Ok it took a while for me to get my hands on the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Elite Edition keyboard due to mailing issues and it has been a while since then. I am sure that the folks at Razer thought I forgot all about it, but it is really the opposite, I want to try everything I can on the keyboard andI don’t want to decide a moment to soon on any verdict, I want to test it on every game I can think of. So the time has finally come to start the review but it will by no means be the end of my use of this sleek black and green beauty, and every night I will cover her with a keyboard case to make her last.
For some folks this is gobbilty goop, for others this is the meat and potatoes of the keyboard and all they need to know when deciding whether or not to purchase it.
- Full mechanical keys with 50g actuation force
- 1000Hz Ultrapolling
- Fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording
- 10 key rollover anti-ghosting
- Razer Synapse 2.0 enabled
- Individually backlit keys
- Gaming mode option
- 5 additional dedicated macro keys
- Audio-out/mic-in jacks
- USB passthrough
- Braided fiber cable
- Approximate Size : 475 mm / 18.72” (Length) x 171 mm / 6.74” (Width) x 20 mm / 0.79” (Height)
- Approximate Weight : 1500 g / 3.31 lbs
- PC with USB port
- Windows 7 / Windows Vista / Windows XP
- Internet connection (for driver installation)
- At least 75MB of hard disk space
Removing The Mystery Of The Specs:
There are plenty of techno geeks who just read the above information and said “Yep, I’m buying that!” and probably never will see what I have to say about it. That’s fine, sometimes you just know when something is right for you, and those above specs are exceptional when you know what to look for. So first I will give you the official definitions then I will try to give a layman’s explanation. All gamers are not necessarily geeks and those who want the best, such as Razer provides, don’t necessarily study as much as compare.
When they say:
Full mechanical keys for superior tactility and faster response
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate’s mechanical key technology provides blazing fast game responsiveness as each key only requires an optimized actuation force of 50g, and a reduced actuation distance of 2mm, faster than what is possible on any other ordinary gaming keyboard. You are also getting distinctive tactile feedback in form of a light pronounced tap to your fingers with each key press, for gaming you can actually feel.
These buttons are like the hair trigger on a gun, light push to register and lightning fast to register. The distance you have to push down on a key is reduced as well and you feel a slight physical click instead of just the noise. All this means that your keys register faster and easier than other keyboards and you can feel it registering by the click so you know it worked and can move on. So in gaming you have an edge by faster key response, feeling it register and in typing you know that your button has registered without even looking at the screen and typing speed can increase with less mistakes. This beauty isn’t just for gaming, though gaming on it is great!
When they say:
10 key roll-over in gaming mode
Actuate as many keys as there are fingers on both your hands and have them all register accurately and quickly during gaming. With the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate’s gaming mode 10 key roll-over, you can deliver overwhelming destruction on your opponents, or just ensure that every command is registered and executed perfectly for victorious gaming.
On most keyboards if you hit two keys at one you can wind up with one of the keys not registering at all. On this you can hit 10 keys, I actually got it to successfully do more, and it will accurately and quickly register all the keys. So let’s say you have a whole bunch of macros set up that you want to go as quick as possible, or you don’t have macros set up and you have a bunch of attacks you want to all happen as close to simultaneously as possible. Hit all the keys. It won’t just register a couple, it will register them all. If you have a bunch of commands you want to send out all really close together you can hit them all and they all go out. I found this a challenge and kept hitting a dozen keys at a time or more then double checking. It always worked.
When they say:
Individually backlit keys with improved lighting
Never miss a key in the dark with the new green backlighting on the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate. With improved lighting configurable to your preference, you can launch assaults and flank foes even under low light conditions.
Ok I guess that one is pretty obvious. If you are like me and tend to do a lot of gaming and writing in a fairly dark room this feature is exceptional. I have had light up keyboards in the past and it was still dim on it’s highest setting. This keyboard is brighter on it’s lowest setting than most keyboards on their highest, and has an awesome green glow shining out of it on it’s top setting. Also most just have glowing letters on the keyboard, this keyboard lights up around every key for a clear definition.
