Razer has updated one of its flagship mechanical keyboards, the BlackWidow Elite adding the same media controls that we find on the Huntsman Elite.
But, what’s so special about that?
Well, instead of having to use key combos to control media, the BlackWidow now includes a handy row of featured buttons as well as a slick multi-use wheel. We tested the clicky Green-Switch version. But you can also buy one with tactile orange and linear yellow switches.
It’s priced right at the top of the mechanical keyboard chain and includes most of the bells and whistles you’d expect from a keyboard in this price range.
But is it really as good as it sounds? Let’s find out in our Razer BlackWidow Elite Gaming Keyboard Review…
Design And Features
For starters, it’s a full-size keyboard built with high-end materials and premium features. It’s quite large and weighs around 2.9 pounds, mostly because of the beefy metal top plate. This gives the Widow a thoroughly premium feel, even though the rest of the keyboard is plastic.
The key switches are exposed above the metal plate and are painted black (and so are the stabilizers), keeping the aesthetic reasonably clean.
Keeps on looking good…
The plate doesn’t seem to pick up any fingerprints, which is fantastic – and more than we can say about the keycaps. These seem to get shiny almost immediately after the first touch (yes, we washed our hands). The keys are thin laser-etched legends, and the underlying RGB lighting shines through clearly.
We would have loved to see textured PTB keycaps at this price, or at least double-shot injection molding. This is mainly because Razer uses a non-standard bottom row, which eliminates the possibility of replacing the keycaps yourself.
The switches are a bit loud…
As expected, the clicky Green switches are a bit loud and a tad higher-pitched than the Cherry MX blues they’re molded after. But the tactile click remains subtle, and the 50g actuation force is just perfect, giving each keypress a smooth, satisfying feel.
Razer claims that their switches have a “dual wall” set up around the stem. This improves stability and protects the switch from water and dust. But, honestly, the keys have the same moderate wobble found on most gaming keyboards, and the keys aren’t more stable than on other Cherry-branded keyboards.
It’s nowhere near a deal-breaker, even though it’s not great considering how much the BlackWidow costs. But even so, it still has a premium feel to it.
A fantastic wrist rest…
The wrist rest, which is included, is one of the best ones we have ever used. The pillow-like top is incredibly soft and puffy, and even though it can be a bit too tall for some tastes, wrist rest fans will love the way it feels.
It attaches to the keyboard’s sloped bottom via a magnet. This is an infinitely smoother experience than having to clip it to the bottom like on certain Corsair boards. We can’t stress enough how nice it feels to place it gently on the keyboard and see it slide into place without any fiddling.
The keyboard’s top right corner sports a line of dedicated media keys along with a volume wheel that hangs slightly off the edge for easy adjustment. The media keys look good. However, they make a weird unsatisfying click-sound, which is a little depressing.
Their legends are very subtle and don’t let the RGB shine through, making it hard to know what the keys do in low light. This is quite a strange oversight on an otherwise well-lit board?
The left side of the board sports both a USB and a 3.5 mm audio passthrough jack, which is a nice touch but makes the keyboard cable extra thick since it has to pass three plugs to your computer.
Razers sub-par quality control…
We can’t review a product from Razer without mentioning the companies reputation for sub-bar quality control. Many users have reported incorrect keycaps being installed or switch failures early in Razer keyboards’ life.
However, the BlackWidow is exceptionally well built. Plus, should you find something wrong with your board, Razer offers a two-year warranty for added peace of mind and decent customer support, even if it is always a bit of a nuisance to get things fixed.
Razers Synapse 3 software allows for plenty of customization. You can create your own lighting effects, record macros and assign them to any key of your choice, enable the “gaming mode,” which disables the Windows, Alt +F4, or Alt+Tab combinations, and link games to specific profiles.
Your profiles are stored in the cloud along with your Razer account, but you can also copy them to the keyboard’s onboard storage and use them on other computers.
Link your profiles to certain games…
All of this sounds nice, but we found it to be a bit buggy. Macros sometimes fail to record correctly, requiring you to create the keystrokes manually instead. And occasionally, the Synapse can create new profiles for your mouse or keyboard without you noticing it. This results in multiple identical profiles for seemingly no reason.
Another bug is that the software tends to freeze when launching or updating, resulting in a full reboot.
But, on the bright side…
When Synapse 3 works flawlessly, it is quite useful. Razer’s Chroma Studio allows you to customize each key so that you can match it with your other peripherals. Or you can use Razer’s built-in animation presets, like ripple, breathing, or fire, which makes your keys look like a digital fireplace.
You can even layer different effects, so the keys use one animation when they “rest.” Then change to another when you press on a key to activate the board again. This feature is actually pretty cool, and you can link certain games to different profiles.
This comes in handy if you want to color-code specific hotkeys or match the keyboard’s color with the game you’re playing. Razer even has some prebuilt profiles for particular games, which is pretty nice.
The only downside is that your custom lighting effects only work when the Synapse software is running. And even the keyboard’s onboard storage can’t load them on another computer if Synapse isn’t installed. The lighting will revert to the default “rainbow” when you’re logged out.
This might not be a big deal, but is a little ridiculous considering what you have to pay for the BlackWidow Elite.
Despite the board being equipped with Green switches, commonly known as “typing” switches more than gaming switches, gaming is still pleasant. Both long presses and quick double-taps feel smooth and natural. The keys are very responsive, despite the noise, and seeing the lighting change for supported games is a real treat.
However, this is probably cooler in theory than in practice. This is because experienced gamers don’t look at their keyboard, but it can come in handy if you’re new to a certain game.
Pro And Cons Of Razer BlackWidow Elite Gaming Keyboard
- Solid construction.
- Razer Green Switches have a nice tactile feel.
- Removeable handrest.
- Excellent build quality.
- Feature packed.
- Hypershift/Caps Lock notifications are single white LEDs and impossible to read in the low light.
- USB passthrough isn’t USB 3.0.
- No dedicated keys for certain functions.
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Razer BlackWidow Elite Gaming Keyboard Review – Final Thoughts
In reality, it’s all about those media keys. They are easily accessible and work well in-game. However, it would be nice to see them with backlit legends.
The volume wheel, on the other hand, is a double-edged sword. It hangs off the edge of the board, making it easy to access; in fact, it’s one of the most convenient volume wheels we have tested. But that can cause you to accidentally bump the wheel with your mouse hand, which can become annoying.
To be honest, there are perfectly component keyboards with similar features as the BlackWidow Elite for less money. However, Razer has included some fantastic features that go hand in hand with other leading flagships from Corsair and Logitech.
The Market is as crowded as ever, but the Widow Elite is one of the few keyboards that can boast every feature you might want, and that, my friends, is quite remarkable and makes it an excellent choice.