Razer is often the first brand gamers try when they put a toe in the deep, dark waters of mechanical keyboards. But the BlackWidow series, Razer’s old go-to, was first introduced in 2010, and it’s showing its age. Its reputation took a knock when Razer switched to its own “clone” switches (provided by Chinese manufacturer Kailh), and stopped offering Cherry MX. That change, and the BlackWidow’s somewhat divisive styling, has given competitors a chance to gain on Razer’s dominate position.
But Razer has a response with its new BlackWidow X, a slightly more affordable alternative to the standard BlackWidow. It showcases a few improvements over the original design. The X series does away with the five macro keys on the side of the board, but in its place is a more standard key layout, an exposed metal top plate, a smaller, sleeker body, and a cable routing system. Even the font on the top of the keys is more conventional, and much more appealing. On top of all that, at least some models in the X series are offered with Cherry MX Blue switches, a long-time favorite among gamers and typists alike.
In short, despite its lower price, the BlackWidow X series improves upon its progenitor in nearly every way.
The most striking change in the BlackWidow X is its exposed metal frame. The top of the keyboard is one single piece of metal, wrapping around the top edge, across the key area, and down to the tapered bottom lip. Without the bulky, stylized plastic shell on the older models, the newer design feels smaller both vertically and horizontally (macro keys notwithstanding). While this is desirable for anyone looking for a little extra desk space, it also makes the keyboard feel more solid and more premium, comparing well to the similar exposed decks of Corsair’s K series boards.
Underneath, the body switches to plastic to house the keyboard’s electronic components. The bottom has a new trick, too, a recessed well and two grooves that allow the thick, braided USB cable to be routed to the front or either side. While a detachable cable (often seen on premium, semi-custom mechanical keyboards) would be preferable, the cable routing option is a huge improvement on the bulky and largely immobile cable on older BlackWidow models.
The keys are mostly the same as other Razer mechanical models, with the same soft-touch plastic finish that resists fingerprints. But Razer has seen fit to use a standard key font, which is much more readable than its stylized, self-designed font with the distinctive lowercase “r” key. LED indicators above the 10-key area designate caps lock, num lock, scroll lock, on-the-fly macro recording, and “game mode” (which disables the Windows key). The only other ornamentation is the Razer triple-snake logo, backlit beneath a strip of glossy plastic at the bottom-center of the deck.
Pop off the standard Cherry-compatible keys and you’ll see Razer’s green, clicky switches. Cherry MX Blue switches are an option on some BlackWidow X models. The top-mounted customizable RGBLED backlights on our review unit shone brightly and clearly through each and every key. The keys’ shift functions aren’t lighted, but they’re easy enough to see below the primary functions. The only downside of the exposed metal frame is that the backlighting can wash over the keyboard and to other parts of your desk, even in full light – but some might consider that a plus. It certainly looks cool.
The exposed keys are much easy to remove, which means it’s a cinch to clean the keyboard or add custom key caps. Unfortunately, the lowest row of keys aren’t a standard size, so keycap fans will have to hunt for unconventional sizes to match.
Gaming on the BlackWidow X is more or less as you’d expect it to be. The long and satisfying travel of the tactile mechanical keys minimizes accidental strikes, and the typing experience is faster and more satisfying than any rubber dome or scissor-switch keyboard. The keys are loud, but that’s to be expected – indeed, it’s part of the appeal. Razer’s offers optional “stealth” switches for those seeking peace and quiet, but they’ll still prove louder than most inexpensive keyboards.
Related: Roccat Isku and Kone+ Review
The stock key switches on our review unit proved enjoyable, but they weren’t perfect. The keys felt a little looser than the Cherry MX blue and brown switches we’ve seen in most competing keyboards. It feels like the manufacturing tolerances of the switches or the keycaps aren’t on par with Cherry, resulting in a slight, audible rattle. It’s not a huge issue, but it will bug mechanical keyboard purists.
