The Razer Tartarus products have been something I’ve always been interested in grabbing every time I’ve seen them on the store shelves. As someone who is constantly playing MMOs, the Tartarus and Orbweaver were always attractive as a great replacement as I’ve always wanted another way to control my game. Thankfully, Razer let us take the new Razer Tartarus Pro for a spin. But how does it stack up – and is it worth the money to dramatically change the way you play your games on PC?
- Razer Analog Optical Switches
- Dual-function keys
- Adjustable actuation
- 32 fully programmable keys with programmable 8-way directional thumb-pad
- Chroma backlighting with 16.8 million customizable color options
- Instantaneous switching between 8 key maps
- Unlimited macro lengths
- Razer Synapse enabled
- Braided fiber cable
- Price - $129.99 on Official Website
At First Glance
The Tartarus Pro at first glance looks relatively sleek. The actual keys are laid out nicely in four neat rows, with the top and bottom rows slightly angled to make them easier to reach. This is great for someone like me who has short, stubby fingers (seriously, stretching on a keyboard sometimes reminds me of when I tried learning concert piano) as having to reach for complicated keybindings on MMO hotbars is the bane of my gaming experience. As a result, the 19 traditional keyboard keys are easily reachable for me, making their use incredibly convenient.
While the specs boast 32 programmable keys, at first glance it may only seem like 20 are available to you. However, there is a small spacebar-esque key on the right side of the keypad, and above it is a full D-pad/Thumbstick that is also fully programmable. In fact, you can go so far as to program exactly what the mouse scroll controls giving you complete control over your device.
The build quality is quite good, especially for it being mostly plastic. Additionally, it is comfortable to use – mostly – as the contoured hand rest and cushioned wrist rest fit my hands nicely. My only issue is that even the topmost keys feel like a stretch which is a little annoying. But that mostly has to do with my short fingers than it does the ergonomics of the Tartarus Pro.
One issue I think some players might find with the Tartarus Pro is the simple fact that it is not ambidextrous. While it’s not common, some players do swap the mouse and keyboard set up to the opposite sides for left handers. Since the Tartarus Pro has the D-Pad and Spacebar-esque key on the left side of the device, perfect for your left-hand thumb, swapping it to your right hand isn’t possible. Additionally, the hand and wrist rest are both designed for the contour of your left hand, not your right.
I totally understand that creating a second device or even a modular keypad for right-hand users would be pretty niche, but it would be nice to ensure there is a product all your consumers can potentially use. And with Razer’s history of catering to ambidextrous or left-handed players, it’s a little disappointing to not seem them lead the marketplace with a keypad compatible with right-hand users.
The Pro, like pretty much every Razer device today, is Chroma-enabled, and you can program the lighting on each individual key should you choose. I have my Tartarus set up to mirror my other Chroma devices – my Razer Goliathus mousepad and the Lian Li 011 Dynamic Razer Edition PC case. It’s really cool to see my keypad and other devices light up and change colors together based on the game I’m playing. Overwatch specifically was a surprise as each character caused the devices to light up differently – and the Tartarus Pro performed quite well in that setting as well, making it a bit easier to control Sombra and Sigma during a few play sessions than I felt my traditional keyboard and mouse set up did.
The Tartarus Pro is about customization. As I mentioned there are 32 programmable keys on the device – and every single one of them can be customized from the keybinding down to the actuation of the Analog Optical Switches Razer has installed in the keypad. I really enjoyed this actuation adjustment myself as it allowed me to fiddle with the actual pressure I had to use to get the key to register in my games. I find when I’m stretching I only slightly tap the out-of-reach keys and on my traditional keyboard with uses low-profile Cherry MX Reds this doesn’t always register. But adjusting the actuation on the optical switches Razer has used on the Tartarus Pro, this gives me incredibly nuance and control over my device, and as a result allows me to fully tailor my gaming experience to how I would like.
You can even set each key to have dual functions that trigger based on the type of keystroke you use. Say you have two full skill bars in an MMO and want to bind multiple skill rotations to the same set of keys. You can set up each key to have a secondary function and have the primary trigger with a full key press while the secondary only takes a partial keystroke to trigger. This allows for more control over your – erm – controls that means you needn’t hop between the Tartarus and a keyboard to fully play your game.
This level of customization doesn’t end with the actuation control. The keypad can adjust each key to mimic a keyboard, gamepad, and more. You can even set individual keybinding profiles – and those profiles are color coded for quick reference directly on your Tartarus – allowing you to tailor the use depending on the game. As a result, I’ve got separate keybindings and profiles for The Lord of the Rings Online, The Elder Scrolls Online and Final Fantasy XIV – just to name a few.
How does it perform, though?
The question remains – in practice, how does the Tartarus Pro hold up? Is it game-changing enough to make me swap from a traditional set up?
The answer to this really depends on the game, I think. I’ve found myself using it more and more while playing Final Fantasy XIV, as being able to use the D-pad on the side of the keypad to move my character while keeping my main fingers free for my skill rotations has definitely helped keep me in the action a lot more. Same in LotRO, as the massive skill bars can be whittled down to a few keystrokes thanks to the actuation control. I’ve got two full skill bars set up on the keypad with macros set up to swap between profiles giving me quick access to the rest of the bars if need be.
Doing this and getting used to the rotation frees me up as well to keep moving, keep the camera turning (as I no longer feel the need to mouse-click a skill on a tertiary bar with a complicated keystroke) and be more aware of my surroundings.
However, this doesn’t work well in my experience on every game. The Elder Scrolls Online’s limited skill bar and reliance on active combat and dodging is hard to map well to the Tartarus Pro. You can do so – and the D-Pad/Joystick does help emulate the type of movement you’d get on a gamepad, but that’s the kicker – ESO feels so natural on a gamepad that everything else, including a traditional mouse and keyboard, feels like a step back.
Additionally, in non-MMO games, the Tartarus’ utility was hit and miss. Overwatch felt tight and responsive due to the skills-based gameplay, but games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Gears of War 4 felt sluggish and counter intuitive on the Tartarus Pro.
In some games where movement was key to survival – even games like Final Fantasy XIV – the spacebar placement also feels a little weird. I found myself needing to tilt my left hand to the side to activate it with my thumb’s knuckle instead of being able to drop my thumb for a split second and press the key. This is one advantage to using the keys themselves for movement still as opposed to the thumbstick. And with the customizable nature of the Tartarus Pro, you can definitely still do that. In fact, it’s pretty much set up that way by default. And for some this may be a moot point, but I feel the key might have been raised a smidge to make it more ergonomic for those who are using the thumbstick exclusively for character movement.
At the end of the day, the Razer Tartarus Pro serves its purpose – it’s a great customizable keypad that makes playing some games more intuitive and easier. And with the near endless customization on the Tartarus Pro, you’re provided enough room to make it your own. The cost is steep – especially for something that amounts to an add on that, in the end, isn’t necessary to adequately play an MMO or any other type of game. Indeed, for some games it may feel counterintuitive to the user, much like ESO did for me compared to using a standard Xbox controller.
But, the Razer Tartarus Pro offers utility of convenience for those looking to step up the level of control they have on their MMOs and similar games. And with the ability to set up custom keybindings and profiles using Synapse, you’re able to tailor that experience for each individual game versus a standard, locked into control scheme that may not always fit your needs.
It is a shame it’s not ambidextrous like some of Razer’s other products, but for those players looking for a keypad, you can’t go wrong with the Razer Tartarus Pro. I know it’s going to be my main control device for Final Fantasy XIV and LotRO, among other games, for the foreseeable future.
The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.