Hot-swappable keys and a compact shape - we review Razer's latest.
It's no secret that the custom keyboard market is for adults. There are those who buy a ready-made solution that they can modify afterwards, and there are those who buy every little piece individually and build it themselves as if it were a very heavy Lego set. Either way, it's a bit of a discipline. With their latest V4 series, Razer is trying to give you, as Hannah Montana puts it, "the best of both worlds".
As is customary, the keyboard comes with Razer Orange switches, tactile but quiet keys, that have a good resistance, and although I'm more of a fan of the Purple switches found in the Huntsman series, this is much more in line with the Gateron switches used by many DIY enthusiasts. The keyboard is made to fit all 3 and 5-pin connectors. As so many others boast, the keys are lubricated at the factory, and of course there is a small - branded - tool to fish out the keys, which is actually made in good quality.
It's quite enjoyable to use, but the quiet switches behind the double moulded keys are also so quiet that what you primarily hear is when the key hits the bottom, and that's a sound you have to like. There's a relatively high reset point, but more importantly for me, there's 1.5 millimetres of travel before the switch actually activates, and there's a good tactile feel.
The construction is the high Razer standard, which has also been a good DIY standard for a long time, i.e. streamlined design, clean and simple construction, and an aluminium top plate. It also comes with a nice wrist rest. Inside, dampening foam is used in two different places, and the circuit board supports 8000 Hz polling rate for all switches.
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The price is £190, which is a lot of money. Personally, I would probably look at Keychron's Q2 QMK, which is cheaper, but doesn't have the same flashy RGB lighting. On the other hand, the chassis of the keyboard itself is slightly larger, and I don't know why, but I just need a piece of frame around the arrow keys in particular to rest my finger. On the other hand, it is tape-modified from the factory, a trick where you use fire retardant tape on the print, which absorbs and dampens the most high-frequency sounds. As usual, the Razer Synapse is a fantastic suite - but it takes up a lot of hard drive space. On the other hand, it can do everything and is both educational and easy to use on a daily basis.
The scroll wheel in the top right corner is of good quality, but I've seen Razer do better. The media keys work, but could have had RGB lights or something else in them as the markings on top of them are hard to see in the dark. On the other hand, there is also underlighting all around. The switches are in a transparent housing, so there's even more power to the LEDs, as there is a definite focussing of the light. There is a two-year warranty, or a slightly more arbitrary rating of 100 million keystrokes. That's about 137,000 keystrokes a day, or about 3.5 hours straight of typing as fast as humanly possible. However, the warranty is void if you modify the keyboard. Razer also sells a few different keys if you're more comfortable with that.
Razer BlackWidow V4 75% is by no means a bad keyboard, on the contrary, it provides a good typing experience, and both switches and keys are of fine quality, as is the build quality. The problem probably lies more in the fact that so many others are also making keyboards that target the 75% form factor customers, and that offer the ability to change switches yourself as needed, so it's a fairly saturated market, and it's a very price-conscious market, and that's where Razer runs into the fact that £190 for a keyboard is a lot of money, no matter what.