It's nice to have a 'Medium' option in most things. When you're not quite hungry enough for that monstrous Large, a Small won't quite cut it, so the middle option can often feel 'just right'. Fast food meets Goldilocks and the Three Bears analogy aside, this is the best way to describe the new Razer BlackWidow mechanical keyboard. Slotting right between the Razer BlackWidow Elite
and BlackWidow Lite, this year's BlackWidow loses a few of the premium elements of the Elite without compromising on the fundamentals of a great keyboard for gaming or working.
Look and Feel
Razer has, thankfully, done away with the obnoxious science fiction-esque typeface that adorned their keycaps in the past – replacing it with a more restrained look that wouldn't seem wildly out of place in a professional setting. The keyboard's case is built from a pleasant feeling, heavily textured plastic which prevents fingerprints from griming up the look of the keyboard and feels quite durable. The keycaps are grippier to the touch, almost a soft-touch plastic and feel pleasant to type on.
Switch Type: Razer Green Mechanical Switches
LED Color: Razer Chroma
Cable: Wired (USB)
80 million keystroke lifespan
10 key roll-over anti-ghosting
Fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording
This standard BlackWidow comes equipped with Razer's own 'Razer Green' keyswitches, which should last a while thanks to a specified 80 million keystroke lifespan. To my fingers, they feel extremely close to Cherry's MX Blues. The audible click when a key actuates makes for a satisfying typing experience, albeit one that people around you might not enjoy as much as you do. Razer's switch design makes some improvements on Cherry's with extra material around the switch stem for a sturdier key with less wobble. Media controls are found as alternate functions on the F-row rather than dedicated buttons, and as expected each key is individually RGB backlit using the always impressive Razer Chroma.
Most of the BlackWidow's most interesting features are unlocked with the use of the Synapse 3 software (which is only available for Windows at the moment, so Mac or Linux users are out of luck). Here you can play with HyperShift, which essentially allows a key to be used as a modifier for any other key on the board – potentially giving every key a secondary function. While some may mourn the loss of dedicated M-keys from older Razer boards, HyperShift provides a potentially more versatile alternative. Especially for those that love to setup profiles.
"Razer's switch design makes some improvements on Cherry's with extra material around the switch stem for a sturdier key with less wobble."
What really impressed though was Chroma Studio, where supported games can define their own dynamic lighting schemes. It’s that age-old tale of person getting distracted by flashing lights and wondering what sort of wizardry is at hand. The list of supported games that take full advantage isn't massive but includes some of today's most popular titles like Apex Legends and Fortnite. The usefulness of this feature varies from game to game, but there are a few implementations I found genuinely useful. In Diablo 3, keys will change to a different colour based on whether the ability assigned to that key is ready to use or on cooldown. Aggressive rhythm game Thumper is known for its psychedelic visuals, and when using compatible Chroma enabled hardware it can extend the light show from the screen into your environment.
It's hard to fault this year's BlackWidow. There are cheaper options out there if you aren't wild about the customisable lighting and Chroma game support, but for your money you're getting a sturdy board with switches that feel great for both gaming and productivity. The board's subdued appearance and customisable lighting mean it would be as much at home in a work environment as a gaming den, so long as your work colleagues aren't bothered by the delightful clicky sound coming from your desk.