The time has come for the latest version of Razer's flagship mechanical keyboard: the BlackWidow Chroma V2 ($170). As usual, the BlackWidow is an attractive peripheral with comfortable keys and some helpful extra features. Now, it also comes with a magnetic wrist rest. Unless you need Razer’s inventive new Yellow switch, however, it’s almost exactly the same as last year’s model. Those in need of a new keyboard will want to consider it, but if you already own a BlackWidow or a similar mechanical keyboard, there’s nothing to interest you here.
If you’ve seen a Razer BlackWidow keyboard in the past, you’ll know what this one looks like. It measures 18.7 x 6.7 inches, has an all-black chassis and a full set of keys. The device is pretty big — partially to accommodate an extra six macro keys in a column on the far left. Aside from a small Razer logo toward the bottom, there’s not much adornment. It’s still a bit more angular and aggressive than competing models from Logitech and Corsair, but it would fit comfortably into just about any setup.
The only new and exciting (well, “exciting” might be going too far) feature is that the V2 comes with a detachable wrist rest, like the Razer Ornata. The wrist rest is comfortable, reasonably sized and magnetic, so it’s easy to attach and detach, depending on your desk size and preferences. All criticism aside about how this is arguably the only real innovation on the keyboard, the wrist rest is a fantastic addition.
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The BlackWidow Chroma V2 comes in three switch flavors: Green, Orange and Yellow. Razer fans are already well-acquainted with the noisy, resistant Greens and the quiet, tactile Oranges, but Yellows are a brand-new option. They are linear switches with a lower activation force than either the Green or Orange. Users have to push them all the way down before they activate, but the force required to do so is a little less than they may expect.
Razer imagines that Yellow switches may be a boon to FPS gamers, since they take so little force to actuate, and I have no real cause to object. The Yellow switches are most similar to Cherry MX Blacks, and while there’s nothing quite like a real Cherry switch, they do a reasonable job replicating a Black’s linear, soft touch.
For users who prefer Greens and Oranges, they feel the same as always: comfortable, but still not quite up to Cherry standards. I also find it somewhat strange that Razer still insists on cumbersome keyboard shortcuts for media controls and recording macros, when companies like Logitech and Corsair have implemented much cleaner, discrete buttons.
The BlackWidow V2 is also generally a good choice for typists. On TypingTest.com, I scored 102 words per minute with nine errors, as opposed to 104 words per minute with six errors on my everyday Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum. This is not a significant difference, however, and it speaks well of the BlackWidow Chroma V2’s overall utility.
Like almost every other Razer peripheral, the BlackWidow Chroma V2 runs on the Razer Synapse 2.0 software. By now, you know the drill: It’s clean, intuitive, easy to use and helps all of your Razer products run in sync. You can set up profiles for individual games, control the lighting or reprogram the macro keys. Everything works as it’s supposed to.
One of the advantages to getting a Chroma keyboard is that you can either program your own color combinations or take advantage of Razer’s generous selection of preexisting patterns. While it’s not quite as in-depth as what Corsair offers, you can do some impressive things with the Chroma lighting. Personally, I had a blast making the whole device radiate rainbows every time I tapped a key.
Lately, Razer Chroma keyboards have offered automatic in-game lighting profiles for games like Overwatch and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. This allows the keyboard itself to alert you to variables like health and ammo. I had fun watching the keyboard change colors, depending on which Overwatch character I chose, although I doubt it will be a major selling point for anyone.
I tested the BlackWidow Chroma V2 with Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Final Fantasy XIV, to see how well it performed with FPS, MOBA, RPG and MMO games, respectively. Like its predecessors, the keyboard is extremely comfortable and responsive across the board.
The macro keys came in handy for mapping long strings of commands in Final Fantasy XIV, and I imagine they could be just as helpful for players in games like World of Warcraft or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I had no trouble cruising around the map as D.Va in Overwatch, taking down hordes of monsters in The Witcher 3, or pounding the keys repeatedly to fire my abilities off at just the right second in Heroes of the Storm.
Razer’s BlackWidow keyboards have always been reliable and durable when it comes to in-game performance, and the V2 performs just as well as the systems that came before it.
At the risk of being glib, if you want a thorough evaluation of the BlackWidow Chroma V2, go back and read our review of the first one, then tell yourself, “It now comes with a wrist rest.” It’s a comfortable keyboard with pretty good mechanical switches, excellent software and reliable performance. It’s a little expensive for a fairly simple refresh, and it’s not quite as elegant as competing models like the Corsair K70 and Logitech G810, but the BlackWidow Chroma V2 lives up to its well-earned pedigree.