We already knew that Razer was a world leader in providing an abundant array of gaming peripherals, headsets, and the likes. While the company are able to compete against the best when it comes to your everyday gaming tech, they also venture along the lines of the obscure and seemingly unnecessary. But what they do, they do well.
Following the success of its predecessor, Razer has launched the Orbweaver Chroma, an addition to the Chroma series that has become quite popular. The Orbweaver is a customisable, mechanical gaming keyboard, specifically designed for (tournament-grade) gaming controls. The Orbweaver Chroma not only includes a host of fancy colour options, but also 20 programmable keys, 8-way directional thumb-pad, and a few other features for good measure. But, despite its enhanced capabilities and controls, an obvious question remains. Is it worth it?
Build and Design
As weird as the Orbweaver may be in looks, it is quite functional, and comfortably so. The unit is split into three separated, but customisable components. Already mentioned, the first of these includes 20 programmable buttons, which lie on the top half of the unit. The second component is the two-part, rubberised palm rest, with the third being that of the thumb module, which includes a “thumb joystick” and two buttons. The position of each of these components can be shifted to most comfortable of hand rest while in use. This means that even if you have hands that are larger or smaller than the average human, you may have an optimum setup available to you.
The Orbweaver Chroma measures 55x154x202mm (DWH) and weighs 395g. It isn’t the smallest and lightest of peripherals, but, with the amount of keys and joysticks included, the size makes sense. It’s also slimmer than Logitech’s G13 Advanced Gameboard. The unit is also quite stable when in use, with rubberised feet securing the unit to the surface of your choosing. The keys are spaced out quite evenly, with the centre keys lying in a position where your fingertips would commonly rest. This means that you’ll have to stretch out your hand to reach the top keys, and curl them inward to depress the bottom row; none of which is overly complicated or difficult to reach. While we’re on the topic of keys, the unit features mechanical switches with a short throw, while also having light actuating force. Given that there are 20 keys to choose from to start with, which a set to a default setting resembling that of the QWERTY layout where the WASD keys lie, it does take some getting used to, especially when attempting to remember each of the buttons you’ve configured for a specific game, and then, perhaps, a different setting on another.
The thumb control components also work quite well. The joystick is small enough to be utilised by the thumb alone, without the requirement of the index finger. The bottom button is set as the spacebar shortcut by default, which makes jumping (almost standard across shooters) a breeze. The addition of the thumb component makes it easier to get rid of your keyboard while gaming so it doesn’t have to be in the way if it’s required.
As with most gaming peripherals, while they do have their default settings and setups, in order to get the most out the unit is by means of the available software. With Razer, it comes in the form of Synapse 2.0. If you have other Razer devices, you’re already familiar with the process. All that’s required is to select the new tab available for the added device. For those new to the software, the experience is pleasant. All Razer devices are customisable from the same dashboard, with a multitude of options for key customisations, keymaps, and also profiles specific to each game. No further drivers are required either.
There are many games that require both mouse and keyboard controls to make user experience as easy and intuitive as possible. After some hours of gaming, it feels almost as if you were gaming with Orbweaver all along, only now you have a lot more options, quite literally, at your fingertips. The unit worked well on shooter games (FPS, TPS, etc.). When switching to MOBA games, there is a marked difference in the way you utilise the Orbweaver, mostly in the form of using the thumb component a lot more to move the viewing angles around, while the keys are shortcuts for spells and abilities.
In contrast to the above, there are a few games that rely solely on the use of the keyboard, much like the original Tomb Raider. This type of game is the ultimate test for the ‘keyboard’ such as the Orbweaver. Needless to say, I battled quite substantially here. The issue here lies in your brain’s ability to change direction of a character, the camera angles, and the actions using just one hand. It is quite tricky, even if you’re not using the Orbweaver, and something game developers have always designed their games upon since the first consoles of the late 70s and 80s. Although, to some extent, I was able to get over this one-handed operation, the attempt seems futile since you’re never quite able to excel to online gaming level (I speak as the average gamer here), while the unit itself was developed for serious gamers, who would not want to be wasting time trying to perfect skills they have to relearn.
My original thoughts on the Orbweaver Chroma was that it would take too much time and effort to get used to such a strange new device. But, all in all, everything seemed to work a lot easier, comfortable and smoother than initially anticipated. The sheer amount of keys, customisability, and ease of use make this a fairly useful unit to have in your gaming arsenal. But would you want one?
There are a lot of variables to consider when purchasing any gaming tech, as most will attest to, not least the cost of such a unit. But we’ll hold off on that for a second or two. Consider that if you’re playing professionally online, or attempting to, the Orbweaver would require a learning curve that you may not wish to waste time on. But, the usefulness may prove advantageous in the end. But will it give you a competitive edge? One cannot say for certain, since each gamer is different, and the tools of the trade are different for each. Skip through a host of other questions, we finally get to cost. The unit will set you back roughly R1,500. And that’s not an easy decision to make by any means, considering that you’re able to get a very good gaming mouse out of such a deal.
For the pragmatist, sticking to the conventional keyboard may be your way forward. But for the creative and adventurous out there, with the added bonus that you have R1,500 of spare change to part with, the Razer Orbweaver Chroma may just be your cup of tea1.
Note: Yes, tea actually does feature among the top five drinks gamers consume, apart from the common stereotype of Coke/Pepsi/Sprite, energy drinks and coffee. But that’s a topic for another day.