Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

Rating:

Every keystroke is like music to my ears: a familiar clack-clack-clack fills the space in my apartment as my hands move across my keyboard. A purple glow emanates from every letter that I strike, leaving behind a glowing, but quickly-fading, version of my typing history. This is the Razer Blackwidow Chroma, and it means serious business.

The Razer Blackwidow Chroma is a high-end gaming keyboard with quite the list of value offerings for a keyboard: durability, speed and accuracy, and customizability, to name a few.

Priced at the higher end of the spectrum, for gaming keyboards and keyboards in general, does the Razer Blackwidow Chroma offer enough value as a keyboard to be worth the price?

Hardware

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

The Razer Blackwidow Chroma is a long, matte black keyboard with translucent lettering on each key, and quite heavier than it would seem to be, giving it a feeling of a solid build behind it. The braided cord that snakes out from the back leads to a splitter that has four wires: two USB cables, an audio cable, and a microphone cable. Only one USB cable is use for actual Blackwidow functionality, the other USB cable and audio cables are for the USB port and audio jacks on the right side of the keyboard.

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

If you’re unfamiliar with mechanical keyboards, they use something called a “switch” underneath each key, the switch requires a certain level of “actuation” force (the amount of force required to press it down to activate the key) to send the signal to the computer with your keypress. Compared to your run-of-the-mill membrane keyboard, which are much cheaper to produce, mechanical keyboards provide a different level of tactile and audible feedback, purportedly increasing accuracy and speed.

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

In short, a mechanical keyboard facilitates a higher level of speed and accuracy that you otherwise wouldn’t have had. In addition, the clicky clack noises give me a sense of nostalgia, taking me back to the old keyboards and computers I used to have. If you’re not a fan of louder keyboards, I would steer clear of the Razer Blackwidow Chroma and other mechanical keyboards, because it can make a ruckus, especially at higher typing speeds.

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

That said, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma feels great beneath the fingertips. Key presses provide a level of satisfaction and feedback that I haven’t felt in years. However, it lacked any sort of ergonimic support, which might be a good thing if you’re looking to provide your own solutions, but for the price, would have been nice to have out of the box.

The LEDs beneath the keys are definitely eye-catching: without any configuration, the lights on the Razer Blackwidow Chroma are on “breathing” mode with random colours, where the entire keyboard’s lights slowly fade in and out. With the software, you can customize the lighting any which way, including colour, brightness, and pattern.

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

Overall, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma is a great piece of hardware. Its build quality is solid and feels durable, the mechanical switches are satisfying and provide a great deal of feedback, and the extra lighting features are novel and eye-catching.

Software

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

The Razer Blackwidow Chroma comes with instructions for downloading the Razer Synapse desktop software, used for customizing and controlling the different functions of the keyboard. While the software is free, I often bristle at having to create an account before being allowed to download or use software for products I already own, so that was a minor annoyance.

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

However, once you’re set up with the Razer Synapse software, you quickly see options for customization with the Razer Blackwidow Chroma: create and select different profiles for saving settings, customize the keyboard layout and re-map keys, change the lighting behaviour, colours, and brightness, turn gaming mode on and off, and record macros to assign to the five macro keys on the left side of the keyboard.

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

Personally, I kept the keyboard layout intact, but I changed the lighting to “Reactive” while using a deep purple colour. It strikes the perfect balance of subtle and cool, without being overly distracting or annoying.

While fiddling with the settings, I found “Wave” mode, which was great to look at for a few minutes, but it definitely was not for every day usage.

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Overall, the software for the Razer Blackwidow Chroma achieves everything you need it to do: create and save profiles of your custom settings, customize and re-map the keys, change the different aspects of lighting, and record any key sequences that you would like to be able to quickly use over and over again.

Usage

To test the Razer Blackwidow Chroma, I ran it through a battery of tests:

  • I performed a typing test at different points of my review period
  • I spent two weeks writing code, for normal work days
  • I played a handful of different types of games
  • I wrote several pieces of content, including this review

Typing Tests

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

Typing tests are easy (but shallow) measurements of keyboard performance because they usually require unusually high levels of capitalization, punctuation, and combinations of letters in order to test your typing speed and accuracy. Using TypingTest.com, I performed the 1-minute test, writing Aesop’s Fable. I took the test as soon as I unboxed the Razer Blackwidow Chroma, one after a week of regular usage, and one at the end of two weeks.

In theory, my speed and accuracy should improve as times goes on and I become acclimated to the keyboard’s performance and feel. In practice, my speed and accuracy remained relatively consistent over the two weeks, with marginal increases in speed (102 wpm to 109 wpm) and accuracy (4 errors to 2 errors).

Writing Code for Work / Writing Content

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

During the day, I spend most of my time writing code, so you can imagine that a solid keyboard is paramount. The Razer Blackwidow Chroma performed admirably over two weeks of heavy usage while coding, though I did turn off the lighting effects while at the office.

I’ve also doubled up this section with writing content, because it felt much the same. The Razer Blackwidow Chroma received some heavy usage over two weeks while writing different pieces of content, including this review.

In both scenarios, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma did a great job of being a solid keyboard. However, it can get quite loud, especially at those higher speeds, so a heads up and warning if you decide to bring this monster into the office!

Gaming

Razer Blackwidow Chroma Review

As a gaming keyboard, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma needed to be run through a gauntlet of games of different genres in order to really understand its usability and test its selling points.

I played, in no particular order or frequency: Dota 2, Overwatch, Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, and Battlefield 4.

All of these games require some really heavy duty keyboard usage, and will typically consist of really quick key press sequences while holding down other keys.

While in play, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma showed no signs of keys “sticking” or “ghosting”, where pressing too many keys at once would cause key press recognition issues. Some Razer keyboards, including the Razer Blackwidow Chroma, include a “Gaming Mode”, which locks out the Windows key, as well as preventing a user from using “alt+tab” or “alt+F4” key combinations. No more pesky interruptions from errant key presses!

The Razer Blackwidow Chroma absolutely rocks for gaming. Macros are useful here, especially in games like Dota 2 or Diablo 3 that require very long and complicated key press sequences.

The Bottom Line

The Razer Blackwidow Chroma is a great gaming keyboard, and a great mechanical keyboard. Its build quality is great, its lighting features are novel and fun, its proprietary switches are performant and (hopefully) durable, its macros are useful for automating key press sequences, and its software does what you need it to do.

However, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma falls on the expensive side of keyboards, currently listed at $249.95 on Staples Canada. Lacking ergonomic support and any real differentiating keyboard features, the price seems to mostly come from the RGB backlight feature as well as the Razer brand name.

This product is perfect for: people who want a solid mechanical keyboard that’s easy to set up, durable, fully customizable, and has a novel backlight feature.

Key things to be aware of: the Razer Blackwidow Chroma is a pricy keyboard, given lack of ergonomic features and no real differentiators, but it is a solid performer with high levels of customization, providing a decent value offering.

Final review score: 4. The Razer Blackwidow Chroma is a great keyboard, and its lights are fun to look at, but the value offered may not match the price tag.

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Jon Lim

Jon Lim is a professional developer, writer, and an avid technologist. He has written creatively for the past 16 years, and professionally for 4 years.

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