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Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth 2013 Edition Keyboard Review

Author: Chris Borden
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Razer

Software

Keyboard software can be particularly vexatious. However, Razer’s software impressed me by being incredibly straightforward.

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There are no animations, no sound effects, no fluff. The theming is easy to work with and sharp – befitting the brand name.

Synapse 2.0 adds a twist to the standard formula for peripheral software. Not only does it allow for the expected flexibility in configuring the BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition, it also allows for device profiles to be accessed from any computer outfitted with the Synapse 2.0 software. This should be very useful for tournament gamers on Razer peripherals with custom layouts and macros if the tournament PCs use Razer hardware as well.

Razer provides a way via Synapse 2.0 for most keys on the BlackWidow line of keyboards to be customized with the same extensibility as the macro keys. Custom mappings can be assigned to profiles that are accessed on the fly by pressing combinations of the BlackWidow line’s built in function key – which replaces the right hand Windows key - and numbers 1-9, or they can be configured to activate when the software detects specific programs.

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Remapped “A” to “S”. Ever wanted to play around with a Dvorak layout?

Additionally, the driver software allows one to toggle on a ‘gaming mode’ that can be configured to disable Alt+F4, Alt+Tab, and the Windows key. This gaming mode is toggled by pressing Function+F10. A green targeting reticle lights up on the keyboard to indicate that gaming mode is enabled.

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I rarely have trouble with accidentally hitting these keys, but when I do it’s always right in time to inadvertently chuck a grenade into my teammates.

The lighting controls are self-explanatory and easy to work. I did have a bit of trouble with the setting to turn the keyboard’s lights off when my monitors were off.

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The pulsate and the brightness functionality work as expected. The software may be struggling to detect the power state of both of my  monitors’ on my SLi setup.

Gamers are able to record macros on the fly by pressing Function+F9, pressing the key combination for the macro, pressing Function+F9 again, and then pressing the key to bind the macro to. The macro is then immediately available for use. A red indicator light on the keyboard indicates the macro recorder is on when it is activated by hotkey.

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The macro recorder is straightforward. It includes the ability to import/export profiles and macros underneath the ellipses

The Synapse 2.0 software shows a degree of polish that some peripheral drivers lack. Additionally, I see update notifications frequently enough to remind me that the software is installed and that development is active. It is minimally obtrusive, easy to use, lightweight, completely functional, and refreshing to use.

August 27, 2013 | 01:18 PM - Posted by Jim Carhart (not verified)

I've owned this keyboard for several months now, and though I share the strong endorsement from your article I do want to point out a shortcoming. In terms of the backlighting, only the primary (non-shifted) function of keys are backlit. So the number keys are lit, but the '!,@#$%^&*()' shifted key values are not, note this holds for opening and closing parens, pipe symbol, all of which are heavily used in programming/command-line shell environments.

Maybe not an issue for gaming use, but definitely an issue if you code or use this keyboard with Linux/Unix systems. Such a shame, as a bit of work by Razer and this would have been a very, very good keyboard.

August 28, 2013 | 08:04 AM - Posted by Theo (not verified)

Cherry MX blue is too loud also, this new version should help that but I agree the non-backlit shifted keys is the only real let down on the keyboard.
Also the Synapse software is bloated junk and causes endless issues with start-up and reassigning keys to macros you haven't asked for.

August 28, 2013 | 10:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have the 2012 version and it's a solid great keyboard.

The software sucks. It requires an online connection. Hope they fixed that.

August 28, 2013 | 05:31 PM - Posted by Chris Borden

I just checked on this. There's an offline mode in the software accessed by going to the top right of the window, clicking on the drop down arrow, and hitting 'go offline'.

September 11, 2013 | 07:46 AM - Posted by Dopie

You still need and account and online connection for the first setup. Wouldn't mind if the sotware allowed you to use it without any kind of login and exporting of profiles in XML (like Logitech does).

