Razer Blackwidow Elite Review
The Razer Blackwidow line of keyboards has been around since 2010 and has obviously seen a bunch of changes since its inception, but at its core it has always tried to be the ultimate gaming keyboard. Sparing no expenses and making no compromises, it's been a popular choice for both pros and casual gamers alike.
The brand has recently launched its newest version of the popular board in the form of the Blackwidow Elite, sporting handy additions such as a (multi-functional) media dial and a new and improved body.
With gamers now having the choice between three different Razer made key switches (clicky and silent tactile switches as well as a silent and linear switch) it's hard to imagine there's someone out there who wouldn't like this board.
Theory isn't the same as practice though, so we've sent a unit over to our reviewer to see if you should consider the Blackwidow Elite.
"The Razer Blackwidow Elite strives to be the be-all and end-all of gaming keyboards"
Razer Blackwidow Elite - First Impressions
There are two things that immediately stand out after you're done unboxing: the first thing you'll notice is that the Blackwidow Elite is a heavy and sturdy keyboard and the second thing is that the included wrist rest looks absolutely fantastic, but more on that later.
The Blackwidow Elite is a full sized keyboard, meaning that it's not ideal to take with you during your travels, but it's by no means the bulkiest full size keyboard I've ever seen. It has no extra keys or annoying features which take up space for no reason and the keys themselves are positioned fairly closely to the edge of the board.
The top plate of the Blackwidow Elite is made of a 'military grade metal' and I definitely feel what they mean by that. The body itself is made of a hard plastic but the entire keyboard has this weighty, premium feel to it, in large part thanks to the super sturdy top plate. A cool extra is that the top plate doesn't seem to pick up any fingerprints.
The included keycaps aren't the best, but they're decent enough and feature a very classy and neutral font on them. If you use this keyboard with the included wrist rest (which covers the Razer logo on the bottom of the board) and a subtle lighting profile it wouldn't look out of place in an office or more serious settings. I'm not a fan of outrageous looking fonts or keycaps so the understated, sleek look of this keyboard pleases me greatly.
The Blackwidow Elite also offers fully customizable RGB backlighting which (as is customary with Razer products) looks absolutely gorgeous on all fronts.
The Blackwidow Elite comes in a fairly standard box, with one exception: the box features a 'hole' where the arrow keys of the board are so that you can click the keys and test the feel of them while the product is still safely secured in the box. That's of no particular use to me as a reviewer, but it's a handy and thoughtful addition for people who are deciding on which board to get in a physical store.
The unboxing experiencing isn't anything special; inside the box you'll find the usual documentation (and some Razer stickers) along with the keyboard and the wrist rest. The board also comes with a thin plastic cover (which also has a cutout where the arrow keys are) which is something that I personally always appreciate.
Size & Dimensions
Features and build
The Blackwidow Elite is a full size keyboard, which means that it's not going to be the most compact and portable keyboard around. That's evidenced by the very thick and braided cable that's attached to the board. That cable ends in two USB connectors and one 3.5mm audio jack. You obviously only need to plug in one USB connector for the keyboard to work; the other two connectors are powering the USB and audio passthrough on the board itself. I always like my full size keyboards to have at least a USB port, so the fact that Razer have also included an audio port on the keyboard is a nice plus.
Another nifty feature is the multi-functional media dial (which accompanies three standard media keys) that they have on the keyboard. The dial itself feels great to use and can be programmed to do just about anything you want it to do. I'm not really a fan of having dozens of extra keys on a keyboard, but I do like the inclusion of these media keys. Changing the volume on the fly is always nice and if that's not something you use you can just program these keys to do something else.
Full size keyboards, in my opinion, should be 'command center' style keyboards, complete with all the utilities you'd personally want while things like portability and size are of less importance. For me the Blackwidow Elite hits just the right spot with the included ports and media keys.
The switches on the keyboard sit directly atop the backplate, which not only gives the board a specific look (some love it, some hate it) but also makes it easier to clean and maintain the keyboard since it's easier to just blow out hairs and dust. There's a pretty substantial lighting element accompanying each switch and as expected from Razer the lighting on this keyboard is just fantastic. It's not the brightest in the world (due to the all black backplate and pretty thin font on the keycaps) but the colors it produces look marvelous and the possibilities are endless once you delve inside Razer's Synapse software. Razer has been playing in the top league for a long time when it comes to RGB lighting and the Blackwidow line isn't an exception to that.
