Razer's Black Widow Keyboards Get a Much-Needed Face-Lift

Anybody looking for a new gaming keyboard should seriously consider Razer's range of 2013 Black Widow boards, now available in multiple form factors.

by

Razer is never one to rest on its laurels. The creative force behind some of the PC's most distinct gaming peripherals is pushing a new revision of its most popular keyboard to market: the Black Widow Ultimate 2013. It retains the responsive Cherry MX Blue switches, anti-ghosting capabilities, and on-the-fly macro recording, and it features a new matte finish, complete with Razer-green backlighting. The Black Widow is distinctly Razer and a solid piece of equipment, but like with any other peripheral, it's the details that determine how well it'll fit into your particular hardware ensemble.


The 2013 Black Widow ships in three variations that range from the stripped-down Tournament Edition at $79, to the $139.99 Black Widow Ultimate (Pictured Above).

The Ultimate edition is essentially a mechanical gaming keyboard with extensive macro capabilities, pass-through data and audio ports, media controls, and the ability to register 10 simultaneous keystrokes. Its defining characteristic among the group is the green backlighting that resides underneath each key. On-board key combos allow you to incrementally adjust the brightness through 20 levels of intensity, from way too bright to completely dark.


Backlighting, shot in a dimly lit room, at Step 0 (off), 1, 10, and, 20 (max).

Where cost is a concern, picking up the standard Black Widow, which forgoes backlighting, can save you $40, coming in at $99.99. For all intents and purposes, it's functionally identical to the Ultimate Edition, just without the backlight option. Unlike past standard Widows, the 2013 version features the same USB and audio pass-through (headphone and microphone) capabilities of the high-end model. If you're right-handed, however, you'll occasionally wish they weren't located on the same side as your mouse hand.

The Tournament Edition, dubbed so for its portability and simplicity, ditches the backlighting, pass-through ports, macro functionality (per competitive gaming regulations), and, most importantly, the number pad, and retails for $79.99. Interestingly, it features a detachable USB cable, a feature not found in other Widow models. It's a new form factor for the Black Widow line, and considering the heft of the full-size models, it's one that will strike a chord with participants at LAN parties and other BYOC (bring your own computer) events.

The hallmark feature of any Black Widow is the Cherry MX switches within each key. The benefits of their mechanical design, relative to the all-too-common rubber-membrane design, are immediately recognizable. Mechanical keys in general require less pressure to actuate, rapidly spring back to their neutral position, and often exhibit some form of sensory feedback. During gameplay, the ability to quickly strike a key and confirm actuation is an invaluable tool. The same qualities make general typing an overall easier experience, too. Cheap manufacturers tend to use the membrane standard, resulting in mushier strokes, which in turn, requires excessive force to actuate a key. Once you've grown accustomed to the bounciness and ease of striking a mechanical key, it's challenging to return to a membrane-based keyboard and not feel like you're using a lesser product.

The same can be said for the Black Widow. If you aren't accustomed to it, the noise and responsiveness feel wholly different at first. The sound of a Widow's click is crisp and anything but quiet, but it grows on you. It's only after spending a significant number of hours with the Widow that it begins to feel "right." General typing even becomes less of a physical burden on the hands. That alone makes it (and mechanical keyboards in general) worth considering, regardless of their application.

Many users criticized last year's Widows for the glossy finish, which had the unfortunate ability to hold onto fingerprints like a champ, so it's great to see that problem resolved across all models. They're more utilitarian in appearance, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Recording macros within and without Razer's Synapse 2.0 configuration software is a simple and intuitive task. The straightforward GUI allows you to name your macro, define key-press delay recordings, and visually confirm your macro inputs prior to saving. To assign your macros to a key, you must shift to the "Keyboard" configuration tab and choose the desired key on the rendered image of the Black Widow.

Recording on the fly is easier, though slightly less flexible, than using Synapse. Pressing the FN (function) and F9 keys initiates the macro recording mode, signified by a red, backlit icon above the number pad. From there, simply enter your desired key combo and press the FN/F9 keys once more to end the recording. The final step is to assign the macro to a key on the keyboard, accomplished by hitting said key as the red macro notification flashes. When the recording is complete, the macro icon shuts off, and your macro key is ready to use.

It's an easy procedure to carry out, but adjusting your macros requires some extra work. By default, on-the-fly recordings take the delay between key presses and depresses into account. Once a macro is set, you can modify these nuances through Synapse, deleting delays or modifying their duration as you see fit. The designated row of macro keys is easily accessible, but if you find that you need more than five macros at any given time, you can assign them to any key on the board through Synapse as well.

