Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma Keyboard Review
So far in the world of colourful Gaming keyboards we’ve had the Tesoro Lobera Supreme which although a good keyboard in its own right, failed to set our world alight with its illumination, then we had Corsair Gaming K70 RGB featuring the worlds first Cherry MX RGB key switches with a plethora of backlighting choices and a great Gaming keyboard, but let down by its somewhat cumbersome and over complicated software. Now here at pcG, we have the latest by another rather well recognised company, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma.
The BlackWidow is a full mechanical keyboard with fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording, five dedicated Gaming (Macro) keys, easy access media keys, Razer green mechanical switches, 10 key rollover (via USB), on-board audio and USB pass through, Gaming mode option, 1000Hz Ultrapolling, as well as a heavily braided fibre cable. All sounds familiar to the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2014… So what’s new with the latest version of the BlackWidow? Why Chroma backlighting of course! This used in conjunction with Razer Synapse, allows for customizable backlighting with a choice of 16.8 million colour options and different lighting effects.
‘The Razer BlackWidow mechanical gaming keyboard was first launched in 2010 and quickly became the most popular and highest selling gaming keyboard worldwide, making its mark as the primary choice for eSports athletes. Four years later, the Razer™ Mechanical Switch was introduced, giving the Razer BlackWidow an even greater advantage with the world’s first mechanical switch designed from the ground up specifically for gaming.
Now with Chroma customizable backlighting, this gaming icon is raising the bar once again by introducing individually controlled multi-colour backlit keys that allow for extreme customization. Bearing the distinct Razer BlackWidow design, the Razer BlackWidow Chroma gives you the unbridled freedom to truly express yourself, not just with an impressive spectrum of colours but with personalized lighting controls as well.’
I’m a sucker for shiny things and sparkly lights, so I’m looking forward to this one. 🙂
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma Keyboard arrived at pcG in a rather nice satin sheen box. Whilst predominantly black, the front of the box features a large depiction of the keyboard giving an impression of the new Chroma backlighting. We have the familiar bright green Razer name and logo, with BlackWidow Ultimate printed in chrome and the Chroma name in a spectrum of colours. It then goes on to show us the following features:
The front also features a little window over the directional keys so you can test out the Razer Mechanical switches.
Over on the back we have a brief overview of the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma, detailed description of the all-new Razer Mechanical switches, a specifications list and a plan of the keyboard pinpointing the key features as follows:
In sliding the inner box from the sleeve we get to see one thing that always impresses me and that’s the attention to detail that Razer put into their packaging. In case your wondering what I’m on about, take a look at the box lining. It’s Razer green! 🙂
Once removed from the sleeve, we can see the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma is fairly well packaged using cardboard bumpers to prevent it from moving around in box and a clear plastic cover to help protect it.
Once out of the packaging we get a much clearer look of its contents as follows:
courtesy of Razer
‘All-new Razer Mechanical Switches:
Designed from the ground up specifically for gaming, the all-new Razer Mechanical Switches have an optimized set of actuation and reset points that improve your gaming performance by giving you speed and responsiveness like never before.’
‘Chroma backlighting with 16.8 million customizable colour options:
The Razer BlackWidow Chroma features individually programmable backlit keys with 16.8 million color options, all easily set through Razer Synapse. From preloaded lighting effects for different types of games, to your own custom uniquely programmed palette of colors, you can effortlessly enhance your gaming experience in a way that is unique only to you.’
‘Inter-device colour synchronization
Whether it’s your favourite shade of green or your guild colours, Chroma gives you the freedom to decide. It could be one, three or even thirty-seven colours, with a spectrum of visual effects featuring 16.8 million colours; the possibilities are whatever you can imagine. With inter-device color synchronization, your Razer Chroma enabled Razer gaming weapons will always go together perfectly.’
‘Razer Chroma SDK
All Razer Chroma enabled devices come with an open SDK that will allow game developers to take advantage of the multitude of lighting options available for Chroma by integrating these advanced lighting effects to create in-game lighting alerts or actions per minute lighting features.’
