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Review: Razer BlackWidow Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

2:00 PM on 08.25.2011 // Alex Bout

Everyone thinks of taking their game to the next level, and many times, the brain goes straight to replacing the video card or some other internal computer part. However, one of the easiest improvements you might be able to make is upgrading your keyboard.

I present to you the Razer BlackWidow Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. With a sleek design, high quality mechanical keys, and easily programmable macros, this keyboard will be the your front line in getting in front of and demolishing the competition.

In case you don't know how a mechanical keyboard is different from a typical keyboard, I'll give you the key differences in a nutshell.

There are three main types of keyboards: membrane, scissor switch, and mechanical. Membrane keyboards are the most commonly used, with each key positioned over a rubber dome, one for each key. However, every single one of these domes aren't always uniform thickness, which changes the endurance and springiness of each key. Because of that, the feel of each key will not be uniform across the entire board. These are the cheapest keyboards, and you can expect them to last for about ten million keystrokes.

The second type of key, which is commonly used in laptop keyboards, is the scissor switch key. These are a little pricier than membrane keyboards, but are a slightly more springy to facilitate faster typing. In addition to having that extra pop, these keyboards also have faster response times, are quieter, and have double the life expectancy of a membrane keyboard, rated at about twenty million keystrokes.

As good as scissor switch keyboards may sound, mechanical keyboards really hit it out of the ballpark. Each of the keys on these boards have their own mechanical switch that quickly snap back into position after being actuated, which allows for even faster typing than a scissor switch keyboard. In addition to this, the mechanical switches make a very distinct clicking when pressed, and have a very solid feel to them because of their weight. However, because each key is its own individual part, it really jacks up the price. On the other hand, the price is more or less negligible when you consider the massive 50 million keystroke life expectancy; over double a scissor switch, and five times greater than a membrane keyboard. Do the math and you'll see you save a ton of money by investing in one of these instead of buying multiple of the other types.

Today, we're going to focus on one mechanical keyboard in particular: the Razer BlackWidow Mechanical gaming keyboard. While this review is about the regular edition of the keyboard, the Ultimate edition is more or less the same, just with a back light for the keys, and a USB and audio jack on the keyboard (also note that the Ultimate edition takes up two USB jacks instead of the one that the regular edition requires).

I have pictures from the unboxing that I will post in the gallery, but I think it's kind of silly and a waste of time to talk about it, so I'll just skip straight to what I think about the keyboard itself.

Razer BlackWidow Mechanical Gaming Keyboard specs

  • Keyboard type: Gaming
  • Connection type: USB 2.0
  • Colors: Black
  • Operating Systems supported: Windows XP, Vista, 7 (Though there is a mac version)
  • Full mechanical keys with 50g actuation force
  • Response time: 1ms
  • Programmable keys with on the fly macro recording
  • Ten separate macro profiles with on the fly switching
  • Five dedicated macro keys
  • Multimedia controls (requires use of the function key)
  • Braided cord

What I noticed immediately is the really bright gloss they used to coat the keyboard. It looks nice, but it's a real finger print magnet. Honestly, I would have much preferred it if they left the gloss out. I'm getting tired of wiping my keyboard off to keep it looking nice.

The first thing I had to try out, of course, were the keys. Because it's a mechanical keyboard, the keys actually register mid way through the actuation, which can be both a good and a bad thing. Good because it allows for faster typing, but bad if you are switching between several keys (WASD movement) because that means you have to go a little farther up than you would with a scissor switch key, or both keys will end up being pressed. It was also very loud! Compared to the scissor switch keyboard I had been using before, it was almost imposingly loud, and almost unbearable. However, after a few days of use, I came to get used to the noise, and it's nice to hear that you pressed the key instead of maybe not being so sure.

As a side note, the font they used for the keys is laser engraved, giving it a nice permanent feeling to it. You won't have any issues with the letters wearing off after a while. However, they used a non-conventional font, which is a little more difficult to read at a glance compared to most keyboards. Honestly, I would have preferred if they had just used the regular font, even though the font they used looks sleek and cool.

Another thing I noticed early on was that it was heavy! Much heavier than any keyboard I had owned before, weighing around five pounds. When you pick it up, you can feel that the keyboard is durable and made of some quality stuff. A combination of the weight and rubber track on the bottom makes sure it won't slide around on your desk.

The macro program that the keyboard utilizes is pretty easy to use once you get used to where things are, and the on-the-fly macros are extremely handy. It should be noted that the keyboard itself does not have any on-board memory, so any macros you make will not be carried with the keyboard. It's a little annoying, but I don't move around much, so this isn't a huge deal to me.

Another thing that kind of bugs me a little is the altered key placement, the first being the placement of the F keys. There's a seemingly huge gap between the esc key and the f1 key, which really throws me off, because I use all of the F keys pretty frequently, and I often miss both the esc and f1 keys with this keyboard. I think this is more of a "me getting used to this keyboard" situation instead of it being a flaw, though the schizophrenic side me of me says that while there's nothing wrong with breaking the mold, there are some things you just have to conform to.

As well as the esc and f1 key issue, I often find myself pressing the m5 key instead of ctrl, because I glance down to look for the corner key, and hit the wrong key by accident. Again, I believe this is something I just need to get used to rather than a flaw.

There is an issue that I've heard of many people having with this keyboard, but I have yet to experience it myself. Several customers have reported that the space bar will sometimes somehow shift and end up touching the alt key, which makes the space bar (and the alt key I assume) extremely hard to press. I don't really know if this is a common manufacturing defect, or if these people are just throwing their keyboards against a wall; all I know is that for the majority of keyboards sold, this is not a problem. If it is a problem, however, the keyboard does come with a one-year warranty that should clear that right up.

In addition to this, I think the shift key is a little more difficult to press than the rest of the keys. It's pretty subtle for me, but it makes capitalizing a bit of a pain sometimes. I believe this has to do with the angle I press the shift key, and it is only slightly noticeable, just thought it should at least be mentioned.

All in all, this is a great keyboard. The design is sleek and smooth, the key presses are sharp and accurate, the macros are fairly fast and simple to use, and it's priced relatively cheaply at $79.99. Also keep in mind that if you would like the back lighting and USB/Audio jack plug ins, you can pay $30 more for the Ultimate edition, but I don't think it's worth the money. Turn on the lights and plug your stuff into the front of your tower; save your hard earned money for something more worthwhile.

Despite the drawbacks I talked about in this article, I still think the pros outweigh the cons, and the keyboard is worth every penny. I really enjoy the keys, macros, and the ungodly 50 million keystroke life. If you're looking into getting a keyboard that will last you a long time, I highly recommend you add the Razer BlackWidow Mechanical Gaming Keyboard to your gaming arsenal.

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Alex Bout, PC Contributor
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Hi! I'm Alex, and I'm on the PC and Hardware teams here at Destructoid. While I've been playing games since I was a kid, I admit that I haven't really gotten into the gaming community until very... more   |   staff directory

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