To Click Or Not To Click? The Gaming Keyboard Question

To Click Or Not To Click? The Gaming Keyboard Question

I've got two Razer keyboards to choose from. One is silent and sleek with chicklet-style membrane keys. The other's mechanical switches click loud and proud. Which is best? I need a little help there.

If you'd asked me five years ago whether I prefer a mechanical or membrane keyboard there would have been no question — I'd have taken clicky and precise over soft and silent any day. But over the past few years I've grown conflicted.

Maybe it's the endless days of typing away. Perhaps it has something to do with all the laptop time I've put in for reviews or during trips. I've gotten used to non-mechanical keyboards.

Specifically I've gotten used to the chicklet-style membrane keyboards Razer introduced me to with the original Razer Blade. There's enough of a click to them to satisfy my fingers, plus the short key travel times make me feel like I'm typing a mile a minute.

But I do miss that click. The tangible feeling of switches being activated beneath my fingertips. When you do something with a mechanical keyboard, you're doing the hell out of it.

So here's what I am working with.

To Click Or Not To Click? The Gaming Keyboard Question

Yeah, I've got a bit of a Razer theme going. They make nice things, and as much as I like to poke at the company for being the world's top manufacture of black and green squid logos, there's something to be said for uniformity. Hence the Razer Leviathan sound bar, the Mamba Tournament Edition gaming mouse and the two keyboards. I'm sure there's a Razer headset just out of shot, and up until I killed it I used a Razer game pad on the PC. The PC is a Xidax, but I did used to have a lovely Blade 14 inch laptop before the bag it was in was stolen from my car (probably because of the Razer sticker on it.)

Right, so keyboards. On the bottom we have the Razer DeathStalker Chroma, the colorized version of the company's chicklet-key marvel. A few years back I reviewed the company's $US250 Star Wars: The Old Republic keyboard and said I'd love one without the weird Razer Blade digital trackpad dealie attached — this is pretty much that. They still make a version with the Switchblade interface called the DeathStalker Ultimate — it's still $US250 and I probably wouldn't recommend it.

To Click Or Not To Click? The Gaming Keyboard Question

The DeathStalker Chroma is a much more reasonable $US99. The DeathStalker designation means it's got those lovely rounded, fully-programmable chicklet keys with the low travel caps and 10-key rollover when set to gaming mode in Razer's Synapse software. The Chroma designation means it's got three separate coloured lighting sections capable of generating some 16.8 million colour combinations. For $US20 less you can buy a DeathStalker that's just green. I guess that's ok too.

To Click Or Not To Click? The Gaming Keyboard Question

Bright colours aside, this is a stealthy piece of typing technology. Not completely quiet, but it's muffled enough that it won't drive someone trying to do something requiring concentration in the same room completely insane.

In the top corner, wearing Razer's signature black and green, is the 2016 version of the company's most popular mechanical keyboards, the BlackWidow Ultimate.

To Click Or Not To Click? The Gaming Keyboard Question

This is Razer's favourite snake of a gaming keyboard, and judging by the results of last week's Kinja Co-Op poll the entire series is highly regarded by both our readers and the internet at large.

The 2016 BlackWidow Ultimate showed up too late to the party to participate, but had it shown up a bit sooner it may have stolen its more expensive Chroma-coloured cousin's thunder.

It's the follow-up to the 2014 BlackWidow Ultimate, which marked the debut of Razer's own mechanical switch technology (the clickety Razer Green and muffled Razer Orange). That version made Luke Plunkett a believer, and the series has been going strong since.

The 2016 version has a few key differences over the 2014 one. The footprint is noticeably smaller, thanks to the removal of dedicated macro keys — who needs them when the entire keyboard is programmable? The status indicator is much more visible — I had trouble seeing when my caps lock was on with the older version.

To Click Or Not To Click? The Gaming Keyboard Question

The space bar has an LED now — in fact every single key on the 2016 BlackWidow Ultimate has its own individual LED, meaning you can do some completely goofy stuff with lighting configurations (check out the video below for my personal favourite preset, Starlight).

The two audio jacks have been combined into one, the top cover features a new smudge-free finish instead of the old soft touch — it's just got a nicer feel to it overall. I'm a huge fan of the smaller footprint — one of my favourite keyboards of all-time is the BlackWidow Tournament Edition, which does away with the number keys on the right altogether.

