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Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard Review - Mechanically superior? Just mechanical?

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Razer

Benchmark: Rapid Response

Mechanical keyboards have a number of physical advantages when it comes to response relative to their much cheaper membrane brethren. This test consists of hitting five keys in rapid succession using the edge of a credit card. The credit card ensures that those five keys will be pressed in sequence either right-to-left or left-to-right depending on which side of the edge you strike the keyboard with first. Ideal keyboards would register each of the five keypresses as well as in the correct order. This test is extremely severe on keyboards and it is very unlikely that most people will notice their keyboard’s performance except, for instance, the tip-top 300+ APM Starcraft players or a serious professional typer.

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Does using a photocopy card lower my creditbility?

Every combination of horizontal sets of keys was tested left-to-right. It is possible to have certain combinations of keys register perfectly while another combination fails depending where each key lays on the key matrix and thus every typing position was tested.

Four keyboards were benchmarked using this method:

  • Razer BlackWidow Ultimate (Mechanical, USB)
  • Rosewill RK-9000 (Mechanical, USB; native PS/2 is possible but not a fair comparison)
  • Dell laptop keyboard (Scissor-switch)
  • Logitech G15 1st generation (Membrane, USB)

The left column is what five-letter string should be registered and reported by the keyboard. To the right are the results of five separated attempts at each string according to what the keyboard reports. Black font is when an attempt matches the five letter string exactly; red font is a failure and is bolded when less than all five keypresses is registered by the keyboard. Trials where the card slipped were obviously repeated.

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate

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The Razer BlackWidow failed a total of 71 times out of a possible 155 trials which is a 45.8% failure rate. There are some visible problems with not every key being reported localized to the number row; it did not appear anywhere else on the keyboard.

Rosewill RK-9000 USB

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The Rosewill RK-9000 is a rebranded Filco keyboard that is similar to its sister right down to the steel plate that each of the keys attach to. It failed a total of 13 times out of a possible 155 trials which is an 8.4% failure rate. It managed to register every keypress during a failed trial which is to be expected from an NKRO keyboard even when crippled by USB’s limitations. Every set of keys tested had at least a 60% success rate which suggests there are no actual hardware limitations for any specific set of keys.

Dell Laptop Keyboard

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The Dell Laptop keyboard performed abysmally in this test. It had a 98.7% failure rate of which 95.4% of those failures did not even register the correct number of key presses. There is not even any way to tell if those trials are flukes as those two successes did not even occur in the same part of the keyboard. If anything this should stand as a benchmark to put this whole test into perspective; this is the level of performance that you likely are used to if you use cheap keyboards. On the one hand you may feel that this is good enough, on the other hand you may have little errors here and there and blame it on yourself rather than rightly on the keyboard. Food for thought.

Logitech G15 (v1)

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The Logitech G15 v1 keyboard failed a total of 124 times out of a possible 155 trials. Like the BlackWidow it did not have too much trouble registering every key with the exception of the number row and one instance near the top-right of the keyboard.

Summary

As you can see the Razer mechanical keyboard performs much better than the membrane-based competition but cannot keep up to the higher-classed mechanical keyboards like Costar’s Filco-based product for Newegg’s Rosewill house brand. Yes the mechanical keyboard industry is as convoluted as it sounds. I should stress that this test is unrealistic for the vast majority of keyboard users however it is a good numerical measure of the quality of a keyboard primarily if you are in the small segment of humanity who can really push a keyboard beyond its limits. In terms of that quality: if you are hoping that Razer produced a mechanical keyboard that performs with the tip-top best then you are mistaken.

September 9, 2011 | 01:39 AM - Posted by Bryan (not verified)

Razer has another run of widow keyboards using brown cherry switches, called the stealth edition. ( A quieter alternative to the regular line.)

September 9, 2011 | 10:45 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Yeah that product line was announced while I was reviewing this one. Oh well.

September 9, 2011 | 11:54 PM - Posted by Bryan (not verified)

Razer is on a product spree at the moment.

The whole BF3 themed orange versions of Widow Ultimate, Imperator mouse, scarab mouse pad and Onza Tournament.

As well as the Razer Blade.

Any bets on a Razor OS soon?

September 9, 2011 | 08:43 PM - Posted by ThorAxe

I have this keyboard and love it. I find it nicer to use than the Razer Lycosas' I have. The back-lighting is also more evenly distributed.

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