Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2016

As I’ve said in previous reviews, I’ve been using mostly Logitech accessories for some time now.  Why?  Well a lot of it is habit to be honest; I’m a long time PC gamer (~1983) and you tend to just get stuck on a brand.  Logitech have been around an awfully long time while brands like Razer are relatively new by comparison.  Can you teach an old dog new tricks though?  Yes.  Yes you can.

The last time I used a mechanical keyboard would have been in the 80’s, mostly because that was all that was available.  Those classic keyboards now sell for a small fortune on eBay and are highly sort after by collectors.  A pity then that my old 8088 XT got dumped by my parents some 25 years ago.  Up until recently I had been using a Logitech K810. Having come off the back of a string of large and clunky keyboards, the small size and responsive keys were very welcome.  Sadly after a few years of service the W key died, taking the E with it.  It’s a fantastic keyboard for work but not designed for hardcore gaming.

While I weighed up my options on a successor (or even replacement) I switched back to the G19.  Oh dear Lord.  The keys are so soft and spongy, I might as well be gaming with cookie dough.  Playing Diablo III (one of the few games I take to a fairly serious level) I had a heap of problems.  Skills not firing because I didn’t push the key down far enough was the biggest.  Naturally this resulted in some nasty and unnecessary deaths when pushing higher Greater Rifts.  Even typing emails for work was bothersome with my errors on the increase due to the keyboard not registering keystrokes because I’m not the type to pound a keyboard. I simply expect better responsiveness.

So I got in touch with a well-to-do gent named Paul at Double Jump Communications who had kindly sent us some accessories in the past and asked him if he had a keyboard I could review before I ‘Hulked Out’ and smashed my current keyboard into tiny pieces.  Thankfully he calmly replied with “Sure.  Black Widow Ultimate 2016 on it’s way to you.”

Well. Thank the world for people like Paul.  He saved the life of a shitty, spongy keyboard.  On a side note — Logitech G19 for sale. Cheap. No broken parts.

Having been using Razer mice for some time now (Check out my review of the Razer Death Adder Elite here) I had high expectations for a Razer mechanical keyboard.

Yes I know the space and ALT keys fell off, I blame the courier being a bit rough in transportation.  Nothing broken though and both popped back on easily.  Stop being critical, that’s my job!

This thing feels SOLID. Ever pick up a cheap power supply for a computer and know that it’s worth only $20 because it weighs in at 200g?  Then you pick up the quality power supply and it weighs in at a satisfying 3 or 4kg.  This has that same ‘yeah I’m spending money on a decent bit of gear’ feeling.  The weight combined with decent rubber feet that won’t just peel off after five minutes of use ensure this thing won’t be sliding about your desk or gaming surface during use.

It also feels sturdy enough that if I was to get upset because I was cheated of a Greater Rift 100 and perhaps wanted to vent a little steam on the Keyboard it could probably take that abuse (Not that I’m going to test that theory, I promise).

My point is though, this is a solid piece of gear and should last you through a few years of heavy use and abuse.

Let’s talk about the important bit now; the mechanical keys.  From the back of the box –

The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate features the multi-award winning Razer(tm) Mechanical Switches which were designed from the ground up to elevate the speed and responsiveness of the Razer BlackWidow gaming keyboard beyond the capabilities of previous generation mechanical switches.  Tested and validated by the world’s top eSports athletes, we have identified the optimal actuation distance and reduced the tolerance for faster commands and greater precision when compared to standard mechanical switches.

As I said, the last time I used a mechanical keyboard was in the 80’s, so can I attest to their marketing claims?  No idea, but this thing works good.  Damn good.  Very damn good.

According to the box the actuation point on this thing is 1.9 +/- 0.4mm compared to a standard mechanical switch of 2.2 +/- 0.6mm.

This means you have an extremely responsive keyboard that in no way feels spongy.  Coupled with a lifespan of ~60 million keystrokes per switch makes this the perfect bit of hardware for anyone who takes their gaming with any degree of seriousness.  The only downside now is I can’t blame the keyboard for my shitty performance playing games.  Must be internet lag.

Installing the Razer Synapse software allows you to tweak a number of settings including all the pretty lights.  There are some really neat lighting modes, but I think most of us will set it to static (dim) and leave it at that.  That doesn’t mean the other modes aren’t cool to look at though and I’ve included a quick video (see below) demonstrating each of the lighting modes.  Ultimately though, having bursting starlight looks cool but quickly becomes distracting and annoying.  I will admit though that I changed my mouse colour to match that of the keyboard. My office now has that Razer Green Glow(tm?).

I previously hadn’t installed the Razer software; it felt a little unnecessary as the mouse worked completely fine without it. There was also an ‘online’ component to the software I wasn’t too keen on.  Thankfully though, once I did install the software I was able to turn the entire thing into ‘offline mode’ and forget about it.  Having the software allowed me to tweak my mouse sensitivity just a little further and switch the keyboard lighting to static.

I will point out that if you are adamant about not installing the software Windows will detect and install relevant drivers and the keyboard will work just fine without Razer Synapse.  This might also be handy to know if you are plugging it into a system without internet access at some point.

A couple of other nice features include audio and USB pass through.  Ideal for those involved in eSports or constantly on the move, you can plug your headset and mouse directly into the keyboard.  Macro functionality is also included with the Razer Synapse software.

The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2016 weighs in at $189.95 RRP here in Australia which I feel is a very fair price for what you are getting.  Again, anyone who takes their gaming seriously and drops $3k or more on a box isn’t going to then spend $10 on a keyboard.  And if they do they deserve a smack.  Like all things in life, you need the right tool for the job AND you get what you pay for.  Want to do some serious gaming? Then you need a gaming keyboard and you need a good one.

The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2016 exudes quality, from the sturdy design and mechanical keys down to the braided cable.  It’s quickly evident that a lot of attention and care has gone into this product.

In summary, this is an unpretentious, solid, responsive, quality gaming keyboard that I feel is excellent value for money.

11/10 would play twitchy Diablo III builds and push high GR with this again.

This old dog has learnt a new trick.

The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2016 is available now.  Check out the Razer website for further details.

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