Razer’s line of BlackWidow keyboards is a long one. There have been so many variants and models over the years that it’s been really hard to keep track of them all. Still, this is one BlackWidow you’ll want to pay attention to.
The BlackWidow Elite is the product of years of tweaks and iteration, and it may just be my favorite BlackWidow yet. It borrows liberally from another recently launched headliner keyboard, the Huntsman Elite, sharing the same floating-key design, volume wheel, and media controls.
I like this new look quite a lot. You get truly useful controls like the volume knob and buttons to navigate through shows and music, while shedding a cumbersome column of macro keys. A full-sized keyboard is already really bulky, and I don’t appreciate an entire column of keys adding to its girth, especially when the function keys (and everything else) are already individually programmable. While some hardcore users will still prefer dedicated function keys, many more would appreciate the leap to simplify the keyboard layout.
Furthermore, the frameless design also means that it’s easier to keep the keyboard clean over the long run. You probably don’t need to remove the keycaps for the most part and can simply blow out the dust and debris that has accumulated.
Build quality feels really good as well. The BlackWidow Elite may not have the matte aluminum top plate of the Huntsman Elite, but it still feels quite well put together, with barely any discernible flex to its body. There's also just the right amount of resistance to the volume wheel, and I really enjoyed the convenience it provided. The keyboard even comes with a plush, leatherette wrist rest that snaps to the keyboard using magnets.
The wrist rest feels super soft and comfortable, but the leatherette covering does feel a little thin, so I’m not too sure how it will hold up over time. The wrist rest is also missing the ring of LEDs round on the wrist rest that ships with the Huntsman Elite. I consider this a good thing though, as I’m not that big a fan of simply shoving LEDs wherever you can find space. (For those who prefer the extra bling, the Huntsman Elite is a better option and has a pretty good implementation.) The wrist rest is also more ergonomic and not as chunky as that on the the Huntsman Elite, so it's probably a good design choice (and helping lower the cost) that the BlackWidow Elite forgoes the ring of LEDs.
You’ll also find a USB 2.0 passthrough and a 3.5mm audio jack on the left. This gives you some space to route the cable around the back of the keyboard if you’re using a wired mouse, so it’s a pretty thoughtful approach.
Unfortunately, the inclusion of the USB passthrough and audio jack does mean that you've to put up with a really thick and unwieldy braided cable that terminates in two USB connectors and a 3.5mm jack. Razer has included helpful cable routing channels at the bottom of the keyboard, but the cable is so thick that it doesn't really want to be forced into these narrow channels.
That aside, one of the more interesting things about the keyboard is its switch design. We’ve come a long way from the times where everyone just used Cherry MX switches, and I’m always interested to see new switch variations.
My review unit of the BlackWidow Elite comes with Razer Green switches, which are both tactile and clicky. They’re somewhat similar to Cherry MX Blue switches, with a 50g actuation force and 4mm travel distance. However, I feel like the MX Blues have a slightly stiffer tactile bump than the Razer Greens, which I think makes the Greens comparatively more suitable for gaming.
A look at the switch stem also shows reveals something different from regular Cherry MX switches. The stem is now encased by dual side walls, which is similar to Kailh’s approach with its box switches. Kailh’s design surrounds the entire switch stem with four walls, but Razer’s method also helps reduce switch wobble and adds dust and spill resistance.
The BlackWidow Elite provides a great typing experience overall, but you can also get it with the silent but tactile Orange switches if clicky switches are not your thing.
My one complaint would be the ABS keycaps, which feel like they’re going to wear down really quickly. I know that ABS keycaps are still pretty much par for the course on most keyboards these days, but considering that the BlackWidow Elite costs a whopping S$279.90, I’d have really liked to see some PBT keycaps.
Finally, the Chroma lighting on the BlackWidow Elite is stunning as usual. There’s a tiny LED light bar of sorts at the rear of every switch, and it throws up pretty brilliant and even illumination across the entire keyboard.
The Synapse 3 software supports per-key customizations, so there are nearly limitless possibilities when it comes to setting custom effects. You can also go to town with different layers, and Synapse 3 remains one of the best lighting customization utilities available today. Razer has also created custom profiles for different games, so you can have the keyboard respond to in-game events and actions.
The main drawback is the keyboard’s price. At S$279.90, it’s a sizable investment. The BlackWidow does offer a rich and functional feature set with a headphone jack and USB passthrough, dedicated media controls, and bundled wrist rest, but I’m not sure if all that justifies the nearly S$300 price tag. I’d have been more comfortable with a price closer to S$200, but it is what it is.
However, leaving the price aside for a minute, the BlackWidow Elite is truly Razer’s best BlackWidow to date. It has just about everything gamers want, and it’s packaged in a sleek and attractive chassis. If you’ve got the budget for it, the BlackWidow Elite is a solid choice.