Razer came up with a great program designed to work with their different products and customize them all at one time with one interface. You can set the lighting, you can make special button settings, you can even build macros there if you are more comfortable doing it there rather than on the fly. It also enable you to set timing breaks in macros, double check your programming, just about anything you would like to adjust on your product can be done through the one program. I have the BlackWidow and the Razer Naga gaming mouse both going through it and before I start a big gaming session I go through and make sure all my settings are optimized and ready to go so I don’t run into surprises. You can also set gaming mode on the BlackWidow from that interface, which is a very handy function that kills hot keys and computer keys that aren’t essential to your gaming experience. A good example of this is one of the games I play a lot uses the Ctrl button to crouch, if you accidentally hit the windows button right next to it you find yourself out of the game, needing to open it back up and let it catch up with the action. This has gotten me killed more times on the game than I can count, I come back in and there I am standing right behind cover, wide open and dying. It is handy to have the Windows button turned off so if I do bump it no worries. Thanks Razer for making a clumsy bugger like me be a better gamer.
Mic/Headphone Jack, USB Passthrough
If your rig design was custom like mine or you have an older computer it might be a huge pain in the butt when you want to switch out your speakers for headphones, especially if it has communication errors if you try to have a USB headset plugged in at the same time as your speakers. The keyboard nicely takes care of this issue by plugging into the mic and headphone plugs in the back of your computer as well as an extra USB jack so that you can plug your speakers or headset into the keyboard and your mic or your headset mic in. If you want to unplug them so you can use a USB headset you can unplug them easily from your keyboard and plug the headset in through the USB passthrough. Or if all your sound issues work fine you can just plug what you want in easily at the keyboard and use the USB jack for your flash drives. The key is the keyboard gives you lots of options and more importantly multiple solutions to issues.
5 Dedicated Macro Keys
This may sound simple and not that impressive of an edition but it really is a key to the gaming aspect of the keyboard. Building macros on the fly can be a tricky thing, you can wind up covering up hotkeys or other macros by accident then having to go back and fix them. With the 5 macro keys you can hit one and quickly program it on the fly and know that you aren’t recording over anything you want. Using the Synapse 2.0 you can then save the macros you build as a profile and have it all available and setup the next time you play that game. If you are like me and might play at least a half dozen games in a day this is a huge benefit because all I have to do once I get the board set up for each the games I want is go into the Synapse 2.0, quickly pick my profile of choice and I am ready to play, no fresh programming required. In some cases I may even just use macros to say things I have to type out often in a game to save that kind of time or if I am working with a business setup I may want to keep a work profile where I can hit a macro and have it type out a kind of form letter without an obvious form letter file sitting around. I prefer the personal touch but hey, I am reviewing the keyboard so I am exploring it’s options.
Braided Fiber Cable
I have been asked before why this is even a feature, though people who use a lot of appliances with long cables tend to have a pretty good idea, they are often seen on higher end irons and toasters as well as headsets and keyboards. Braided fiber cables are less likely to knot tight or tangle and have a better defense against damage, say from rolling over the headset cable with your computer chair or accidentally putting a heavy case on the cable. This feature adds lots of protection and peace of mind as well as just keeping your cables less messy. Without the fiber covering there would be four cables running from the keyboard instead of one tidy protected one.
Putting It All To The Test
In the explanations above I went through a bit of how I tested the keyboard but just because it has features that are supposed to do certain things doesn’t mean it exercises them well and in multiple situations. Luckily this keyboard not only seems to have a habit of succeeding at what I tried to do, in some cases it did better than claimed.
There are a lot of types of gaming, and with pretty much every type of gaming you can think of there is a different style of play that is required of a keyboard. A keyboard that performs like a dream with a first person shooter may be a disaster with an MMORPG. So I ran the keyboard through the ringer in a way few outside of game reviewers can, because there really isn’t a game format type that I don’t have access to.
So let’s start with one of the obvious one: MMORPG. I’ve played a game that I have over five years experience with and I jumped into a raid. I had recently programmed my Razer Naga to maximize my gameplay by minimizing my keyboard movement but for this experiment I went all keyboard keys in every way I could. I found that the speed of moving my hand was my only limitation since I getting the keys to register with half the pressure, feeling each key register, and able to hit multiple keys at once without key failure and have my rotation fire off as fast as possible. I built a couple of macros on the fly so that I could then hit the macros without built in pauses and it would seem like I hit my different rotations all simultaneously making the only limits be the response of the game and the limitations due to cooldowns. I could use the Synapse interface and make it so that one of my attacks that has a ten second cooldown will trigger every ten seconds several times in a row by building in the pauses in the macro. So I hit the macro once and it will register the time delays and for whatever number of times I have it built for I don’t have to touch it again. So let’s say I need to do my skill every ten seconds to keep it on and built up and I build in 6 strikes, I hit and forget that for a minute while working some other part of my rotation. I could in theory build my entire rotation in with the proper times and only hit one key. This sounds like it could make the game a bit boring but if in raiding or some other situation where the timing of your rotation has to be perfect and you have to keep an eye on multiple possible threats for some it might only make the game manageable rather than easy. A good example is you have to fight a boss in a certain spot using your rotation, then you need to stop attacking and run over in a certain direction to keep from getting killed. It is still up to you to get to the right place and fight the right things, which may each even have their own rotations. So for a boss battle you might have multiple rotations, built for multiple points in the battle all made manageable by the tight reactive time of the keyboard and the diverse abilities presented in the macros. When it comes to MMORPGs this keyboard, when tested on a few different ones, outperformed another popular gaming keyboard because of the speed of key registration, the clear registration of the key and it’s abilities to adapt by going into gaming mode, the Synapse 2.0 and the macro diversity.
