The Microsoft Reclusa
The Microsoft Reclusa is the offspring of a Razer / Microsoft collaboration. A follow-up to their successful first collaboration on a gaming mouse, the Habu. At first glance, the keyboard doesn't look any different from a typical media keyboard, and has the jog dials that Microsoft seems to like.
Like any keyboard aspiring towards the gaming arena, it has to have additional keys for macros. The Reclusa is no different, measuring in at 21" at its widest; about the same size as the Logitech gaming keyboards.
Design & Layout - The design is a little different, to stand it out from the crowd perhaps. The keyboard has rounded edges, a detachable wrist rest with a padded leatherette covering which does not snap on very securely, nor fit seamlessly - it folded then slipped off when I moved it from my desk to the keyboard drawer, and it wobbles. That being said, it does add a large degree of comfort.
The top is covered with a piece of ultra-smooth translucent black plastic with the Microsoft logo front and center, and it looks like it's covering something and should be removable... but it's not. It's also a fantastic dust-magnet. A blue-lit number 1 in a box can be seen through it on the right, and there are two others that never did light up for me.
The keyboard itself measures at about .75" in height in the front, to 1.5" in the back, with snap out feet which would tilt it further, adding an additional half inch of height in the back. The F keys actually slope backward. Perhaps the idea was to differentiate them from the number keys, as the slope is just enough that they feel quite different from the number keys. Is it enough to make a difference if it were not pointed out? I don't know, but the best designs are meant to fit so well that you don't notice them.
What is a gaming keyboard without a backlight for those of us that prefer to game only with the light of our displays? The Reclusa again is no different, and is backlit with a soothing blue color. Unfortunately, there is no option to turn the light up or turn it off. Furthermore, the F keys are poorly lit and hard to make out in the dark. For touch typists, the QWERTY keys are pretty much instinctive, but the F keys are not.
Keys - The keys, including the F keys, are all full sized and have a good feel to them. I prefer a "snappier" feel harkening back to my IBM typematic keyboard with the solid click, but I have no complaints about the feel. Although I have to admit that with this soft touch, I expected the keyboard to be quieter. Other reports have said that the WASD keys are a little harder to depress, and they are... They are just the very slightest tad tougher to depress. Not something I'd realize during intense game play, and again, not something I would have noticed if it were not pointed out. I think that Gamers would be better served if the WASD keys had a different feel on the keys themselves. Just like the "Windows" keys on this keyboard - which have a circular, smooth button in the middle of the key to prevent you from accidentally depressing them, I gather.
If I have a pet peeve in regards to gaming keyboards, it's that the "Windows" keys have to be able to be disabled. The accidental depression of this key can often result in character death, and of course you only accidentally depress it during an intense fire fight.
This keyboard has a full sized number pad as well, and on either side of the keyboard are jog dials, three additional macro keys, and two "bumper' keys (also for macros), built into the sides.
The jog dials are a little... different. In default mode, the one on the left acts like the scroll wheel of your mouse. It's a little awkward to use, and much slower than using the mouse wheel. The extra buttons on the left opened up your IE homepage, your email and your music player, respectively. The bumper keys are mapped to Copy and Paste... But why? Perhaps for new PC users, it would be useful. I highlight text with my mouse and use Control-C to copy and Control-V to paste. Yes, I'm old school, but I also have the Habu mouse I was reviewing at the same time, with a profile I use for writing. My thumb buttons copy and paste.
The additional keys on the right are media keys. The jog dial acts as volume control and the keys were play/pause, while the one on your right was your play/pause, a key whose use I couldn't figure out (I thought it was a profile swapper. No, it's not. Maybe something to do with a media function), and the CD eject button (a key I hit accidentally a few times as it was the last key on the right of the keyboard now, not the Enter key). The bumper keys here are to skip your tracks forward and backward, but where was the mute button? A little unusual.
