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140

Battle of the Mechanical Keyboards: Razer's BlackWidow Ultimate vs. Das Keyboard's Professional Model S

As we move forward in the world of computing technology, I cannot help to feel that we have left the keyboard behind. Open up the latest Windows 8 feather light Ultrabook or sit down at a gorgeous all-in-one desktop and you will most likely be facing a mushy keyboard of the 21st century.

You deserve the right to have the most comfortable typing experience, so today we are taking a look at the two kings of mechanical keyboards for your Windows computer – Razer’s BlackWidow Ultimate and Das Keyboard’s Model S Professional (tactile click).

Some of you may not know exactly what a mechanical keyboard is; they use real switches under each individual key. This process of manufacturing creates an audible click and fantastic response. To this day the king of mechanical keyboards is considered IBM’s Model M keyboard from the mid-1980s.

Alright, let’s dive in and see which modern mechanical keyboard reigns supreme.

Design

Razer’s BlackWidow mechanical keyboard isn't afraid to turn some heads with its bold design and bright green illuminated backlit keys. The unit itself is a bit larger than standard keyboards and will fight to be the main attraction of your desk.

We appreciate the rubberized design surrounding the keys, which prevents smudges and keeps a clean look. The rubberized material also provides a comfortable feeling against your wrists while typing. In addition, enjoyed that Razer decided to braid their keyboard cable.

The Das Keyboard’s Model S Professional keyboard is a complete 180 degree turn from Razer’s flashy gaming keyboard. If noone told you the price tag of the Das Keyboard, you might just assume it was any stock keyboard with a new machine.

The Professional named keyboard is just that – professional. The only sign that the Das Keyboard may be more than a stock keyboard is its high gloss coat. Personally, we wish that the unit featured either a rubberized finish, like the BlackWidow, or a matte finish as to not attract fingerprints.

Features

Razer’s BlackWidow keyboard comes stacked to the gills with features to thrill any gamer including five custom macro keys, the ability to record on-the-fly macro recordings, and a special “gaming mode”. Macros allow users to record and playback keystrokes or program commands at the push of a button. Gaming mode allows users to disable the Windows Key and other specific keys while gaming (to prevent accidentally being forced from a game).

The BlackWidow has a plethora of cables to connect to your PC including two USB cables and two audio cables; plugging in all these cables will allow you to take advantage of the one USB pass through port on the side of the keyboard, along with an audio-out and mic-in jack. Not all cables have to be plugged in for the keyboard to function. And before you ask, yes, you can take advantage of the backlit keys with only one USB plugin.

The keyboard also includes Razer’s Synapse 2.0 software which allows users to easily setup and personalize their device and save macros to the cloud for storage - gamers who have multiple setups might find it handy. The software also allows users to program infinite profiles and longer more complex macro sequences.

The Das Keyboard has a few built in media hot keys that can be a triggered via an “Fn” combination; besides that, the features of the Das Keyboard don’t go far. Unlike the Razer’s BlackWidow mechanical keyboard which focuses on the gamer, the Das Keyboard is straight forward and contains no additional secret combinations or macro keys.

The Das Keyboard has only two USB cords in comparison to the Razer’s two USB cords and two audio cords.  There is two port USB hub on the side of the device, which we enjoyed (the more USB ports the better). This unit does not have any audio or mic pass through though.

We do like that Das Keyboard offers a variety of accessories and replacement keycaps that Razer does not. If you head to the Das Keyboard website you can purchase special penguin keycaps (for the Linux kernel lover in your life) and a special set of gaming keycaps for the WASD keys.

Typing

As of now, it may seem that the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard has the edge, but this is where it all might change.

After unpacking the Razer keyboard, for the first few days I could not help, but make a variety of errors while typing. There is something about the keyboard layout that makes typists spend a bit more practice time – it may be the sculpting and distancing of the actual keys. While typing on the keyboard itself, I could not help but feel that I was typing on the biggest laid out keyboard I have ever used. Do not misunderstand me, the keyboard itself is comfortable to type on, but it may require a short learning curve for you to adapt to its layout. If you already own a Razer keyboard, the layout might be the same and thus no learning curve will be required for you.

The Das Keyboard Professional was the exact opposite experience - typing was a breeze and a delight right out of the box. The spacing of the keys felt perfect and the slight curve of each individual key was just right. When it comes to a strict typing experience, I enjoyed the Das Keyboard much more than the Razer keyboard.