One other advantage the 2016 BlackWidow has over the older edition is price — the new keyboard is only $US109.99 to the older one's $US129.99.

The DeathStalker is colourful yet quiet. For a non-mechanical keyboard it's got an excellent feel. The keys are all programmable, the response time is excellent. Other than the keys the main difference is a lovely wide wrist rest.

The BlackWidow is the latest iterations of the most beloved clicky keyboard on the market. The keys are all programmable, response time excellent. It's got a much more tactile feel to it — when you hit those keys you are hitting those keys — but I feel like my fingers flow across the deeper keys slightly slower.

Now that I've stealthily reviewed two keyboards in one article, I have a choice to make, and I obviously can't make it myself.

There isn't room on this desk for two different keyboards. I mean there is right now, but no way my desk is staying this uncluttered for longer than the time it takes to write this article.

I leave the ultimate choice up to you via poll. I'll let it run until tomorrow morning, and whichever keyboard you folks decide on will remain. Let's see Razer rally the troops when both products being voted on belong to them.


    I am tossing up between the Logitech Orion Spark G910 and the Razer BlackWidow (although the DeathStalker is an option also) and also the Logitech Daedalus Apex G303 and the Razer DeathAdder or Mamba.

      Gonna be honest, I tried an Orion Spark in store once, the shape of the keys feel strange. They could be good for gaming, but they feel like it'd be harder and more annoying to type with, which ruled it out for me

      I've been using a Logitech G500 mouse and a G105 keyboard for about 2 and a half years now. Two and a half years of really heavy gaming.

      They are both as good as the day they were bought. they are an excellent combo. They keys are really loud, though. Even for a mechanical.

      Last edited 13/10/15 9:42 am

        the g105 is NOT a mechanical keyboard just FYI. It is a rubber dome keyboard. I used to have one and will concede that it does feel pretty nice for a rubber dome keyboard, but it is definitely not mechanical.

          Oh wow. It is. I thought it was mechanical. Sure feels like one.

          Well, now I feel stupid. Thanks for the info.

    Why aren't these marked as advertorial anymore?

      If the author isn't being paid by the company, it isn't an advertorial.

      Maybe he just honestly likes Razor products. I really like Logitech and I'd prefer them over Razor any day. If I were a writer here, I'd say it for free.

        I had a Razer keyboard once. Never again!

          Been sponsored by Razer at various points over the years across different games and I got one of the Deathadders when they first came out.

          The original Deathadder isn't a bad piece of kit, but I couldn't stand their keyboards and I'm a bit too wanky with my headphones to go for what they offer. Those mousepads though ... think I've pretty much been using variants of the Goliathus for almost 10 years now.

          (Note: I have a draw at home stacked with gaming mice, including two deathadders. I owned five Zowie mice at one point and four mice from Logitech. I may have a problem)

            I had a Lachesis when they were new and it was always great, the hard mouse pad I had with it deteriorated though. Headphones I've had were okay for games, lots of bass, but not very good for music. I'll stick to my AKG's for that. The keyboard was AWFUL. Keys would lock on mid-game and I'd be stuck strafing in one direction until unplugged it and plugging it back which six or seven times until it righted, or sometimes keys would just stop working at all. Was a huge source of frustration for me in multi-player and Razer ignored every email I ever sent them about it.

            Rocking Steelseries mouse + pad and a Ducky keyboard now and it's great.

              Ducky keyboards are super nice. Often thought about getting one of the rainbow ones.

          Same! My Blackwidow had a firmware issue which resulted in it being a rather unwieldy paperweight. Took my refund, bought a Corsair K70 and never looked back.

          Although I've often heard their mice are very good.

            I work at a PC store and I get a lot of Razer die hards that keep buying the mice. The problem is I see a lot of Razer come through for warranty which put me off. To be fair they do outsell other brands.
            Corsair did come back for a bit with bad backlights, but that has been fixed since.

            I have a Logitech Orion Spark and G502 Proteus Core now and I am quite happy with these. I have not seen much Logitech back.
            Before that I had a Razer Naga which was handy when I played MMOs, but since I don't any more I put that one away.

              I just had to come back and tell you that in the last two days my keyboard backlights have started playing up!

                The Corsair one ??? Ouch ! Those K70s aren't cheap. Good luck with the warranty ! I think Corsair have 2 year warranty

    I'd like to bet most of the people advocating membrane keyboards haven't enjoyed the exquisite pleasure that is typing with a mechanical keyboard

      I much prefer typing on my Macbook than the mechanical keyboard on my PC (it does have red switches, though). Great for games.

