A review of the Razer Orbweaver, the newest mechanical gaming keypad from Razer, from the perspectives of a MMO gamer.
Released earlier this year, Razer Orbweaver is the newest gaming keypad from Razer, the maker of popular gaming accessories such as the Razer Naga mouse and the Razer Blackwidow mechanical keyboard. As owners of both Razer Naga and Blackwidow, I was very happy when Razer offered me the opportunity to give their product a spin and write a review from the perspectives of a MMO gamer.
|Programmable buttons||20 Cherry MX Blue mechanical keys + side alt key + 8-way D-pad + Spacebar|
What is the Razer Orbweaver?
Razer Orbweaver is a gaming keypad, a successor to the popular Razer Nostromo. It is essentially a device that basically take the left half of your keyboard with the most commonly used keys and make it into a standalone device. Think of it as a mouse for your left hand.
It has 20 fully programmable and backlit mechanical keys; an 8 way Directional thumb pad (D-pad); adjuststable palm & wrist rest; an easy to reach “thumb” key and spacebar actuator.
In addition to the 20 programmable keys, the Orbweaver also features 8 keymaps, each can be programmed with a different setup for each of the 20 keys and side buttons. While there isn’t a button to switch between the keymaps by default, you can program any of the keys and buttons to do so (the 8 way thumb pad is an excellent button for this task if you are used to the WSAD movement).
How does it differ from the Nostromo?
- Orbweaver has mechanical keys using the Cherry MX-Blue switch vs the membrane keys of the Nostromo (which often has the “mushy” feeling compared to the mechanical keys)
- Orbweaver has 20 fully programmable keys vs Nostromo’s 16.
- Fully adjustable palm and wrist rest on the Orbweaver, more so than the Nostromo.
- Fully mechanical 8-way thumb pad (D-pad), alt button, and spacebar on the Orbweaver vs somewhat “mushy” keys on the Nostromo.
- No scrollwheel on the Orbweaver
- Orbweaver has the regular cable with some added protection around the bend while the Nostromo has the braided cable.
Here are two side by side pictures of the Orbweaver (left) vs the Nostromo (right). Images were taken from the Razer website.
Do I need a gaming keypad?
This is a question a lot of gamers may ask. What exactly is the use of the gaming keypad when you have a keyboard? After using the keypad for about 2 weeks, I have came with with the following three reasons.
1) Comfort: Most traditional keyboards do not have palm or wrist support. As a result, your wrist is placed on the hard table surface and your palm has very little support since it is arched over thin air. With the Orbweaver, both your wrist and palm are fully supported and does not easily fatigue over long periods of use. In addition, the keys on the Orbweaver are bigger and a bit extended. This allow your fingers to extend horizontally as opposed to cramp together on a traditional keyboard.
2) Programmability: While you can use shift, ctrl or alt modifier keys to extend the range of useable keybinds, it isn’t the most ideal solution and soon you might run out of useable key combinations. Depending on your hand, modifier keys like ctrl or alt are not easily accessible and can create problematic key combos or a steep learning curve. With the Orbweaver, you can assign different keys to different keymaps and switch them on the fly.
3) Accessibility: The adjustable palm and wrist support allow both small and large hands to reach all of the keys with ease. I have a fairly small hand for example, and I do not feel stretched out while reaching for the top row of keys. If you have a larger hand, you can extend the palm & wrist rest to fit accordingly. The addition of the “alt” key on the side means that I can use key combinations with alt key much easier.
Razer Orbweaver comes in a fairly small rectangular box. Inside are the fairly standard Razer manual and the stickers
Left picture shows the Razer Orbweaver in close detail. The right pic shows the backlit on the keys once it is plugged in.
This is the default key configuration, which you can change to other keys using the Razer Synapse Software. Note that there is a a small bar on key 13 to help you orient your hand to the WSAD keys.
There are 3 ways you can adjust the Orbweaver.
1) Extend the whole thumb section sideways. This can be used if you have a large hand and your thumb can reach much further.
