A few days ago I did what most people would call an impulse buy for a very expensive wireless mechanical "gaming" keyboard. Even though the desire for this hardware has been prevalent for many years, this kind of keyboard has only recently started to become a reality. A year ago you'd have a lot of difficulty finding a keyboard with this combination of features. Razer is the latest to come out with there attempt at satisfying the needs of the market.
Why is it So Hard
I'm not sure what the challenges are with designing this particular kind of hardware, but apparently it's a very difficult problem to solve. It's amazing to see how manufactures struggle in their own specific area. For example Logitech performs well on back lighting, while Razer fails miserably. Yet Razer excels on layout and design, but Logitech seems to have gotten it very wrong. Lesser known hardware designers (Anne Pro, Corsair, Havit, ikbc, Das, GameSir, etc...) have beautiful keyboards but come up short in wireless connectivity, layout, and switch options. Then you have the low-cost "cheap" (and by cheap I mean under $80) manufactures that offer what look like perfect keyboards, only to discover they are low quality, unreliable, and have limited functions.
Razer has come very close to designing the perfect keyboard. The keyboard has a great layout and set of features.
The BlackWidow V3 Pro is a full size wireless 104-key mechanical keyboard with RGB back lighting that can be customized on a per key basis. In fact you could say this is a Logitech G915 without the G keys on the left. That's exactly what prompted me to buy it. As great as the G915 and it's older sibling (the G613) are, those G keys on the left destroy what could ultimately be the perfect keyboard.
So it's looking good on it's features and specifications, but when it comes to real world usage it fails. It's actually quite baffling why Razer made these design choices for such an expensive piece of hardware.
This is perhaps the most disappointing (and frustrating) of the flaws. It's perfectly understandable that you'd have to use a corresponding piece of software to customize the lighting effects, and I would agree that in order to utilize the reactive effects you'd have to keep that software running. Sadly this keyboard will instantly fall back to the factory default effect once the software stops running.
As seen in the response from their support team below. The most simplest effect of setting a static color will require you to keep Synapse open and have the keyboard or wireless dongle plugged in.
Whenever the computer is powered off, the chroma lighting will revert to its default setting because the Razer synapse won’t run if the computer is off.
It's a poor design decision. The keyboard has onboard memory for storing key profiles and macros. It's not uncommon to support lighting profiles in a keyboard's on-board memory. For a $250 keyboard I would expect this to be a standard function.
While the limitations on lighting are disappointing in themselves, they are nothing compared to what I would characterize as the biggest fail ever.
The keyboard doesn't operate at it's best without the software, and maybe this just my computer. If I try to use the keyboard to manage my system's BIOS (before the OS boots), it behaves a bit unpredictably. Sometimes it doesn't work at all, other times it sends completely different keystrokes. Doesn't matter if your plugged in using USB or with the wireless dongle.
This alone is enough to pretty much say the keyboard is unusable.
Build Quality & Reliability
I'm willing to give build quality a pass given the feature set I'm getting, but that gets harder and harder to justify as the you get closer to the $300 range. The key caps feel a bit cheap and most of the keyboard is plastic with a thin sheet of aluminum on the top. By comparison my $80 GameSir GK300 is the reverse. It's mostly aluminum, with a thin sheet of plastic underneath, and a much more premium feel for the key caps. Ouch!
The BlackWidow V3 Pro is neither less or more reliable than the wireless keyboards I've worked with. Not counting the pre-boot environment issues mentioned earlier. In the few days that I've used the keyboard there haven't been any missed keystrokes while it's fully awake. Typing on it is a pleasure.
The reliability issues are observed only when you wake it up from sleep. It will miss not just one or two of the first few keystrokes. You might find that it will drop up to 5 or more keystrokes before the keyboard is fully woken up. My GameSir GK300 on the other hand will wake (without fail) after dropping just one keystroke, and my Logitech K800 has proximity senor that wakes up before I start typing.
I would expect a $250 keyboard to have a proximity sensor.
What the Perfect Keyboard Would Be
We are only on the the 2nd generation of wireless RGB mechanical keyboards. 2 years ago such a device didn't exist. I'm willing to continue waiting until the day the perfect keyboard is finally made. Until then I will more than likely be returning my BlackWidow V3 Pro. It's a nice keyboard and I would like to keep it. However the flaws are just not worth the amount of money spent.
The best keyboard I have ever used is the Logitech Wireless Illuminated Keyboard K800. It checks every box except for one (or two depending on your needs for RGB).
- Removable, replaceable rechargeable battery. Two AA NiMh batteries. (it's perfection).
- 2.4 Ghz wireless with unifying dongle.
- Media and volume Keys
- Good build quality.
- Proximity sensor.
The perfect keyboard would be this keyboard but with mechanical keys. In other words it would be a hybrid of the GameSir GK300 and the Logitech K800. I'd pay a premium price for that.