Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2013

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2013.Since my old Logitech keyboard proved to be non-cat-vomit resistant I was in a need of a new keyboard. And after having switched to a mechanical keyboard at work there is no way that I wanted a membrane board again.

At work I use Das Keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches. Since the time that I bought that keyboard the market has been flooded with tons of new mechanical offerings. This makes choosing the right keyboard much more difficult.

First the switches themselves — even though I like the feel of Cherry MX Blue switches more I was OK with going with Cherry MX Brown version as well. The feedback on those is not as pleasant, but for the sake of being more quite at home I wouldn’t mind them.

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate mechanical keyboard.Another important consideration for me was the availability of additional keys on the keyboard that I could reprogram for my own purposes. I got very used to certain hotkeys in my workflow process and really didn’t want to give that up. Specifically because of that I didn’t go with Das Keyboard again.

The thing that I did have to give up was being wireless. But it really is not a big deal since I never moved my keyboard anywhere anyway. BlackWidow in particular came with a high quality braided cable that doesn’t look too bad and doesn’t seem to be causing any discomfort.

While I was playing SWTOR in order to be good one has to map most of the actions to keyboard and click as little as possible. Back then I was looking at MMO specific peripherals and Razer brand kept coming up. I liked the aesthetics of their products, so the brand name stuck with me.

And even though I don’t play any games at this point I decided to go with one of their mechanical keyboards from BlackWidow branch. They have different versions. I went with the most expensive1 one because I wanted a full size keyboard and even though I don’t need illumination2 I just liked how it looked. This board comes with Blue switches. I couldn’t find a Brown version3 anywhere, but they do make one.

Backlighting.I think the keyboard looks really good. It has only one small glossy part on it — Razer logo. Everything else is done in matte finish — in order to avoid fingerprints and smudges. And even though it probably makes things better it still is susceptible to all of it. It has a number of addition keys that can support macros and other functionality and it comes with software that lets you remap any key on the keyboard to anything else and setup multiple profiles.

One of the things that I wanted to do is to map a couple of buttons to open certain folders on the disk. And to my surprise there was no way to do it. When I started searching for solutions I came upon a barrage of hate directed towards Razer Synapse — software that is used to control the keyboard. However from my (granted limited) experience all the issues have been resolved in latest versions.

Another annoyance that I noticed was that the tops of the key caps are actually smaller than your usual keyboard which seems to be a weird choice. I keep missing some keys from time to time, even though they are spaced in a standard way. This and an inability to call up folders in any elegant way started me wanting to go back to the store and exchange it for Logitech G710+ mechanical board.

BlackWidow Ultimate box.I know for a fact that Logitech software will let me do what I want with folders, but I do not like the fact that all the keys can not be remapped. It uses Brown switches, but it looks weird — they could have done better in the design department.

I also managed to find where Razer Synapse stores its settings and I was able to edit the configuration files to actually force it to open folders exactly in the way that I wanted — strangely Google was not helpful in this department, but that problem is solved. Today at one point the keyboard started producing weird characters instead of the normal ones. If it does it again I probably will exchange it for something else. We’ll see how it goes. For the moment I’m keeping it.

  1. $140 at BestBuy or anywhere else. []
  2. I blind type and never look at the keyboard. []
  3. Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth comes with Cherry MX Brown switches. []
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