The Mechanics of a Keyboard

Should you get Razer’s machine that goes click just in case the system administrator comes?

During the duration of this review Razer announced two new mechanical keyboards, the BlackWidow Stealth and the BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth. This review is not for those products. Razer ninja’d me with stealth.


Keyboards are often overlooked during the purchase of a new computer; for many there does not appear to be any real difference between any two keyboards outside of wireless technology, backlighting, or extra keys. Those who game heavily or those who are typing enthusiasts for work or hobby might be in the market for a more personalized experience. There are whole categories of keyboard styles which allow a tailored solution to your personal style of use right down to the type of switch used to register a keystroke. Razer is no stranger to the production of input devices but they are stepping slightly out of their element with their recent products: The BlackWidow and the BlackWidow Ultimate, the first two from Razer which are based on mechanical switches.

Popping Razer’s CherryMX?

Membrane keyboards comprise the majority of the cheapest keyboards in the market with scissor-switch taking up the laptop and thin-profile keyboard market. Despite being cheap, these keyboards also have the advantage of being quite silent. A mechanical keyboard on the other hand uses an actual mechanical switch for each and every key. While such as system costs substantially more than a membrane keyboard the cost may be offset by the precision, the response, or the ability to type without “bottoming-out” each keystroke.

If the concept of a mechanical keyboard interests you then you will likely be dealing indirectly with Cherry Corp in the near future most likely with their MX line of switches. I say indirectly as Cherry avoids selling their keyboards except to business, industrial, governmental, and medical suppliers. For the rest of us there exist several companies who purchase large quantities of mechanical switches and manufactures keyboards with them for retail end-users. Some common mechanical keyboard brands include Filco, SteelSeries, XArmor, Optimus, Das Keyboard, and Ducky. Keep in mind that while there are many brands, almost all of their keyboards are produced by iOne, Datacomp, or Costar with a few exceptions. In our situation, Razer’s BlackWidow and BlackWidow Ultimate are produced by iOne who also produces the XArmor line of mechanical keyboards.

Read on for the rest of the review including benchmarks… yes that is possible!

One of the most stand-out features of the XArmor line of mechanical keyboards is backlighting. XArmor is one of just two mechanical keyboard manufacturers that I am aware of (the other being Deck) who have models with LED backlighting for their keys. Knowing Razer, if it is possible to install backlighting in any given device then you can reliably bet that at least one SKU would sport some color glowing from it. The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate, along with two 3.5mm audio jacks for headphone and microphone and a connection for an extra USB device, is set apart from its non-Ultimate sibling by its blue backlight. If your reason for reading this review is to learn the difference between the Ultimate and regular BlackWidow then you have your whole answer: 3.5mm audio ports, one usb port, and backlighting in exchange for extra money. I do, however, encourage you to read on to see how the unit itself fairs as a keyboard. Unlike Duke Nukem Forever reviews, I can assure you this BlackWidow review contains no venom.

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