Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2014 Keyboard Review
Ooh a new Razer keyboard with mechanical switches, hold on a minute… Featuring Razer’s own mechanical switches specifically designed for Gaming!? Now that is interesting! Enter the new Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2014 Keyboard featuring a new mechanical switch designed and developed specifically for Gaming by Razer. Our review sample features Razer’s Green (clicky) key switch, an Orange (non clicky) switch is also available.
The BlackWidow is a full mechanical keyboard with individually backlit (green of course) keys, its keys are fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording, it has 5 dedicated Macro keys, a USB pass-through and on-board audio (pass-through). The BlackWidow also supports 10 key roll-over anti-ghosting via its USB connection.
The BlackWidow came in a Black and Green box (no surprise there then!) with a smart image of the keyboard on the front. The image is actually raised off the box, appearing to be either embossed or maybe it’s just a sticker, but it sure looks cool. The front also has a small window cut-out allowing you to tinker with those all important Razer keys, another nice touch. There’s also an image (lower right) giving you the low down on the new Green key switches. You can also see from the front of the box that we have been given a US layout sample, UK layout keyboards should be shipping by the time you read this…
The back of the box looks almost as good as the front, providing even more detail on the new switch and how it compares to a standard mechanical switch. Check out the image above for more detail, besides it stops me having to duplicate it here… 😉
The side of the box also lists yet more features of the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Keyboard.
Sliding the outer cover off allows us to see what lies within, as you can see the BlackWidow was well packaged (in cardboard), but not as well packaged as other premium keyboards that we have seen (like the Gigabyte Osmium, that was presented nestling in foam). The overall presentation was good, but being Razer and judging by the outer packaging I must confess I was expecting a little more…
The keyboard itself looks good though, but one thing that is immediately obvious is, no wrist rest!?
Beneath the keyboard, we find the traditional Razer wallet! Within we have a Quick Start Guide, Razer Certificate, Razer Rewards Certificate, Product Information Guide and the all important Razer Sticker! 😉
At the time of writing the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Keyboard is retailing for approximately £125 and comes with a 1 year warranty.
courtesy of Razer
First impressions of the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate are very good, it’s a good looking keyboard and there’s no doubt that it’s well built and of a high quality, it weights a ton too! The frame of the BlackWidow is covered in a nice soft touch plastic, that also seems to be used on the keys themselves, making them a little grippy (sorry bad word, I know!), which is good. At around £125 I think it’s fair to expect this level of build and quality, but I’d also expect to get a wrist rest too and I’m both surprised and disappointed that one’s not included. Also there’s no dedicated volume control or lighting control and no USB hub (just a pass-through), like there is on the cheaper Gigabyte Aivia Osmium. The 2 metre braided cable is nice, but very stiff due to the fact that it house the additional wires for the USB and Audio pass-through. Anyway lets a take a tour around the BlackWidow to see what we have got…
As you no doubt already know this version of the BlackWidow comes with Razer’s very own Green (clicky switches), these switches have been custom designed for Gaming and feature a 50g actuation force. That’s a little more than the common Cherry Red MX switch (46 grams) and less than the similar Cherry Blue switch (60 grams). As you can see/guess Razer has opted to try and pitch their new switch between the two most popular Gaming switches used today (Cherry MX Red & Blue). Razer’s Green switch also provides a tactile feedback (similar to the Cherry MX Blue), where there is a distinctive click sound during actuation, meaning that the keyboard is quite noisy, especially for typing.
As you can see from the image below not only are the switches and LEDs Razer Green, but the keyboard’s base is also Razer green, helping to remind you that this is a Razer keyboard.
On the left of the keyboard we find 5 dedicated Macro keys (M1 – M5), meaning that the BlackWidow is a little wider than your average keyboard. These keys are obviously fully programmable via Razer’s Cloud bases Synapse 2.0 software.
Along the top we have the Function keys, with keys 1 – 3 and 5 – 7 providing media playback functionality via use of the Fn key found to the right of the space-bar. We also have some additional functionality on the following Function keys (F9 – F12) and on the Pause/Break key (see below right):
The back of the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate is predictably a relatively simple affair, featuring 5 simple rubber pads for feet, although the keyboard is so heavy it’s unlikely to move around while Gaming.
The BlackWidow does feature two additional legs (also featuring rubber tips) that allow the back of the keyboard to be raises a further 15mm or so. Surprisingly (for me), I did find that the angle of the keyboard was already very good, although this may be down to the lack of a wrist rest (ok James, we know, we know…).
As you can see the right side of the BlackWidow Ultimate houses a single USB (pass-through only) and Audio ports (Headphone/Microphone). I must admit to expecting a hub in such a premium/expensive keyboard.
In the top right corner we find nothing!? Hold on minute, there’s no Lock Indicators… These are stealthy hidden within the soft touch plastic of the keyboard itself and only become visible when activated, very cool…
Overall, everything I see here is good, very good, but I have concerns over what’s not here at this point, that is present on some of the competition’s keyboards…
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate connects by two USB connectors, one for the keyboard itself and one for the USB pass-through (labelled PORT) and two 3.5 mm audio jacks (Headphone/Microphone).
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate was tested on my Intel Test Rig and was treated to a fresh installation of Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit (service pack 1) installed together with all the latest relevant drivers and software.
As all Razer products now use Razer’s Cloud based Software Synapse 2.0, all that was necessary was to download and install the software that can be found here (as none is provided). Once installed the software automatically detects what hardware you have and installs and configures the Drivers appropriately. Pretty clever stuff…
The following games were used during testing:
- Battlefield 4
- Assassins Creed Black Flag
From a performance point of view (i.e. pressing keys) the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate performs extremely well, as one would expect! But what we really need to try and evaluate here is not that the keyboard works, but how well these new Razer Green (clicky) mechanical switches perform. Now that’s pretty hard to do and somewhat subjective of course, but in comparison to the two main keyboards that I have personally been using for the last year (Osmium & MK-50) the BlackWidow easily holds its own.
