Razer BlackWidow Ultimate ReviewManufacturer: Razer
UK price (as reviewed): £107.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $129.99 (ex tax)
Razer has recently introduced a ranking system for its gaming peripherals: basic kit is classed as ‘essential’; better kit as ‘expert’; and the finest in fragging accoutrements are ‘elite’. With a name such as BlackWidow Ultimate, you can guess to which category this £110 keyboard belongs.
Unusually for gaming kit, the BlackWidow Ultimate doesn’t sport a design that’s chock-full of quirky angles, weird features and pictures of flames. Instead, it looks quite plain and understated. The keyboard has a conventional wedge shape, and is angled to avoid having to use the pull-out feet; a typical point of failure during rage-quit keyboard bashings. However, the glossy plastic used for the main body isn’t particularly pleasant to the touch. It also quickly becomes dirty, showing up fingerprints, dust and detritus all too easily.
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Look closer and you’ll see the mix of upper- and lower-case lettering, the chunky 2.2m braided cable and the row of five macro keys that gives the BlackWidow Ultimate its gaming edge. You’ll immediately notice the Cherry keys in use too, as they produce the distinctive clunk-click sound that can rapidly become annoying. We don’t recommend the BlackWidow Ultimate for rooms of more than one occupant. While the action of Cherry keys is clean – Razer claims a 50g actuation force, which felt fine – the tops of the key have an odd skin-gripping finish. The result is an uncomfortable sensation of your fingertips being pulled around as you type or poise your fingers on the WASD keys.
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Another irritation is the position of the Shift symbols under the main symbol on keys – by placing Equals over Plus and so on, we were constantly lured into hitting Shift when it wasn’t necessary. The inconsistent lettering of the keys is also unclear – Y, J and K are particular nuisances.
Unlike the expert-ranked Razer Anansi
, the backlight of the BlackWidow Ultimate can only be blue. You can cycle through two brightness settings (three, if you count ‘off’), and the odd pulsing setting via the FN key and F12. The media controls, plus a gaming mode (via F11) that disables the Windows and Menu keys, can also be enabled via the FN key. Annoyingly, the indication for gaming mode isn’t tied to the key (a change in backlight would have done the job) but through a dull green icon that appears in the panel above the keypad.
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The sales blurb for the BlackWidow Ultimate talks about individually backlit keys, but this only means that each key has an LED behind it. Even if you disable keys in the intuitive configurator software, the backlight for those keys remain turned on. At least the configurator lets you assign any tasks you want to any of the keys (activated by pressing the FN key and the mapped key), and design complex macros that contain delays and some advanced Windows actions. It can also save up to ten profiles of key layout and designation.
Even by Razer’s own standards, the BlackWidow Ultimate misses several tricks. There’s no choice of backlight colour, unlike the Anansi. Plus, while the Cherry keys have a clean action, the coating feels uncomfortable, and the clunk-click of the keys is very loud. The decision to place Shift symbols under the main key symbols is also a needlessly confusing break from convention. The BlackWidow Ultimate simply doesn’t have nearly enough to make it worth £110.