- All New Razer Mechanical Switch – Designed for gaming
- Greater durability – Compared to standard mechanical switches
- Chroma customizable backlighting – With 16.8 Million colour options
- Macro Keys: 5
- Key Switch Type: Razer Mechanical 50g Actuation Force Switch
- Anti-ghosting: Up to 10 keys
- Key Strokes: 60 Million
- Interface: USB-Passthrough
- Cable Type: Braided fiber cable
- Case Colour: Black
- Backlighting: Chroma backlighting with 16.8 million customizable colour options
- Audio Ports: 2 x 3.5mm Jacks ( Headphones and Microphone)
- Product Width: 475mm
- Product Length: 171mm
- Product Height: 39mm
- Product Weight: 1.50Kg
Now I’ve given the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma a quick going over, I can happily say the first impressions are good. The keyboard fascia and keys are covered in a matte black anti-slip coating which seems to absorb light from all angles and even better still doesn’t seem to mark under my sweaty mitts! The keyboard at a colossal 1.50Kg is however possibly the heaviest mechanical keyboard I’ve ever laid my hands on, features a quality braided cable that is incredibly inflexible and the keyboard offers no wrist rest of any kind. How will this effect its use in Game? We shall see…
From the top, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma doesn’t look any different to most of the other BlackWidows previously released by Razer, in fact the only giveaway that it isn’t the 2014 model, is the opaque white plastic backplate beneath the keycaps themselves. The media key layout is the same as are the familiar Razer fonts on the laser etched keycaps. I guess you could ask what really needs improving on a proven Game winning design. 😉 Along with the F keys having a secondary media function courtesy of the FN key, we also have an on-the-fly Macro programming key, Gaming mode key, brightness controls and a sleep key. Looking to the far left and we can see the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma features five dedicated Macro keys.
Flipping over to the back shows us very little. There are five rubber pads in total, two feet and the warranty sticker.
Viewing from the either side gives you an idea of how thick the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma is. With the feet down the front of the keyboard measures 20mm from the desktop, whilst the back 34mm. This gives the keyboard enough of a slope to keep most users comfortably happy without having to raise the feet at all. Viewed from either side, the BlackWidow looks incredibly clean with its sweeping lines.
The only really notable difference from left to right, is the pass-through hub.
Looking at the front and back of the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma keyboard shows us very little. Usually from these angles, many black keyboards will reflect any and all light causing me a headache to take clean photographs of them. The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma with its anti-slip coating seems to absorb light rather than reflect it and lends it a stealthy appearance (I wonder if this thing can be picked up by radar???).
As mentioned before, with the height adjusting feet down the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma measures 34mm from the desktop. With the feet up it becomes a massive 50mm! I’m sure there are people who will find this ideal, but for me personally it really isn’t comfortable at all. If you do choose to use the full height, you’ll be happy to know that with all of the rubber pads dotted around the keyboard (of which only the three at the front will be in use) and the hefty weight of the BlackWidow, it takes a hell of a lot of force to move it.
Taking a closer look at the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma hub on the right side, shows a single USB, mic-in and audio-out pass-throughs. These are always very handy and a feature that every premium keyboard should have.
Another cool feature of the BlackWidow is the lock indicators. When off, you would never know they are there as they blend in with the rest of the keyboard fascia, but when on the LEDs make them seemingly pop up out of nowhere.
There’s no denying the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma is a monster of a keyboard. Despite a fairly small footprint at 475mm(W) and 171mm(L), it is pretty thick at its back end with a chunky 34mm(H), then with a weight of 1.5Kg is probably the heaviest keyboard I’ve ever laid my hands on. It still looks good and feels great under your fingertips, but how will it perform?
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma features a pass-through hub and as a result has a hefty 2m cable running from its back end. At the plug end of the cable, it splits into four, comprising of 2x USB, 1x audio-out and 1x mic-in. There is plenty of play between the cable ends offering you the ability to plug in the USBs on the far left of your motherboard I/O panel and the audio literally at the other end of the case if you should so wish.
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma keyboard was tested on the pcG Intel Test Rig, a fresh installation of Windows Home Premium 64bit (service pack 1) was performed prior to testing. The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma keyboard is plug and play, but to gain the benefit of Macro playback and customizable LED backlighting you’ll also need Razer Synapse 2.0 available here.
