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The best Razer mechanical keyboards for every budget

The best Razer mechanical keyboards for every budget

Razer is indisputably dominating the gaming and e-sports scene. Searches for its gaming products are through the roof, mechanical keyboards included. Nonetheless, I wonder whether its products live up to the hype. Its lineup is pushed through every major online retail channel, sponsored e-sports teams, and general advertisement campaigns across the web. While I can’t fault Razer for maximizing its profits, it seems like the brand might be compensating for something.

I suppose I should clarify my critical opinion. I think that Razer’s gaming aesthetics improved significantly in the past few years, but I’m not fond of its custom switches or material choices. The switches are manufactured in China by third parties, which may include Greetech and Kailh. Razer Greens feel okay, but the rest of their clones don’t measure up in terms of smoothness or press-feel. That has been my experience with most Cherry duplicates on mechanical keyboards, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Razer also makes a few poor material choices in some of their expensive models of mechanical keyboards. Previously, Razer’s lineup featured plastic upper cases. Recent variants, such as the Chroma X, were released with painted non-stainless steel upper plates. That’s an improvement, but steel can have rust issues if its paint is scratched or improperly applied. Your hands exude salt and water when you sweat, so if you rest your palm on a chipped portion (or in a million other scenarios) ugliness could ensue. Corsair and other brands that use brushed/anodized aluminum have an advantage in material quality. Stainless steel could overcome that, but only at great expense. That being said, people buy Razer mechanical keyboards and gaming peripherals because of their style, brand, and notorious name.

In short, I recommend exploring the market before settling on Razer mechanical keyboards. If one of their models offers aesthetic or functional features (most of their models feature USB pass through ports) that you can’t find elsewhere, go ahead and get one. This is my opinion, after all, and opinions vary widely.

With that out of the way, let’s look at Razer’s product line. In this review, we’ll move from cheap to expensive (based on Razer’s web store pricing and a few checks on Amazon) mechanical keyboards. This review list will only contain the absolute best Razer mechanical keyboards, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth.

Razer Blackwidow X Tournament Edition

 

ProsCons
Portable tenkeyless footprintSome users may miss backlighting
Steel upper caseSteel isn’t the best case material
Standard bottom rowKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

This bare bones mechanical keyboard is only available via Razer’s web store. It dumps backlighting and Razer’s in house switches, opting for mechanical Cherry MX Blues instead. It keeps the metal construction of its more expensive relatives, so if you don’t mind the lack of backlighting and don’t care for Razer switches this may be a good option. If you need your mechanical keyboard backlit and want to keep the metal upper case, you’ll need to jump straight to the X Tournament Chroma. This model competes with the Corsair K65, which can be found in our Corsair roundup.

This mechanical keyboard hasn’t really been reviewed, so we’ll just roll with the fact that it’s similar to the X Tournament Edition Chroma. You can read a generic review at PCmag or an enthusiast’s wall of text at geekhack.

Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition

ProsCons
Portable tenkeyless footprintSome users may miss backlighting
Removable cableNonstandard bottom row
Plastic case is fairly durableKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

The Blackwidow Tournament Edition sports Razer switches and a plastic upper shell. It doesn’t look as hefty as the X mechanical keyboard line, but it’s still substantial enough to pass muster. A removable cable is the only real redeeming feature here. The non-standard bottom row means that replacement keycaps will be tough to find. The old Razer mechanical keyboard font isn’t to everyone’s taste, so I’m sure many people will be disappointed by that shortcoming.

CPCR has a great review up — read it before buying this gaming keyboard.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Razer Ornata Expert

ProsCons
It’s relatively inexpensiveCost:benefit ratio is poor
Backlighting can be usefulSwitches are “meh”
Less key travel than true mechsKeycaps aren’t MX mount

The Razer Ornata is technically a mechanical keyboard, as it uses metal leaves to create tactility. That said, it is a membrane and rubber dome based keyboard. Its keycaps aren’t MX mounted. The net result is a keyswitch that feels “meh” when compared with other gaming mechanical boards. Its switches have a bit less travel than most mechanical variants, but that is offset by the fact that one must bottom out to register a key press. It should also be slightly quieter than most mechanical switches, making it an excellent keyboard for offices or quiet gaming setups. Its sleek minimalistic feel also makes it great for everyday office use.

Just a heads up – other standard-layout backlit mechanical keyboards with Cherry clone switches are available for significantly less than the Razer Ornata Expert.

Kotaku has a passable review worth reading if you’re interested in this mechanical keyboard .

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Razer Blackwidow Expert 2014

ProsCons
Macro keys, if you need themSome users may miss backlighting
Plastic case is relatively durableSwitches are “meh”
USB passthroughThe keycaps have issues

The 2014 version of the Blackwidow Expert uses Razer switches, if you like them, and macro keys that were deleted from the modern Blackwidow. Macros on mechanical keyboards can be great for gaming or if you use advanced programs. The keycaps are the biggest issue I see on this Razer mechanical board. They aren’t doubleshot (painted and etched, I think), the bottom row is nonstandard, and the font screams gamer. If you don’t mind those caveats, this is a relatively cheap Razer full size that could meet your needs.

