The fashion for mechanical keyboards of the «skeleton» type was first warmed up by the Corsair brand about two or three years ago. Since then, almost every manufacturer of gaming peripherals has considered it a duty to have at least one such device in its assortment. However, Razer did not dare to move away from the well-trodden path of the BlackWidow family for a long time, and only towards the end of 2016, finally, was able to present its own version of such a mechanical keyboard. As expected, the novelty was called BlackWidow X. Many thought that now the whole series would look like this, but no. In fact, the series was divided into three areas — classic BlackWidow, new BlackWidow V2 and skeletons under the designation X. What the latter are, we will try to tell readers in this review.
|Device type/model||BlackWidow X|
|Polling frequency, Hz||1000|
|Number of keys||104|
|Keystroke resource, mln.||80|
|Switch type||Razer Green|
|Changing the angle of the body||Yes|
|Built-in memory, KB||–|
|Ability to record macros||Yes|
|USB cable length, m||2,2|
|Braid material||Nylon braid|
|Material||Plastic / Metal|
|Software||Да (Razer Synapse 2.0)|
|Removable palm rest||–|
|Dimensions (L x W x H), mm||459 x 156 x 41|
|Weight, g||1 420|
|OS Compatibility||Windows 7 / 8 / 10, Mac OS X 10.8 or higher|
|Peculiarities||Illuminated logo, solid metal plate at the base of the case|
|Average cost, $||95|
Contents of delivery
Razer’s updated packaging style is designed to captivate customers right at the counter with its expensive appearance. The front of the box contains an almost life-size image of the product. There is a cutout near the arrow keys that allows those who wish to try out how the mechanical switches in this device work and sound without opening the box. On the back, in the form of drawings, the three main advantages of this keyboard from the point of view of the company’s marketers are noted, namely, hardy switches that promise to withstand a minimum of 80 million clicks, a solid design and the ability to simultaneously press ten buttons. Short weight and size specifications and information on compatibility with operating systems can be found on one of the sidewalls of the package.
Inside the box, there are soft dampers on the sides, cardboard inserts at the top and bottom, and a transparent plastic keypad that makes sense to save for the future to protect against dust. Documentation is folded in a separate pocket on the left.
The package includes an instruction manual, two stickers with the Razer logo and a green sheet of congratulations from Razer President Ming-Lian Tan. But what is really missing here is a key for easier dismantling of mechanical key caps.
Appearance and design
Transformations in the design of BlackWidow X relative to previous models are visible to the naked eye. The buttons have become noticeably taller, since now they are not recessed into the case, but inserted directly into the massive metal plate that makes up the entire top panel of the keyboard (previously it was plastic, and the green metal insert was only under the keys). A number of additional side buttons on the left are no more. The indicator panel has also decreased — here they turned into dot LEDs arranged in one row.
The key layout is extremely standard, with two long Shift buttons and a single-row Enter. Latin engraving is applied by laser and additionally filled with white paint, which is tactilely distinguishable by touch. The Cyrillic alphabet is applied simply with paint and, probably, can be erased over time. The good news is that the engraving reflects light well and is therefore easily distinguishable even in a dimly lit room. Since this keyboard model is the most budgetary in the X line, its buttons are devoid of backlighting. The Fn key is located to the right of the space bar. In combination with F1-F3, it controls the volume of the sound, with F5-F7 it is responsible for controlling the playback of media files, Fn + F9 allows you to record a macro command on the fly (requires installed software), and Fn + F10 turns on and off the game mode. In addition, Fn in combination with ten numbers from «0» to «9» allows you to quickly switch keyboard settings profiles.
Numeric and arrow blocks of keys are standard, there are no additional buttons here. Of the possible combinations in this area, only Fn + Pause works, which puts the PC to sleep. In the upper right corner there is a row of five dot indicators. These are Caps, Num, and Scroll Lock, the «M» indicator, which notifies the recording of a macro command, and the G-indicator, which signals the inclusion of the game mode. All diodes glow in a dim green color (except for «M» which indicates its activity in red).
The switches on this keyboard are branded Razer Green mechanisms, similar in their tactile characteristics to Kailh Blue. They are characterized by a non-linear course, a loud and sonorous click when triggered. The activation force is 50 grams, and the predicted time between failures must be at least 80 million clicks, according to the manufacturer. Stabilizers of long buttons are ordinary wire, so they feel play in the horizontal plane.
The keyboard case, although it seems relatively flat at first glance, actually has a decent height — even with the legs folded down, the top row of buttons is 41 mm above the table. The glossy inset on the beveled front features the Razer logo illuminated in permanent green.
The keyboard has no additional ports on the left side. However, there is an outlet for the cord, which can be convenient in some cases. The deployed legs add 15 mm to the height of the body at once, therefore it makes sense to use them only if the elbows are below the level of the table. Otherwise, the wrists will tire quickly.
The usual audio jacks and a USB port on the right were not found. However, even here there is an outlet for the cable, if it needs to be thrown to the right side.
There is nothing remarkable on the back panel. By default, the signal cable is brought out from this side.
