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Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2016 Edition review: The small improvements that matter

Hayden Dingman | March 9, 2016
Razer's 2016 BlackWidow Ultimate is the epitome of an incremental upgrade. And that's totally fine.

Those two changes make up the bulk of the 2016 overhaul. The only other tweak I spotted is so small that it’s almost not worth mentioning, but the Function key now lights up. Don’t act too excited.

The remaining features are pretty much identical to the 2014 BlackWidow—same fabric cable sheath, same diagonal cutouts in the lower corners, same media keys. And with the design having changed so little, that also means this keyboard still packs Razer’s own mechanical switches—the model we reviewed had Greens.

I’ve come to accept Razer’s switches. I can work with them. But I don’t like them. In my opinion, they’re bargain-basement Cherry MX Blues. They require the same force to press as Cherry MX Blues (50 cN) and feature the same kind of clicky feel, but with a slightly higher actuation point and a lower reset point. This means you get a lot of resistance up front and nearly none after a key press registers.

Razer claims this design is good for gaming: You can double- and triple-press Razer’s keys a bit faster than standard Cherry Blues. That’s great if all you do on your PC is games, games, games.

But as I discussed in my review of the 2014 BlackWidow and as I’ve said on PCWorld time and time again: A keyboard is for more than just gaming. Presumably, you don’t want to drag a different keyboard out of the closet each time you browse the web, do your taxes, write the next Great American Novel, or what-have-you.

However, no matter which keyboard you choose, you make compromises. I’d rather err on the side of comfort and use real MX Blues instead of worrying about shaving milliseconds off my double-taps (and bottoming out keys more often in the process), but that’s ultimately your call. As more manufacturers move away from Cherry switches in favor of cheaper alternatives, it’s becoming harder and harder to find a solid MX Blue board anyway.

Bottom line

We’re two years into Razer’s “We’ll make our own mechanical switches” experiment and I’m still not sold on the idea. However, among gaming keyboards under $100, the 2016 BlackWidow Ultimate’s a solid choice and an improvement (however small) over its predecessor.

You’ll miss out on all the rainbow-lighting craziness afforded by Razer’s RGB-enabled Chroma line but, well, maybe you didn’t want all those tacky lights anyway. It’s okay to admit it.

 

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