The 2014 Expert is the 2014 Ultimate less backlighting, so it’s easiest to read a review about the latter.

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Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2014

ProsCons
Macro keys, if you need themIt’s an aging model line
It has backlightingSwitches are “meh”
USB passthroughThe keycaps have issues

This is essentially the Blackwidow Expert ’14 with backlighting. It has macro keys, which you may or may not need. Macro keys aren’t present on modern Blackwidows, so that could be useful for you. The keycaps on this keyboard are subpar. They aren’t doubleshot, the bottom row is nonstandard, and the gamer font is strong. If those issues (maybe they aren’t issues for you) don’t scare you away, this provides (at least at its current price) a slightly less expensive way to get a full size Razer mechanical keyboard.

Anandtech wrote a solid review on this mechanical keyboard, which includes a teardown.

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Razer Ornata Chroma

ProsCons
Sort-of inexpensive RGBCost:benefit ratio is poor
Backlighting can be usefulSwitches are “meh”
Less key travel than true mechsKeycaps aren’t MX mount

Slap some additional lighting into the Ornata Expert and this is the result. It’s an RGB backlit keyboard that costs a hair less than good mechanical versions, and that marks its only redeeming feature. Razer charges a premium for the lighting, as Corsair doesn’t have a competing per-key RGB backlit semi-mechanical keyboard.

You can pick up mechanical keyboards with Cherry clone switches and RGB backlighting for less, though the lighting configuration options might not be as in-depth. If you can stomach worse lighting configuration options, the clone switches will deliver a better typing and gaming experience. Razer mecha-membrane switches, which are only mechanical by technicality, require bottom out to activate.

Before you decide to buy this, read a review at Tom’s Hardware.

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Razer Blackwidow X Ultimate

ProsCons
Improved aestheticNonstandard bottom row
Steel upper caseSteel isn’t the best case material
Switch choicesKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

This is the newest Blackwidow Ultimate, a famous lineup of mechanical keyboards by Razer. In my opinion, the Ultimate’s appearance is greatly improved in comparison to its predecessors’. You can select Razer Green switches or MX Blues, which is a nice touch. The latter is only available via Razer’s web store, though. My only concern about the new X line involves rust. A few early buyers reported issues with improperly applied paint, which seems to have been ironed out. Nonetheless, scratches could lead to rust in a number of different scenarios.

This is a monochromatic Blackwidow X Chroma, so we’ll jump straight to a review of the higher end model.

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Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Classic

ProsCons
Blue backlighting is differentNonstandard bottom row
Macro keys, if you need themHigh price, old product
USB passthroughKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

It’s pretty cool to see a Razer product with something other than neon green backlighting. This is the web store exclusive 2014 version of Razer’s Blackwidow with different monochromatic backlighting and (at the time of this article’s release) a free branded bag with green accents. This is a good choice if you don’t mind the gaming font or the premium that you pay to get a mechanical keyboard with blue backlighting.

I think this keyboard’s price is problematic. Razer should mark mechanical keyboards with its in-house switches down deeply, as its margins are much higher on such models. This one in particular, as it involved zero R&D cost.

It’s exactly the same as a 2014 Ultimate keyboard, less the different backlighting, so the same review will do the trick.

Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2016

ProsCons
Switch choicesNonstandard bottom row
Improved aestheticValue isn’t there
Plastic case is fairly durableKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

Ditching the macro keys improved the Razer Blackwidow keyboard line’s looks significantly, and a few other tweaks (excepting a font change) finalized the deal. The issue with this particular model: it sits at an awkward price point, though it often drops below MSRP. The Blackwidow X Ultimate, featuring a metal upper case, is available in MX Blue switches in the Razer web store. This mechanical keyboard is definitely a set up from their previous gaming keyboard equivalents.

Vortez has a review up that, as usual, is filled with useful details.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Razer Blackwidow X Tournament Edition Chroma

ProsCons
Standard bottom rowNo switch choices
Steel case upperPotential rust
RGB lightingKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

This is the least expensive way to get non-membrane based RGB lighting from Razer. I sincerely appreciate the standard bottom row, as replacement keycaps will be easy to find. Translucent legends that aren’t gamer-ish can be tough to source, but it’s still way easier than dealing with odd sizes. In fact, buying a cheap keyboard for replacement caps isn’t out of the question. If you don’t mind the stock caps, which have a much improved font, there isn’t even a need.

The newest Razer mechanical keyboards have different lighting effects, which is cool. I’m saddened by the lack of switch options, but that’s inconsequential. I think this gaming keyboard offers significantly better value than Corsair’s RGB tenkeyless ‘boards if you don’t mind clicking away on Razer Greens. Finally, Razer definitely needs to rethink its naming conventions. This particular mechanical keyboard uses 38 characters in its title. Phew!

