The Razer Blackwidow Chroma clicky mechanical gaming keyboard is in the top echelon of gaming keyboards and represents Razers take on the current craze in gaming keyboards of flashy lighting effects. We examine whether it is worth the premium price tag.
Unboxing & Looks
In many ways the Razer Blackwidow Chroma Gaming Keyboard is the previous Blackwidow Keyboard with RGB led backlights. And that is in no way any slight as the 2013 Blackwidow proved to be an excellent gaming keyboard. You could say the same about pretty much all of Razers mechanical keyboards since their inception in 2010.
The Blackwidow Chroma comes in nice packaging and as well as the Keyboard contains instructions, guide and warranty paperwork, 2 reflective stickers and cables.
The Razer Blackwidow Chroma Mechanical Gaming Keyboard has a thick braided cable which looks and feels extremely sturdy and robust. The keyboard itself is matte black all around and constructed from plastic which, whilst it seems as though it is built to last, is a shame that some higher quality materials were not used given the asking price.
Unfortunately, the Blackwidow Chroma is a magnet for fingerprints, marks and smudges and you are likely to find yourself wiping it down more often than you would like to as they become irritatingly noticeable against the matte black finish. You can’t help but feel that for this price, a better finish was due – the only glossy part is where the illuminating logo sits in the middle of the keyboard.
With the Razer Blackwidow Chroma mechanical gaming keyboard, you can, in the main, expect the same features that featured on the 2013 Blackwidow model save of course for the addition of the RGB LED backlights.
In the 2013 Blackwidow model, the underneath of the keys had a green reflective surface. This time around, the underneath surface is a white which may not seem significant but in practice gives the lights greater vibrancy and vividness. Each key has its own led but is exemplified by this white surface.
The Blackwidow Chroma has 5 macro keys on the left hand side and on the right hand side there is one USB port and alongside it a mic jack and a headset jack. Having these is a very small but significant addition that gives the Chroma practicality. You can connect anything from your mouse to flash drive into it.
On the top right side of the Keyboard, there are standard caps and num locks indicators as well as macro and gaming mode indicator. We cannot fathom why Razer decided to make these indicators so dull – particularly in light of how flashy and vibrant the rest of the keyboard is. It’s as if they couldn’t make their mind up on whether they should be there or not.
Kaihl Switches v Cherry MX Switches
As the title to this review suggests, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma is a clicky mechanical keyboard and uses Kaihl switches rather than Cherry MX switches. For those wanting to know the difference between the two types of switches, it comes down to preference – Chinese engineering v German engineering. The former however seems to be the more standard type of switch for mechanical keyboards going forward. Many believe however this is a cheaper alternative to Cherry MX.
The Chroma’s keys felt very nice to press, with not too much pressure required to actuate and whilst they are not especially loud, they are not exactly stealthy silent. There is something about the Kaihl switches used here which feel different to the Cherry MX switches used with keyboards such as the Corsair Vengeance Gaming K70 RGB Mechanical Keyboard. It’s more of a different feeling rather than anything we particularity disliked about them and may take some getting used too if you are coming from Cherry MX switches.
Standard mechanical switches purportedly can withstand 50 million keystrokes but Razer claim that the Razer Blackwidow Chroma mechanical gaming keyboard can withstand 60 million key presses. All in all, our view is that the build of the Keyboard and its keys is solid, if not slightly different, and we like it.
One slight negative point about the actual keys themselves is that all the characters on each key do not illuminate as you would expect. So for example, the F keys and the small characters on non alphabetic keys such as full stops and commas, do not illuminate. It’s a strange design choice and quite irritable when you know it would not have taken Razer much more to use transparent plastic over those parts of the keys so that the small characters illuminate as with the rest of the key.
As soon as you plug the Chroma Blackwidow in to your PC, it goes into the colour spectrum wave mode which immediately illustrates the vibrant neon like colors. It’s quite an amazing sight given its just using LED’s.
You can trim down the brightness of the colours and make a number of changes and customisations though the Razer Synapse menu screen including the macros.
Note, as of January 6, 2015, Razer updated Synapse 2.0 for the Blackwidow Chroma and added the Ripple effect as well as the Chroma Configurator. In case you cannot find the link, you can get it here.
The great thing about the Razer Blackwidow Chroma as against rival keyboards is that making customisations and changes to the settings via the user interface is very easy.
There is a Macros and Keyboard tab within the Synapse 2.0 user interface. Within the Keyboard tab, you can customize various profiles which are accessed by various shortcuts (FN + 1 etc). You can also change lighting settings so for example you can change the effect that is shown when keys are pressed, the actual colour and the duration of the effect with each key press.
The type of effects available are as follows :
- static – this needs no explanation
- breath – this allows you to select 2 colours and it pulsates between the colors you choose
- custom – allows you to assign a base colour then a different colour for specific keys you determine (really useful for RTS games)
- Reactive – leaves a trail of the keys you press which you can change the duration and speed of
- Spectrum Cycling – i.e. side to side rainbow cycling the direction and speed of which you can change
- Ripple Effect – after 2.0 update (see below).
Within the Keyboard Tab there is also a gaming mode which by default disables the Windows Key and gives you the option to disable Atl+F4 and Alt+Tab shortcuts as well as give you the option to create various profiles.
As we said above, the Razer Synapse 2.0 added the Ripple Effect and the Chroma Configurator. In case you haven’t got it, here’s the link to the update.
The ripple effect has the effect akin to sticking your finger in a pond and seeing the ripples radiate outwards. With the ripple effect here, you can alter the speed and duration of the ripple within the Synapse screen as well as adjust the colour. You can also customize which keys will activate the ripple effect. The slow setting feels the best and you can change the width of the ripple which gives some great results.
One of the most impressive things about the Razer Blackwidow Chroma mechanical gaming keyboard is that you can carve it up so that each self determined area of the keyboard has its own ‘effect’.
This is by using the feature “Effect Layers”. So for example, you could customise the first effect layer by applying a ‘ripple effect’ to the main alphabet keys on the keyboard and nothing else. The second layer could be applying the F keys with ‘breath effect’ so that they are continuously pulsating. The third layer could consist of changing the Macro keys to a ‘static’ red colour. The fourth, the numeric keypad to ‘spectrum cycling’. And so on and so forth – until all your keyboard is carved up into segments that suits your particular game and responds to your keystrokes in different ways. And you could create a number of these profiles for different games.
If its not obvious already, all of the above gives the Razer Blackwidow Chroma a near endless list of customisation possibilities with 16.8 million different colour options. However, if you are not to keen on going to the trouble of customising it yourself, it comes with a number of brilliant presets which we found are more than suitable for most types of game types. Some of the presets are as follows:
- League of Legends,
- Starcraft 2,
- Counter Strike Global Offensive.
When using presets, one thing to watch out for is to be careful when layering presets. If two presets are covering the same keys you will get odd results that will only confuse you.
There is an active community on YouTube and Reddit that sometimes make available their customisations for download so it is worth keeping a look out for these in case you spot something you like.
We mentioned a few niggles with the Razer Blackwidow Chroma clicky mechanical gaming keyboard. They are mainly that it’s built from plastic, attracts loads of finger prints and has some odd design choices ( the indicators in the top right and small characters on some keys).
But overall, this keyboard simply blew us away. And it’s really because of the quality and execution of the lighting. On top of that, Razer made some great additions such as the USB socket and the mic and headphone jack which makes this a practical high end keyboard.
If you are a person who wants a mechanical keyboard that illuminates then there isn’t many better options – the Corsair K70 RGB is a close viable alternative. It’s relatively pricey for a keyboard but, in our view, well worth it.
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