A review of the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2013 mechanical gaming keyboard with a focus on the MMO gamer. Keyboard generously supplied by Alex of hitmeister.de for review.
|Price||$139.99 USD or 108.78 € from hitmeister.de (German)|
|Backlight||Individually lit green backlit keys, Cherry MX Blue switches, letters are laser etched onto keycap|
|Ports||1 USB, Mic In /Out|
While mechanical keyboards have been around for quite a while, they have largely been replaced by cheaper membrane keyboards. Recently, due to gaming peripheral companies such as Razer, mechanical keyboards are making a comeback in gaming and are becoming rather affordable for the average gamer.
Mechanical keyboards have a much more bouncy and responsive feel compared to membrane keyboards (which often feels mushy in comparison). In addition, they have a distinctive click-clak sound when typing. This sound can be quite delightful to the user but might be an annoyance to other people nearby. The other thing you will notice with mechanical keyboards is your typing behaviour. Traditional membrane keyboards require you to apply enough force to completely depress the key to the bottom, which can often result in finger fatigue due to long term typing. Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, are able to register the key press with much less force, which results in faster keystrokes and less chance for fatigue from overtyping.
As a MMO gamer, you will be using the keyboard to type much more than someone who plays a FPS game for example. Thus, investing in a keyboard that last longer (mechanical keyboards have keys that can last 50 million keystrokes vs 5-10 million for membrane keyboards) and feels better can be a good choice for the long term.
Razer Blackwidow: Regular vs Ultimate vs Stealth vs 2013
There are quite a few versions of the Razer Blackwidow keyboards out there and it can be confusing to know their differences. Here is a break down:
- 2013 vs older versions: The 2013 version has a green backlit while the older versions have a blue backlit. In addition, the 2013 version has a matte finish rather than glossy finish to reduce the smudges and fingerprints
- Ultimate vs regular: The regular version doesn’t have backlit
- Stealth version: Same as ultimate except that it is a lot quieter and requires less force for each keypress. If you are worried about the noise from mechanical keyboards, this might be a good alternative.
The review is for the 2013 Ultimate version.
Packaging & Unboxing
Keyboard is wrapped in a neat little box with a plastic cover on top. The keyboard comes with a very thick and sturdy cable that branches into two USB cables and a microphone cable.
The side of the keyboard is a USB passthrough and 2 holes for Mic In/Headphone Out.
On the backside of the keyboard are four rubber mats for traction and two plastic feet you can flip out to raise the top half of the keyboard.
The keyboard itself is quite heavy (3.31 lbs) and sturdy in appearance. The keyboard won’t bulge on your table unless you actually apply force to purposely move it.
Keys & Backlight
The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate uses the Cherry MX Blue mechanical switch, which provides both tactile response and loud clicking sound. They are considered one of the best mechanical switches for typing and generally preferred for gaming. It is harder to double tap using the MX Blue compared to other mechanical switches (It is not something that I have noticed).
The letters on the keys are laser etched (laser burned the character into the keycap), making them near impossible to wear off. In addition, the keycaps are coated with a somewhat fingerprint/smudge resistant coat. Keys are individually lit.
In addition to the backlit on individual keys, the entire area under the keys is green and reflects the backlit from the keys. This makes the keyboard much easier to see, especially under low light conditions. Unfortunately, only green color is available for the backlit.
You can adjust the backlit brightness directly on the keyboard itself by simply holding down the Fn key and press these two keys to turn up or down the brightness (F11 and F12). The brightness changes are fairly gradual, allowing you to pick a specific brightness setting. Alternatively, you can choose from four brightness settings on the Razer software (off, dim, normal, bright).
To the left of the backlight controls is F10, which also serves as button to turn on/off Game Mode when the Fn key is also pressed down. In the Game Mode, the Window key is disabled by default but you can also chose to turn off alt-tab and alt-f4 via the Razer Synapse software.During Game Mode, the keyboard will also be responsive to up to 10 keys being pressed simultaneously (10KRO). There is a little symbol at the top right of the keyboard that will lit up when the keyboard is in Game Mode.
F9 serves a button to record macros on the fly (You will need to the .All you need to do is to press F9 + Fn key and then press a series of keystrokes you like to record onto a macro. During recording, the top right corner of the keyboard will have a little red dot telling you that you are recording. When you are done recording, press Fn + F9 again and that same dot will start blinking telling you to insert that macro onto a key. Recording macros this way captures the delays between keystrokes. You can also record macros using the Razer Synapse software, which is covered later in the review.
On the very left of the keyboard are 5 buttons (M1-M5) that designed to store macros. These keys are close to the main keyboard and clustered together for easy access.
Lastly, the F1, F2, F3, F5, F6, and F7 act as media and volume controls when pressed simultaneously with the Fn key. Note that the little white square on those F keys do not have blacklit.
Included with the keyboard is the Razer Synapse 2.0 Software. You will need an internet connection and make an account with the Razer Synapse to access some of the more advanced functions. However, for basic keyboard usage, Razer Synapse is not needed. I used to hate the Razer Synapse software since it would install updates and restart my computer randomly, sometimes even when I am in the middle of a game. However, the latest version of Razer Synapse is quite unobtrusive.
The first thing you will notice about the software is the ability to create up to 10 profiles. You can easily switch profiles by using Fn + 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. Each profile can have different macros, and different key assignments.
Every key except for the Fn key can be programmed to do something else – press a different keystroke, activate a mouse function, launch a program, use a macro etc. All you need to do is to click on any of the keys on the virtual keyboard inside the software and a window will pop up with different options to program that specific button. Here is the Right Ctrl button for example.
In addition to programming individual keys, you can also adjust the brightness and specify what buttons Game Mode turns off. All of these are stored on a specific profile.
The other major function of the Synapse software is macro creation. On the Macros tab, you will find a simple interface to create macros. You can record macros with delay, without delay, or with a fixed delay. Once a macro is created, you can go back and edit every single step. If you are satisfied with the result, you can go back to the keystroke assignment tab and select a button to insert the macro.
No keyboard is perfect. Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2013 is a great keyboard but it does have a few flaws. While the keyboard does have a matte finish, it is still fairly prone to smudges and fingerprints, making cleaning a hassle. The Cherry MX Blue switches it employs are loud, which can an annoyance to people near you. If the noise is becoming an issue, consider the stealth version of Razer Blackwidow, which uses Cherry MX Brown switches that give the same tactile response but less of the click sound. Lastly, the keyboard uses a weird font, which can be confusing for some people who look at the keyboard to type.
If you are looking for a good keyboard for MMO gaming and want to give mechanical keyboards a try to see what the hype is all about, Razer Blackwidow is a good keyboard for that.