacked a number pad and skimped on macro keys. Giving up that Spartan approach, the Ultimate 2013 includes full backlighting on every key as a second USB port and two 3.5mm audio jacks – one input and one output – that line the right side. All of those features add up to a $60 price difference between the two.
With the notable exception of the BlackWidow Stealth, every keyboard in Razer’s BlackWidow line uses the Cherry MX Blue switch. That, combined with the texture of the plastic making up the keys, leads to a very specific feel, clearly distinguishing these boards from others in their class.
The board also has a more minimal design, with only one flat contiguous surface besides the keys. The backlights on the keys are in Razer’s signature green with the company’s three-headed snake logo towards the bottom. Brightness is adjustable, which is welcome, particularly given that the maximum setting is obnoxiously bright in low-light conditions.
Macro keys are positioned vertically along the left side for relatively easy access. On-the-fly macro recording is possible, but to get the most out of it, you’ll probably want to download Razer’s unified peripheral software, Synapse, and take some time to set them everything up carefully.
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 retails for $140.
Using that as a scoring metric is somewhat absurd.
I had the non-ultimate black widow and it worked excellently for a year and a half and then just crapped out randomly (sent out a random key sequence whenever plugged in). There was no physical damage and I treat my peripherals very well.
Every time I had a problem with a razer product I kept thinking, "this must just be an outlier and not representative of Razer", but I can't really say that anymore. Mostly I use logitech now. And for keyboards (since logitech just started mechanicals) I use daskeyboard.
Carpal tunnel. The harder you have to press and the more you type, the faster this can get you. I'd have to imagine that the lower actuation point on the Blue switches would make them the worst for that - though Razer makes gaming peripherals, not keyboards for typists, so their choice does make sense if you're going for a "trigger" effect. In any event, I seriously doubt any of these top-end keyboards have a too low actuation force issue. They should all be quite solid feeling, and unless you have incredibly heavy hands, that's typically not an issue in this class of product. The preference is probably more between switch types and the different ways they go about providing tactile feedback than any leanings toward a certain amount of force needed to depress a key.
Also, conventional/cheap boards still use individual switches (one per key). It's the type of those switches that make it mechanical (spring-loaded contacts instead of a conductive dome on PCB traces), and rollover etc. is all because of how it's wired to a microcontroller.
My advice would be to check out the corsair K90 or the newer K95 before you throw money at the others.
Keyboards aren't pretty, but the 710+ is just plain ugly. Who thought pairing orange with black and gray would be a good idea? Also, it only has white lighting.
Anyhow, I was able to pick up a 710+ for $99 new on sale. While it's ugly, it's a great keyboard from a practicality/usability standpoint. I like how you can change the lighting level of the wasd cluster independent of the rest of the keys. The tactile and audible feedback of the browns has got to be my favorite of the bunch. I'm constantly using the roller-style volume control too. I wouldn't pay $150 for it though.