So next would probably be a first person or a third person shooter. Skyrim worked well for both of these test sections as well as did the most popular and recent shooters and some that have been around a while. I have a fondness for just about every first person shooter I have come across all the way back to Doom and Castle Wolfenstein and today’s games certainly don’t disappoint. Examples of games I played for testing purposes: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Boarderlands on OnLive, Battlefield Heroes, Heroes And Generals (beta testing), Offensive Combat (beta), Zeno Clash (recently free from OnLive), Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Offensive Combat and well the list could go on and on since between first person and third person shooters you take up most of the shooting franchises. The responsiveness for weapon changes in particular was extremely handy and on a couple games where you hit the number key for the weapon to shoot it there was the satisfaction of feeling the click of the button like the click of a trigger and the speed of the shooting which to me reminds me of in the Old West when they would file down their front gun sight. It meant a small improvement on the speed of getting a shot off but that sometimes can make all the different. If I was using a single attack weapon and found myself surrounded I was able to change weapons or lob a grenade with what felt like almost twice the speed. Also when I use a direction key to dodge it seemed to give me that edge of speed that really helped keep me going. When somebody has the element of surprise on you, the true saving grace can be the element of speed in reacting and this keyboard definitely give you an edge.
Real time strategies also showed a dramatic advantage with this keyboard. They are surprisingly similar to MMORPGs in their advantages though they also have a lot of the same advantages as the shooters too. Depending on the RTS the advantages varied but there was always some to be found. In a game where you need to do the same commands over and over that can be done by hotkey macros can be built, the speed at which you build things or move units around the field can make a huge difference and with the keyboard the time it takes to do anything that can be done by or macroed by the keyboard is sped up simply by it’s response speed. If you need to type something out, a command or a message they can all be done lightning fast or macroed to be instantaneous. The speed and quality in all these games can only be sped up to a certain degree without the proper mouse, so I really have to suggest a good gaming mouse like the Razer Naga to gain true strength in the games and by using the Naga all your programming is done on the same interface and macros you build on the keyboard can be activated by the mouse!
Not Just For Gaming
Let’s face it, when you buy a sexy glowing keyboard gaming is usually the first thing on your mind. If, like in my case, your gaming rig doubles as your work station the more diversity in the keyboard the better. What is kind of surprising is all the things that benefit in gaming can be used to benefit in writing, researching, pretty much anything you want to do with the computer. Let’s say you are typing up a review like this. The speed of the key registration as well as the rollover allows you to type much fast, in fact if a professional typist were given a standard keyboard to type on and then given this one I guarantee it would have a remarkably surprising improvement. Not subtle, not slight, large! The simple speed of responsiveness and rollover makes it so that the usual speed limitations no longer apply. I would think in most work places where lots of data entry or general typing is involved the keyboard would pay for itself in no time. Also let’s say it is a phone center where there are forms or questions that need answering. If you skip whole sections if the answer is no for example you might have a macro that tabs down to the next appropriate line. Or if there are preset responses you can hit a macro that types in the answer to the question. The fact that such keyboards are not already in most work places seems like an oversight. The employs will like the sexiness of such a keyboard and the ease of work and the employer will see a marked increase in productivity. I have worked with call centers and none of them have quality keyboards and that is simply limiting your business.
This keyboard is as close to perfection I have seen in a keyboard. The only way I could see a possible improvement may be a video interface built into it but I don’t think that is really even necessary (I used the feature on my old keyboard to keep track of the time mostly). This keyboard makes a person a better gamer no matter what their game is and it makes them a better typist no matter what they are writing. In most keyboards you just hope for not making you worse, this keyboard makes you better.