I used to be of the mind that keyboards were a simple affair. Of course, in the past, I was never a hardcore PC gamer, either. Lately, though, I’ve been playing more and more games on the PC and I’ve come to discover that a nice keyboard, mouse and headset are near absolute necessities. The cheaper “rubber dome” keyboard that we all know and have used many-a-time throughout our PC-using life are great for lower-cost and lighter duties. You know, things like your grandpa does on his five-year-old stock computer, like use a “word processor” and send e-mail.
If you want something that can hold up to the rigors of a heavily-used gaming keyboard, you may want to look elsewhere than your $19.99 piece of plastic, but nothing says a classier keyboard can’t be elegant in its simplicity, either.
Over-complexity isn’t something that I think fits well with a keyboard – or any PC peripherals, really. Yes, a keyboard can indeed do too many things, and these are features you end up paying for but possibly rarely use. Fortunately, the BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard from Razer finds a near perfect balance of simplicity and functionality that you would be hard-pressed to find in any other piece of similar hardware
Razer released a special, limited edition Mass Effect 3 branded version of this keyboard, but for all intents and purposes, it’s exactly the same as their generic BlackWidow Ultimate product, which has been available for a little while as of this writing. To get the superficialities out of the way first – the Mass Effect 3 version has a nifty red N7 stripe down the left side of it and is covered in a smooth, matte gunmetal gray color. It also comes with Mass Effect 3 DLC, much like every other piece of merchandise related to that particular game.
The first thing I noticed about the keyboard as I was unpacking it was that it is very hefty. It’s a mechanical keyboard, and, while I’m not sure if that automatically means “moar partz!” or not, this is a very sturdy and great-feeling keyboard. It feels great – from the press of the keys to the way it feels under your fingers as you run them along the crisp edges of the device.
Let’s get down to it – this mechanical keyboard rocks. It takes a little getting used to, but if you’ve never used a keyboard of this type before, it’s much easier to press the keys, and it takes less pressure from your fingertips. This equates to a slightly quicker response time between your movements and whatever action you’re performing on the screen. To be honest, it’s barely noticeable as far as gameplay goes, and I played several different games during my course of testing (Mass Effect 3, Skyrim, TERA, World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, etc.). The great part is how noticeable it is to your tactile senses. It just feels good.
At the beginning, you’ll probably be pounding on the keys just like you would a standard keyboard, but I assure you that is not needed. The less force you expend to press the keys, the less stress your fingers take. That, in turn, extends into your wrists and hands, as well as the tendons that move those appendages in your arm itself. This makes mechanical keyboards a great ergonomic choice for gamers who spend hours every day in front of a computer in a certain set position. It certainly is no replacement for taking breaks and stretching, but every little bit helps, right?
Aside from the feel of the keyboard, it looks great, as well, and the five levels of red backlighting certainly don’t hurt. While this is more of an aesthetic thing, the last two keyboards I’ve had (coincidentally both Razer products) both had backlighting and I love it. Gone are the days where I’m sitting in a not-quite-dark-but-dark-enough-that-I-can’t-see-the-keys room and having to bend over and squint to make sure I’m hitting the right keys.
There are five extra keys off to the left of the keyboard, which, just like any other keys, you can assign actions to within your various games. There is also an on-the-fly macro recording button, and it’s likely those five extra keys are supposed to be set up for that purpose, but they can be used for anything you wish to bind them to.
Another awesome feature of this particular keyboard, unlike the previous Razer model I reviewed, is that is has both headset and USB pass-through connections. This adds some extra cabling to the keyboard, but it allows for an easy-to-reach headphone jack, as well as makes sure you aren’t down two entire USB jacks because of using the keyboard.
All these great features certainly aren’t to be discounted, but there are some downsides. While I love clean, sleek lines, I do miss wrist rests, and there isn’t one here. However, the bigger issue is that this keyboard will wake the dead. That’s how noisy it is when you type. I’ve always been fussed at by my wife for typing loudly, but she utterly dispises this keyboard because, no matter how quiet I try to type, it’s still louder than the cheaper keyboards. There is, however, an alternative if you’re looking to purchase a keyboard like this. Razer has a “Stealth” version of their BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard. While that is not the model I reviewed, and thus have to score this one accordingly, for a few extra bucks I’m going to assume the “Stealth” version is quieter.
Those are the only two issues with this otherwise outstanding piece of hardware. I’ve always been a fan of Razer, and I have to say, this solidified that affinity. While I can work through the loud typing (although, if you ask my wife, it will eventually drive her insane), the rest of the keyboard is a sturdy, sleek and wonderful piece of PC gaming hardware that should certainly be considered if you’re in the market for a new keyboard.