Last month I had the chance to review Razer’s BlackWidow Chroma keyboard, a mechanical gaming keyboard with some very powerful color tweaking and lighting capabilities. Razer’s PC peripherals have been a longstanding mainstay of the enthusiast and gamer communities, focusing on build quality, precision and appealing design. Razer has a lengthy history of releasing updates to their successful product lines on a frequent basis and frequently ranks among the very best peripheral manufacturers for their target market. With their recent acquisition of THX, Razer is a company that all home theater enthusiasts will likely soon get to know better.
The BlackWidow Chroma is an update to the BlackWidow, offering a new mechanical switch called the “Razer Orange” switch (In the Stealth variant of this keyboard) or the previously released “Razer Green” switch. in addition to the same features
that the previous model offered, including a USB hub, headset ports and backlit keys capable of displaying 16.8 million colors. Razer claims that both the new “Razer Orange” and previous “Razer Green” switches can handle 80 million keystrokes and that this durability is a product of precision manufacturing
Build Quality & Aesthetics
The BlackWidow Chroma like its predecessor is a hefty keyboard, weighing in at over three pounds. This shows in the solid construction of the deck and the solid sound made when actuating the keys. If I were to complain about anything on this keyboard, I would have to take aim at the deck’s ability to isolate sound – as this hollow sound can be a little louder than ideal for heavy handed typists like myself. The cable is protected by braided fiber sheath and feels extremely durable while still offering sufficient flex to route easily behind the desk. The keyboard itself features a rubberized soft-touch plastic that is comfortable on the hand and prevents slipping while also conveniently hiding the smudges one typically sees on a high gloss keyboard. The headphone connectors and a USB port are found on the rear right side of the keyboard while a single additional USB port is on the rear left.
The backlight on the keys of the BlackWidow Chroma is extremely advanced and has controllable color on a per key basis with up to 16.8 million possible colors. Both brightness and color parameters can be set via Razer’s Synapse 2.0 software.
The switches themselves are Razer branded, but the plastic stamping on the previous generation clearly showed that the OEM was Kailh Electronics from China. While most gamers and mechanical keyboard enthusiasts are fans of switches manufactured by Cherry, Kailh’s switches are more or less copies of Cherry MX switches that are slightly customized to the needs of the customer.
In this case it appears that Razer has not used a Kailh switch design, but has hired them to produce a proprietary switch with a high duty cycle and an actuation travel of 1.9mm instead. If I were a betting man, I would theorize that Razer set out to create a better version of the Cherry MX Blue switch that so many gamers and enthusiasts love.
In my testing, it does appear that the Razer Green switch feels like a slightly firmer, less wobbly version of the Cherry MX Blue, but I don’t have the equipment to truly quantity what this means. Those interested in objective measurements should head on over to Tom’s Hardware and check out this article. As I stated when I reviewed the BlackWidow Ultimate in 2014, it would be next to impossible to test the validity of Razer’s claims that the BlackWidow Chroma can handle 80 million keystrokes before switch failure, so I’ll take them at their word. Should you reach 80,000,001 keystrokes and have a switch fail, it’s fairly safe to assume that you will have had time to save up for a new keyboard. Having used the previous BlackWidow Ultimate for the last 3 years, I can say that so far the green switches have held up very well and I really enjoy typing on them.
I’ve been a Razer customer on and off for over a decade now, starting with their mice and eventually owning a keyboard as well some years past. Razer has taken some flak from customers in the past for hit or miss hardware quality and some software issues, both of which I have experienced with previous mice (my Mamba mouse for example).
After reviewing the BlackWidow Ultimate two years ago, that keyboard ended up becoming my daily driver and has sat on my desk for nearly 3 years. In that time, it has been nothing but a fantastic product that is built to last. With Razer’s obvious commitment to quality and desire to improve their products, I can’t help but be optimistic about their recent acquisition of THX. I expect all of us home theater enthusiasts will be seeing more from this brand in the next few years than we have in the past.
After a few weeks together, I am happy to say that my experience with the BlackWidow Chroma was extremely positive. I didn’t have any issues with the software and the keyboard is as solid and tactile as any other I’ve owned including its predecessor, though I hope that Razer considers adding more sound dampening to the deck in future iterations. As I stated in my review of the BlackWidow Ultimate in 2014, if I had to level one suggestion for improvement, a slightly extended wrist rest would be a welcome addition that I would love to see Razer incorporate into their next iteration of this product. Who knows, maybe next time they will do just that?