In August 2014, Razer launched their Chroma range of gaming peripherals. As the name suggests, and as you would have encountered in our Razer Naga Epic Chroma review, these units all feature a variety of colours and patterns to suit your needs. Thankfully, though, the units aren’t just about fancy LED lights annoying some users during some serious gaming sessions, but rather an indicator for the multitude of customisations across the entire range. Alongside the customisations, the units also showcase the latest in gaming tech, with a few of Razer’s own creations and designs.
We recently received a trio of devices in the Chroma range, the BlackWidow Chroma, Deathadder Chroma, and the Kraken 7.1 Chroma, all of which were released alongside the Naga Epic Chroma. The first unit up for review is the Blackwidow Chroma, a mechanical gaming keyboard that builds on the highly successful original BlackWidow, which became the “most popular and highest selling” gaming keyboard in 2010. No pressure.
Build and Design
If ever you wanted a device in which careful thought was given to each detail, the Blackwidow Chroma won’t let you down. It is evident from the onset that the Chroma’s colours are a significant aspect of the design, with each key having its own, detached LED. While the original BlackWidow and the BlackWidow Ultimate were limited to just green lighting, the Chroma has no such limitations at all and provide a wide variety of colour options and patterns to choose from.
Apart from the fancy lighting, Razer have designed and created their very own Razer Mechanical Switch, opposed to the industry standard, Cherry MX mechanical switches. The system was developed from the ground up, specifically for gaming (and not typing), and, according to Razer, the actuation is optimised at a better distance to provide snappier triggers during each keystroke. The minute detail extends to inner working of each key, which includes a protective housing to keep dust and dirt from the moving parts, gold-plated contact points to enhance the keystrokes, and a spring with an operating force of up to 50G. The newly designed switch increases the expected durability from 50m keystrokes by a further 10m. And if you needed any additional proof of the detail, each key is individually branded with the Razer name.
For default use, simple plug-and-play methods will work on the BlackWidow Chroma. This, however, doesn’t give users the access to the full array of customisation options available on the device. The keyboard has a number of additional features for setup including a braided, USB Y-cable, with two USB cables along with 3.5mm audio and mic jacks. While these will plug into your PC or laptop, the keyboard itself has a USB port and 3.5mm audio and mic ports for easier access. In use with the Deathadder Chroma and Kraken 7.1 Chroma units, I found that it’s much easier connecting the mouse over the headset since the port is only USB 2.0.
In order to access the additional customisations, it is required that users install Razer’s Synapse software, a cloud-based driver and configuration software that enables users to login into their respective accounts on any system and continue using their saved setups wherever they go. Using all three units linked to the Synapse software allows you to synchronise colours and patterns across all devices. This makes for a rather good looking display. If users so choose, they have the access to individually customise each key to a different colour, and even track statistics of how frequently each key is used, which is displayed on the keys themselves.
Unlike most keyboards that are developed for typing first and gaming second, the Razer BlackWidow Chroma has swapped these priorities with gaming being the focus here. So while those keyboards are measured in words per minute (WPM), the BlackWidow is better measured in actions per minute during gaming. With careful attention, the sensitivity and faster response of the actuation is noticeable over conventional methods. Being an avid gamer myself, although there was a difference in response time, it isn’t to say that your gaming skills will be improved, as a result.
Despite the increase in response from the user and keyboard inputs, overall performance is derived from a numerous factors that include frame-rate lag, poor connectivity, GPU response, and monitor frequency, just to name a few, one would have to have the exact same environment at the exact same points in time to measure actual performance difference. We’ll rather leave that to the Razer team as part of their factory tests, since I fail to see how such minute changes would affect the success of the product.
Once again with many gaming peripherals, the Razer BlackWidow Chroma is geared towards the serious gamer. That isn’t to say that others won’t find it useful and worthwhile. At a cost of $169, the unit won’t fit the budget for many. At such a premium, the argument arises once again as to whether such a feature-packed keyboard would really improve your overall performance. Although it may not be noticeable to the extent is clearly visible, the answer is yes. However, with the added benefits, crazy lighting performance, extended durability, and attention to detail from Razer’s manufacturing, the unit steps up the challenge of its high price.