The following games were used during testing:
Normally where mechanical Gaming keyboards are concerned, my keyswitch of choice would be Cherry MX Blue Switch. Simply because I feel it offers a more precise tactical feedback when each key is depressed (this could of course be down to a placebo effect caused by the audible click of each press). However I often feel the travel of the keys before bottoming out feels a little too far even if the actuation point is only 2.2mm (0.7mm reset), hence I’ve never been hugely taken with mechanical keyboards. The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma features the all new custom made Razer Green Switch which whilst offering a similar experience to the previously mentioned Cherry MX Blue, have a shorter 1.9mm (0.4mm reset) actuation point. Does the 0.3mm really make all the difference? I can’t say I’m 100% certain, but they do perform a damn good job and somehow make me feel a more confident Gamer (bizarre I know!?). So it would seem Razer Green are now my new favourite key switch.
I like Macro keys and they are always a welcome addition, but just like many other Gaming keyboards available, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma has them set in a line straight down the left side of the keyboard. This I personally find quite irritating as I often end up pressing M4 or M5 instead of Shift or CTRL. This is of course something you will get used to in time, but in would be preferable if there was at least a finger width between the Macro keys and the rest of the keyboard. The lack of dedicated Media and Keyboard Function keys is also a little disappointing for a keyboard in this price range (approx £140), although you could argue this is a Gaming keyboard with no place for such keys and it could possibly ruin the stealthy appearance of the keyboard. Admittedly these are small gripes, where as the lack of a wrist rest I personally find isn’t. Because of the keyboard height, the narrow front and the angle of the layout, after prolonged use the keyboard can become rather uncomfortable to use even with a soft foam mouse mat beneath it.
These areas we have of course already covered in our previous Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2014 review. Where the latest Chroma edition of the BlackWidow differs is of course the Chroma lighting and it is brilliant!
Whilst only offering six preset lighting effects, all of them look great. Every colour produced is punchy and vibrant, whilst Razer Synapse 2.0 allows you to customize the lighting very easily. Personally I find the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma to be the best of the current crop of multi-coloured backlit keyboards available even though it doesn’t offer quite the same customization (or complexity) as the Corsair keyboards. We also have Razer Chroma SDK available in the near future which is only going to offer an even more in depth level of customization.
To get the most of the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma you will also have to download Razer Synapse. The software looks good with a predominantly black and carbon fibre grey styled appearance. Synapse feels snappy, is very easy to use and has the following features:
The software allows for full customization of each and every key and a offers a vast choice (key default, keyboard function, mouse function, inter-device, macro, switch profile, launch program, multimedia, Windows 8 charms, Windows shortcuts or disable the key altogether). This is made very easy, by simply selecting the key/s you wish to re-program, then selecting from the drop down menu. Of course we also have perhaps the most important feature of the keyboard within Synapse, this being the lighting editor. Through this we can change the LED brightness (bright, normal, dim or off), choose your lighting effects from Breathing (just like it says on the tin and works well), Custom (choose from FPS, MMO, MOBA, RTS Gaming templates or entirely make your own), Reactive (keys illuminate when depressed, this also allows three duration settings), Spectrum Cycling (a rather slow, but very cool looking Breathe style effect with colour rotation), Static (single colour), then finally wave (a rainbow effect that sweeps across the keyboard with a choice of two directions).
Synapse also has Gaming Mode which allows us to disable the Windows key, Alt+4 or Alt+Tab (always useful if your as heavy handed as me). Then finally the software allows for full Macro recording and playback, which is clear, concise and one of the easiest Macro programming experiences I’ve ever had.
All in all, Razer Synapse is a very good software suite that looks stylish and offers ease of use. The key change where the BlackWidow Chroma is concerned, is of course the larger variety in choice of Lighting (16.8 million different colours and a handful of lighting effects). In comparison to its biggest competition by Corsair, is neither good or bad, just different. Whilst Corsair CUE offers a mind boggling array of LED customization, it is also a little over complicated for first time users and doesn’t work by the simple press of a button, where as Razer Synapse concentrates on making the customization far simpler with several preset effects which makes for a far easier life and works almost immediately. Of course this nice and easy approach may change in the near future with the launch of Razer Chroma SDK which should allow a far larger degree of customization.
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma Keyboard is a little like a variety box of chocolates. By way that in some areas it is simply brilliant and you can’t get enough of it, then you get to the odd oversights likened to the horrible chewy toffee things that everyone hides at the bottom of the box and leaves for someone else.
