Paying a premium for a keyboard is rare most of the time when you are assembling a PC, but once in a while a keyboard with the distinctive clickety-click sound comes along and is almost as expensive as a decent graphic card. One such mechanical keyboard that has entered our labs recently is the Razer Black Widow Ultimate.
With a hefty price tag, flashy looks and features that would put any other mechanical keyboard to shame, the Black Widow shows a lot of promise. If you are an enthusiast who loathes the soft-press of the membrane key switch found in the inexpensive keyboards that form a part of the configuration of most PCs today, then read on to discover whether it's the right choice for you.
For your better understanding, there are two main manufacturers for mechanical switches used in the high-end keyboards and mostly aimed towards gaming enthusiasts-Cherry and Alps. All Razer keyboards however use only Cherry MX mechanical switches and the Black Widow Ultimate is no different.
There are five types of Cherry MX switches which are distinguished on the basis of colour. The table below will explain the details:
The Black Widow Ultimate uses the MX Blue switch. It's an odd move by Razer, considering that they're is marketing this keyboard as a gaming peripheral. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the keyboard is not geared for that micro-second strafe to miss the bullet in your favourite first person shooter. The 50g actuation force needed to register a keystroke for the MX Blue switches is a great plus while gaming.
Apart from the standard layout of the keyboard, the Black Widow Ultimate has five macro keys for using macro on the fly. The right-alt key doubles up as the macro recording key when coupled with Fn key. Hitting Fn+F11 sets your keyboard for gaming, disabling the Windows key.
You can shift through the five different light settings by hitting Fn+F12 in continuous succession. There are three different light settings, and in addition to that there is a “pulsating mode”, which we personally found irritating.
With dimensions of 475 x 171 x 30 and weighing around 1.5kgs, the Black Widow Ultimate is a beast of a keyboard not meant for portability, but since desktop gaming keyboards are not meant to be light, it's not much of a problem. The keyboard sits perfectly on the desk like a rock, and the two extendable feet at the bottom provide adequate elevation if you need it. However, the glossy body of the keyboard is a fingerprint magnet.
We sorely miss the PS/2 connectivity. The keyboard has a sturdily build cord which has two gold-plated USB connectors and wires to connect to the speaker and the microphone to connect to the respective slots on the PC.
The best feature is that each keys are backlit separately which means that there is uniform backlighting across the board. But we did notice that there was a little bit of light spill in and around the area of some keys when viewed in the dark.
One major gripe with the layout of the keys is the placement of function keys too close to each other. The clusters of F1-F4, F5-F8 and F9-F12 do not occupy the space properly and you invariably end up hitting the wrong key by mistake. Though, the fonts used on the keys look a little odd initially you tend to get used to it.
Razer claims a lag time of 2ms, but when we tested the claim with Passmark keyboard test we found out that the keyboard had an actual lag time of 6 ms, which is also decent.
However, these results may be a little disappointing for gamers. We also clocked a maximum character/sec count of 36.7 which is great for typing those long documents.
For our real world tests we played a little Counter Strike 1.6, and we were pleasantly surprised with the keyboard's performance. Our in-house noob (me) could also frag some bots at expert level without getting knifed once!
Razer’s bundled software is a great addition for changing the function of keys according to your preference and recording macro. The USB port on the keyboard is not high speed but works just fine for all practical purposes.
Priced at £74, the Razer Black Widow Ultimate is, according to us, asking for too much moolah. In fact, if you do not want any of the fancy features like the backlighting, the macro keys or the USB port then you can go ahead and buy the standard Black Widow keyboard which is priced much lower at £54. However, this keyboard is definitely great for multiple hours of gaming!