February 5, 2018 // 1 p.m.
UK price (as reviewed): £109.99 (inc. VAT)
US price (as reviewed): MSRP $109.99 (exc. tax)
The BlackWidow is a product that seems to have more versions than the song Imagine by John Lennon. This specific model (with a reused name) is one of the latest, and it comes with mechanical switches, green backlighting (not RGB), and – the new feature – resistance to dust and water.
This seems to be the new focus in the never-ending features arms face; we've recently seen the Tesoro Gram SE Spectrum and Corsair K68 RGB, both of which come with an Ingress Protection (IP) rating to signify a specific level of protection against objects and liquids. This Razer keyboard has an IP54 rating; the second digit is what signifies liquid protection, which here is defined as: 'Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect.' This sounds like it should protect against drink spillages (the next step up is protection against water from a jet nozzle), and it's a higher rating than the IP32 one carried by the Corsair keyboard. Tesoro, however, has an even higher rating of IP56; that keyboard uses optical switches that make no electrical contact with the PCB, allowing for a tighter seal. With any of these products, though, it's important to remember that water-resistance is not waterproof.
Razer doesn't actually detail how it makes the BlackWidow Ultimate water-resistant other than saying that it has modified the switch design. There is no protective rubber membrane like there is on the Corsair keyboard, so we can only assume it has achieved a tight seal around the switches. The switches poke through a flat, green plate that slopes downwards, and there do appear to be some drainage holes at the front on the underside too, so this should help with getting water out quickly too.
The build quality is decent here. The matt, slightly textured black plastic shell makes for a strong outer layer, and the BlackWidow Ultimate is resistant to flexing, although Corsair's K68 RGB has it beat in this domain. The rubber cable is securely attached at the back, and you also get rubber on the underside, including on the tips of the rear legs.
This keyboard is only available with Razer's Green Switch, which is the clicky type designed to mimic (or improve upon, if you're Razer) the Cherry MX Blue feel. Usually, Razer keyboards are available with both this and the Orange Switch (tactile, akin to Cherry MX Brown), so it's possible there's been a small redesign of the switch to help with that IP rating. In fact, with the keycaps off, we can see extra raised bits either side of the cross-shaped plunger, although this could just be to help keep the keycaps steady. Either way, typing and gaming on these switches feels good, and I probably wouldn't be able to tell them apart from Cherry MX Blues. These switches are rather loud, which may or may not appeal, and the clacky noise is amplified by reverberation off the internal metal plate.
Each switch includes a green LED at the top, which shines through the top part of the keycaps. Razer ensures that the main symbols are top-etched to ensure that as much light as possible gets through. However, all secondary/lower symbols are printed rather than etched, so they don't light up. This avoids having uneven lighting, but it does potentially make the keyboard a little harder to use in the dark. Still, with the vivid green LEDs complemented by the green midplate, the lighting quality is excellent.
The glossy plastic section in the top right has the lock indicators, the gaming mode indicator, and the on-the-fly macro symbol, all of which light up green except the latter, which is red (only when in use). The three-headed snake logo beneath the bottom row of keys also gets its own green LED.
The FN key combines with others on the keyboard to give you some secondary functions, including volume and media control with F1-F3 and F5-F7 respectively, F9 for on-the-fly macro recording, F10 for gaming mode (Windows key disable), F11 and F12 for backlight brightness control, and Pause to send the PC to sleep.
The BlackWidow Ultimate has 10-key rollover, although in our testing we found it often could handle 12 or so simultaneous presses. While this isn't as good, technically, as full-key rollover, most people aren't capable of pressing more than 10 keys at once, so in practical terms it's just as good.