As always, if you have specific needs for your PC gaming equipment, the folks at Razer almost always have product that can fit the bill. If you are ready to leave the world of membrane boards or simply looking to try something new, the Razer Blackwidow ultimate could be the mechanical keyboard model for you. It lacks all the bells and whistles of the flagship boards and it is bulkier than the increasingly popular tenkeyless designs, but its resistance to spills and solid switches could make it a strong choice for the clumsy gamer who also does a fair bit of typing.
Mechanical keyboards are dope
I first got into mechanical keyboard a couple of years back and never looked back. I’ve now owned five different boards from various vendors and I never really see myself going back to a membrane board. The typing feel and consistent operation during intense gaming sessions are more than worth the higher initial upfront cost. I also find myself drawn to the customization possibilities of certain boards, as well as the enthusiasm of the mechanical keyboard community.
The Razer Blackwidow Ultimate is marketed as a tough keyboard made for gamers. It has a full-size design, including a numpad. It is loaded with proprietary Razer mechanical switches that require 50g of force to actuate. It has what seem to be ABS plastic keycaps with translucent characters to help the included green backlight to shine through. It has 10 key rollover and supports custom macros when paired with Razer’s Synapse software. Synapse can also be used to fully customize your preferred lighting profile for the board. While the backlighting is only offered in a single color, you can alter its brightness or assign a wide variety of effects, just like the company’s more expensive Chroma series boards.
An extra layer of protection
One of the biggest selling points for the Blackwidow Ultimate is spill and dust resistance. Razer indicates that the board is IP54 certified for its resistance capabilities. While it is resistant, it is not submersible, but this is not really an issue, because most accidents are from knocking over a drink onto the board rather than you accidentally leaving it in your back pocket before you go swimming. I began my testing by pouring a pitcher of piping hot sawmill gravy all over the Blackwidow Ultimate while it was hooked to my PC. That last sentence is not true. I didn’t actually pour anything on the board because it’s way too nice and Razer sells it with a 2-year warranty, so I have the piece of mind knowing that I can get a replacement if it has a factory defect or I accidentally knock over a full 40oz King Cobra malt liquor onto it like I did with my Logitech G15 (RIP).
As far as using the board and seeing it on my desk, I found myself liking several things. Razer opted to use a plain, easy-to-read typeface for the keycaps, rather than some “gamer” font. It makes the keyboard look more classy and makes it easier to use when it is dark. While I normally use Cherry MX Blue switches in my main board, I found the Razer switches in the Blackwidow Ultimate to be pretty good. While I still think I’d prefer the Cherry MX Blues for all the typing I do for work, the Razer switches felt very close as far as actuation force and have a solid feel when you need to dig in and kick out a thousand words. For gaming, the Blackwidow Ultimate switches did everything I asked of them and I’d have no issues recommending them for that purpose. I found the Razer switches to be slightly louder during actuation than my Cherry MX Blues, but it didn’t bother me (I love the clack). Gamers who value quiet operation may want to look elsewhere.
The build of the board is pretty solid, with a matte black plastic deck. Thankfully, it is very resistant to fingerprints, so the board still looked clean after a week of use, unlike some glossy boards that make it look like I wrote all my articles while bare-handing fried chicken. I mean, yeah, I’ve bare-handed fried chicken while typing out stuff for Shacknews, but you’d never know it by looking at the Blackwidow Ultimate.
Anyone who is familiar my Razer mouse reviews knows that I am not a big fan of the Synapse software suite, but its lighting customization works well with this board. Macros are painless to set up, although you cannot assign them without Synapse running. Saving profiles for various lighting and macro configurations is straightforward. If you have complex needs that vary from game to game, assigning profiles to hotkeys is a godsend. Synapse becomes infinitely more valuable on the off chance that a pitcher of sawmill gravy wipes out your board. You can hook up a replacement and the software will pull down your saved profiles from the cloud in a snap.
The wrap up
Razer advises that you do not remove the keycaps, which eliminates the possibility of extensive customization. Obviously, if you need colors that aren’t green, you should look for a Razer Chroma or a RGB board from another brand. The Blackwidow Ultimate sells directly from Razer for $110, though you can often find deals for less from common internet retailers. It has limitations, though I can’t really fault it for being what it is. As a person who bought a few cost-cutter imported mechanical keyboards, I can assure you that the Blackwidow Ultimate is a major step up in quality. If you think the spill resistance and typist-friendly clackers are right up your alley, I’m not sure you can do much better than this board for the price.
This review is based on a keyboard that was provided by the manufacturer. The Razer Blackwidow Ultimate is available directly from Razer for $109.99 or at your favorite gaming peripheral retailer.
Razer Blackwidow Ultimate
- Solid switches
- Finish doesn't attract fingerprints
- Easy to program macros and lighting effects
- No "gamer" font
- Might possibly be gravy-resistant
- Proprietary switches/caps prevents customization
- Switches may be too loud for pure gaming
- Green lighting does not integrate well with most build themes
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Review: The Green Machine
Nice review! Still wish someone would make one with a keypad area that would mount on either side. Corsair or CMaster (I forget) did show a prototype in the last year, but haven't heard more.