2) Extend the palm & wrist rest down. Another feature for large hands.
3) Raise or lower the palm rest. If you have long fingers, raise the palm rest.
All of the keys and buttons on the Orbweaver uses the Cherry MX Blue mechanical switches. These keys do not need a lot of force (50 g) and have a distinct sound when activated.
It feels abit more responsive compared to the membrane keys on cheaper keyboards and keypads. If you own the Razer Blackwidow keyboard, these are the same mechanical switches.
The Orbweaver comes with the Synapse 2.0 software. While it is not required for its usage, if you want to use different keybinds other than the default ones, you will need to use the synapse software. You can setup a profile for each game and have the profile activate immediately when you launch the respective game. All the settings are stored on your account so you do not lose them if you use the Orbweaver on another computer or have to reinstall your computer for example.
The synapse software features 3 sections
1) Keypad, where you can reprogram all the keys on 8 different keymaps and customize the backlit levels.Note that the only backlit color available is the green color.
2) Macros – fairly standard macro creation with macro recording function.
3) Addons – This section isn’t fully developed. Recently Razer released an addon for WoW for Orbweaver but other games currently have no support.
Orbweaver Usage – GW2
Orbweaver have 1-4 keys already assigned. For 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0 you can bind them to other keys on the keybind such as 07, 09, 10, 17, 18, and 19.. I would leave the 12, 13, 14, 15 keys alone since they are bound to ASDF by default, all of which have uses in GW2. Key 20 is by default V, which most people use for dodge.
You may also keybind one of the buttons for T to quickly target a mob and rebind 11 and 16 to shift and ctrl respectively since you won’t be using the caps lock function.
Since you will be using the F1-F4 keys a lot, what you can do is to bind the “alt” button on the side to switch to keymap 2, which have the 02, 03, 04, 05 buttons assigned to F1, F2, F3, and F4. Make sure you tick off switch back to previous keymap when assigning the button so that it only switches to keymap 2 when you are holding the button down.
The D-pad on the side can be used to move in GW2 by default without any additional keybinding.
Orbweaver Usage – SWTOR
SWTOR usage is a bit more complicated due to the number of abilities on your hotbar. I like to keep my 1-4 abilities on the hotbar to 02, 03, 04, 05 buttons by default. You can also the alt button trick listed above for GW2 to switch to keymap 2 which give you another set of buttons.
Rebind 11 and 16 to shift and ctrl respectively. What is nice about doing it this way is that now there is a vertical difference between ctrl and shift, allow you to pressing key combinations involving ctrl and shift without mistaking one modifier for the other.
SWTOR by default does not utilize the left, right, up, down arrow keys for movement so you will need to manually assign the D-Pad buttons on the side to WSAD for movement.
For activities like space missions, Orbweaver is perfect as all the essential keys are within easy reach. You can use the D-pad to navigate and the spacebar is there right if you need to do a few barrel rolls.
Some Issues to consider
One thing to note about the Orbweaver is the price. It costs $129.99 USD currently. The Razer Blackwidow, a full mechanical keyboard, in comparison costs $139.99. The price is a bit on the high side but does offer more opportunities for keybinds and a high level of comfort. If you are looking for more spaces for keybinds without having to shell out a lot of money, Razer Naga at $79.99 could be a good investment if you do not already have a programmable mice.
The other thing about Orbweaver is that it will take a bit of time to get adjusted using it. It is a bit more spacious than your standard keyboard so your fingers may not immediately lock on to the correct keys. The vertical difference between the 11 and 16 keys, which I bound to shift and ctrl respectively, did took a bit of time to get used to. D-pad movement is a bit confusing at first since the button is turned sideways.
The Razer Orbweaver is definitely a good gaming peripheral to consider if you are looking for more rooms for all your keybinds. It can be used in conjunction with the MMO mouse such as the Razer Naga or as a standalone device. It is spacious, customizable, and can be adjusted to fit different hand sizes for ultimate comfort. Think of it as a MMO mouse for your left hand.