Razer recently refreshed their flagship Blackwidow Chroma with a new version. The V2 features the same appealing design and Chroma capability as the original, but with a few smart additions and a brand new, high speed linear switch. We had the opportunity to take the new slate for a ride. Is it worth your money to upgrade? Read on to find out.
The Blackwidow V2 is a stylish keyboard. Design-wise, it keeps many of the details from the original. The top plate and white lighting mat are back, after being dropped in the Chroma X version. The top plate is a nice matte black, which is accompanied by matching, non-textured keycaps. The font on the caps isn’t gamer slanted and could fit in with any other professional keyboard. The lock and macro recording indicators are displayed in a glossy black panel above the number pad. The only downside to these stylish looks is that they show fingerprints and smudges almost immediately.
On the top and right side is a nice braided cord with a 3.5 audio add-on, a USB pass through, and a dual stereo 3.5mm jack for a pair of headphones. The bottom features the usual rubberized feet and anti-slip pads but, sadly, no cable routing options.
The most noticeable new addition is the lush faux leather wrist rest. It looks and feels fantastic. It attaches via magnet, so it’s easy to fit, but occasionally fell off or slid out of place when moving my keyboard. For as good as it looks, I’m also concerned about how the cushion will hold up over time. I could easily see the thin surface covering tearing on a loose watch band or becoming worn over time.
The V2 comes with Razer’s new yellow mechanical key switch. These switches are linear and feature a shorter travel distance and 1.2mm actuation point while still maintaining the lightweight 45g pressure to depress, ala Cherry MX Red, Brown, or Razer’s own Orange switch with 2mm actuation points. Razer has shifted to making these switches completely in-house and the quality shows. Having used many different mechanical keyswitches in the past, from stock-standard Cherries, to off-brand Greetech and Kaihls, I can confidently say that Razer’s switches feel just as consistent as the very best I’ve used. They also having a longer lifetime rating of 80 million key presses.
I was skeptical of the yellow switch at first. Cherry Red switches (the most common linear switch for gamers) are notoriously unideal for typing as the lack of tactile feedback and identical 2mm travel distance of other switches can lead to many typos and double letters. Razer's Yellow switches are a much better option. Since they activate at 1.2mm, they force you to use a lighter touch. There is a learning curve, and I often made mistakes bumping other keys or resting my fingers a little too heavily, but within a day these issues evaporated. The light touch also has the bonus effect of making this the quietest mechanical keyboard I’ve ever used. It feels great to glide along on these Razer Yellows.
Since the reduced travel and actuation points are being marketed on their speed, I decided to test this both in game and on typing tests. Interestingly, my overall typing speed went down about 10WPM but was much more consistent. Maintaining a light touch requires more restraint and doesn’t lend itself well to burst typing - at least for me - and I suspect that my overall typing screen will increase with these switches precisely because it is easier to maintain a regular speed.
In games, Razer Yellows give an inarguable advantage. Though 0.8mm travel reduction doesn’t seem like much on paper, but you can absolutely feel it in practice. In titles where rapid presses matter, Razer Yellows will allow you bounce between presses faster than a traditional switch. However, in MMOs and other genres where rapidness isn’t the paramount, this isn’t likely to make a noticeable difference. Even in those that do, your reaction time is going to be the deciding factor to whether a faster switch will actually benefit you. It’s an edge but not a replacement for reflexes or skill.
More important, especially in MMOs, is the excellent macro functionality of the board. Like the original Blackwidow, you can record macros both in the synapse software and on the fly so you don’t have to leave your game. The V2 is completely reprogrammable, so you assign any key to run a macro, launch a program, swap places with another key, or trigger Chroma lighting events.
Chroma is the customization feature Razer has really hung its hat on in recent years but nowhere is its power and appeal more evident than in the Blackwidow V2. Every key features a top mounted fully RGB LED that can be individually customized. Within the Synapse software, you can easily assign events to specific key presses, like ripples that fan out across every key. These events can be customized with specific colors and gradients, and programmed into set timings for transitions and events. This is a keyboard that can animate pixel art in one profile or shift color schemes and hypnotic pulses in another. I wish it included onboard memory to change the default profile, however.
If you’d prefer to keep things simple, Razer has you covered with a number a customizable presets and, most importantly, profile support. The presets are what you would expect: color cycling, breathing, waves, ripples, and even a new flame option. Profile support is the real appeal here, letting you tap into the community to download and apply profiles other people have created. Razer also has an SDK available, so not only do you have access to an endless variety of normal profiles, but there are others tied into specific games. One for CS:GO for example, will change based on your current health and ammo.
All in all, even though there are a few things I would like to have seen included or changed, the Chroma V2 is an excellent revision to an already excellent keyboard. If you’re looking for a fast linear switch with tons of customization potential, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma V2 is definitely a solid choice.