I try not to be biased towards a company when it comes to reviewing their products but it seems like Razer is one of those companies which takes great pride and love in their products that it can’t help but be contagious.  I was at one of their new distributors in town getting some work done on my PC when they brought out a NAGA gaming mouse to use as a display model. I must have restated my entire review of the Naga gaming mouse the staffers there and even game some possible suggestions on the best way to display it.  During CES, I got several hours of hands-on time to fall in love with their new Edge gaming PC/tablet. I also got to know some of the Razer staff and experience their love and awe of gaming first-hand.  Knowing I am a rabid StarCraft II fan, sometime after CES our Editor-in-Chief and Razer got together to gave me the opportunity to experience it at in the best possible way: with the complete StarCraft II: HOTS Peripheral System.

Each part of this system works great as an individual peripherals that improve your gaming experience as well as your gameplay. If you can get the whole set of these peripherals, you will find yourself fully immersed in the game so much so you will feel like you are in the commander’s cockpit. First, I’ll do a quick breakdown of the features of each peripheral then how the “APM system” works with video of yours truly getting his ass handed to him while improving his game.

razer banshee heart of the swarm carousel

Official Features:

  •     Volume & Mic Control Buttons on the Headset
  •     APM-Lighting System
  •     10 preset EQ
  •     Detachable Microphone Boom
  •     Dimensions: 183mm(L) * 90mm(W) * 200mm(H)
  •     Inner Ear Cup Diameter: 60 mm / 2.36”
  •     Cable Length: 12.13 m / 7.0 ft
  •     Approximate Weight: 297 g / 0.65 lbs
  •     Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
  •     Impedance: 32Ω at 1kHz
  •     Sensitivity (@1kHz, 1V/Pa): >102dB at 1 kHz
  •     Drivers: 50 mm, with neodymium magnets
  •     Frequency Response: 100 – 10,000 Hz
  •     Sensitivity (-42 dB ± 2dB @1kHz, 1V/Pa)
  •     Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >58 dB
  •     Pick-up pattern: Uni-directional

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Hands On:

The headset not only provided a great sound experience with sound isolation, comfortable padding all around, and a StarCraft designed feel, but the lighting on the side also helps block your peripheral vision to immerse you in the game.  This looks like it could have come right off the bridge of one of the battlecruiser Hyperion (all the peripherals do, for that matter).  The lighting not only helps with gameplay with a 48 color palette and 16 custom slots but it also allows you to make your own visual statement, even going as far as lighting each of the three sections differently.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to use regular speakers since getting them.

razer spectre heart of the swarm carousel

Official Features:

  • Lightweight, Fingertip-Grip 5 Button Mouse
  • 5600 DPI Laser Sensor
  • Ultrapolling (1000Hz Polling / 1ms Response)
  • APM-Lighting System
  • Button Force Adjustment
  • Always-On Mode
  • Ultra-large Non-slip Buttons
  • 16-bit Ultra-wide Data Path
  • 200 Inches per Second and 50g of Acceleration
  • Zero-acoustic Ultraslick mouse feet
  • Gold-plated USB Connector
  • Braided 7 Foot USB Cable

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This is quite possibly the most comfortable mouse I have ever used.  It took a little getting used because of the large right and left mouse buttons but, once I did, I felt I could relax my hand on my mouse much more than usual.  Tracking is spot on and smooth with no issues whatsoever.  Besides the standard buttons there are two thumb buttons all of which can be programmed to your specific needs per game.  Working with the APM system, they can even represent macros.  When you are playing a game where you are expected to do hundreds of actions per minute, the mouse had better be smooth working and extremely comfortable as one mistake could cost you the match.

razer marauder heart of the swarm carousel

Official Features:

  • Full Keyboard Layout with integrated number pad keys
  • Reduced Desktop Footprint
  • APM-Lighting System
  • Laser-etched Keys
  • Optimized Key Travel & Spacing
  • Ultrapolling (1000Hz Polling / 1ms Response)
  • Braided 7 Foot USB Cable
  • Approximate Size : 400 mm / 15.75” (Length) x 182 mm / 7.16” (Width) x 32 mm / 1.26” (Height)

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Of the three peripherals in the system, this is the one that took the most getting used to. Once I did, I found it difficult going back to a normal keyboard (we have three to five computers going in our household at any one time).  This keyboard is designed for pure efficiency – possibly redundant keys are removed from it, bringing its size down greatly.  This also makes the keyboard more compact for both travel and desk space but also for gameplay.  With less space required to cross the keyboard, the hands can hit the necessary keys faster – without compromising key size.  So, there are no individual arrow keys or delete button or keys that would normally be assigned their own space around the number pad – those are all gone.  They have all been assigned secondary functions on the number pad keys.  Most keyboards do this already, particularly laptops, but most have the separate keys as well.  Razer understood that when you have to make hundreds of moves a minute the less distance you have to cross the better your play.  It Actually kind of makes me wonder why more keyboards, particularly gaming ones, haven’t been designed this way.

