Hardware optimize

Geek Gifts 2012: The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard

The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard may just give gamers an edge they cannot afford to miss.

Despite evidence to the contrary in the form of tablet-mania, the keyboard is still a primary device for interfacing with a personal computer. For PC gamers, especially for certain game genres like first person shooters and real-time strategy, the keyboard is vitally important. Having the right keyboard can mean the difference between the one doing the fragging and the one being fragged. The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard may just give you the edge you want.

Specifications

  • System Requirements:
    • PC with USB port
    • Windows 7 / Windows Vista / Windows XP / Mac OS X (v10.5 to 10.6)
    • Internet connection (for driver installation)
    • At least 75MB of hard disk space
  • Features:
    • Full mechanical keys with 50g actuation force
    • Individually backlit keys with five levels of lighting
    • 1000Hz Ultra-polling / 1ms response time
    • Programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording
    • Gaming mode option for deactivation of the Windows key
    • 10 customizable software profiles with on-the-fly switching
    • Five additional macro keys
    • Multimedia Controls
    • Braided cable
    • Audio-Out / Mic-In Jacks
    • USB-Pass through
    • Size: 475mm / 18.70in (Width) x 171mm / 6.73in (Height) x 20mm / 0.79in (Depth)
    • Weight: 1500g / 3.31 lbs.
  • Cost: About $120 on Amazon
  • Additional information: Razer USA Ltd

What I like

  • Mechanical keys: At the risk of showing my age, I feel a certain amount of nostalgia for the old-fashioned IBM mechanical keyboard. The clack of the keys and the tactile response of the BlackWidow make typing feel substantial. When you press the key on a mechanical keyboard you know it - somehow it feels reassuring.
  • Backlighting: One recent development in keyboard technology that pairs nicely with the nostalgic mechanical keys is LED backlighting. There is something visceral about playing a FPS shooter in a darkened room and backlit keys make that a reality.
  • Responsive: The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard is very responsive and I can sense no delays in processing keystrokes. Razer emphasizes this aspect of the product, and I can find no reason to doubt their claims.
  • Solid: There is also no doubt about this: The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard is one solid piece of PC peripheral. While the outside construction is plastic, it is not flimsy plastic. This is probably the most substantial keyboard I have used since I had my favorite IBM keyboard so many years ago.
  • Connections: One feature that I wish more keyboard makers would employ is multi-tasking the keyboard as a USB hub and satellite audio connection. With the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard's USB outlet and audio-out and microphone jacks, attaching a USB-headset or even a conventional headset is so much simpler than finding the connections in the back of a PC.
  • Programmable: Every key on the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard is programmable - that is, after you install the proper drivers from Razer. Not only is every key programmable, you can also record macros for each key or for the five special macro keys along the left side. For gamers, this flexibility can give them a real advantage. This feature is what makes the BlackWidow a gamer's keyboard.

What I don't like

  • Weight: Okay, this is splitting hairs a bit, but while the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard is substantial (a good thing), it is also very heavy (a not so good thing) when compared to a conventional keyboard. This is not the keyboard you slide into your backpack and take to a friend's house for a night of gaming.
  • Cost: At a little over $100, the BlackWidow is on the high end of the keyboard pricing scale. It is not unreasonable, and I would argue it is worth the price for serious gamers, but the price will cause many to re-consider their desire for a gaming keyboard.
  • Driver download: This is not a big deal, but it is one of those things that I find annoying. The driver that makes the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard programmable has to be downloaded from the Razer website. I would have preferred that the keyboard have the driver installed on the device and install itself on first plug-in.
  • Click-clack: A mechanical keyboard is not a quiet keyboard. The satisfying click users like so much can get on the nerves of innocent bystanders. It's something to consider if roommates or spouses are going to be in constant earshot.

Geek bottom line

For gamers, particularly those who play FPS and RTS games, the keyboard is a vital component in their competitive arsenal. That means they are willing to spend a few more bucks to get a keyboard that can give them a gaming edge. The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard is one of the best programmable keyboards I have come across in a long time. I like it much more than the Logitech G19 that we reviewed a couple of years ago. The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate is my new favorite keyboard.

Geek Gift Score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: ****
  • Geek factor: *****
  • Value: ***
  • Overall: ****

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

3 comments
PJW9779
PJW9779

So : * clicks can not be disabled ? Huh? Even DEC-keyboard 15 years ago could do that! * no Linux * 75MB of hard disk space? WTF!

iPhoneDude777
iPhoneDude777

I literally just bought one a couple of days ago. It's wonderful to type on and I actually like the clicks. You can reprogram keys on the fly with macro recording and you can reassign every key to any other key/combination with the razer software. Mac version on amazon is 90 and it works well with windows (if you don't mind having the Command key)

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I like a good keyboard for gaming and I'm willing to pay a little extra to get it; are you like me? What keyboard do you prefer? Is it programmable?