Underneath the keyboard you'll find a handy cable routing system (which can rout straight through the back and through either the left or right side) and two adjustable feet which are finished with rubber, meaning you can put the keyboard on three different levels of height.
The pièce de résistance, for me, is the included wrist rest. Yes, the functionality of the board itself is great and the build quality is top notch, but that's the case for lots of keyboards out there. Not many (that I know of) include a wrist rest of this quality though. The included wrist rest is made of a soft and cushy pleather material and it attaches to the keyboard via a magnetic system. It's incredibly easy to attach and remove and it feels absolutely phenomenal to type on. Even during long and intense gaming sessions I had no issues with the material becoming sticky or dirty, so this included wrist rest absolutely elevates this board as far as I'm concerned.
Performance and every day use
As mentioned earlier, the Blackwidow Elite ships with Razer's inhouse switches. You can choose between Green (tactile and clicky), Orange (tactile and silent), and Yellow switches (linear and silent). The board that I reviewed came with Razer Green switches, and these remind me a lot of CherryMX Blues in feel and sound, though they do last way longer than their Cherry counterparts. According to Razer their own switches will last you a whopping 80 million keystrokes. That's pretty impressive. Another difference is that Razer's own designs have little 'walls' to the side of the of the switch, which help with stability and deterring dust and grime. I'm not too sure about the second part, but I can say that the standard keys on this board have very little wobble, so there's definitely something to be said for the inclusion of the walls.
The keyboard is on the louder side of the spectrum (there's a sound clip to the right) with these included Green switches, but every press felt as smooth as the next one and I didn't feel like the larger keys sounded annoying or rattly either. I do have to say that the space bar sounded a bit hollow in my opinion, but I'm really nitpicking when I say that. The stabilizers on this board are metal wire Costar style stabilizers and they do their jobs pretty nicely as far as I'm concerned. There is some wobble on some of the keys but it's not annoying in the slightest.
Heavier, clickier switches aren't usually associated with gaming but I've been using this keyboard for my regular fix of games (Overwatch, Battlefield, Cities: Skylines, and some smaller indie games these days) and it performed just fine. The Blackwidow Elite features 10-key rollover in gaming mode, which isn't quite NKRO but it's more than enough to get by in any genre of games. I am personally partial to a lighter and less audible switch for when I'm gaming but that's obviously down to personal preference, and Razer does offer these kinds of switches for this keyboard as well.
As a sort of 'fun test' (it's by no means scientific) I also do a variety of typing test when I'm testing a new keyboard. If I consistently get way below my average across multiple days then that's a good sign for me that something about the board is not sitting well with me, but I'm happy to report that my typing speeds were up to par almost immediately with this board.
If you're into that kind of stuff there is also the ability to assign a different function or macro to every key on the board with Razer's Synapse software. Synapse has been around forever and is still getting better with each iteration so if you want to fully customize your board (both on the performance front and lighting front) then you're good to go with the Blackwidow Elite. The only downside is that you have to make an account in order to utilize Synapse, but that's something that I'm willing to overlook.
Conclusion & Recommendation
In my opinion a full sized keyboard should be a sort of 'workstation keyboard.' It should have a number of additions that you wouldn't normally find on more portable boards (media keys, USB ports, ...) and serve as an ideal 'stay at home' board. The Blackwidow Elite fulfills that role exceptionally well.
It's a robust, well-built and full-featured board that hosts all the bells and whistles the average gamer could want. It has USB passthrough, an included (combo) audio port, and the board itself is finished off with dedicated media keys and a multi-functional media dial. All of that combines into what I feel is an almost perfect desk keyboard. The included wrist rest is the absolutely delicious icing on the cake and is the most comfortable wrist rest I've personally ever used with a keyboard.
The keycaps on the Blackwidow Elite aren't the best of the best, and thanks to its 'no compromises made' design it's not going to be an ideal board if you're traveling often or going to LANs or practice houses a lot, but aside from that the Blackwidow Elite is definitely a straight hit.