The Widow's "gaming mode" is a useful feature that disables certain key combos to prevent inadvertent gameplay interruptions. By default, the Windows key will be disabled, but you can add ALT+F4 and ALT+TAB to that list within Synapse. Enabling gaming mode, according to Razer, also kicks the 10-key rollover into gear, but we found the Widow adept at registering 10 simultaneous key strokes with or without gaming mode enabled, to Razer's credit.

All told, the refreshed Widow has upped the bar set by prior models. The Ultimate version tips the scales at $140, but it's functionally rich, and if you crave backlighting, it's the Widow for you. Though it lacks fancy additions such as secondary displays and multicolor LEDs, it lives up to Razer's promise of a high-end keyboard with features that the gaming crowd actually wants, namely, mechanical keys, macros, and anti-ghosting capabilities. It's great that Razer has improved one of its flagship products based on user feedback, especially by generously including audio and data capabilities on the standard model. Other than the potential annoyance regarding pass-through port placement, there's so much to like about the Widow. With almost no faults to speak of, it deserves to be at the top of your shopping list when upgrading your gaming arsenal.

Discussion

45 comments
BlueShark1
BlueShark1

Been using Razer products for  years, keyboards, mice, gaming surfaces, etc.- never had a single problem with them and am still using the original products. If they ever fail me, I'll move on, but  I have no reason to as of yet.

etacet
etacet

"Face-Lift" doesn't exactly blow me away, but love my Black Widow Ultimate which is my favorite of any gaming keyboard that I have tried.

OFarrell86
OFarrell86

the only real difference between this model and the previous blackwidow ultimate is the green backlighting instead of blue, matte finish, the price and the name.

CUDGEdave
CUDGEdave

Overpriced rubbish,any keyboard does  the same job,"Gaming" keyboards are just a fad.

giooo
giooo

Genius keyboard and mouse are perfect for gaming. I've been using the same keyboard and mouse for 5 years without any problem.

illmatic87
illmatic87

It's a solid mechanical keyboard. A little loud

 

The F1-F12 keys are poorly aligned to your standard keyboard.

Gamr2723
Gamr2723

I've heard to many compaints about these keyboards that Razer makes.  Many people have posted about stuck spacebars, and stuck key even right out of the box.  Yes they make incredible mice, (I am currently using a DeathAdder, and love it) but as much as I would like an illuminated keyboard, for $140 dollars, I'll just turn on a light.

trueepower44
trueepower44

Buy a Topre, a real keyboard. This is junk.

ninedot
ninedot

I personally find razer to be poor quality. I've had three separate Oroci's, two of which had issues right from the box, the third which now is having malfunctioning buttons after only one year. Additionally, I've had a Razer black widow in the past which I had to return because the whole thing was warped - many others complained of similar poor quality. On top of that, I have another friend who has had a bad experience with Razer products so I don't feel like I'm the only one with this opinion. As for me, I'll spend my money elsewhere where I'm guaranteed better quality and lifespan. I find Razer just adds a bunch of gimmicky features to their products, 3/4 of which you will most likely never use - but hey, it's a great marketing strategy. In the end, their definitely not the enthusiasts' choice when it comes to peripherals.  

Blue-Diamond
Blue-Diamond

Have a Dragaon Age II Razer's Black Widow Keyboard it looks great with my computer build in a Thermaltake Element G case.

Love the red back lighting. I spend so much time on my computer, why not personalize it.

Nothing wrong with green either. The new Razer looks cool and would love to have.

STAR_Admiral
STAR_Admiral

The tournament edition ditches the number pad? how the hell do you use a keyboard without a numberpad!. I even never buy a laptop that doesn't have a number pad.

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

For keyboards, I use (on this PC) a Razer Lycosa- it's not a mechanical keyboard, which makes it an attractive choice for me- this one has flatter keys similar to laptops (and rubberized finish on keys)- backlit, most of Razer's stuff is backlit, you'd be surprised how used to it you get - especially for us 'gaming in the dark' gamers :) It's not about flashiness, haters always bring it up, but when you have awkward keybindings, it's helpful among other reasons. The flatter keys sold me on this one since a hand injury effected my typing comfort level a few years ago. Wouldn't matter who made it.

q-bert39
q-bert39

Hurr i need to spend $140 on a keybard bcuz it has lites n i cant type without seieng my keys even do i am a gamurrr.... DURRRURURRRR

 

Elann2008
Elann2008

The thing is, there are much better options out there for this price range.  Razer Keyboards are last on my list, if ever.

predatorGS
predatorGS

I don't want a new black widow, I want a new Lycosa. One without a shiny surface. I really grow fond of notebook style keys and whenever I have to use a pc with the normal high keys (cherry I guess) I feel retarded.