Razer Synapse is not necessary to use the BlackWidow X, but you’ll need to install it if you want to easily create macros or customize the lighting. (Macros can be created, with a little practice, using the on-the-fly function command.) Razer still infuriatingly insists on a mandatory login system, something we will never stop hating, but once you get past it Synapse is functional enough.
While extensive customization for keyboards isn’t all that vital thanks to custom keyboard controls in PC games, gamers who like to roll their own can still set up a nigh-unlimited number of profiles. These profiles can then be activated with function commands or bound to specific games. Macros, more or less unlimited in number and complexity, can be bound to individual keys. The “Gaming mode” tab allows the standard Windows alt-tab and alt-F4 commands to be disabled along with the Windows key.
On the Chroma models, users can choose between six different multi-colored keyboard backlight patterns, which can then be synched with other Chroma -compatible devices. The Chroma configurator offers color templates for different gaming genres, grouped applications of different effects, and full RGB customization for each and every key. While we’d rather not turn our desk into a laser light show, we have to admire the dedication and complexity of the lighting tools.
Our review unit was the BlackWidow X Chroma, a full-sized board with the Chroma RGB lighting system. It goes for $160, $10 less than the non-X version. Depending on key switch choice, that’s either the same price or slightly more than RGB-equipped competitors from Corsair and Logitech.
The BlackWidow X Chroma Tournament Edition chops off the 10-key pad for $130, the full-sized BlackWidow X Ultimate has green-only LEDs for $100 even, and non-backlit versions of the BlackWidow X and BlackWidow X Tournament Edition retail for $80 and $70, respectively. Those are respectable prices, especially at the lower end.
And it gets better. On top of the Razer Green (clicky) and Razer Orange (quiet) mechanical switch options on most models, some will come with an offer for Cherry MX Blue switches at a $10 discount. Those models are hard to find at the moment, but are an impressive value if you can track one down.
The BlackWidow X Chroma is a measurable improvement over Razer’s previous BlackWidow design, and it reinforces the brand’s status as the go-to for every gamer’s first mechanical keyboard.
Donny: Donald J. Trump lashed out on Tuesday in the aftermath of a disappointing first debate with Hillary Clinton, scolding the moderator, criticizing a beauty pageant winner for her physique and raising the prospect of an all-out attack on Bill Clinton’s marital infidelities in the final stretch of the campaign. Having worked assiduously in recent weeks to cultivate a more disciplined demeanor on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump cast aside that approach on Tuesday morning. As Mrs. Clinton embarked on an ebullient campaign swing through North Carolina, aiming to press her newfound advantage, Mr. Trump vented his grievances in full public view. Sounding weary and impatient as he called into a Fox News program, Mr. Trump criticized Lester Holt, the NBC News anchor, for asking “unfair questions” during the debate Monday evening, and speculated that someone might have tampered with his microphone. Mr. Trump repeated his charge that Mrs. Clinton lacked the “stamina” to be president, a claim critics have described as sexist, and suggested that in the future he might raise Mr. Clinton’s past indiscretions. And defying conventions of political civility, Mr. Trump leveled cutting personal criticism at a beauty pageant winner, Alicia Machado, whom Mrs. Clinton held up in Monday night’s debate as an example of Mr. Trump’s disrespect for women. Mr. Trump insisted on Fox that he had been right to disparage the former Miss Universe because of her weight. “She was the winner and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” said Mr. Trump, who was the pageant’s executive producer at the time. “Not only that — her attitude. And we had a real problem with her.” Mrs. Clinton answered Mr. Trump’s scattershot attacks with a dismissive shrug, telling reporters that Mr. Trump was free to run whatever kind of campaign he preferred. On board her campaign plane, she plainly relished her moment of apparent triumph, and poked fun at Mr. Trump’s morning lamentations. Continue reading the main story “Anybody who complains about the microphone,” she said, “is not having a good night.” Mr. Trump’s setback in the debate represents a critical test in the final six weeks of the presidential race. Having drawn closer to Mrs. Clinton in the