Razer started out life over a decade ago as a company manufacturing a high-end mice for gamers. That was 11 years ago, and they've since branched out to provide every gaming peripheral imaginable.
Keyboards are still close to the company's bread and butter, although the Blackwidow X Chroma targets a market that hasn't typically been Razer's core audience. It's a mechanical keyboard for dedicated gamers and typists — and at $329.95, the company has plenty of competition.
What Is It?
Razer's been in the keyboard game for a while, but they've only recently begun manufacturing their own switches for their mechanical offerings. The X Chroma uses Razer Green switches, which offer a tactile and clicky response not too dissimilar from the blue switches made by Cherry.
- 10 key roll-over anti-ghosting
- 1000Hz USB polling rate
- Customisable backlighting
- Gaming mode (which disables the Windows keys)
- Size: 45.9cm x 15.6 cm x 4.1cm (l/w/h)
- Weight: 1.42kg
The X Chroma's top metal plate is exposed, which allows the light from the LEDs on each key to bleed through. There's 16.8 million colours for the lighting, and it's fully customisable once Razer's Synapse software is installed. Developers can even publish profiles for their games through Razer's back-end, as Blizzard has done with Overwatch.
If that's not to your liking, however, you can opt for one of the several pre-installed transitions or effects. Like the rest of the Chroma line, the X Chroma can cascade through colours automatically or slowly transition through colours of your choice. There's an option for a Doppler-esque effect, and you can even set it so keys only light up when they're pressed.
Each key has an advertised lifespan of 80 million keystrokes. That's 30 million more than what Cherry switches are rated at. The Razer Green switches also have an actuation force of 50g, the same as Cherry's blue and white switches.
It's a pretty heavy unit too, although you wouldn't know that from reading Razer's website. Fortunately the side of the box has the size and weight details, although its exclusion on the product page is bizarre.
What's It Good At?
Once it's plugged in, the first thing you'll notice about the X Chroma is how nice it looks. And let's not beat around the bush: it looks really, really nice. Even the default cascade for the lighting, the only option available if you don't install the Razer Synapse software, is easy on the eyes.
That extends to the construction of the keyboard itself. The raised nature, something Corsair fans will be accustomed too, suits really well. More importantly, it makes the keyboard easier to clean — something enthusiasts, particularly existing fans of Razer products, will undoubtedly appreciate.
The Razer Synapse software has advanced in leaps and bounds, too. While I've never been a big fan of installing third-party drivers or software for my basic peripherals (mouse and keyboard), the Synapse suite is fairly painless.
Blue switches typically aren't my go-to when it comes to mechanical keyboards, but Razer's equivalents do a good job of emulating their tactile, clicky feel. If you're a fan of that sound and feel, then you'll be largely happy with the X Chroma — although there are a couple of caveats.
What's It Bad At?
One of those caveats is that while Razer claims their switches are the new industry standard, the reality is they feel a little off the mark. After hitting a key multiple times — say if you're repeating a particular letter, or happen to be making more mistakes than usual — the keys seemed to have a little more resistance, almost as if the keyboard was gumming up slightly.
It's difficult to explain the sensation without trying it for yourself. It genuinely felt like the X Chroma was building up a resistance to my inputs, a feeling I've never experienced with any mechanical keyboard previously.
And let's not beat around the bush: while the X Chroma looks really good, so do a lot of other keyboards. The Ducky Shine models don't have the level of lighting customisation, but there's plenty of options and just as many colours.
There's also ABS double shot keycaps — Razer hasn't said a word about the construction of theirs — the same level of macro recording, removable feet and a broader choice of switches, for $100 less. The Ducky Shine models are lighter, too.
It's also worth noting that the X Chroma costs more than other Razer keyboards with better features. The DeathStalker keyboard comes with dedicated macro keys, an LCD panel, a variety of added apps and a wrist rest. It's not a mechanical keyboard, mind you. Corsair's K95 is and it's still cheaper than the X Chroma, has 18 dedicated macro keys, customisable lighting effects, and has a range of switches.
And both of those are approximately $40-50 cheaper.
Should You Buy It?
After around a fortnight of usage, it's difficult to recommend the X Chroma — not only to gamers, but to typists or even fans of Razer products generally. While the keyboard wasn't physically uncomfortable after prolonged typing, the tactile and clicky switches make it a nightmare for use in a work environment — so much so that I had to begin using it exclusively away from the office, for the sanity of my colleagues.
Razer's Synapse software is undoubtedly impressive, and the ability for developers to publish custom lighting profiles is brilliant. But the same functionality exists for cheaper Razer keyboards, like the standard BlackWidow Chroma.
And let's not forget the Australia Tax. Those living in the United States will only have to pay US$159 for the BlackWidow X Chroma — which is $204.65 once the exchange rate is factored in. The retail mark-up is downright offensive, particularly when Razer's own press release for the BlackWidow X line trumpeted affordability.
There's simply nothing the X Chroma does that you can't get from Razer, or another manufacturer, for cheaper. Razer's own switches are decent, but not on the same level as the offerings from Cherry. You can get the same funky lighting from Corsair's software, and if you're just after a smorgasbord of colour the Ducky Shine series does the job, albeit significantly cheaper.
The BlackWidow X Chroma is still a nice piece of tech. But the mechanical market is flush with competition, and when so many other offerings do more for less, it's difficult to envision who the X Chroma is for.