The USB cable is encased in nylon, thick, with medium flexibility and a pronounced memory effect. The total length is 2.2 meters. Contacts are gold-plated, a transport cap that protects the connector from dust during transportation is present
The reverse side and sides of the keyboard are completely plastic. The base is even, five small rubber feet are glued on its corners and in the center. Due to the significant weight of the case, the grip on the table surface is just excellent, BlackWidow X stands on it like a glove. At the back there are notches for cable management. The wire itself can be oriented to the exit to the left, right or back. The strange thing is that although the body feels monolithic thanks to the massive upper metal plate, the plastic in the rear corners, in the area of folding legs, walks and creaks. This manifests itself in the case if you take the keyboard by the sides and rearrange it.
Folding legs have one locking position in the expanded state. They have rubber pads on the edges.
This keyboard, as the most budget option, is devoid of backlighting, although the more expensive version and the shortened TE version have Chroma RGB backlighting. However, the Razer logo in the center glows a muted green, as does the entire row of LED indicators in the upper right corner (except for the M indicator, which glows red when recording macros).
The BlackWidow X uses the Razer Synapse 2.0 universal multilingual driver as software, which requires a constant Internet connection to save all settings in the cloud. Fortunately, it also has an offline mode of operation. In the program settings window, you can check for updates, read the manual, or select the interface language. In addition, it is possible to send a review about the product or follow the company’s official website in social networks.
In the basic settings screen, you can remap all keyboard buttons, except for the Win and Fn keys, to any other commands or actions. Settings are stored in profiles, each of which can be assigned one of a dozen available hot key combinations for quick manual activation. Or associate automatic profile activation with the start of a specific program.
The Game Mode setting allows you to turn it on or off and choose which keys or shortcuts will be blocked when it is activated. The Win key is always disabled by default, and Alt+F4 and Alt+Tab can be disabled if needed.
The macro editor is standard on all Razer devices. It can record keyboard commands and mouse clicks, taking into account time delays (their length can be edited). All recorded macros are stored in the PC memory. They can be given individual names.
The statistics module collects information on the use of Razer devices in quantitative terms. For the keyboard, statistics are collected on the number of button presses, the distance traveled by the keys, the number of profile switches and the activation of macros.
Let’s move on to testing the keyboard.
Ergonomics and testing
The ergonomics of the Razer BlackWidow X turned out to be somewhat controversial. The overall height of the keys is more than 40mm (and that’s without deployed legs) suggesting a palm rest to avoid unnecessary bending of the wrists, but it’s not here. On the other hand, those who are used to doing without a stand may even like this option, because when the palms rest on the table, the fingers are located exactly at the horizontal level of the buttons, hanging over them. Therefore, I can’t call the device uniquely convenient for everyone in terms of a long game or work behind it. The key layout here is completely standard, the keycaps have the necessary recesses and ergonomic slopes in the corresponding rows of buttons. The Razer Green mechanical switches don’t look much like the Cherry MX Blue mechanical switches. First of all, they are noticeably lighter, that is, they require significantly less effort to operate the mechanism. By and large, this is pleasant and allows you to increase comfort when typing. Tactile feedback is also specific. When pressed, a ringing click of the spring is heard, and the return stroke is accompanied by a feeling of a light blow from below on the key, at the moment when the carriage inside passes through the latch back. If you hold down the key in the pressed position (a scenario typical for games when a character or car moves forward with small stops), its operation is registered only in the fully depressed position. The button can be slightly released, finding the «dead» zone where it does not work, and then press again. There will be no click, and this movement is accompanied only by a slight tinkling of the spring. Because of this, tactile feedback can be lost if the user forgets to release the button completely. The long buttons are slightly wobbly in horizontal projection, but generally stabilized normally.
The keyboard case feels solid in use, but its plastic part will creak if you pick it up when lifting and rearranging the device. The signal cable can be brought out from any of the three sides of the case and this greatly simplifies the life of the user. The software is simple and clear.
In my personal opinion, the Razer BlackWidow X is more suitable for those who need to produce large amounts of text, at least its switches are sharpened for this. In gaming applications, the Razer Green mechanisms are not particularly informative due to the presence of a “dead” zone in the middle of the button travel. The keyboard supports up to 10 simultaneous keystrokes. I managed to get 14 buttons to work as well, but at some point after that, the keyboard refused to work at all, and exhibited behavior characteristic of sticky keys, because of which it had to be reconnected. Therefore, it is probably not worth exceeding the number of 10 simultaneous clicks, and it is unlikely that anyone will need it.
The Razer BlackWidow X is just a testament to a well-known brand in the field of skeleton keyboards, so you shouldn’t judge it strictly. In terms of external design, the device turned out to be excellent, especially for the RGB versions, which have not yet made it to local stores. Do not forget about the main advantage of the «skeletons», in addition to the prestigious appearance, namely, the ease of their cleaning. The use of a solid metal plate instead of the top panel made it possible to achieve almost absolute rigidity of the device, which was not previously encountered in the company’s products. The idyll in this case is spoiled only by creaky plastic on the back of the keyboard. I would call the Razer Green switches used here tactile-specific, but in general they are no worse than the “blue” counterparts from Kailh or Cherry. And, unfortunately for fans of the BlackWidow family, there are no additional side keys and ports.
At the moment, the X-series is positioned by the manufacturer as a budget one, but, over time and after certain improvements, it may well displace other mechanical keyboard options in the Razer assortment. And today, this is exactly what the most affordable version of mechanics from a famous brand looks like, at a price similar to the BlackWidow Expert sample of 2014.