In terms of how each keyboard felt mechanically – they felt the same. Both units require 50 grams of articulation force for a key press. If you have never heard the sound of a mechanical keyboard you can check out the video below. Both of the keyboards tested in this article have “blue key switches” meaning they produces the most amount of noise. Two other switch types are available for the Das Keyboard, brown (slightly less loud) and red (silent). The Razer keyboard offers one other type, red (silent).

Value

Both of these keyboards are expensive with an MSRP of $139.99. If the two typing experiences were identical it would be very easy to say that Razer’s BlackWidow Ultimate has a much better value as it packs an army of more features than the Das Keyboard.

The typing experience, in my opinion, isn’t the same though. The Das Keyboard feels a lot more natural to type on than Razer’s BlackWidow Ultimate which I could not help, but make mistakes on.

In the end I do have to award the Razer keyboard as the best value due to its large feature set and backlit keyboard. If you want, you can grab the regular BlackWidow which retails for $99.99 – same features as the Ultimate, but no backlit.

Conclusion

In my opinion, typing is a personal experience and each user will have their own feel for each keyboard. Gamers will most likely want to go for the Razer keyboard due to its Game Mode and programmable macro keys.

If you aren’t a gamer it will come down to which keyboard is more comfortable to type on, if you need a backlit keyboard, and what port selection you are seeking.

Want to know which keyboard I selected as my final choice? As a journalist who spends all day typing on his PC, I selected the Das Keyboard Professional unit. For me, the typing experience was so comfortable, I just could not pass it up.

Have you ever typed on a mechanical keyboard – what do you think?

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Reader comments

Battle of the Mechanical Keyboards: Razer's BlackWidow Ultimate vs. Das Keyboard's Professional Model S

140 Comments

I've had the Black Widow Ultimate since it came out in 2010, it's still like new today, very happy with my purchase.

I know that feeling. I have owned a Memorex MX3300 keyboard since it came out and I am so hooked on it that I can't use anything else anymore. It has copy/cut/paste dedicated buttons and a page scroll bar on the left side, which is very handy when you are editing documents with left hand on those buttons and right on the mouse (Logitec G9x).

Only problem is that at work, my co worker (who is my boss) made me get rid of a mechanical keyboard I brought from home. He could not stand the sound of its glory.

It's kind of a odd article, but this is a Windows/WP/PC community, so I guess I'll let it slide... This time...
No, I don't mind this type of article... It just shows how huge the WP ecosystem is..❕❕❕❕

It plugs into the micro USB port❕
Actually, its kind of cool because our phones are technically capable of using keyboards like this because of the shared W8 kernel.. Nothing that a simple OS feature update couldn't make possible... Remember, your WP8 device is far more capable than a iDroid tablet will ever be...

That's the one thing i am growing to enjoy about WP8.. but you have to admit that you would look pretty silly doing so :)

Yes, I know some Android can do this.. Android devices claim to do a lot. But, do anything well, and trouble free, without being rooted❔

You're like one of those people that says "don't say 'hate' because it's such a strong word" when I'm just using it as an alternative to "dislike" e.g I hate burnt toast

You would understand my use of sarcasm better if you read his reply to my comment earlier, but then that would require work and thought. We wouldn't want that...

You mean the comment that appears further down the page, after this one. I'm sorry that I don't read comments from the bottom of the page upwards. You could've just pointed that out without being so snarky.

Earlier for you, later for me. It is completely ridiculous to suggest that someone should have to read all 135 comments before they reply, on the remote chance that the person is actually just being a sarcastic git in three different threads. Perhaps if you had used your time more effectively instead of trying to be a twat to "eddieDOTexe" in unrelated threads then I wouldn't have to waste my time with this conversation.

I use it a lot, but I am a Ninja so it is part of my profession. And yes I use a mechanical keyboard in my line of work. I can't tell you how specifically because it's a Ninja secret.

Ugh, I hate those curved and split keyboards. It's fine if you're bashing out a novel, but if you alternate between one-handed typing while using a mouse then they're a nightmare

I have the BlackWidow, and trust me: when you're gaming it's awesome, but it rocks when you're typing as well.
Never typed so fast before. If you like the design, go for it :D
The BlackWidow is also available in a cheaper edition: the same keyboard, without the LEDs inside each key, at half the price. A must have :)

Unless you really need macro keys, "professional" mechanical keyboards will be fine with a brown MX switch.

