I may have had some serious problems with Mass Effect 3, but the game is still a good one. How about gear made for it? Razer has a whole line of ME3 gaming peripherals, and we’re taking a look at them, starting the the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate.

The Blackwidow Ultimate is an excellent keyboard, one I’ve been using for the past five months. It’s the gaming keyboard I finally found good enough to replace the Microsoft SideWinder X6, a personal favorite of mine. It booted the X6 out for three main reasons: mechanical keys, a better design, and mechanical keys.

I’ve said this already in other keyboard reviews: I grew up on IBM keyboards. Mechanical keyboards are excellent, and while I’m far more partial to laptop-style low-profile mechanical keyboards, the traditional high-profile keys are also very suitable. They have excellent travel, are comfortable to type on for extended periods, and are great for fast typing. Unless you are a touch typist, there is no comparison to a mechanical keyboard.

The Blackwidow Ultimate is exactly that, a fantastic keyboard aimed at gamers who, like everyone else, only use one keyboard for everything. So it’s good for typing and comes with all the gaming necessities, including customizable keys, media functions, backlighting, and software to change every aspect of the keyboard. We’ll get to all that in just a second.

If you’re looking at the Blackwidow Ultimate ME3 edition, there’s two things you should note. First, the main difference between the ME3 and standard models are the backlighting color (red versus blue, respectively) and the decal. As you can see in the image above, the latter is pretty substantial for fans of the game. The best part is that the N7 logo is so perfectly visible when typing normally. My hand sits right beside it. Unfortunately when gaming, my left hand covers it when hanging on the WASD keys. I’m not entirely satisfied with the artwork; it’s just a single logo, a racing stripe on the left side and a slight checkered weave pattern. Even though it’s a keyboard, I’d have liked to have seen more, and frankly fans of the series aren’t necessarily getting the “ultimate Mass Effect experience” with the keyboard from visuals alone.

The backlighting though is a serious step up. The standard Blackwidow Ultimate ships with a blue LED backlight, which isn’t very good for gaming. Most peripherals these days take into account playing in the dark, so they use softer colors like Cylon red or soft greens. The Blackwidow didn’t, but the ME3 version does. So if you were on the ropes with the Blackwidow before and wanted a more amicable backlight color, the ME3 version has it.

Remember how I said two things? The second is that the Blackwidow Ultimate ME3 model is the same price as the Blackwidow Ultimate Stealth, a whopping $140, but without the “stealth” function, meaning it costs the same but is louder. Now I have the stealth model and there is a difference, but it’s not that big a deal. If you’re the kind of person who types a lot and quickly and loud enough as it is, then you may want to stick with the Stealth model.

But for gaming purposes or just standard use without extreme typing, the Blackwidow Ultimate ME3 isn’t too loud that it’ll ruin your game. My only problem with the Blackwidow Ultimate ME3, which I also had with the Stealth model, was the break-in period. Most keyboards don’t need to be broken in, or at least not for more than 15 minutes of typing. This one can take up to a month of rigorous use. This review comes after about two weeks and it’s still not quite there. My typing speed has finally matched my maximum, but some keys still mushy.

The software remains unchanged, meaning simple and intuitive. The Blackwidow works out of the box as a plug-and-play device, but with the included software can be completely customized for specific games. That means every key can be assigned in any which way, not just the five side function keys.

In every way the Blackwidow Ultimate Mass Effect edition keyboard is a solid piece of machinery for gaming and computing. It’s pricey, and if you can handle the break-in period it’s an excellent board to add to your gaming rig and Mass Effect collection.

P.S. – the Mass Effect 3 weapons add-on is a joke. As much as I wish they gave some really good weapons, they didn’t.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★☆

Great

Bottom Line: A solid keyboard that gets better as time goes on, made for Mass Effect fans.

Pros:

  • Excellent for typing and gaming; mechanical keys are the best
  • Software is simple and easy to assign any function to any key for any game
Cons:
  • Break-in period can take awhile, even with extended use
  • Expensive; as much as the standard “stealth” model for a very limited Mass Effect paint job
  • The Mass Effect 3 add-ons are a joke.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.