February 5, 2018 // 1 p.m.
Despite it being fairly new, the current BlackWidow Ultimate is not a keyboard that's migrated to Razer's new Synapse 3 software. I still have a Razer Basilisk on my desk, which does work with Synapse 3, but this meant having to have both versions of the software installed, which felt silly. Hopefully this doesn't last long.
So, back to Synapse 2. With this software, you do still need to create an online profile and login, but after this you can select offline mode and stay there forever more. The benefit is that it allows you to synchronise custom settings between PCs (assuming they all have Synapse installed). The BlackWidow Ultimate has no onboard memory, so this is the only real way of retaining customisations. Well, there is the option of Tournament Drivers, but the less said about those the better.
Selecting the main Keyboard tab, you have three separate screens to work on: Customize, Lighting, and Gaming Mode. On all of them, there is a profile manager that allows you to change profiles and assign them to keyboard shortcuts and/or specific apps on your PC. You can also import and export them should you wish.
The Customize tab is simple to use, presenting a keymap for each profile that you can use to reprogram virtually any key. To do this, simply click a key and choose a new function from the impressively long drop-down menu that subsequently appears. Macros, inter-device functions (with supported Razer hardware), media functions, and program shortcuts are all available options, among others.
Since we don't have RGB lighting here, the Lighting tab isn't too complex. The standard list of effects covers your basic options with some simple customisations like shade of green, brightness, and speed (where applicable), but you can also open up the Effects Configurator if you want to mix and match or layer different effects – this is per-key lighting after all. The UI takes a few minutes to adjust to, but I was able to set up a background reactive layer with WASD keys always lit and a wave effect across the function keys in just a few minutes, and you can really get into the nitty and gritty if you want by creating custom gradients and so on.
The Gaming Mode tab simply controls what key combinations the onboard gaming mode (triggered with FN and F10) disables. As well as the Windows key, you can also prevent Alt and Tab or Alt and F4 from working and disrupting gameplay.
Macros get a whole editor in their own main tab, and this feels familiar and easy. It's easy to set delay recording options and to edit your macros after recording. Mouse buttons can be recorded, but not movements or scrolls. Playback options are set whenever you assign a macro to a given key, and all the usual options are there. There is a final Stats tab that you can use to get reports about your in-game actions, but I largely find such stuff to be meaningless fluff, so I paid it little heed.
At £110, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate feels a little pricey next to the Corsair and Tesoro water-resistant models, since both of those offer full RGB backlighting as well for just £10 more ($10 more for the Tesoro, which isn't in the UK), though in the case of Corsair you do get a lower IP rating. Other than water-resistance, it isn't anything we haven't seen before from Razer. Still, you do get a lot of features, especially once Synapse comes into play, and the rigid design, pleasant switches, and intuitive software help the keyboard out as well. As such, despite not being especially exciting, it's easy enough to recommend if it ticks the boxes of what you're looking for.