During the pre-holiday period, we pay special attention to some of the best hardware products we’ve been able to test this year, because we feel they would make great gift ideas. If you’re planning (or being forced) to stay home more this season, then gaming might be on your agenda, and the Razer BlackWidow V3 is a great gaming keyboard at a price that offers great value as long as you’re not looking for anything wireless.
Razer has you covered with the V3 Pro (pictured above) if you’re looking for wireless, but it’s almost $100/€100 more for that model, so unless you have a great reason to want to go wireless those are some easy savings (though there are other changes we’ll mention later). Having used the original BlackWidow by Razer for years, we couldn’t wait to see how the new version compares.
I believe the original BlackWidow keyboard is now almost ten years old, and in recent years we’ve seen a few excellent keyboards pop up that we enjoyed. HyperX’s Alloy Elite RGB is one that feels close to the BlackWidow V3 for us, perhaps combined with the look and feel of Razer’s own Huntsman keyboards – especially if you also look at the Pro.
As with other recent keyboards in the premium range, the BlackWidow V3 has a nice sturdy and weighty feel to it thanks to the use of aluminum for the top plate. While I initially considered this to be a superficial change when it started to appear in keyboards, I now can’t go back to plastic keyboards because they feel too lightweight and in some cases even fragile. With the new BlackWidow, this sense of weight also translates to the typing experience, where every keystroke feels solid rather than something that causes reverb in a hollow case underneath.
Unlike the Huntsman, which has optical switches, the BlackWidow V3 features the increasingly popular mechanical switches. These ones have been developed by Razer themselves as an alternative to the Cherry MX switches that are so often used and which we also tested in the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB. The BlackWidow V3 comes in a variety of models, and the one we tried featured green switches – which felt a bit more ‘clicky’ than the brown Cherry MX switches I worked with right before this review. You can also get the BlackWidow with Razer’s yellow switches, but in my only experience with those I felt they registered my keypresses just a little too quickly and I prefer the ‘green’ experience where you have to push down each button more for it to register. It’s a trade-off though, because the yellow ones are more quiet – which to me is a plus if you’re typing in a quiet environment.
But while you can compare Razer’s switches to the Cherry ones in terms of performance, the biggest difference between the two is the fact that the lifespan expectancy rate for Razer’s switches far exceeds those of the Cherry ones, with an additional 20 million clicks over the 50 million that the Cherry ones offer. The keycaps have been made extra durable as well, with doubleshot ABS plastic to make sure your WASD keys don’t betray that you’ve been using the keyboard for FPS games a lot after about a year of use.
The BlackWidow V3 also comes with a wrist rest for added comfort, and I personally prefer this keyboard’s harder surface with a top layer that adds grip over the faux leather of the Pro. Leather might offer more comfort, but in my experience it’s also subject to a lot more wear (and eventually tear). Of course, using a wrist rest at all is entirely optional, and many play without one – the BlackWidow V3 gives you that option as well.
In terms of multimedia features, the BlackWidow V3 differs from the V3 Pro in that it has a single media wheel and a single button rather than the Pro’s dial with three buttons (something that can also be found on the Huntsman keyboards). By default, the wheel controls your volume, but this can be remapped to allow you access over the RGB lighting, or even to in-game functions – though I struggled to find a useful option for it beyond volume control due to its location at the top right-hand side of the keyboard which isn’t easy to get to in the heat of the moment. More media buttons would have been convenient, but the BlackWidow works around this by mapping controls that are traditionally mapped to other buttons to double- or even triple-presses.
For a while now, Razer’s been using their Synapse software to give players added functionality for their gaming peripherals, and this is no exception. You can customize windows shortcuts to button presses or even map mouse buttons to the keyboard, but if you regularly play the same games then the option to program macros into your keyboard is especially worthwhile. With these, complex combinations or sequences can be mapped to a single button, and you can group these together to your liking. Perfect if you want to program the keyboard for a single game, but you can also store five different profiles on the board if you want to switch between games or go back to the default settings.
You can also use Synapse to control the RGB lighting on the board, with predefined presets to choose from as well as the option to create your own – even down to picking a color for every individual button. If you have more Chroma-enabled hardware, you can sync the keyboard to work in tandem with them as well, which can create spectacular effects to the point where it can become a bit much for people not interested in RGB lighting. For those who do, it’s one of those things you’ll turn the lights down for, just so you can truly appreciate the light show.
As mentioned before, the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB is a good comparison for the BlackWidow in a number of ways. As mentioned, the Green switches in the new BlackWidow are a little louder than the (brown) ones in the Alloy Elite and more closely resemble the blue Cherry MX ones. In practice, that means they’re a bit more clicky, but unless you have an aversion to the sound it’s good to know they’re also more durable and they feel sturdier thanks to a newer design that Razer has implemented. The keycaps don’t just feel like they fit better, they also still look brand new despite extensive testing.
The multimedia wheel is another feature that is familiar on the new BlackWidow, although we’d never call it a multimedia keyboard and it’s a functional volume control option at best. Where the Razer BlackWidow V3 really excels, however, is customization. The new keyboard really benefits from the years of development that Razer has put into its Synapse platform, and the ability to tweak how buttons work, right down to programmable macros, game-specific profiles and even lighting is excellent.
With its solid build, top tier switches and stellar keycaps, the BlackWidow V3 is a great choice if you’re in the market for a mechanical keyboard. Its clicky switches might be too loud for some and the yellow alternative might be too responsive for others, so without a solid middle ground it’s good to thing about your personal preference beforehand. Either way, it’s a worthy successor to an iconic gaming keyboard that doesn’t need a ton of bells and whistles but excels where it matters.