August 28, 2013 | 11:36 AM - Posted by mLocke

Doesn't mention if the keycaps are OEM or authentic cherry height or what plastic the keycaps are made from. Probably OEM ABS.
http://keycapsdirect.com/images/faq/row1keycap.jpg

USB and audio ports on a keyboard make me giggle a bit. With most gaming grade mice coming with two meter cables, do you really need to have your mouse plugged into the keyboard?

If all the audio is being fed to the keyboard over USB then the keyboard has to have some cheap DAC/ADC inside of it to spit out and receive the audio over the 3.5 jacks on the side. One assumes that the keyboard is limited to processing stereo signal has no way to take the more common six or eight channel audio and process it into stereo for headphone/headset users that this keyboard is meant to cater to.

Would have been nice to see the PCB inside the keyboard and get an idea what kind of capability for modding it has. Overall great review, keep the mechs coming.

August 28, 2013 | 06:00 PM - Posted by Chris Borden

The USB port and the audio ports are passive passthroughs from what I can tell.

Since I'm not a believer in USB hubs - I had a decently expensive one take out a not-cheap microphone while a tablet and 3D mouse were plugged into it - I appreciate having to run one less USB extension cable from my case to my desk.

I'm also on an Ergotron Workfit, http://www.ergotron.com/tabid/640/language/en-US/default.aspx , so the fewer cables I have to manage the happier I am.

I'll be paying attention to keycap types in future keyboard reviews and I'll include a page showing disassembly in any of my future keyboard reviews.

September 11, 2013 | 09:35 AM - Posted by Halbyrd (not verified)

One issue I've had with Razer's backlit keyboards, mechanical and membrane both, is the way the keycaps are designed to accommodate the backlighting. Their method is to make the keycaps of clear ABS, and then paint them black except for the label part. Keycaps made in this manner have the unfortunate tendency to have their paint rubbed off over time on top, which means that instead of backlit lettering, you get big, undifferentiated blobs on the keys you use most often. While annoying on any keyboard, this is especially inexcusable on a mechanical keyboard, which are meant to last many multiples of the lifespan of a cheaper membrane keyboard.

October 2, 2013 | 12:46 PM - Posted by jorg (not verified)

To clear up the usb/audio questions:
USB & audio are passive passthrough. There are four cables coming from the keyboard, but very nicely wrapped inside one braided line.
-2x usb connections;
1 powers the keyboard which is 5V and has a 350mA draw & the other to a seperate usb out, making that a full powered port on the right side of keyboard.
-1x Mic minijack.
-1x Headphone minijack.
These both are colour coded (pink&green) and plug directly into your pc audio.

Synapse 2.0 software/drivers...grrrrrr!!!!...needs work!
-I installed the stuff, set up keyboard, then exited program. Synapse will restart w/ a boot or a user change. Run>msconfig>start up. Uncheck the synapse & reboot.

& it'll stay that way, unless/until Razor can get it correct. It is a novel idea using cloud, but not nessesary for HID's.

April 14, 2014 | 12:17 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Do you need to download the software to use the keyboard or does it work straight out of the box

November 24, 2014 | 11:16 AM - Posted by Shea2812 (not verified)

Well it works straight out of the box (at least for the blue) for me and it will remain that way for I hardly games. Been playing with this for a while and I am quite satisfied. My other mech is a CS Storm Brown with partial lit. Acquired this piece of kit after my trusty Logitech K800 gave up the ghost a few days ago and I decided to give a lit mech keyboard a go for my daily driver. I have no issue with the noise for there is no one that i can bother with my tapping at odd hours.

November 24, 2014 | 11:17 AM - Posted by Shea2812 (not verified)

Well it works straight out of the box (at least for the blue) for me and it will remain that way for I hardly games. Been playing with this for a while and I am quite satisfied. My other mech is a CS Storm Brown with partial lit. Acquired this piece of kit after my trusty Logitech K800 gave up the ghost a few days ago and I decided to give a lit mech keyboard a go for my daily driver. I have no issue with the noise for there is no one that i can bother with my tapping at odd hours.

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