Razer announced a new lineup of BlackWidow X keyboards, which in one fell swoop tripled the number of mechanical switch keyboards it sells. The highest-end model of the new crop is the BlackWidow X Chroma, an RGB-lit keyboard with a full numpad that has the same DNA as the BlackWidow Chroma but a different look.
A Whole New Look
Although ostensibly the X series is a way for Razer to offer more keyboards with a greater diversity of options at (slightly) lower prices, the larger story is that the company is trying out new ideas, particularly as it pertains to fundamental design choices.
Most notably, the BlackWidow X series features switches mounted on top of a bare backplate, with no top panel. This design is perhaps most strongly associated with Corsair keyboards, although we’ve seen it implemented by other OEMs, as well.
Razer’s previous keyboards have proven popular, but they’ve all had a certain design and style -- the top panel cover, the chunky font, the clicky Razer Green switches -- that people either love or hate. Further, they’ve all been rather expensive. The company looks to address all of the above (with the exception of the switches) with the BlackWidow X line.
Even though the no-top-panel design is a striking departure, Razer said that it’s actually not much of a fundamental change. Essentially, the team just rejiggered the steel backplate it already used for its keyboards and smoothed out the look to make it a more integrated part of the chassis. The result, subjectively speaking, is lovely.
However, one drawback is that the lighting is more uneven. Razer always used the top panel to reflect some of the backlighting back down onto the backplate as a means of smoothing out the light distribution. Without the top panel, you can really see the individual backlighting on each key, and they throw some odd shadows on one another.
Really, though, what you get is just a different lighting effect altogether. Instead of a more seamless look, the individual lights will stand out. Considering the BlackWidow X Chroma has per-key RGB backlighting (and an exhaustive number of possible custom effects) , that may actually be more appealing to some users.
The new font further contributes to the new aesthetic. The old font is chunky and large, and the media controls and some of the other secondary characters had a big, white background. Razer went with a smaller font with a slimmer profile for the BlackWidow X keyboards. The only qualm I have is that the secondary function characters aren’t backlit, and because they’re also tiny (smaller even than the primary characters), you can’t see them at all in a darkened room.
Razer reps said that they didn’t try to backlight those characters because they would have had to compromise on the primary character backlighting.
None of the BlackWidow X keyboards have USB or audio passthrough ports. As a result, the cable has a single USB plug, and because the cable is therefore thinner, Razer was able to employ an underside cable routing trough. Just like on the Nixeus Moda V2, you can run your cable directly out the back of the keyboard, or out to the left or right. This also, then, resolves an issue I had with the BlackWidow Chroma and Ultimate keyboards wherein the USB and audio connectors intruded upon my mouse space.
Also note that the BlackWidow X Chroma lacks the left-side macro keys of the BlackWidow Chroma.
Indeed, Razer appears to be dug in on the type of switches it’s using across the board. Most of the new models stick with the Razer Green switch (with quieter Orange switch options), but some have Cherry Mx Blue switches. There are some differences between the two, but fundamentally, they’re both “clicky” switches with a pronounced tactile bump, as opposed to the quieter Browns or smooth, linear Reds.
Because of the absence of the top panel, the BlackWidow X Chroma sounds different than previous Razer keyboards. The “snap” of the actuation point is definitely more pronounced, and you can hear much more of the “ping” when the action bottoms out. (You like clicky? This keyboard is clicky. Your poor coworkers.)
With the sudden addition of eight (eight!) new keyboards, Razer can offer a wider variety of choices to its customers, and it’s certainly testing the market. Will diehards stick with the older design or fall for the new one? Can Razer pull in new customers who are fond of the no-top-panel look? How many people will opt for the Cherry-flavored keyboards?
You can get the BlackWidow X Chroma today from Razer’s website for $159.99. The BlackWidow X Chroma TE and BlackWidow X Ultimate are also available now.