Introduction and Packaging

Several months ago, we had a quick look at the BlackWidow Ultimate from Razer, a company very well known for their focus on gaming-related products. A few weeks ago, Razer announced that they have developed their own all-new mechanical switches, upgrading most of their keyboards with them in the process. The upgrade involves the BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard, and we have the new "2014" version that we'll be reviewing today. Razer has made plenty of noise about their new switches, and while we'll have more to say on that in a moment, let's start as usual with a look at the packaging and included items.

 

We received the BlackWidow Ultimate in a nicely designed cardboard box, with a small opening allowing you to test the keys. We especially liked that idea and we wholeheartedly recommend, given that it is possible, that you should visit a retail store and test the switches yourself before purchasing a keyboard. No amount of text can fully describe the feel of a mechanical switch, especially if you have no previous experience with any mechanical keyboard.

The bundle is well presented but minimal; there is a nice envelope with a quick start guide, warranty information and product registration cards, as well as two large stickers, but that is about it. There is not even a disk with the keyboard's software; an internet connection is required to download it.

Software

The Razer Synapse software is, in our opinion, where Razer should have focused their marketing attention. With it, several profiles can be programmed into the BlackWidow Ultimate and the user can switch between them on the fly. It is also possible to link a program to each profile, a very handy feature if you want to link each profile to a specific game or application. It would be even better if the software would reset to the previous profile once the game/application has been closed though.

Aside from the programming of macros, the software allows every single key of the keyboard to be reprogrammed, a feature that can be highly useful. You can easily change the functions of any key -- and not just reprogram it to perform a single keystroke; the keys can be reprogrammed to execute macros, perform multimedia functions, launch applications and more. The combinations are practically infinite and this feature can be extremely useful, especially in games that do not allow the remapping of certain keys.

Furthermore, the backlight brightness can be adjusted and linked to certain profiles It can also be set to pulsate, which we do not recommend, as the brightness will essentially blind you every several seconds. When online, the Razer Synapse even allows the user to save the profiles to a free online account and import them into other Razer keyboards.

In short, the Synapse software has plenty of good features, and it's one of the highlights of the BlackWidow.

A Closer Look
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  • shimeng - Sunday, May 18, 2014 - link

    I had the same keyboard as the one in the review. I hurled it against the wall in a fit of anger due to a bug with the Synapse software (it would repeatedly spam the Enter key whenever I logged into Windows after performing a lock). There were reports of a firmware that fixed the issue but it was quietly pulled from Razer's website. It took several weeks and a third update to Synapse to finally resolve the problem. They certainly look and feel very nice but I would compare owning one to be akin to marrying the girl of your dreams, only to discover she has epilepsy. Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    So the Green = Cherry Blue roughly. What is similar to the orange? Is it closer to red or black?
    For the record I use Cherry Blue keys on my Leopold for gaming and don't feel they are too heavy or lack anything, but I suppose you can get used to anything.
    Reply
  • Inteli - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    oranges are closer to browns. Reply
  • Drumsticks - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    I believe it is similar to browns. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Thursday, April 03, 2014 - link

    From the review:

    "If you were to examine the specifications of Razer's new switches, it becomes apparent that their Green and Orange switches are almost identical to the Blue and Brown switches from either Cherry or Kailh respectively"

    It's now important that when someone says 'Greens' they specify either Razer Greens or Cherry Greens.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    It would be awesome if you could review some of the really inexpensive Monoprice mechanical keyboards and gaming mice. Some of the mice for example look like really expensive Razer or RAT mice for 11 bucks. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, April 03, 2014 - link

    I don't even recognize Monoprice anymore, they used to only have cables and cable accessories. It's like Newegg's new marketplace... selling everything trying to compete with Amazon. Monoprice always sold high quality product, though, and I know they offered some of the first budget 120Hz 1440p IPS panels available in the US and even an affordable, decent subwoofer (sounds good if you buy four). Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, April 03, 2014 - link

    I just got their MEP-933 earphones, very impressive for being 8 bucks, I'd say they're competitive with any IEMs I've heard under 50 bucks. After that, I started looking at their gaming mice too but can't find any good reviews on them. Reply
  • theangryintern - Friday, April 04, 2014 - link

    I don't really have a problem with them trying to sell other stuff to stay competitive as long as the cables part of the business doesn't change, and so far it hasn't. Still the best place to get quality cables for cheap. Reply
  • ahamling27 - Monday, April 07, 2014 - link

    I have one of the Monoprice Mechanical Gaming Keyboards with the red blacklight and I have to say, it's been an amazing keyboard so far! I believe it has Cherry MX Red switches, and like the keyboard in this review, all the media/volume/macro keys use a FN modifier key. It also has headphone and mic inputs as well as 2 USB outlets, but it doesn't take an extra USB plug to make them work.
    All in all, I really like my keyboard and at the time it was about the only red backlit keyboard I could find. Now there's a green one and it seems everyone and their dog does blue. My laptop has a steelseries keyboard in it that can actually do like 6 different colors, why can't mechanical keyboards do more than one color themselves?
    Reply

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