polls, Mr. Trump now faces an intensified clash over his personal temperament and his attitudes toward women and minorities — areas of grave concern for many voters that were at the center of the candidates’ confrontation on Monday. Against Mr. Trump’s brooding, Mrs. Clinton cut a strikingly different profile on the campaign trail on Tuesday, emerging emboldened from her encounter with the Republican nominee. At a rally in Raleigh, N.C., Mrs. Clinton, brandishing her opponent’s debate stumbles, assailed Mr. Trump’s comments suggesting he avoided paying taxes and welcomed the 2008 financial crisis as a buying opportunity. “What kind of person would want to root for nine million families losing their homes?” Mrs. Clinton asked the lively crowd. “One who should never be president, is the answer to that question.” Having shaken at least temporarily the malaise of the past month, Mrs. Clinton must now seek to gain a durable upper hand over Mr. Trump, who has drawn close to her in the polls with a more sharply focused message on trade, immigration and national security. Mr. Trump’s comportment on Tuesday threatened to forfeit his gains of the past month, and recalled his practice during the Republican primaries and much of the general election of belittling political bystanders in language that alienated voters, like attacking the Muslim parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq and a Hispanic federal judge. It remains to be seen if Mr. Trump will approach the remainder of the race with the unfiltered abandon of his comments Tuesday morning. The fear among Republicans is that Mr. Trump will confront adversity by continuing to swing impulsively at politically inopportune targets, dragging the party again into needless and damaging feuds, as he did for most of the summer. The notion of raising Mr. Clinton’s infidelity is particularly controversial among Mr. Trump’s advisers, who have sent conflicting signals about that line of attack. Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, said in a CNN interview that he deserved credit for holding back from that particular subject, saying Mr. Trump had been “polite and a gentleman.” But Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and a close confidant of Mr. Trump’s, called for a far harsher approach. Mr. Trump, he told a reporter for the website Elite Daily, had been “too reserved” in his confrontation with Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Giuliani recommended attacking Mrs. Clinton for having questioned Monica Lewinsky’s credibility in claiming an affair with Mr. Clinton. He also called Mrs. Clinton “too stupid to be president.” Mr. Giuliani has his own complex marital history: He is on his third marriage; as mayor, he surprised his second wife by announcing his plans to separate from her at a news conference. Should Mr. Trump follow the path prescribed by Mr. Giuliani, it could transform the final six weeks of his candidacy into an onslaught of unrestricted personal vituperation — a risky course that would probably please Mr. Trump’s political base at the cost of his broader appeal. But Democrats signaled on Tuesday that they would welcome an extended battle with Mr. Trump over matters of temperament and personal character. Priorities USA Action, a “super PAC” supporting Mrs. Clinton, released a television ad highlighting a debate exchange in which Mr. Trump said his temperament was his “strongest asset,” along with clips of Mr. Trump using obscene and violent language. And Mrs. Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, said in television interviews that Mr. Trump had appeared “flustered” and “ran out of gas.” During a campaign stop in Orlando, Fla., Mr. Kaine said Mr. Trump was too unsteady for the White House. “If you’re that rattled in a debate,” he said, “try being president.” Mr. Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, also toured the morning TV programs, but with an upbeat message. Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Mr. Pence proclaimed Monday had been a “great night” in which Mr. Trump showcased the “kind of energy” and the “kind of leadership” that had animated his campaign. “Donald Trump took command of the stage, and I think the American people saw his leadership qualities,” Mr. Pence said. But as has become customary for the Republican ticket, Mr. Trump’s provocative remarks are likely to overshadow his running mate’s far more cautious and conventional arguments. And Mr. Pence joined Mr. Trump in criticizing Mr. Holt for his handling of the debate, pointing to the absence of questions for Mrs. Clinton regarding her family’s foundation and the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, when she was secretary of state.