Remember there are more than 2 options on the market, and the Blackwidow is particularly garish. The Logitech G710+ is worth a look as an alternative, and Coolermaster is toning down their design for their 2013 generation.

I have the Logitech G19. Great for gaming (macro keys, custom profiles, and a mini-screen to display info) and I love typing on it. It is NOT a noisy mechanical keyboard.

I never said it was, in face I specifically said "It is NOT a noisy mechanical keyboard". He said he wanted a gaming keyboard that's also good for typing / programming. So I recommended the G19. If he does a lot of typing then I would never recommend a noisy mechanical keyboard. I can go back to a keyboard from the 90's to experience such a cacophony while typing.

Incorrect. He never said he wanted a mechanical keyboard. He said "gaming + typing" and the G19 is perfect for both.

Rubber Dome keyboards are perfect for kids. if you want a serious keyboard than you need mechanical. Doesn't matter if you didn't ask for it.
 
I hope people know that there are other mechanical keyboards that bring the features of the BWU without the shitty build quality or annoying Blue switches.

To each their own as I would only consider a mechanical keyboard if it's as silent as a rubber-dome keyboard. From what I've seen they're horrendously noisy, but I'd like to be proven wrong.

You should try a keyboard with brown or red switches. Both are just a quiet as a rubber dome. The noise of a mechanical comes from the blue style switches which are purposefully made to make a clicking sound. Hence why I hope people don't judge all mechanical keyboards by the BWU.

Funny question from someone named "TechnoTim"... Unless you mean techno as in the music techno... Lol❕... Are you a DJ❔.. Lol❕

Think it was more of a comment on this is a windows phone blog. A little more lately tablet news. So where does this fit in.

It was a joke. I get it, they are bloggers and love to type so I guess I see how it fits. I have loved wpcentral since day 0.

Yes TT,, your sarcasm was obvious from the beginning.. I guess mine wasn't.. Kossdust had to jump in with his big water head and ruin the flow.. Kossdust ,,, bite 10 jumbos kid❕... Lol

Hello?! WPCentral..WP..Windows Phone? Anyone?..I know that we are all geeks and stuff but if you really want to deviate from the main purpose of the website then create a separate blog which can contain this kind of things.

Florin,

We cover all aspects of the Microsoft ecosystem including Windows 8, Windows Phone, Xbox, and Surface.

This is an accessory review for Windows PC users.

If you aren't interested, we kindly recommend not clicking on it.

What? Hold on you mean to tell me you guys didn't hold a gun to my head and make me go to a link I didn't want to read, then continue by forcing me to write a comment on how I didn't like it? You mean all this time I was her because I chose to be? Hmmmm who knew?

With all due respect to your hard work this is not smth related to Windows 8/WP/Xbox or Surface. That keyboard can easily work on Linux or MAC. You should try to appreciate the feedback instead of going defensive. People come here for phone news or semi related windows news, not hardware and stuff. Tomorrow you'll make a ssd comparison review and tell us that WP has a flash memory therefore is related to SSD.

What's wrong with WPC telling us about accessories that work with our devices?.. How is that not related❔... They cover accessories all the time... And, don't tell WPC what I came here for,,, speak for yourself shrimp neck... Lol

Florin...Pull your WP8 out of your butt and make yourself comfortable here. It's also much easier to use.

I rather love my Logitech G710+. I bet that both of those keyboards were great to use, overall. Thanks for the great article!

I have the BlackWidow and love it. 2 years and still like new. Mechanical sound is a bit loud for some, so if you are looking for a mechanical keyboard, I wouldn't recommend it if you live in a dorm. Its loud.

I'm pretty sure anything from das beats the pants off anything from razer in terms of build quality. I'd go with das even if it was twice the price.

I think they should make a separate TechCentral site/app where they can post articles like this. Something like that...

No❕.. That would be the iDroid way of doing things... WP is about efficiency, and integration, so a centralized place for all things Microkia fits the bill better than switching between apps.. DYT❔

Now Cory,, be nice to people... Are you not feeling ok today baby❔ Awwwwe,, give daddy a hug,, it's gonna be ok... Papas gonna make everything all better, now...

I don't really agree that gamers needs those macro keys, personally I prefer tenkeyless keyboards with my fav being the filco majestouch

Filco is king. Ninja Majestouch 2 (blacks with ten key and labels on the front of the keys, not top).