You can find a generic review at PCmag or an enthusiast’s wall of text at geekhack.

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Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chroma

ProsCons
Standard bottom rowNo switch brand choices
Plastic case is fairly durableNonstandard bottom row
RGB lightingKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

The Tournament Edition Chroma is another Razer keyboard with a price that doesn’t make sense to me. With that out of the way, it loses the standard bottom row offered by the X Tournament. The keycaps still use a gaming font, which may not appeal to everyone. It also drops the choice between Cherry MX and Razer switches, which is unfortunate. Regardless, it won’t suffer when compared to its competitors in raw lighting ability.

Vortez posted another detailed review, which is valuable even with some iffy writing.

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Razer Blackwidow X Chroma

ProsCons
USB pass throughNonstandard bottom row
Steel case upperPotential rust
RGB lightingKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

In an unfortunate move, Razer seems to have ditched switch choices in the their high end X mechanical keyboard lineup. A nonstandard bottom row will make aftermarket keycaps sets difficult to source, though the improved font makes that less troublesome. Rust, as usual, is a concern with painted steel plates. If you want a full sized RGB backlit keyboard from Razer, this is the cheapest good mechanical option. The Ornata is there, but its dome and membrane + leaf switches won’t compare with proper Cherry-style variants.

Once again, Vortez boasts the most detailed and grammatically incorrect text review on the web.

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Razer Blackwidow Chroma v1

ProsCons
Variety of Razer switchesNonstandard bottom row
Macro keys are presentExpensive for no good reason
RGB lightingKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

I cannot recommend this mechanical keyboard over the v2. If you like the gamer font, perhaps, it may be worth your time and money. Otherwise, pick up the iterative update. You’ll get a wrist rest, a greater switch selection, better lighting transitions, and updated fonts. The v2 costs slightly more in retail and web store settings, so if you are absolutely strapped for cash and feel a primal need for the Razer Chroma, this is your best option.

Check out our review here to learn more.

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Razer Blackwidow Chroma v2

ProsCons
Variety of Razer switchesNonstandard bottom row
Macro keys are presentWrist rests aren’t for typists
RGB lightingKeycaps aren’t doubleshot

New lighting effects, a lower price, a wrist rest, and a massively improved font help this iterated mechanical keyboard stand apart from its predecessor (the v1). While they may share some design similarities, the visual impact is completely different. The v1 screams gaming is life. The v2 takes a different tack. “I can game and be classy too, you know.”

Some features have questionable utility, such as the macro keys, but if you’re shelling out for a premium model they don’t hurt anything. The wrist rest is nice for long gaming sessions, but typists shouldn’t use it regularly. Setting one’s wrists down while typing on a standard keyboard is an ergonomic nightmare.

Kitguru provides the best review here, though it errs on the side of being short.

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Razer’s best mechanical keyboard?

Just like in the Corsair article I wrote last week, there isn’t really a single best mechanical keyboard in Razer’s lineup. Every gamer has different needs, particularly when it comes down to things like macro keys and backlighting, individual preference reigns supreme. I do think two models stand out, though. Razer’s tenkeyless Blackwidow X Tournament and Blackwidow X Tournament Chroma offer features that I haven’t seen from other “big” brands in the gaming peripheral business. Namely, these mechanical keyboards have standard bottom rows and reasonable prices.

The X Tournament Chroma is particularly noteworthy, as its pricing and RGB lighting place it in line to compete with Corsair’s K65 RGB models. The latter can be tough to find, and when they are in stock they tend to be significantly more expensive. In addition, the non-standard bottom row places Corsair’s K65 at a disadvantage in the enthusiast market. People who have a number of keycap sets lying about will be able to pop them onto a Razer board without breaking a sweat. Corsair models, on the other hand, feature a non-standard bottom row. That isn’t an issue for everyday users and gamers that compose the majority of the market. Nonetheless, opening the segment to big spending enthusiasts certainly won’t hurt Razer’s bottom line.

Neither Razer mechanical keyboard offers linear switches, which is a bit of a downer. One simply has a choice between brands. MX Blues populate the lower end Tournament and Razer Greens fill out the Chroma. I can’t blame Razer for pushing their switches in high-end models, but a choice (even if it was only among Razer switches) would have provided additional utility for gamers. Not everyone likes to game with clicky switches due to hysteresis and tactility interfering with rapid keypresses. Razer attempts to mitigate that with their green switches, but their fixes aren’t entirely effective.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

 

That wraps up our list for the best Razer mechanical keyboard. This was a long review which was justified by Razer’s brand and their huge lineup of mechanical keyboards. In this review, we tried to include a variety of different price points and landmark keyboards for you to look at.

Feel free to ask questions/provide input via social media or this site’s comment system. Have fun shopping!

Image credits: Feedbaac | Bestofmicro | Razer | Featured: Gamecrate

 

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About The Author
Alec DeVries

The siren song of mechanical keyboards drew me in some time ago. Now I’m an active user on Deskthority and a writer here at GoMK.

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