[section label=1. Introduction]
Razer Blackwidow to Go
Razer’s BlackWidow line of mechanical gaming keyboards have become quite well known with the PC enthusiast community as of late especially with the popularity of mechanical keyboards gaining traction lately, but one problem with most mechanical keyboards is that they’re large and heavy. This is why those looking to take their mechanical keyboards on the go will find that it’s quite difficult to do so, which is what brings us to the tenkeyless keyboard – a smaller, more compact keyboard designed for those on the go or for those who simply don’t have the desk space for something larger. While companies such as Filco or Cooler Master have previously introduced tenkeyless designs, Razer on the other hand is still quite new to this form factor.
Our review then for today will be the all new Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition tenkeyless mechanical gaming keyboard. As suggested by the name, the Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition (which I’ll refer to as the Blackwidow TE from now on) is a tenkeyless design which means that the tenkey (or numpad) will be dropped in favor of a smaller form factor and of course the benefits of additional mobility with it as well.
That said, if you’re worried that the BlackWidow TE is somehow inferior to its full sized brothers, rest assured that this is not the case. The BlackWidow TE is packed with all the features of the standard edition of the BlackWidow such as Cherry MX Blue switches, on the fly programmable macro keys, as well as some features not found on the standard edition of the keyboard such as a detachable cable.
Interested? Let’s explore some more.
Features & Specifications
[section label=2. A Closer Look]
A Closer Look at the Razer BlackWidow TE
Here’s a look at the box for the Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition. Looks very similar to the box for the original Razer Blackwidow.
I don’t usually do shots of boxes in the box, but after opening the box for the BlackWidow Tournament Edition, you will get this cool looking box that sports the Razer logo.
Once you open the secondary box, you will find the keyboard inside an included protective case that not only looks good but also serves to protect the keyboard while you are on the go. This is an excellent value add that should pique the interest of gamers looking for a keyboard to take on the go.
Included in the packaging, we receive the traditional documentation, a couple Razer stickers as well as the detachable braided, gold plated USB cable.
Here, we get a full view of the keyboard. You’ll quickly notice that the tenkeyless design is significantly smaller than full sized designs and is without a doubt much more portable. Our BlackWidow TE is configured in the standard North American layout with its long shift/enter and back slash keys. With this layout choice we thankfully don’t have to deal with any unusually short keys that will throw your game off. The keyboard feels quite sturdy and will definitely be an eye catcher with its green Razer logo glowing at the center.
One huge difference here is that Razer is going with a matte finish on the keyboard rather than the fingerprint/dust attracting glossy finish found on the standard BlackWidow. Awesome!
Taking a look at the rear of the keyboard we get a single mini-USB port where the detachable USB cable will connect to the PC.
Here’s how the keyboard looks once the USB connector has been attached. This is nice as the keyboard will be more portable and more durable. Because of the unique design of the cable which allows it to sit flush with the keyboard, replacement cables will most likely have to be purchased through Razer.
At the bottom of the Blackwidow TE, you will notice five medium sized rubber feet that provide excellent slippage protection during both normal use and gaming.
In addition to the rubber feet, the Blackwidow TE also comes with two stands that allow you to raise the keyboard to your liking. These are rubber coated as well to make it as non-slip as possible.
Here we get some media keys. Fn + F1-F3 are designated for the volume control while the Fn + F5-F7 keys allow you to skip tracks as well as play and pause your favorite songs
At the top right of the keyboard we find the another set of “special” keys. Pressing Fn+F9 will allow you to record macros on the fly (more on this later). Pressing the Fn+F10 will allow you to go into “gaming” mode. In this mode the keyboard will shift into 10KRO as well as disable the windows key so that you dont accidentally press it during intense gaming. The F11 & F12 keys will adjust the lighting from the glowing Razer logo located at the center of the keyboard. Pressing Fn+Pause Break has been mapped to quickly and conveniently put your computer to sleep.