It's a blast to type on it or game and is silent (reds are louder). The blacks are a lot lighter to press though. It's a hell of a lot easier to press a key slightly and have it read.

And this is related to Windows Phone how? We're allready seeing a move towards being 'Windows Central' but are we now also going to see these totally unrelated hardware articles?

Your Windows Phone shares the same kernel as Windows 8. People use keyboards for their PC's, there is your connection. Now take it and run with it, hopefully towards a cliff.

Evidently because WP is made by Microsoft, and Microsoft makes Windows, and Windows runs on PCs and PCs need keyboards.
I didn't get it either because by this standard pretty much everything is related to everything else...but that's apparently how WPcentral rolls.

If there's a part 2 to the keyboard reviews, consider the Corsair Vengeance K70 for king of mechanical keyboards.

One here. I have the same Das Keyboard mentioned in the article at work, as well as a Filco at home. They are both great, but the Filco is my favorite.

How I wish Unicomp or Das sell their keyboards in India. I'm currently using a TVS Gold Keyboard. It has blue cherrys. Sells for around ₹1500 ($25). Typing on it is so wonderful that I hate using the soft touch ones in my office.

I think for average, everyday use, it is hard to beat the value and quality provided by Microsoft's own comfort series. Using the wireless package currently and they're hard to fault. Absolutely impeccable hardware.

Impeccable.. Lol❕.. Reminds of a product that even a woodpecker would have a tough time pecking to death.. I know, I have the mind of a three year old.. Lol❕❕

Great article Michael _b as a sufferer of oos/rsi my main selling point would be the distance the key has to travel to depress, shorter the distance the better

They both use key switches made by Cherry, so maybe try genuine Cherry keyboards, e.g. G80-3000 with the same mechanical key switches, which are almost indestructible and much cheaper. I have been using them for several years now, and killed several Logitechs, Microsofts etc. before until I have found mechanical keyboards. I find Cherry's blue key switches best for typing.

Is the SteelSeries Zboard a mechanical keyboard? Or the SteelSeries Shift keysets? I have a Zboard which supports Shift keysets. Best keyboard ever. The thing is solid. And with a cataclysm keyset I have reprogrammed the keys for League of Legends.

For the same reason people get mad over articles about religion on science journals - there's nothing wrong with them, but some things are better suited for discussion elsewhere.
It has nothing to do with brain handling capacity.

This isn't a general "tech site" though, its Windows Phone Central. I go to gaming websites to read reviews on keyboards, not a site "dedicated to windows phones". This article is misplaced and wil dilute the purpose of this site.

This isn't a general tech site. It's a general anything having to do with Microsoft site. The name WPCentral is just a name. I can name my dog, Cat, and that doesn't mean that he's a cat now.

Your're right. Science and religion aren't really related much. And now that you mention it, Windows and Windows Phone aren't related at all either! *sarcasm*

first these thing are way overpriced....
 
 
remembering the days typing on omron keyboard back in '88, click click ;) with that huge keyboard connector...

These keyboards are my idea of hell. I spent years trying to find near-silent keyboards as I loathe hearing a lot of noise when I type. I use the Logitech G19 which is fantastic. Now I just need a mouse that doesn't click so loudly, or at all!

I agree with some of the people here....this article was a little bit too general... I can understand articles on Xbox, Tablets, Windows 8, maybe even a couple gateway computers...but its almost like talking about your favorite dish and then someone bringing up their favorite spoon because they eat that dish with it hahaha.. But I learned something new today nonetheless... (Mechanical Keyboards)

While slapping around on a mechanical is nice... I've been more than happy with my MS Sidewinder X4 keyboard.  Very good keyboard for a non mechanical.   Honestly the whole marketing with mechanical being better for gaming is bs in my view.  My own reaction times and internet connection make a far bigger impact than key press force.  Also witth the way I whack away at my keyboard... Yeah... I'll stick to the standard for now. 

wow, you guys do not know much about keyboards do you? razr should not even be in the review. the das is a great keyboard but for gaming i would not touch anything razr with a ten foot pole.
 
try a mionix or some other great keyboards far better then a razr.
 
non mechanical keyboards are junk. not many people who go mechanical can ever go bank to junk.
p.s. ergonomic keyboards are a marketing ploy...they do not work.
 