      HAHA I do love my mechanical keyboard. At work we use Cherry branded keyboards which have Cherry Black switches in them. We use these with our counter staff and at a few other places around the office and have had those for over 10 years so it was a good investment (the keyboards just don't die).

      I also have a Cougar Attack 2 I use on my own PC at work with Cherry Blue switches. That is a great keyboard, but the problem with that keyboard is that it tends to get loud when typing and when I first got it, I got some complaints about noise.

    I was pro-Razer until i came across Corsair. I don't think i can go back to any other keyboard other than Corsair now.

    But as for Razer, the BlackWidow keyboards haven't failed me yet. I have had one Deathstalker(non LCD button version) die on me though.

      I'm on the Corsair bandwagon too - have owned one since the day the K90 came out (had it preordered!) and I absolutely love it. When my keyboard at work broke I grabbed a K65 so now I'm on the ship both for work and play!

      Which Corsair keyboard would you recommend for gaming? Mostly RPG and some FPS. What mouse also?

        I also have a Corsair mouse and keyboard (M65 and K70) and I absolutely adore them. Really nice quality, choice of mechanical switches, they look good, and the mouse has some decent weight to it which I like.

        If you use a lot of macros/shortcut keys etc in your RPGs, then the K90 keyboard and M95 might be good for you. If not, you can save a bit of money and get the ones I have. They're basically the exact same products, they just don't have the extra macro keys.

        I use a Corsair K95 on my main computer but that was back then when i needed heaps of macro buttons for MMORPG's. I also have a K70 which i should probably be switching to since i don't use the macro buttons much. The new Corsair Strafe keyboards look really cool though.

        Last edited 13/10/15 9:56 am

    I've got two Leopold 10-keyless keyboards; using a charcoal Cherry Red at work and a white Cherry Brown model at home.

    Both brilliant, except in Blood Bowl because there's no keypad and so I can't accelerate the AI's turn *fkfkfkfkfkfk*

    "Razer makes nice products" right up until you spend 150 bones on a "decent" mouse and the side pads glue start coming off all over the place and leave your fingers a sticky mess.

    Cherry MX brown user here. But, I bought a SteelSeries Apex M800 out of pure impulse buy. The typing experience isn't the same as the Cherry keys, but much quieter and it is very sensitive to twitch (whether that's a plus, up to you). I can't go back to a membrane keyboard and make typos when I do use one.

    I'd go the Chicklet one.
    Can't stand high profile keys; dislike the long travel time and the general ergonomic feel of them.
    But I'm not one for typing essays .

    Anyone who thinks those membrane keyboards are actually good for gaming has obviously never tried to do serious gaming on a membrane keyboard.

      Never had any problem with membrane keyboards, and I've been gaming for over 20 years.
      Anything that sounds like a damn typewriter everytime I play a game, will get chucked in the bin ASAP.
      Personal preference of course, but you're making a grand assertion that appears to ignore the larger marketshare of gaming keyboards which have membrane keys.

        Sorry I was talking more about the chiclet keyboards. Membrane keyboards, as long as they are tactile style and not chiclet style, are fine. Chiclet keyboards are awful for gaming...absolutely awful.

    Click is better. The quicker response PLUS the satisfaction of the click when you type. The moment your finger was about to hit the bottom and you hear the click as it registers. Oh the click sound.

      Yessssss. That feel when you hear the click and then feel the key bottom out.

    I've heard good things about the switches Razer now stick in the Blackwidow, so that gets my vote. But I just can't see the point in non Cherry MX switches. I love my Blackwidow Ultimate with Cherry MX Blues. So loud and clicky.

      Comes down to price. Razer has to license and buy Cherry switches to use them in KBs. Which is why Corsair KBs tend to be quite a bit more expensive.

      Razer switches don't tend to be bad, but I personally don't like the feel. They feel kinda loose compared to a cherry switch.

        Yeah that doesn't really surprise me sadly. I wish they had just stuck with Cherry, they're a quality product. Their factory in Germany is just amazing too.

    I don't mean to offend anyone or be hating for hatings sake, but people actually think highly of Razer products?
    Maybe I've just gotten unlucky, but I have owned:
    Headset (forgot model, it cost over $100 though)
    Large cloth mousepad
    I think that's everything. And with the exception of the mouse pad (which wore in pretty quickly regardless), every single product had a major fault/issue.
    So speaking from experience, I'd stay the hell away from the overpriced plastic that is anything Razer. But that's just my opinion.