Bubreg
Bubreg

Any 10 year old Cherry keyboard will do the same job. Gaming keyboards are highly over-rated and overpriced. Gaming mouse is a difference, while keyboard is not. BTW any keyboard with a cable is a pain in the neck. Somebody should really consider making a wireless gaming keyboard instead of making a light-show keyboard. Backlight for the keys?! Really?! LCD screens are so bright anyway, no need for backlight. We all know where our keys are even in deep dark. The real problem with Razer keyboards is that after a year you don't have a keyboard anymore... because it all falls apart. And those keys? They are so tall and close to each other that I really can imagine how do they look after a few months... an incubator for bacteria and fungi. Chicklet (island-style) keyboards are a MUST. Come on hardware designers... get a grip.

dkdk999
dkdk999

Ya seems like a huge waste of money to spend $150 on a keyboard.

srocciso
srocciso

There are way way better keyboards out there. Razer has poor quality control on their products so you take a gamble. I also noticed how on your "lighting" tes you did not show keys like 1 2 or [ that have other characters printed on them, those characters ARE NOT visible with the green light. For instance you can see 2 but you won't see @ in the total dark where light is supposed to be useful. Macros are a meh feature at best (you're better off with a gamepad like the G13 or Nostromo if you need a lot of macros) and although cherry mx blues are great switches, the keycaps are terrible from razer and most wear off relatively quick (keep in mind for a 140 keyboard you expect it to last more than 2 years), I know all this since I had the original Blackwidow Ultimate and the regular one, the only improvement I see so far is the matte finish.

If you're serious about the keyboard you want and need lights then let me suggest you look up http://www.maxkeyboard.com/mechanical-keyboard.html this keyboards, they are great in blues and red (the one I have), quality keycaps, matte finish, great led coverage (you can see both the 3 and the # in dark rooms), full NKR on USB  and with software you can macro any key on the whole keyboard, also matte finish anbd you can even customize the leds if you want. If you don't need light then Steelseries, DAS and a lot of others are miles ahead of Razer.

Sorry but this is the truth from what I've experienced and researched as a hardware vendor, the last quality product I had from Razer was the Deathadder and even that one had some issues for a lot of people.

seanmcloughlin
seanmcloughlin

For gaming I don't see the need for super keyboards. Mice maybe but a keyboard is a keyboard to me. I am using a really crappy one and it does the job fine

soonlar
soonlar

Keyboard is expensive and quality control is poor. I had several LEDs go out on some of my keys in the 2011 model so I returned. I actually prefer the full size wired aluminum apple keyboards, work well in win 7 and Mac.

XeonForce
XeonForce

A lot of their products teeter towards the cheesy side of things, but great down-to-earth products are what keep me coming back to Razer. This one looks like another winner.

vault-boy
vault-boy

I bought my computer for 15 dollars from a store a few streets from my house, so unless that thing dispenses free chocolate and blowjobs there is no way in hell I'm paying $140 for an LED backlight. I wonder if the reviewer had to buy this with his own money or if Gameppot payed for it (I'm suspecting the latter because if he bought it he would be out of his mind to recommend this to anyone who isn't a millionaire).

Dfelices
Dfelices

muy bueno me gusto muchas personas igniran que esto es una parte fundamental para los pc gamer

 

BlueShark1
BlueShark1

 @Gamr2723

 Never had a problem with their boards (years of use/experience). You can also get an illuminated Razer keyboard for under $100, this $140 is the most expensive one, but they have many, most are backlit.

Daemoroth
Daemoroth

 @predatorGS That is my one and only complaint - that mirror finish looks nice in the box, but once you've touched it it's over. :) A great keyboard though, would be hard-pressed to go for anything else.

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

 @predatorGS

 I use  a Lycosa and I love the flatter keys. I have had this one for quite a few years- not one problem. Not sure why people complain about Razer products lasting, I have several and have never had any problems. Makes me wonder how they treat their gaming equipment! No problems here.

