Gaming

More affordable mechanical keyboards with the brand new Razer Blackwidow X series

Compared to the Ultimate, the Razer BlackWidow X Chroma (above) keyboard switches provide sharper tactile feedback, and its exposed chassis feels more sturdy.
Compared to the Ultimate, the Razer BlackWidow X Chroma (above) keyboard switches provide sharper tactile feedback, and its exposed chassis feels more sturdy.PHOTO: RAZER

But price difference between 2 new Razer keyboards reflects variation in quality

Last month, Razer updated its flagship BlackWidow keyboard line with the BlackWidow X series, which comprises a range of budget-friendly, pared-down mechanical keyboards.

Prices start from US$59.99 (S$81.10) for the BlackWidow X Tournament Edition with Cherry switches. This is considerably cheaper than most other mechanical keyboards, which tend to hover around the US$100 range.

The X series also brought with it a lighter styling, which is a welcome change from the imposing, aggressive look of many of its predecessors.

Alongside the new products, Razer also announced that select models are now available with Cherry MX Blue switches.

This is a significant U-turn as the company had phased out the Cherry switches in 2014, replacing them with its own proprietary model.

  • RAZER BLACKWIDOW X CHROMA

    TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $279.90

    SWITCHES: Razer Green switches, tactile and clicky with 50g actuation force

    FEATURES: RGB lighting, Razer Synapse enabled

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

  • RAZER BLACKWIDOW X ULTIMATE

    TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $139.90

    SWITCHES: Cherry MX Blue switches, tactile and clicky with 50g actuation force

    FEATURES: Dynamic lighting, Razer Synapse enabled

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

For this review, we got our hands on the BlackWidow X Chroma (Razer switches) and the BlackWidow X Ultimate (Cherry switches).

There is a big price difference between the two keyboards - the Chroma costs $279.90 and the Ultimate, $139.90.

But at first glance, it is not easy to see why. From a distance, they look exactly the same, with a sleek exposed chassis and elegant floating keys.

Close up, though, the differences are vast. The most noticeable difference is in the key caps. The caps on the Chroma are more glossy, and their undersides are clean and white, with very little pigment bleed. The legends are also bolder and crisper, and look overall more well-balanced.

The caps on the Ultimate are more matte, feel thinner and are probably more prone to warping. The white undersides of the caps are mottled with grey, and the legends on them are narrower, making them slightly more difficult to read.

The differences extend to the typing experience as well. Cherry MX Blue switches have two distinctive qualities - the click that they make when depressed, and the tactile bump that accompanies this action. With its own Green switches, though, Razer has managed to outdo the Cherry MX Blue on both fronts.

Sound-wise, the Razer switches provide a more distinct, resonant click. They also provide sharper and stiffer tactile feedback. The Cherry keys feel a little lighter and more hollow in comparison. This is despite both keys having similar actuation forces of about 50g.

However, I think that the vast difference between the two cannot be attributed entirely to the switches, but also to the build quality of the two keyboards. Overall, the BlackWidow X Chroma feels like a solid, premium gaming keyboard, while the BlackWidow X Ultimate feels like the result of cutting corners.

The Enter key on my Ultimate has a tendency to get stuck, and a few seconds after I stopped typing, I would hear a soft "pop" as it resets itself. Even the exposed chassis on both boards sound different when tapped. The Chroma sounds more solid and sturdy, while the Ultimate sounds more plasticky and hollow.

The BlackWidow X line is a great move by Razer to make mechanical keyboards more affordable, but ultimately, you get what you pay for.

• Verdict: The two keyboards are identical in appearance, but the more expensive BlackWidow X Chroma far outstrips the Ultimate in terms of performance and build quality.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'More affordable mechanical keyboards'. Print Edition | Subscribe