I must admit I’m still not a fan of clicky keyboards such as this one and ones fitted with Cherry MX Blue switches, but I did find that over time (and mainly because I wear a headset when Gaming (ahem, working!)) I got used to it. To the point that now, five days into the review, I don’t even notice it while Gaming, but I wouldn’t want to type this review with it that’s for sure!
I found the keys to be extremely responsive, easily as good as any other mechanical keyboard I have tested. I’ve been doing a lot of my testing with TitanFall, which is not only a great Game, but a good test of a keyboard’s performance due to the extremely fast pace of the Game. During this time the keyboard and Razer’s switches performed flawlessly and at no point did I ever want to revert back to a Cherry based switch. During long sessions of Battlefield 4 the BlackWidow again performed well, although due to the length of time played, I did find myself missing a wrist rest as my wrist did begin to ache after 2-3 hours. This may be a personal preference but for me on a premium keyboard the option of a wrist rest should be there, and it’s not! I also found that due to the additional Macro keys being added to the left of the keyboard, I often found myself placing my fingers further to the left than normal and miss-keying! It was as though that I was subliminally aware of the edge of the keyboard and the relative key position; but due to the additional keys being added these positions had now effectively moved! Over time I did become more used to this…
Overall a great performing keyboard, with a good set of options via the additional five Macro keys and also awesome illumination (very bright, great if you like green!), although the breathing effect (Pulsate) seems to only work one way! What do I mean? Well the keyboard’s brightness slowly increases in brightness then just switches off. I would have expected (at full brightness) for it to begin to decrease in brightness, but no it just switches off, then starts again!?
Considering the asking price I was expecting the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate to tick all of the boxes, but it didn’t. I would have expected a wrist rest and better illumination control; can we just not select the keys we want illuminated, after all other manufacturers have been doing this for some time! It would have also been nice to see some dedicated keys for Volume, Illumination and or Media (instead of that Fn key), again as other premium keyboards in the past have featured this and they’re cheaper!
The issues here are not what’s wrong with the BlackWidow (because what is here is brilliant), but it’s what’s not here that lets it down, especially when you consider the £125 retail price.
The Razer Synapse 2.0 cloud based software is very good, and the fact that the software is auto installed and configured via the web (cloud) is definitely pretty cool, in my opinion. The software is quite simpe and easy to use, hiding a lot of the complexities such as creating Macros and assigning them to Profiles etc. The are two main sections to the Synapse software:
The Keyboard section allows control of the programmable keys (assign key, assign Macro, disable etc), this is simply (and rather cleverly) done be just selecting the key that you want to manage on the picture of the keyboard. Here you can also manage your Profiles, with the ability to create, copy, assign and delete. These Profiles in turn can also be assigned to a keyboard shortcut and or an executable Application. The BlackWidow’s illumination control can also be found here, with the ability to change the brightness levels and also assign a somewhat odd Pulse effect (see above for more detail). There’s seems to be no ability to enable/disable and individual key’s lighting, which is a shame. The final tab allows you to turn the Gaming Mode On/Off, thus enabling or disabling the following keys when in Game: ALT TAB, ALT + F4 & Windows Key.
The Macros section is pretty simple and easy to use, allowing you to first Create and Name, then Record, Copy and Delete. The Macro can then be edited in the main window should you wish move things around a little, or add more commands.
Overall the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2014 Keyboard has put in good showing here at pcG and the new Razer switches (Green) have put in an impressive showing also, easily keeping up with the industry stalwart; the Cherry MX switch. But there’s more to a keyboard than just the switches and it seems Razer may have forgotten about this a little as they were busy developing the ultimate Gaming keyboard switch…
The BlackWidow came well packaged in a very smart Black and Green box, although this has come to be expected from Razer (still impressive nonetheless). Although the internal packaging was not quite as good as the outer, relying on mainly cardboard to protect its contents. Once inside though the true splendour of the BlackWidow was apparent, this is one well made (and damn heavy) keyboard. But hold on, where’s the wrist rest, ah no wrist rest and no dedicated keys/control for Media/Volume/Illumination. Now that’s a surprise considering the premium nature of the keyboard and the cost (approx £125), especially when others are offering all of the above for less!
Once powered up the BlackWidow becomes even more impressive with some of the best backlighting (Green of course) I have seen, helped by the Razer Green internal base of the keyboard. It’s a shame then that Razer have not opted to implement individual key control, like other manufacturers have been doing for months, even the Pulse (breathing effect) is a little out of sync in my mind.
From a pure performance point of view though, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate and its associated Green switches put in a flawless showing, even during fast paced Games like the new TitanFall. During long Battlefield 4 gaming sessions the BlackWidow never missed a beat either, although I did find that without a wrist rest some discomfort set in after a few hours. The new Razer Green (clicky) (Orange/non-clicky also available) switch is undeniably impressive and with its 60 million keystroke life span, it should last too…
The dedicated Macro keys are a welcome addition, although they take a little getting used to as the keyboard is now that much wider and the keys that used to be on the edge of the keyboard are no longer there! During the first few days with the keyboard, there were many missed keys, although after time I did begin to get more accustomed.
The Synapse 2.0 software is very good, both in its Cloud based form (just download a small file and it self installs and configures itself), and in its ease of use, so no complaints here.
It’s not what’s present on the BlackWidow that lets it down, it’s just some of the things that are missing, especially when you consider the premium asking price of approximately £125. Razer may have developed the perfect Gaming switch, but not necessarily the perfect Gaming keyboard…
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Many thanks to Razer for providing this sample for review