Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 Gaming Keyboard Review
It is really hard to beat the feel of a fully mechanical keyboard when it comes to PC gaming or just plan typing in general. Mechanical keyboards provide a very satisfying feeling that truly needs to be experienced in person to be appreciated. Traditional rubber dome keys feel spongy and slow in comparison.
Sadly, there isn’t very many companies making mechanical gaming keyboards and the ones that do, make a lot of sacrifices when designing them. You can find gaming keyboards that feature all kinds of cool stuff, like full color LCD displays for watching YouTube videos or browsing the internet, or fully customizable brightness and color back-lighting , or even modular designs that allow you to configure the layout of the keys to your liking. BUT you typically don’t see any of those cool features on a mechanical keyboard. Leaving you to decide if you want a great feeling keyboard, or a keyboard with the latest features.
One company that is attempting to bring more features to their mechanical keyboards is Razer, who just updated their BlackWidow line. The 2013 BlackWidow gaming keyboard is available in a few different models. First, there is a standard version with no back-lighting. Razer also offers a Tournament version that is more portable. And lastly, there is the Ultimate, which features a number pad and five micro keys as well as back-lighting. The Ultimate edition comes in a standard and a silent version. The standard version features green back-lighting, while the silent version has blue back-lighting and quieter keys. This review will cover the loud and green BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 edition, which I have spent the last few weeks using.
The BlackWidow Ultimate is a large and sturdy chunk of plastic that measures 18.70” (Width) x 6.73” (Height) x 1.18” (Depth) and weights a hefty 3.31 lbs. The size and weight make this a bad choice for anyone that likes to move their gaming rig around often, but it is perfect for leaving on your desk full time. Although it is made almost entirely out of plastic, nothing about the BlackWidow Ultimate feels cheap or flimsy, everything feels very well constructed and I am willing to bet that it will outlast your current computer with ease.
Besides the normal keys you would expect to find on any keyboard, Razer has equipped the BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 with 11 function keys and 5 dedicated macro keys. The included function keys can be used to control your media, adjust your volume or back lighting, switch to gaming mode, and activate Razer’s on-the-fly macro recording.
Each key requires only 50 grams of downward pressure and a travel distance of just 2mm to actuate. The BlackWidow also boast an impressive response time of just 1ms and it has 1000Hz Ultrapolling. And there is Anti-ghosting support for up to 10 simultaneous key presses. All of that adds up to a keyboard that allows you to press keys faster and easier without worrying about any lagginess caused by the keyboard itself. The BlackWidow Ultimate will be able to keep up with the fastest fingers out there.
The BlackWidow Ultimate’s claim to fame is the back-lighting that the standard model lacks. Looking down at the keyboard exposes green accents bordering each key, the green is visible even with the keyboard off and it even shows up in my pictures of the keyboard. I am guessing that is because there is a large sheet of green plastic beneath the keys that turns regular light into glowing green light.
No matter how they did it, the back-lighting on the BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 looks fantastic. Each of the keys are evenly lit, and the brightness level has a large range of adjustment. Most keyboards give you a brighter and a dimmer button, these buttons usually have 3 stages. The BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 has the two buttons, but there are no stages. Instead, you simply hold one of the brightness buttons down and watch the back-lighting become increasingly brighter or dimmer depending on which button you used. I love this style of back-light control because of the high level of adjustment it offers.
Razer gave the BlackWidow Ultimate’s keys an anti-fingerprint finish that is meant to prevent smudges. I really like this new finish, it is attractive looking and effective at keeping the keys looking nice, but for some strange reason, the chassis doesn’t use it. Instead the chassis has a normal matte finish that excels at showcasing every single drop of oil from your skin or any fingerprint that comes in contact with it. The marks are clearly visible in the photos I’ve included with this review. All of the photos were taken after I had wiped down the keyboard in an attempt to remove any trace of grease or fingerprints. It looked considerably worse before I went to photograph it. So you might want to keep that in mind if you are the type that hates smudges.
Razer equipped the BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 with a USB pass-through and Audio-out/mic-in jacks. On paper it seems great that Razer included these, but in real world use, the location makes them kind of impractical to use if you are right-handed. Its actually one of the two gripes I have about the BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 edition’s design and like the finish on the chassis, I can’t help but wish they had done something different before the keyboard went to market.
The above picture shows my concerns with the ports. If you are right-handed and use those ports as Razer intended, the wires will be in your way, and may even affect your ability to use your mouse. I would have preferred having these ports located on the rear of the keyboard. There is plenty of room near the braided cable and having them there would make wire management much easier. BUT that’s not to say it is a deal breaker, it just meant that I very rarely used the ports due to the inconvenience of their location.
Like other Razer products, the BlackWidow line of keyboards uses Razer’s Synapse 2.0 software, which allows you to change your key bindings, program macros, create and edit profiles, adjust back-lighting brightness and enable pulsate mode. All of your custom settings gets saved to the cloud and you can access them with your account. This is a really useful feature that ensures that you can retrieve settings whenever you need them, as long as you have the internet any way.
I am not sure if I fell in love with this keyboard or if I am just in love with mechanical keyboards in general. There is no doubt that the BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 is a nice gaming keyboard, but there are ways that it could have been even better. For starters, I’m not a fan of the finish on the chassis or the location of the pass-through ports and like other mechanical keyboards, it suffers from a lack of the latest features.
I understand that mechanical keyboards cost more to manufacture, and to keep prices lower, companies are forced to make sacrifices somewhere. But personally, I would love to have a great-feeling, mechanical keyboard that comes with all the bells and whistles found on rubber dome boards. Even if it costs me a little more money.
Lack of features aside, the BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 is still one of the best gaming keyboards available. It stacks up very well when compared with other fully mechanical keyboards and it offers more features than a lot of it’s competitor’s offerings. I actually noticed a dramatic increase in my typing speed after I grew accustomed to using this keyboard. The light actuation pressure combined with the ridiculously short travel distance of the keys makes for easier and faster typing. I also noticed a decrease in finger fatigue because I wasn’t having to press each individual key as hard as I do with other keyboards.
When it’s all said and done, I would pick the great feel of Razer’s BlackWidow Ultimate 2013 edition over the fancy features found on normal gaming keyboards.