Today Razer unleashed the Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2, the latest version of its flagship mechanical keyboard. This version features new keycaps with a new font, a removable wrist rest, and individual backlights for every key. Do all this make it the ultimate gaming keyboard?
The mechanical difference
Like all Razer keyboards, the BlackWidow Chroma V2 features Razer's proprietary mechanical gaming switches for each key. These switches have optimized actuation and reset points, so the time between electrical contact being made and reset is supposed to be better for games than the industry standard Cherry MX switches. With an estimated lifespan of 80 million keystrokes, they'll also outlast Cherry switches by a fair margin.
The BlackWidow Chroma V2 is available with three switch options: Green, Orange, and Yellow. Green are the traditional "clicky" mechanical switches with the loudest volume. The orange switches featured in our review unit are quieter. They really feel great to touch, and respond just as quickly as a gamer would want. As for the new yellow switches, they have a "linear and silent" design. They're intended to reduce travel and allow keys to be pressed faster – perfect for FPS and MOBA games.
Design and features
The BlackWidow Chroma V2 measures 7 inches deep, 18.5 wide, and 1.5 inches tall (with the keys).
This new keyboard features the same basic design as the original BlackWidow Chroma, complete with angular edges, recessed sides, and light-up Razer logo on the front center of its body. The keys themselves feature a new, sleeker font compared to the original model. It's a strong and clean design, with the customizable Chroma lighting allowing for visual flair.
As Razer's top-of-the-line keyboard, the Chroma features USB and 3.5mm audio pass-through ports along its right side. The keyboard's thick braided USB cable has three ends: one USB for the keyboard itself, one USB for the pass-through port, and one 3.5mm for the headset pass-through port
The pass-through ports make it easy to insert and remove accessories like controllers and headphones without having to reach behind your computer. But if you don't need the pass-through feature, you can opt to only connect the main USB plug.
The BlackWidow Chroma V2 includes a detachable wrist rest with a very comfortable level of padding, and should reduce fatigue both during work and play. It attaches and removes easily via magnets, but the connection is strong enough that it won't slide around or disconnect during normal use. You can lift the keyboard off your desk and the wrist rest will stay attached, unless you really shake it hard (which I never recommend with electronics).
Programmable keys and Function keys
The BlackWidow Chroma V2 features five programmable gaming keys to the left of the main keyset. These do nothing by default, but you can customize them to launch programs, perform macros, and other functions.
In addition to those dedicated hotkeys, the top row of Function keys and Pause Break key double as shortcut keys for common functions when you hit the Fn key. Among them is a Macro recording feature (F9) that you can use to type and save sequence of keys, and then bind that macro to another key. Gaming mode (F10) disables the Windows key and maximizes the keyboard's Anti-Ghosting effect. Gaming mode can be further customized using the Razer Synapse software.
Razer Synapse software
Like other Razer PC products, you'll need to install Razer Synapse to get the most out of the BlackWidow Chroma V2. The keyboard does not store profiles and settings internally. Instead, all settings are saved through the cloud and accessed via Synapse. Most gaming keyboards store settings on the device itself, hence some users' distaste for Synapse. How often do you really switch your keyboard between PCs anyway?
Still, the Synapse software is actually quite good. You can customize lighting, edit and record macros, enable or disable Chroma lighting connectivity in compatible applications and games, customize features of the Gaming mode, and more. Adding functions to the five M keys is a snap, as is disabling Caps Lock or other nuisance keys. The only thing I dislike about Synapse is how frequently it pesters for updates.
The BlackWidow Chroma V2 features Chroma lighting, complete with their Razer's name for its 16.8 million color spectrum lighting technology. Every key is individually backlit, as well as the Razer logo on the front of the keyboard. Using the wrist rest will cover up the logo, but you'll still see plenty of light from the keys themselves. By default, these all light up green.
With the Razer Synapse software, users can turn the lighting off, create custom lighting profiles, and select from eight lighting presets:
- Breathing: All lights pulse up and down in intensity. You can't have one light pulse a different color than the others, but you can set the lights to alternate between two different colors.
- Fire: This impressive new effect simulates the appearance of fire burning beneath the keys. The lights animated between shades of red and yellow most convincingly.
- Reactive: When enabled, pressing any key causes it to light up. Other Chroma devices set to 'Reactive' will light up as well.
- Ripple: Ripples of light emanate from whichever keys you hit.
- Spectrum Cycling: The lights cycle between various colors.
- Starlight: Keys light up in one or two colors in a seemingly random pattern that simulates the effect of twinkling stars.
- Static: Lights stay on in the single color of your choosing.
- Wave: Waves of color flow from left to right or right to left across the keyboard.
One cool accessory included, one absent
As an added bonus, the BlackWidow Chroma includes a Razer Chroma keycap keychain. The keychain consists of a tiny cube with embedded microswitch and a Razer log-adorned keycap on top. Pressing the keycap causes the Chroma light inside to cycle colors. Pull off the keycap and you'll see a genuine Razer Orange switch inside. Unfortunately, the part that attaches the device to your keys is thin and bound to break if used as an actual keychain.
While the keychain is a cool bonus, the BlackWidow Chroma V2 lacks one important accessory: a keycap removal tool. One of the selling points of mechanical keyboards is you can remove caps and replace microswitches if necessary. It's possible to remove keycaps without a specialized tool, but you risk damaging the key. I'd take the practicality of a key removal tool over the novelty of a keychain any day.
Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2: The Bottom Line
The BlackWidow Chroma V2 is an excellently designed keyboard. The differences from the original model aren't tremendous – just a wrist rest, new keycaps and font, and the option of Razer Yellow switches. But the original BlackWidow Chroma had just about everything you could want, anyway: extra programmable keys, USB and audio pass-through, durable USB cable, Chroma lighting, and of course, the advantages that come with a mechanical keyboard.
This year's BlackWidow Chroma V2 retails for $169.99, just like the original. If you've already got a quality Razer keyboard, or a mechanical typer from another manufacturer, I wouldn't necessarily run out and grab this one right away. It's better, yes, but we're reaching the point of diminishing returns for your dollar. But if you're in the market for a top-of-the-line mechanical keyboard, you can't do much better than the BlackWidow Chroma V2.
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