The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth (BWUS) features quiet mechanical switches and provides excellent performance without the noise of traditional mechanical keyboards. As someone that has always had a gaming PC, but did not have a gaming keyboard (shocking, I know!) I was looking for a keyboard that would offer performance, longevity and come in at a price point that was not astronomical. Options included keyboards from Corsair, Logitech, Gigabyte, Hyper X, etc. The list of keyboard manufactures could be very long, but ultimately, I chose a keyboard from Razer as it was on sale during the time 🙂 and met my needs. I have read and watched reviews of other Razer products in the past, and in general either you love their products or hate them due to their price and quality of the products. So far, the keyboard has rock solid without any issues.
Razer Orange Switches
In the last few years Razer has opted to manufacturer its own key switches ranging from Green, Orange and Yellow each of which is respectively similar to the Cherry MX Blue, Brown and Red. The BWUS uses the Razer Orange keys to achieve the ‘quiet’ operation for the keyboard and leads to the product name Stealth. I use the word quiet very loosely as the keyboard is not as loud and ‘clackity’ as other traditional mechanical keyboards but is still much louder compared to a regular desktop keyboard. The orange switches are extremely responsive, needing only ~45grams of pressure to depress, and have a lower key travel compared to other mechanical switches. They switches are also rated up to 80 million keystrokes, where similar switches are rated to a guaranteed to ~50 million keystrokes.
The keyboard itself has a matte black finish which helps reduce the look of smudges on the keys and keeps the individual backlight bright green LEDs visible. The lettering on the keyboard is a unique bold font anchored at the bottom with the Razer logo. The old Razer macro keys which used to be located to the left side of the keyboard have been removed and instead integrated as function keys with using the Razer Synapse software. Sadly, the keyboard does not support RGB lighting and is limited to shades of green only, any of the other Razer “Chroma” devices have fully supported RGB lighting. All is not lost though, there are thousands of combinations of lighting effects that can be customized with the Razer Synapse software.
The keyboard connects with a long ~5-foot braided cable that terminates with 2 USB plugs and a 3.5mm Headphone/Mic input. A great feature of the keyboard is that it includes a 3.5mm input to plug-in a headset and a USB pass through to plug-in a mouse or USB thumb drive.
Love it or hate it, the Razer Synapse software is here to stay. The software is required to be running at all times (which adds slight overhead to your Operating System) to access all the features of the keyboard. Synapse allows you to control the keyboard effects, assign different keys and modify brightness and color or the backlight keys.
The various lighting effects can all be configured and enabled through here including, a breathing effect, a ripple effect when keys are pressed, a wave effect across the keys and a few more lighting effects. There is also a “Gaming Mode” which can be enabled by assigning to a certain combination of keys or if your favorite gaming software is detected (Steam.exe for example). The Gaming Mode feature will disable (optionally) ALT-TAB, ALT-F4 or Windows key presses to ensure you don’t accidently get brought to the desktop. I do love this feature as I use the “CTRL” or “Shift” key for crouching in game and sometimes accidently click the Windows key!
Macros key combinations can also be recorded in the Synapse software and assigned keys. This will allow you to execute several repetitive keystrokes or mouse clicks with the press of a button! For example, I recorded a macro for building a Sentry Gun in Team Fortress 2 which involves several key strokes and mouse clicks which now can be completed with 1 key. Macro recording can also be done on the fly while pressing Function-F9.
The Grass isn’t always Greener
As great as this keyboard is there are a few things that could be improved on.
- Media Keys. There are no dedicated media keys, this is a huge issue for Volume Up, Down and Mute. You have to hold the Function Button and then press F2 or F3 for Volume controls or F1 for Mute. I wish they would have included dedicated keys for at least volume control. While in-game this is a major inconvenience. I ended up assigning dedicated volume control buttons to the “+” and “-” keys on the number pad.
- Noise. As quiet as the Razer Orange switches are, and this keyboard bearing the name “Stealth” banging out an e-mail or playing a game with repetitive keystrokes can be loud and annoying to others within an ear shot of you using the keyboard.
- Function Key. There is no function key lock on this keyboard. You will have to hold the function key and another key, every time you want to change the brightness of the keyboard or access music controls or volume. A function lock which I’ve seen on other keyboards would have gone a long way to make this keyboard more functional.
- USB & Headphone Input. It’s great that the passthrough ports are included with this keyboard, unfortunately having them on the right side of the keyboard presents a serious ergonomics issue. The picture below explains the issue, having the ports on the side adds more wires that can get in the way of your mouse movement.
- Wrist Support. A wrist pad of some sort is required for extended use with the keyboard. I found myself often trying to hold my wrists up awkwardly while using this keyboard. For me, after a short period of time I was experiencing wrist issues. Razer does sell keyboards with integrated keyboard wrist pads, but the BlackWidow Ultimate does not. Fortunately, Razer does sell a stand-alone Keyboard wrist pad which I purchased to alleviate the stress on my wrists.
I’ve had no issues with the actual physical hardware of the keyboard, the key switches are extremely responsive and still have the tactile feel that mechanical keyboard users love to feel (and hear) after many months of use. The Razer Orange switches could be a deal breaker for some if they prefer the Cherry MX brand of switches. If I had to pay full price for the keyboard ($159.99 CAD) I would except the keyboard to have separate volume control buttons and full RGB. I bought the BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth on sale for $109.99 CAD, for that price I was able to get a full featured mechanical keyboard, which I think, is well worth the price.