At the bottom right of the keyboard is where you will find the Fn button that will allow you to take advantage of all the special features on the keyboard.
Pulling a couple of keycaps off, we get the Cherry MX Blue keyswitches that come with the Blackwidow TE. Since the blue keyswitches provide both an auditory as well as tactile feedback, they are excellent for both gaming and typing. The sound is most accurately described as a “clicking” sound. The click is quite distinct and is quite loud; however, if you’re the only one typing, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. If there are others in the room, well it’s your chance to show how “baws” your typing speed is.
Under the longer keys (shift, spacebar, enter, etc.), Razer is using Costar stabilizes, which is something I personally prefer to Cherry stabilizers as it allows for a smoother feel when pressing.
Here’s a look at the keycap. It has a nice matte feel, but the keycap itself does feel a bit on the light side. Funky font is still being used here. Not a big deal, but it might be for those who don’t yet type without looking at the keyboard.
[section label=3. Performance]
BlackWidow Tournament Edition Performance
Test 1: Left 4 Dead 2
I began my testing of the Blackwidow TE with a FPS (First Person Shooter). On this test the keyboard performed flawlessly both on its 6KRO regular mode and its 10KRO “game” mode. There was absolutely no ghosting seen on either mode and I had absolutely no issue maneuvering my way around the masses of zombies. Another cool thing about the Blackwidow TE is that when “game” mode is turned on, the windows key will automatically be disabled essentially removing that old but quite annoying issue. You know what I am talking about, when you are concentrating really hard about to take the shot of your life and you accidentally press the Windows button while trying to hit Ctrl instead. Your screen automatically minimizes which would sometimes lead to a glitchy video or audio once you re enter the game. Well, with the Blackwidow TE you wont ever have to worry about that again, that is unless you forget to put your keyboard on “game” mode.
Test 2: StarCraft 2
For my second test, I decided to test the BlackWidow TE to see how well it would perform in an RTS (Real Time Strategy) game. During this test, the keyboard again performed flawlessly and like the previous test, I saw absolutely no ghosting. I really liked how the Cherry MX Blue switches performed here thanks to the auditory and tactile response. This increased tactility allowed me to quickly and accurately build units without accidentally queuing an extra one. As a result I was able to manage my resources much better which allowed me to concentrate more on other aspects of my game.
Test 3: Marvel Vs. Capcom/ King of Fighters XIII
During this test I was quite pleased with the performance of the BlackWidow TE on the fighting game genre. Like the previous two tests all the key presses registered with out any issue which allowed me to perform combos with ease. The 10KRO feature on the keyboard ensured that all the key presses were registered even when I got a little out of control and started button mashing away. The auditory response from the BlackWidow TE not only allowed me to better keep track of the key presses during long combo sequences but also reminded me of the noise arcade sticks make. Another pleasant surprise that came during this test was how well the rubber feet held up. Usually during this test keyboards with smaller sized rubber feet like the Maxkeyboard Durandal G1NL, or the Azio Levetron Clicker would slip at ti mes of intense game play. With the BlackWidow TE I did not encounter this issue which allowed me to have an even better and more enjoyable gaming session.
Test 4: Typing Test
I have been quite lucky to have had the opportunity to test several mechanical keyboards and I am happy to report that in my experience, they will indeed help improve your typing speed. At first I was quite skeptical that a keyboard would be able to improve the speed and accuracy of typist however after trying out the first mechanical keyboard I knew I would never be able to change back. The way that mechanical keyboards help improve your accuracy and speed is through a combination of the actuation force and enhanced tactility. To demonstrate this, I decided to test out my typing speed with the BlackWidow TE to see what kind of improvements I would achieve this time around. I went to the following touch typing test site and proceeded to perform the tests. The chart below shows a comparison between my typing speed using my laptop’s keyboard (Dell Studio XPS 13, possibly the worst case scenario) compared to the Blackwidow TE.