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

 @Bubreg

 depends on the type of gaming you do, a regular keyboard vs. a gaming keyboard is a big difference, 2 obvious advantages are hyper-responsiveness of gaming boards and gaming mode (available on Razer's -not sure if other brands have it or not) which kills the windows key, which occassionally gets hit in the heat of battle and will minimize your game (usually resulting in your death in game in the process), with gaming mode on- if you hit it nothing happens, and you can re-enable it when you're done gaming. Also, the anti-ghosting feature is a biggie. If you're a casual gamer it won't matter much, but the rest of us see and appreciate these advantages- and no one is forced to use them, but you gain by doing so.

vault-boy
vault-boy

Edit: my KEYBOARD for $15, not computer 

billlabowski
billlabowski

 @Dfelices Agreed but Razer has been going downhill big time lately with their hardware and not to mention their software seems like it was developed by chimps.

predatorGS
predatorGS

 @Daemoroth Indeed, certainly because it's the single one in its class. I did have the Logitech ultraX but that one broke twice (and no backlit keys).

ninedot
ninedot

 @Tidal_Abyss I completely disagree with this. Unless your talking about mechanical gaming keyboards, there is no such "hyper responsiveness" in any razer product other than the  black widow. It's simply impossible. All their keyboards use the exact same dome switches as a typical $10 keyboard would. I will agree that the "gaming mode" is a nice feature, but its nothing that a simple computer app or key bind change couldn't fix. Anti-ghosting is also a nice feature; however, the only need for anti-ghosting is if you have a USB keyboard, in which case, if people are so avid on the "hyper-responsiveness" aspect, they should be using a ps2 port connection instead where anti-ghosting is useless. Gaming keyboards are a gimick and it's not going to make you any better of a player (of course, all this is excluding mechanical keyboards). Just my opinion no hard feelings Tidal_Abyss

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

 @Bubreg

 P.S. you can get a nice gaming keyboard under $100 -you don't have to spend top dollar.

Dfelices
Dfelices

 @billlabowski agreed to jejeje but the nice for this last Black Widow is the synapse in personal i like more my nostromo

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

 @BlueShark1

 "Game, use what you want, and let the rest ride". I like that :)

 

People don't have to always agree, it's difference in opinion, like you said, reguardless of what founded it, but - differences with people, is what gives the world variety. I don't care if someone agrees with me, I share my info. -they accept it or not- not a big deal, it's their business how they feel about it.

Unless a keyboard manufacterer comes here to explain, he/she probably won't change their mind but I've used both, it's all I need to know.

Nice quote :)

BlueShark1
BlueShark1

 @Tidal_Abyss

 Well said. Most people these days can't just leave room for difference in opinion, reguardless of what found that opinion, fact, personal experience, both- and who said it's your job to run around the internet to gather facts for a report to some random stranger online to prove something to them- this isn't school!- and who cares, most won't change their minds no matter what you show/tell them. Besides, there are better things to do on your PC! Internet has to be one of the most annoying places on earth, which is why I don't post much! Guess I needed to vent, thanks for listening -and no direct offense intended to any specific individuals, and if any individual is still offeneded, I guess the shoe fits.  I know T_A= we're in our 30's and aren't obsessed (though annoyed occassionally!) by kids/college kids online.

Game, use what you want, and let the rest ride.

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

 @ninedot

 lol You don't have to agree- not the end of the world. I'm not one of those people on the internet that just wants to argue, you feel your way -I feel mine based on experience with various products and researching purchases. If I didn't notice, not just read but notice an actual performance difference between the two, I wouldn't waste my money.  You can stick to your $10 keyboard. :) As I always say, to each their own.

ninedot
ninedot

 @PC4Me the ps2 port is the old fashioned (but not too old fashioned as they still have them on new z77/z79 mobos) mouse and keyboard ports at the back of the computer, the circle ones. Those eliminate the need for anti-ghosting as this is only really an issue with usb keyboards.  

ninedot
ninedot

 @Tidal_Abyss ahh i see what you mean by ultra responsiveness. But to be honest, unless you can show me some comparable facts showing that it truly is faster to have a keyboard that claims to have "1000 bazillion hz ultra polling", then I can't agree that you are correct. I still think a $10 rubber dome keyboard matches a razer any day, probably better quality in the $10 one unfortunately. What I was referring to however with the mechanical keyboards is that fact that most of them a) take less force to push down each key and b) register a  key press faster because the key does not need to be pressed all the way down unlike dome keyboards. This is where I believe the real difference comes in. But I guess if you want to think your 1000hz ultra polling is giving you an edge then that's your choice.

PC4Me
PC4Me

 @ninedot

 what's the ps2 port connection you refer to? you lost me, I don't use playstations so perhaps that's why.

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

 @ninedot

After using both, I stand by it (and I've stated I use the Lycosa with unique keys like no other keyboard they offer- and if you look up the specs. they both have the same response time- Lycosa and Black Widow 1,000Hz Ultrapolling and 1ms response times. Unless you design keyboards for a living, I'll have to bow to their knowledge instead). We'll have to agree to disagree. It's refreshing to come upon an intelligible disagreement for a change.