I have the Das and I love it. My wife, however, hates it with a passion. The clicking drives her up the wall. Well, at least I don't have a dot matrix printer.

I love mechanical keyboards!
My Dad uses a Unicomp buckling spring which is noisy, but probably the best feeling keyboard out there for typing.
I've used Cherry MX Red and Blues, and I've tried Greens, Whites, Clears, Blacks, and Browns.
One of the best mechanical keyboards you can buy is the Ducky brand.  From Taiwan, they make a large array of backlit mechanical keyboards and non-backlit ones, plus several limited run productions too.
People, dump that $5 keyboard and get something real!

To be honest, this wasn't a great article even disregarding the continued lack of focus Windows PHONE Central is insisting on.
Das is a rather good starting place for a mechanical keyboard. They've got some brand recognition even outside of mechanical keyboard converts and great build quality. However, they offer practically nothing over other lesser known brands but are significantly more expensive. Still, they make a good baseline for introducing people to enthusiast keyboards.
The Razer was a terrible choice to compare it to. Razer is nothing more than a gaudy brand with poor build quality.  Filco (my favorite), Ducky, or Leopold would all be better choices. There's a ton more but those three are fairly easy to find without messing too much with importing.
The distinguishing feature for the different switches are NOT their loudness, that's just a side effect. The important aspects between the switches are A.) their actuation force (how hard you have to press a key for it to be recognized) and B.) their type (linear? tactile? tactile and clicky? etc).
Cherry MX Blues (the switch reviewed) are basically the worst choice you could pick for a gaming keyboard but excel at typing. The "click" is an audible indication that the key has been activated in addition to the resistant "bump" (the tactile part of the switch) to teach a typist the most efficient way of typing rather than bottoming out the key on every key press. Due to their nature and the actuation force required + the tactile bump, many gamers switching to MX Blues based off a marketing blurb end up double tapping a key when they don't mean to.
On the other side of the scale are Cherry MX Blacks, which are a linear switch. There's no click and no tactile bump, so double tapping isn't a problem. They also require more force to press the keys compared to other switches making them great for gaming but pretty terrible for a typist. It may seem like a small difference on paper, but the difference between a 50g actuation and a 60g actuation can be exhausting for someone typing for work.
The others (Browns, Reds, Clears) fall somewhere in between those two, along with entirely different switch types (Topre, Buckling Spring, Alps) that are less easy to categorize. To be brief, the Reds that both of these keyboards can come in are considered to be a lightweight version of Blacks since they're both linear switches but the Reds only need 45g actuation force. They're pretty divisive due to how light the keys are, some swear by them for gaming or typing and others think they're awful at both. The Browns that the Das can come in are generally considered to be the best middle ground for a switch and are very good for those new to mechanical keyboards. They're much quieter than Blues but keep the tactile bump for typists, in addition the actuation/reset point of the switch is so close together than they're excellent for double tapping while gaming bringing it closer to the Blacks/Reds in that area.
As I said, this wasn't a great article. Poor keyboard chosen for the second review slot, very lacking explanation as to what the different switches mean, etc, etc.

We picked these keyboards due to their popularity and amazing function.

I did touch on what mechanical keys are and that they produce a wonderfull click sound in addition to their great key feedback. I also noted the pressure for the two keyboards reviewed.

The goal of my article was to bring two very popular keyboards in a head to head comparison. I thank you for going into detail on key switches for those interested, but it was not something I was focusing on.

That being said, I am aware of other brands, but this is what I picked due to specific reasons. The Razer actually had an outstanding build quality during testing.

Enjoy your own opinions though - cheers. :)

Can't recommend Razer products to anyone just out of personal experiences. There are only so many times a product,can break before you get sick of it. Just grab a filco or topre if you want a mechanical keyboard.

I have the das keyboard ultimate model S with the blank keys and I am a huge fan of it. It is so comfortable and soothing to type on with each keystroke clicking almost rhythmically. But whenever someone else uses it and aren't touch typists they have problems finding the keys.

As a Das Keyboard owner, I have to say that it's killer. I own an Apple Extended II from around 1987, as well as an IBM Model M, and I'm pretty certain that the Das Keyboard will be remembered with those Cold War era aircraft carriers.

The sound and response is closest to the Alps switches Apple used on the Extended II, with a firm click and a modest report. None of them are in the same ballpark as the Model M's buckling spring switches. Think "Selectric Typrewriter from the 60s" and you're on the right track :)