I couldn't quite figure out what to program the jog dials to besides scrolling through your weapon arsenal and maybe the other for armor sets. I found the bumper keys awkward to use during game play as I kept feeling for them to ascertain that it was the right one I was depressing. Perhaps with prolonged use, I'd get used to them, but a steep learning curve for a Gaming keyboard is not a good thing.
The bumper keys were also bit of a problem when I move the keyboard. During the course of a gaming or writing session, I like to sit back with the keyboard on my lap. When I picked up the keyboard, the palm rest folded over - minor problem, it straightened when I placed it on my lap - but I also managed to paste two passages and skip a track on the CD.
Razer Hyperesponse™ Gaming Key Action - This is a feature billed as the ability to reduce key latency for maximized response. This means that keys could be pressed faster and lag on their response is minimized. On some ancient keyboards, you could type faster than the keyboard and PC could respond, and that was greeted with a long "beep" until it caught up. Frankly, it's been a long time since I've been able to type faster than a keyboard could process the commands, and I type fast.
The Extras - the keyboard has two USB ports - one on each top corner. Useful, but only for low power peripherals. I plugged in the Habu. The mouse was recognized, but couldn't draw enough power to run, nor light up. A Logitech wheel mouse did okay, as did a couple of low-power USB accessories like a keyboard light. The ports are still useful for flash drives, although a message informed me that if I plugged my flash drive into a high speed USB2.0 port, it would perform better. A technical spec sheet was not available from the Microsoft site, so I could not verify the specs of the built-in USB hub. A Device Manager check showed that 100mA of power was available through each port, as compared to the ports of my PC which provided 500mA of power.
The keyboard also features a cord management feature under itself - which I thought was a nice touch, and gold plated USB jacks and ports - a feature found in most high-end peripherals.
Software Driver Control
A CD of software is included in the box and as of writing, it is the latest version. I would still advise new users to surf on over to Razer's support site: http://www.razersupport.com to check for new versions. The installed control panel is well laid out and mousing over each programmable key and clicking it brings up the customization panel for it. Double clicking the input boxes brings up the customization wizard. Be it a search for an executable file or the standard list of commands. If auto switching is enabled, the proper profile will be loaded at launch of the program it was customized for.
Five profiles are available, and each macro key allows for eight commands, including pauses. When combined with the in-game macro hotkeys available in many MMORPG games - I enjoyed using a single key to direct my pet instead of flipping to the hotkey bank before selecting a hotkey which already had commands pre-programmed - was perfectly adequate, but there are Gamers who will find eight commands limiting.
I had expected that the Razer "Synapse" (the 32kb onboard memory on the Razer Tarantula and other Razer products) would be on the Reclusa. Not so. Profiles are saved on your PC, not on the keyboard itself, so keyboard profiles are not portable with the keyboard. Hmmm... cord management for neat portability, but no profile storage on the keyboard.
Like all Razer driver controls, the tray icon can be disabled. Something the anal among us, the ones who squeeze every little bit of computing power out of our machines for games, appreciate.
As with all input devices - one man's meat can be another man's poison. Go touch this keyboard. Feel it up. Do you like the jog dials and bumper keys? Some users may, and if six programmable keys and eight commands on a macro are enough for you, if you like the Media controls, it's a pretty good keyboard.
Make no mistake, the Reclusa is a pretty nice looking / feeling keyboard, but for a hybrid Microsoft / Razer Gaming keyboard, I expected better. What I would have liked to see:
- A keyboard map of the default settings and instructions on saving profiles and switching profiles on the fly.
- Head phone / Microphone jacks in place of one of the USB ports - come on... Gaming?
- Controllable / better backlighting
- Razer "Synapse" onboard memory for profile storage
Instead of a melding of technologies to produce a superlative product, Microsoft and Razer managed to create the proverbial red-headed step-child. Not quite a media keyboard, not quite a gaming keyboard. I just can't sing its praises.