When Razer announced they were planning on refreshing the entire Black Widow line of gaming keyboards, I wondered how they might improve on what was already a fantastic device. As a matter of disclosure, I purchased and use a Black Widow Ultimate on a daily basis. I had never used a mechanical keyboard before this one, and I can’t ever see myself going back to a membrane-based device.

As part of the 2012 lineup, Razer has introduced a new member to the family. The Black Widow Tournament Edition is designed for portability without sacrificing the fantastic feel of the key action. Thanks to the handy carrying case and detachable braided USB cable, not to mention Synapse 2.0 support, the TE is ready for travel.

Razer has gone out of their way to make this version of the Black Widow a good balance between daily functionality and portability. This version doesn’t offer the backlighting of the Ultimate or even the number pad of the standard Black Widow. It does, however, offer most of the same core features that define the product line.

The most important thing about investing in a mechanical keyboard is how it feels. My first reaction when I made the switch was that typing was far more precise. This was largely because each key, rather than simply making electrical contact with a membrane, has its own switch (Cherry MX Blue in this case). This not only provides a distinctive “click” when a key is depressed, but also provides tactile feedback.

The sensation of typing on the Black Widow TE isn’t entirely unlike working on a typewriter. The big difference is that the actuation force required is only 50g and the key travel isn’t nearly as deep. The entire line also has a distinctive sound produced by the Blue switches. I love it, but the glares I got from my wife when my desk was in a common area of the house indicate that she might not feel the same way. She did love using it, but not listening to me type at 80 words per minute.

Of course, if you are buying a gaming keyboard just to play with your ol’ pal Mavis Beacon, you’re missing the point. Razer’s packed this compact peripheral with things that gamers need, too. Like the other entries in the line, the Black Widow TE offers 10-key anti-ghosting. OEM keyboards and the rest of the lot you can pick up at Staples for $20 won’t always register rapid and simultaneous keystrokes. Anti-ghosting ensures that  up to 10 presses at the same time will all be accounted for. In shooters, that can make all the difference as you’re moving, swapping weapons, crouching and popping up to take a headshot.

The Black Widow line also includes key customization through the Synapse 2.0 management software. This is extremely easy to use, and will allow gamer to set multiple profiles that can either be toggled or linked to executables. One thing that has been lost in the effort to keep the TE a manageable size is the left-side row of customizable keys. This is a far better choice than compressing the QWERTY board, which might leave hands cramped. If those extra keys for macros are important to you, it’s best to be take that into consideration.

Most of the remaining keys are customizable and can be assigned a single- or multi-button function. You can also record macros using the Synapse 2.0 software or on the fly. It’s accessible and Synapse 2.0 continues to be one of my favorite parts about using Razer products. Additionally, you can toggle Game Mode on and off, which enables the ten-key rollover and can disable the Windows key.

I’ve used and reviewed a number of keyboards, and most of the time I spend time talking about enhanced functionality. There is nothing ground-breaking about what the Black Widow TE does. Instead, it is a solid mechanical keyboard that offers up portability and the same comfort and tactile response of more expensive models.

If you can live without the five additional macro keys and the number pad, don’t require backlighting and simply want something that feels fantastic to work or play on, you can do no better for $80. The added advantage of Synapse 2.0 means that you can take your profiles with you, whether you’re heading into a tournament setting or simply joining friends for a LAN party. The Tournament Edition of the Black Widow is a smart addition to the family, and one worth your attention if you’re in the market for an affordable, comfortable mechanical keyboard.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Extremely comfortable for work and play
+ 10-key anti-ghosting means you’ll never miss a keystroke
+ Easy on-the-fly macro recording
+ Synapse 2.0 makes the TE easy to use away from home
+ Great value, and an accessible way to get your feet wet with a mechanical keyboard
- No number pad
- Losing the five customizable keys on the left stings

 

The Razer Black Widow TE retails for $79.99 and can be purchased from the Razer Store. A unit was provided to RipTen by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.