    Last edited 12/10/15 6:37 pm

      Nah I see a bit of Razer come back for warranty. People love the feel of them and tend to swap for another Razer instead of other brands for some reason.
      I personally am not a fan though and have gone back to Logitech after many years.

      I tend to get the feeling that like Beats headphones, people just love the brand.

        That comparison feels unfair to Razer. There's no way they're Worst In Class and the price point isn't so bad.
        Don't get me wrong, I'm in no mood to buy a Razer product of any kind, but they aren't Beats.

          Maybe Apple is a better comparison?
          They are fairly decent products that have a particular focus on aesthetics, but are a little overpriced for what they are.

            Yeah, fair call. I think that's actually a pretty apt comparison. Their stuff has a well recognised visual style, good build quality, generally good performance despite some weird issues, and a price tag that's really too high for the product sold.

        I know a number of people who work in the returns departments of various brick and mortar and online IT outfits, and they all vouched they get a proportionally higher return rate of Razer over other quality brands too.

      My salmosa from 6-7 years ago is still functioning until now with no fault. Retired it for a mamba first generation that I have used for 4 years that I just retired it for mamba chroma due to wear on the top shell. My missus been using my salmosa since I kept it and still perfect.

      The only problem one I had was razer onza. Used for a year and the one of the trigger stopped working. Got a sabertooth replacement and is my best controller so far. Mechanical buttons controller ftw.

      Was using aivia osmium cherry brown but the less clicky made me quite sad. Retired it 4 years later with black widow chroma.

      So I don't really understand the hate. I mean the failure rate sounds just like any typical electronics. No reason to say they are shit except the price.

        Fair enough. I just feel with the sheer number of Razer products I've owned and had issue with all of them, it can't just be bad luck. Add to that a friend of mine had the same issue with his Sabertooth as me (bumper broke). And I have a number of friends who work in returns departments, who also agree that the return rate of Razer is proportionately higher than other brands. And I've owned nearly as many Logitech and Corsair products, as well as a Saitek mouse, with very little or no issues compared to the Razer products.
        It's hard to tell if I just got unlucky, or you just got lucky, but I'm leaning towards the latter.

    As I writer I like mechanical clicky keys. Something about the sound is satisfying for me. Course in games with voice chat I would prefer quiet ones.

    I bought a DAS Ultimate brown for work. Liked it so much I replaced my logitech G19 at home with another. No lame colours just functional.

    Whichever's closest to a Macbook's keyboard. Always feels weird going back to my desktop keyboard after typing on my Macbook for ages. So much more efficient.

      I find no other chiclet style keyboard comes close to the MacBook keyboard. They're great for typing on, but I find awful for gaming on that's where a good mechanical keyboard shines.

        I believe Lenovo are regarded for making some of the best laptop keyboards, but this only applies to their business grade products (i.e. ThinkPads).

          Oh yeah those are nice. Only consumer level ones i've found good were the MacBook ones, so nice. Never got why it was so hard for laptop makers to put a good keyboard & trackpad in their unit, like it's something really important in my opinion.

    Got a Corsair K70 with cherry brown switches a few weeks ago. Everything Razer I've ever tried feels incredibly light, flimsy, and plasticy. The K70 feels solid and sturdy as hell. It's pretty fantastic.

      A sheet of aluminium will do that.
      But I have to agree, even when comparing a Razer Ouroborous to a Logitech G9x, I can feel a substantial difference in structural integrity (to which all the broken bits of plastic on my Ouroborous, and lack of on G9x can vouch for).

        I had a Razer Mamba that felt really flimsy and light. Replaced it with a G9x, which I still use to this day.

    I'm looking for a good tenkey-less mechanical keyboard, but I don't want to buy one until I can actually try out the different switch types somewhere.. anyone know any stores that have test keyboards around? I tried my local Harvey Norman, EB and JB stores, but they only had non-Cherry switch keyboards on display.


      Local computer stores like nizmo mentions is probably your best bet; on the odd occasion I have gone into a store and they have had one or two on display; most of the time there was only 1 model, or if there was a second, it was of the same switch type though.
      If you really want to test all the different Cherry MX keys side by side, and maybe some other manufacturers too, you will probably want to buy a 'switch tester', i.e this:

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