Something else I liked, but also took a moment to get used to, was the texture of the keys. They all have a pleasant,  rubberized feel to them.  I have worked with A LOT of keyboards over the years and I think this might be the first one I felt like this.  I can see this being a long term and travel measure, as with smooth keys, the letters and numbers can wear off. If the key label printing is molded into the key itself, the longevity should improve.

All three of the pieces are designed to last with metal-looking shell designs and thick joints, though extremely comfortable they are made to be rugged and travel.  The keyboard is less than 16 inches across but comes in at almost two and a half pounds making its claim of “armored assault” feel quite believable.

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The APM System:

The StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm peripheral system is not just designed to let you enjoy a game, it actually interacts with StarCraft II to improve it. It does this through its own custom configuration that detects events in the game and signals the player in customizable ways.  For instance, maybe a player wants to speed up their gameplay to make sure they remain competitive.  The system can detect how many actions-per-minute (APMs) you are making and let you know if you are falling below or exceeding the limits you choose by changing the lighting configuration. If you are new, you may want to make sure you are between 50 to 100 APMs, if you want to be professional tournament competitive, this will help let you know it you are running between the 250-300 APMs necessary.

The Razer APM system doesn’t even come close to being done there.  You can also make it so that the system alerts you to when your base or units are under attack, building, training or upgrades are complete, resources are exhausted and many other options.  Some might argue that the game already gives you in-game alerts about all these things, so why would you need the headset’s notifications?  Because the headset, keyboard, and mouse gives you customized alerts using their lights.  So let’s say you are listening to music while you are playing and your base gets under attack or maybe you have the game sound down because you are using a team talking program.

The system, all three pieces, can be designed to flash red 5 times, for example, to let you know that your base is under attack or flash green twice when one of your units gets produced.  The lights are bright enough that you can see them flash next to in your peripheral vision and onto your computer and screen in unison – or individually to alert you to different events, each in a customizable way.  Also, it shows you your APMs by the color it turns when there are no alerts. These colors can be changed but default set if you have a blue light to you are going less than 50 moves per minute and if you get it going white you are breaking 350 APMs.

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So, as you play, you strive to get your system to change a different colors, thereby increasing your actions-per-minute and your game in general.  It even can be set to let you know when your ally’s base is under attack so that you have better situational awareness and can come to their aid.  All this makes it so that you can speed up your gameplay and improve your situational awareness dramatically.  I hope that APM configurations may come out in the future to interact with other games, I would love to be able to tell by the color of the lights how much DPS I am doing or flashes telling me the healer is taking damage.

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As promised here is some video of me trying to speed up my gameplay while taking in the system’s alerts.  I am purposely clicking hard so you can tell how often you have to click to up your game and I am purposely dropping my defenses so the attack alerts will pop up.  If you were watching the gameplay it isn’t pretty but I wanted to show the lighting.  This really doesn’t show you how amazing immersive it makes the game, but it does show how easily I can tune out the world.

This system is revolutionary and the practical applications once interfaces are developed are outstanding.  It is also amazingly immersive in just about any game but particularly StarCraft II.  With all the lighting matching and surrounding you it is easy to block out the outside world.  When playing SCII it also lights up everything around you in ever changing colors as if you are in a cockpit and the alerts are coming in to your command.  This makes me think that a first person mech game using this interface would be absolutely incredible as well, your screen being just a view out the cockpit window while all your peripherals are lighting up together.  The only way to get more immersive would be an actual cockpit.

StarCraft II Razer Messenger Bag Zerg Edition:

If you really want to complete your Razer StarCraft II set you need the messenger bag as well!  With the perfect size for a laptop or the StarCraft II: HOTS gear this warns other players they mess with you, they risk getting zerged.  Inside the fold is additional printing of a zerg base and a zergling on the innermost flap.

razer star wars 2 messenger bag zerg edition 2

Official Features:

  • Armored with a tear-resistant, weather-proof heavy duty 1680D ballistic nylon outer shell.
  • Water-resistant Ripstop nylon inner lining for added durability.
  • Single shoulder sling design for added mobility. Easy one-handed release chest clasp enables quick and convenient access.
  • Built in compartments for up to 15″ laptops, gaming peripherals and portable gaming devices.
  • Padded inner lining protects electronic devices and provides ample shock absorbency while on the road

Last Call:

The StarCraft II: Heart Of The Swarm peripheral system is the best and most unified system I have ever seen.  It not only improves the game it is designed for but improves and helps with the immersion and it makes you a better player! If used correctly, it could help make you a professional-grade player. There simply isn’t a better system combination on the market right now – especially for StarCraft II.  In fact, we at GamingShogun.com feel it deserves our Seal Of Excellence!
[easyreview title=”Razer StarCraft II: Heart Of The Swarm APM System Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”5″ ]

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Dustin "Ripper71" Thomas has been a staff writer with GamingShogun.com for over 10 years and has taken on the role of Editor with a brief stint as Editor-In-Chief. He is also a co-founder of @IsItOctoberYet where he covers haunt nightmares, amusement park fun and Golden Knights hockey.