As you can see above from the tests performed, my typing speed has improved by 16%. This level of improvement closely matched the improvement I saw on both the Azio Levetron Clicker (ALPS Swtich) and the CM Storm QuickFire Pro (Cherry MX Browns). I truly believe that if you know how to touch type mechanical keyboards like the BlackWidow TE will be a great addition to your arsenal since they will allow you to type faster and more accurately than before.
Test 5: Key Roll Over
During this test I proceeded to test both the 6KRO and 10KRO capabilities of the BlackWidow TE. The 6KRO “normal” mode was able to register 6-7 keys when 10 keys were simultaneously pressed while the 10KRO “gaming” mode was able to handle 10 keys without any trouble.
[section label=4. Software]
As expected, Razer has gone with the Synapse 2.0 software for the BlackWidow TE. For those of you who don’t know about Synapse 2.0, it’s Razer’s new universal cloud based gaming peripheral software which allows you to not only configure the keyboard, but also allows you to save all settings to the cloud. This allows you to access your settings anytime anywhere as long as the Synapse 2.0 software is installed.
The Synapse 2.0 software is quite easy to use for configuring the keyboard. Simply select a button choose what kind of action you want it to perform and then save it. You can then save the profile, give it an individual name and enjoy it on the go. This may also be done directly through the keyboard itself by using the macro button. Unfortunately, no dedicated macro keys are available, so I personally don’t find macro functionality much use.
[section label=5. Conclusion]
BlackWidow Tournament Edition Conclusions
The Blackwidow TE performed flawlessly on every test whether it was a FPS, a RTS or a fighting game. I saw absolutely no ghosting during gameplay and all the key presses were registered swiftly and accurately. I was able to string long combos thanks to the tactility that the keyboard provided. With “game” mode switched on the 10KRO performed amazingly with all game types and I also didn’t have to worry about accidentally pressing the windows key.
In terms of typing performance, using the Cherry MX Blues that come with the Blackwidow TE allowed me to improve my typing by about 16%, which is the most I’ve improved since switching over to mechanical keyboards. I was a skeptic at the beginning about mechanical keyboards, but after having experienced first hand the benefits of mechanical keyboards I can tell you that it will definitely help improve your typing.
With its portable design, sturdy body and detachable braided cable, the BlackWidow TE has been designed to take quite a bit of abuse whether you are taking it somewhere on the portable sleeve or simply pounding away at the keys out macroing some noob in StarCraft II. Regardless of how you use it and where you use it the Blackwidow TE will surely last you for a very long time. This is especially true thanks to the detachable braided cable which is the “weakest link” on most keyboards. By making the cable detachable it ensures that you can easily switch it out when it breaks and is a feature that is quite rare for any keyboard to have.
Speaking of the design, I personally love the look of the keyboard. The glowing Razer logo at the center accentuates the 10 keyless design quite well and makes it very aesthetically pleasing. Throw in features like the media keys, Cherry MX Blue keyswitches, “gaming” mode, Synapse 2.0 connectivity, etc. and and you have a good looking keyboard that packs quite a punch. That said, I would like to see an option for a fully backlit edition of the keyboard. Since tenkeyless keyboards are meant to be taken to LAN parties, which are usually held in dimly lit rooms, I think a blacklit version would be a very popular product.
Currently the Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition is available on Amazon for $79.99 and at this price range, it’s very competitive against other tenkeyless mechanical keyboards on the market. That said, the keyboard I see being the biggest competitor to the BlackWidow TE is the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid which is currently retailing for $64.99 on Amazon. It’s definitely a toss up between the two and the biggest difference for most people will be the styling and pricing rather than anything else as they use identical Cherry MX Blue switches. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the price for the BlackWidow TE drops to around the $60 range in a couple months as it becomes less of a “new” product making it an even more attractive buy.
For those of you looking for a mechanical keyboard that is good for on the go gaming and/or space saving at home, the Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition is the keyboard for you. With its portable and durable design, it’ll be the perfect peripheral for your next LAN party.
Special thanks to Razer for making this review possible.
The Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition is currently available on Amazon.