When it comes to gaming keyboards, I have the terrible habit of thinking more is more. If I’m splashing out on a premium piece of kit, I want a billion different macro keys, USB pass-throughs for days, a drinks holder, and maybe even my own personal shirtless, buff grape-peeler. It’s unrealistic to expect all of that, but, more importantly, they’re features that are often used to distract from a failure to nail the basics.
The Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2 (Super HD Remix Arcade 2.8 – A Fragmentary Keyswitch -: reCODE) is proof that cutting out the fluff can still result in a fab keyboard. While it may be slightly too barebones in some respects, it’s still a compact, quiet, responsive mechanical keyboard with a few neat extra features to try and justify that luxury price point.
The BlackWidow is Razer’s most well-known keyboard (although I was quite partial to the Ornata, myself), but Tournament Edition differs from the original version in a few important ways.
Cutting out the fluff can still result in a fab keyboard.
First off, it’s a tenkeyless design, meaning the number grid on the right-hand side has been totally removed. For the majority of people this is a minimal exclusion that is crucial for portability (for example at LAN parties and for conserving desk space), and it also has the benefit of giving the kit a much cleaner, minimalist design to boot. As much of a sucker I am for extraneous buttons, the extreme simplicity of the design is incredibly nice too.
In a few edge-cases, it’s not up to the task of a full board.
However, ditching a whole area of standard keyboards does mean that, in a few edge-cases, it’s not up to the task of a full board. Left-handed players might have some difficulty adapting, as the omitted keys are often used in southpaw layouts. It also may cause some problems in some simulator games, such as flight sims, that rely on the numpad. These are problems that can be overcome with a bit of key rebinding (which is supported through Razer Synapse software if not in-game), but that doesn’t mean it won’t still be a problem for some.
The second significant change is what are under the keys. The mechanical switches come in three different flavours: Razer red, green or yellow (as opposed to more standard Cherry MXs found in other keyboards). They are billed as being the most responsive found in a Razer keyboard to date, and I can certainly believe that. According to Razer, this is due to “Instant Trigger Technology” that cancels out the delay debouncing causes (debouncing is how the keyboard compensates for the minute bouncing of the contacts inside the switch that would otherwise cause annoying multiple outputs with one keypress). The result won’t make me any better at Overwatch – that would be a miracle – but it does feel a lot nicer to play, and a lot more responsive, than with most other keyboards I’ve tried before, both membrane and mechanical.
For gaming, the keys are fantastic. For typing, they’re still pretty good – with a low actuation point making speedy typing easy with a bit of extra practice. For those who like the audio feedback of clicky-clacks, even the silent yellow switches can give off a good, hefty click with each press (assuming you’re like me and freakin’ slam those keys). However, I think the half-height keycaps of the Ornata still give an overall more comfortable typing experience, thanks to the inherent smaller distance fingers have to travel. For the odd tweet or email the difference half a key’s height can make is negligible, but for a 2000 word essay, the fatigue does add up.
The result won’t make me any better at Overwatch – that would be a miracle – but it does feel a lot nicer to play.
Outside of the pure performance of it, the BlackWidow Tournament Chroma Edition does have a few nifty extras. The cable (a nice, sturdy braided cable) is removable, connecting to the keyboard itself via mini-USB for easy desk cable management, and of course for travelling two and from events. It also has a remarkably comfy magnetic wrist-rest.
Although I appreciate the minimalism, there are a few things I would’ve appreciated for ease-of-use. USB pass-throughs should be mandatory for every keyboard ever, but sadly there are none to be found here. I’m sure there are fancy technical reasons I don’t understand as to why they’re not, but they should be. At least the keyboard itself only uses up one USB port, I suppose, so it isn’t the most egregious example of port-hogging I’ve ever seen. I would’ve also appreciated dedicated media keys, simply because I detest having to hold down the FN key to control my music. These are remarkably minor and silly nit-picks, but for £140 worth of kit, the little things hold a bit more weight.
As the (absurdly long) name suggests, this is Chroma-supported, meaning it has full RGB lighting that can be configured through the Razer Synapse software. Synapse is going through a big change right now, with a major overhaul currently in beta for other devices, but the BlackWidow is still using the older version, complete with full key rebinding, RGB controls, and macro recording (despite the lack of macro keys to use them). If you’ve used any other Razer Chroma product, you know the drill here: it works, it works well, but it is just a configuration program at the end of the day.
The Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition V2 is a simple keyboard. It’s small, unornamental, and the flashiest feature it has is RGB lighting. But that simplicity belies its position as a fantastic performing, portable and comfortable piece of kit, though I would’ve liked a few more home comforts, especially for the high price tag. Despite that, for those who regularly travel with their computers – or appreciate a bit of extreme minimalism – this is absolutely one of the better options you’ll find.
A review unit was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of this review.
Input: 1x USB 2.0+
Release date: Out Now
- Slick design and bright LEDs.
- Impressive responsivity.
- Compact, light and portable.
- The half-height Ornata keys have ruined me.
- No USB passthrough.
- Maybe too simple for its price-point?
Despite the long-ass name, the BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2 is powerfully responsive, comfortable and portable bit of kit that cuts out all the superfluous extras so often plaguing gaming peripherals.