Razer’s latest and greatest keyboard the BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma arrived at pcG in a lovely black and green box with the familiar styling of a Razer product. Within the box the keyboard was adequately protected by a clear plastic protector and held in place in with cardboard bumpers. Whilst hidden beneath this we had the typical Razer wallet with additional paperwork (and case stickers!) hidden inside.
Once the box contents were emptied I had the opportunity to check out the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma itself and I have to admit I’m rather unexpectedly taken by it. With a width of 475mm and length of 171mm, the keyboard footprint is surprisingly small even though it features five dedicated Macro keys running down its left side, but it is also pretty thick at its back end with a 34mm height (without the height adjustable feet, 50mm with) and is probably the heaviest keyboard I’ve ever laid my hands on, at an astonishing 1.50Kg. This all of course helps with the incredibly high build quality. The keyboards surrounding faceplate may be a hard plastic, but it feels very solid, whilst a few sharp taps offer no hollow sounding areas like on many other mechanical keyboards out there. Then we have the appearance… While simple and uncomplicated it looks beautiful. The matte black anti-slip coating that covers the entirety of the keyboard face, more or less absorbs any light on its surface and feels great under hand (or is that finger!).
From a performance point of view, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma certainly doesn’t disappoint. Coming from someone who has never been 100% taken by mechanical keyboards this is certainly no mean feat. I’m a lazy, heavy handed gamer who only feels confident with key presses if I feel or hear them bottoming out, hence my key switch of choice would normally be Cherry MX Blue (this is probably because the clickiness makes me feel somehow more productive). My issue with the Cherry MX and most mechanical switches is the keys feel chunky and seem (in my head at least) to need more travel (and work) to get to the point where they issue their command. With standard mechanical switches the actuation point is 2.2mm (0.7mm reset), but the Razer Mechanical switches offer this at 1.9mm (0.4mm reset). Does this really make a difference? I honestly don’t know, but the Razer Green switches certainly make me feel more confident and perhaps a slightly better Gamer for it. For anyone out there who is not a fan of clicky keyswitches, it also worth noting that the Razer BlackWidow Chroma Stealth with the quieter Razer Orange switches will also be available soon.
Razer Synapse 2.0 is one of the easiest and well laid out software suites I’ve used where Gaming keyboards (or any peripheral for that matter) are concerned, it’s certainly a pleasure to use.
Then we have the ‘KEY’ feature of the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Chroma, that being the Chroma lighting. It is without a doubt the best multi-coloured backlighting available on any Gaming keyboard on the market right now and will be very hard for anyone to beat. All colour reproduction is bright, colourful and with the white opaque backplate effectively reflecting the illumination, looks stunning. Admittedly at this present moment in time, Razer Synapse 2.0 doesn’t offer the same in-depth and intimidating degree of customization that Corsair has with the CUE software, but at the same time it strips out all of the complexities giving you something to immediately use without needing a degree to use. In short it’s brilliant. At the time of review, Razer Chroma SDK was unavailable, this piece of software could unlock the full potential of the BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma and offer a similar in-depth customization experience as the Corsair CUE suite (but hopefully without the complexities).
Of course with all those lovely little features and just like that variety box of chocolates, there are a few features that are hard to swallow (for me at least). Personally I’m not a huge fan of dedicated Macro keys being in the commonly designated area on the left of any Gaming keyboard (not without at least a fingers worth of spacing) and would prefer them almost anywhere else on a keyboard. For a Premium Gaming keyboard I’d also have preferred dedicated Media and Keyboard Function keys rather than a secondary function of the F keys. My biggest gripe though, is the lack of a wrist rest. With the height of the BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma Keyboard, the fairly narrow front and the sloping angle of the keyboard layout, the keyboard can be pretty uncomfortable after prolonged use (even with a soft mouse mat underneath it).
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Chroma keyboard is available for pre-order at just over £140.00, which means it is priced in-line with similar multi-coloured, backlit keyboards currently available. Whilst I loved the Razer Green Mechanical switches and it offers what I personally think is the best RGB backlighting by a fair margin, I feel it is certainly let down by the lack of wrist rest. If you can get over the latter, you’ll find yourself owning one of the best looking Gaming keyboards on the market with the performance to match.
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Many thanks to Razer for providing this sample for review