Gaming peripherals are worth having, but they're also extremely expensive. A decent keyboard, mouse and headset for the office could cost you $50; the same setup for your gaming nook could cost more than 10 times that amount.
Razer's new line of "value-conscious" gear aims to alleviate the pricing problem, offering newer, cheaper versions of the company's BlackWidow keyboard ($120), Kraken headset ($80) and Basilisk Essential ($50) mouse.
Unfortunately, this affordable lineup comes with some caveats. Two of the Razer peripherals aren't all that cheap, and one of them doesn't perform all that well. In fact, of the three budget products, only the Basilisk Essential mouse is a real standout.
It's true that Razer's new line costs a little less than top-of-the-line gear from Razer and its competitors. But you can get cheaper and better gear, provided you're willing to mix and match brands.
The cost of budget gear
The primary problem with Razer's budget lineup is that it's not actually that cheap. Buying the mouse, keyboard and headset all together would cost $250. For reference, that's the same price as an Xbox One or PS4 during a moderate sale.
I'll be the first person to defend the relatively high price of gaming peripherals. After all, you're buying an intricate piece of hardware that can last for a decade or more. A $120 gaming keyboard is worth its weight in mushy membrane models any day, and you simply can't skimp on audio quality on a headset you use every day.
At the same time, I don't think that $250 is especially inexpensive for a full set of "budget" gear. A $50 mouse is not bad, especially in this case, given the Basilisk Essential's fantastic performance. But if you wanted to really scrimp and save and still get good gaming gear, you could easily put together a package for between $150 and $200.
Off the top of my head, get a Logitech G300s mouse for $20, a Corsair K68 keyboard for $90 and a HyperX Cloud Stinger headset for $50, for a total of $160. These aren't the very best devices on the market, but they're perfectly good ways to get your feet wet with gaming gear, and they're an awful lot cheaper than Razer's latest line. If you wanted to wait for a sale or two, you could probably do even better.
Razer Basilisk Essential
First, let's give credit where it's due. The Razer Basilisk Essential is a gorgeous, functional, affordable mouse that gets every major feature right. A slightly streamlined version of the Razer Basilisk from 2017, the Basilisk Essential is an ergonomic, right-handed mouse with textured grips, an RGB palm rest and an optional "clutch" that you can use to slow down dots-per-inch (DPI) sensitivity in FPS games.
You can read the full Basilisk review to get an idea of why the mouse works so well. But in a nutshell, it's comfortable, it's easy to program in the Razer Synapse software, and it performs well in just about any genre you throw its way.
I tested all the peripherals with a variety of games, including Destiny 2, StarCraft: Remastered, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales and World of Warcraft. The Basilisk performed well across the board, but the clutch was especially good for slowing things down and aiming more accurately in Destiny 2.
Great wired gaming mice can cost up to $90; even the original Basilisk was $70. To get a peripheral of this quality for $50 is almost a steal. It's also the only peripheral of the package that I'd recommend without reservation.
The Razer BlackWidow keyboard has made great strides in the past few years. Razer finally added a wrist rest and discrete media keys to this keyboard, in addition to revitalizing its buggy software. You can get the BlackWidow Elite with clicky green switches, quiet orange switches or tactile yellow switches. There's a USB pass-through and a headphone jack; it's just a beautiful device.
The standard BlackWidow, on the other hand, feels very much like an outdated model. It has no discrete keys, no wrist rest and no USB pass-through. You don't get a choice of switches; it comes only with greens.
It's not even the cheapest full-size RGB mechanical keyboard. Logitech and Corsair both make cheaper ones, with better key switches, to boot.
The BlackWidow works fine in games and feels comfortable for everyday typing as well. But it's too much money for a design that Razer has already outdone.
If there's one product from Razer's new lineup that you should avoid, it's probably the Kraken. This $80 headset isn't really cheap enough to be considered a budget model (good gaming headsets bottom out at around $50), but even if it were, it wouldn't be worth the money. That's because the sound quality is simply not that good, for either gaming or music.
The Kraken has a distant, hollow, quiet sound that doesn't do any favors for either heated PvP matches in Destiny 2 or the urgent, driving beat of a Flogging Molly album. Whether I used this headset with a PC, a smartphone or a console controller, the Kraken never did justice to the audio that I was feeding into it.
I will admit that the retractable mic is a nice touch, and I even liked the bright green chassis, which is a pleasant change of pace from the "everything-is-red-and-black" gaming patterns from other companies. There's also a volume dial and a mic-mute button halfway down this headset's 3.5mm audio wire, along with a mic/audio splitter for PCs. You don't necessarily get these features in a $50 headset, but it's not enough to justify the Kraken's strangely subpar audio. Razer has sold much, much better headsets than this, and for not a whole lot more money.
The Basilisk Essential is an excellent mouse. The BlackWidow is a decent keyboard. The Kraken is a disappointing headset. Taken together, Razer's value lineup is worth a polite nod. But, remember, you don't have to buy them all together; you can pick and choose.
If you're looking to break into the gaming space without spending too much on peripherals, I would give you an unqualified recommendation to get the Basilisk Essential. The BlackWidow is worth a look, but it's not the best keyboard you can get in its price range. And you should probably skip the Kraken, unless you especially like the way it looks or feels.