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Review: Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Elite Keyboard

by Reinhard Rheeder-Kleist (Choc_Salties)  Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2013 2:08:00 PM

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Introduction

How to start reviewing a keyboard? It’s a keyboard – you type stuff on it and you expect what you type to appear on your screen, or when playing games, for those keypresses to be effectively relayed to your game. So what makes the Razer Black Widow Ultimate Edition keyboard different?

blackwidow1.jpg  

The Black Widow Ultimate Edition just one of Razer’s entries into the gaming peripherals products section. It sports a full mechanical key operation – under each keycap there is a discrete mechanical switch, unlike most conventional keyboards which utilize the dome switch approach – pressing a key on this keyboard will close a circuit on a special circuit layout on the underside of a keyboard.

This mechanical key approach does result in a more “tactile” response, but the primary side-effect of this keyboard is that is loud. Very loud, when compared most conventional keyboards you typically find today in either the home or office environments.

Razer-BlackWidow-Ultimate-Review-23.jpg  

(A close-up of a Cherry MX Blue mechanical switch, below every keycap. Each key lights up individually with its own LED)

Usability

I didn’t realise it at the time, but my flatmate had the Battlefield 3 Edition of the Black Widow Ultimate keyboard I’m reviewing, so in retrospect it is a great way to gauge the noise output. I could hear him tapping away from behind two closed doors (granted, our rooms are next to one another). Keep this in mind when choosing this keyboard, it feels really great to type on, but it can be a bother to someone in the next room (or two) – great feedback, but definitely not a good thing if you’re trying to quietly have a game of World of Warcraft late at night.

The keyboard itself is heavy, very heavy. It has a good, solid feel about it, but it could be a bit of an issue if you’re in the habit of moving your kit around, say, regularly going to a LAN party, or use it in combination with a notebook PC or similar. It weighs in at a hefty 1.32kg (not including cables).

The keyboard, however, feels evenly weighted, so this likely due to extra ballast weight rather than the switch assembly. A positive upswing of this, combined with the large rubber grips at the bottom of the keyboard ensure that you’ll have to exert quite some force on the keyboard to move it while using it. This isn’t a bad thing especially if you’re having to rage-type in a MMO or a MOBA-type game!

Connectivity is via a standard USB 2 cable, but the there is a quite a bundle coming out of the keyboard, which includes a second USB cable for USB pass-through as well as pass-through cables for analogue headphones. The pass-through connectors are located on the rear-right of the keyboard. This is a really nice solution, if you want to minimise the amount of cables running from your case.

Razer-BlackWidow2-540x272.jpg  

(Side view, showing off the pass-through connectors)

The layout of the keyboard is relatively spartan, with multimedia keys being relegated to function-switching keys on the F- series of keys at the top. The key’s font is very stylised, which can be a bit disconcerting to use, especially if you’re a monkey like me who has to look down at the keyboard to type (I am up to using four fingers at a time!). While all except two of the keys are backlit, alternate functions of keys are not, such as your ;’s,  ?’s !, @, # and so on, as well as the multimedia function keys, the macro recording key, and ironically, the backlight function key.

I have to also point out that this is the 2012 edition of the Keyboard so it sports a glossy finish rather than the 2013 edition which has a matt finish, and is prone to finger marks. Not that a keyboard isn’t going to be touched a lot…

The keyboard also boasts an anti-ghosting function of up to 10 keys – the only way to realistically objectively test this would be a game that really needs 10 keys jammed at a time, and I couldn’t think of a better example than playing the open-source version of Star Control 2 – The Urquan Masters.

  kz-ka-short-range3.jpg  

We had an EPIC fight having to test the ghosting capabilities! 

We had a quick game of Super Melee in the Urquan Masters HD revision and the input held up solidly with both myself and a friendly office co-worker battling it out for supremacy, with no perceived jams occurring.

Drivers and Control

The Razer Black Widow Ultimate Edition Keyboard is supported by the Razer Synapse 2.0 driver package, that on installation will download the specific drivers for the keyboard. All the usual control functions of a keyboard of this grade can be found here, including setting up macros, adjusting backlight brightness and enabling or disabling Gaming Mode – where certain keys or combination of keys can be disabled to prevent your game being disrupted, like pressing the Windows key mid-game. This can also be enabled or disabled via a keyboard combo.

razer-synapse.JPG  

(Screencap showing off some of the control systems in the Razer Synapse 2.0 Control Panel)

One of the necessities of a gaming keyboard is the ability to be able to create macros or shortcuts for common things done in-game, such as putting your favourite taunt into a game without having to type it out, or delivering a killer move combo in-game and rather than performing it each and every time, to map the sequence into a macro which can be executed at the push of a button.

The Razer Black Widow Ultimate series has five programmable keys which can be assigned per game profile. These macros can also be recorded on-the-fly by enabling the macro recording function directly on the keyboard rather than with the keyboard app.

Summary

I do like the feel of the Razor Black Widow Ultimate Edition keyboard, and my niggles with it are relatively small overall compared to the huge benefits this range of keyboards brings to the table. Solid feel both in overall usage and typing, and the overall presentation of the package, the only real issue I have with this keyboard is how loud typing on it is, and the glossy finish. Both of these problems can be solved with either the Razer Black Widow Ulimate Elite 2013 edition – which changes the finish on the keyboard from gloss to matt, and the Ultimate Stealth editions replace the Cherry MX Blue mechanical switches with Cherry MX Brown mechanical switches for a reduced typing noise profile.

2019-DSCF2019.jpg  

(Box shot, you can even give the keys a press while it's still in there!)

Pro’s

  1. The keyboard is solid, feels sturdy and weighty.
  2. Cord is heavy duty and durable
  3. Jacks and connectors are gold-plated as to be expected on this price model.
  4. Good feel on key actuation
  5. USB and audio pass-through helps reduces cable and desk clutter

Cons

  1. Finish - not mad about the gloss finish, matt is definitely better, the 2013 version is matt.
  2. Key actuation is noisy.
  3. The keyboard font takes some time to get used to
  4. The retro-feel of a mechanical keyboard mechanism comes at a price.

Rating

  • Looks ***
  • Value **
  • Durability ****
  • Usability ***

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Recommended Retail Pricing - R1399.00

Availability - At Musica Stores

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Gallery

blackwidow1.jpg  Razer-BlackWidow2-540x272.jpg  Razer-BlackWidow-Ultimate-Review-23.jpg  kz-ka-short-range3.jpg  2019-DSCF2019.jpg  razer-synapse.JPG 

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