How many different products can modern manufacturers incorporate a touch screen? You know, with that question now out in the open air, I’m not sure I want the answer. Touch screens are popping up like mad. I have one on my phone of course, a digital video recorder, a fan controller for my PC and now I have one on two different keyboards.
Thanks to our recent Mad Catz keyboard review, you should all be experts on the multifaceted S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 modular gaming keyboard and it’s resistive V.E.N.O.M. touch screen display. But Razer demands equal recognition for their new Deathstalker Ultimate gaming keyboard with its “Switchblade” touch screen UI. It ‘s similarly fully-featured with a slew of apps and functions baked right in for use on the touch screen. This is the exact same capacitive user interface found on Razer’s BLADE 2 gaming laptop and surprisingly, nothing is compromised. Despite the glitz and elegance, a few things need attention. Let’s begin!
The main feature list is nothing particularly noteworthy, until you get to the touch screen. The chiclet style keys are fully programmable, the backlighting is tri-color and can be customize via Synapse 2.0 software. We have 1000Hz ultrapolling with a 1ms response time. A dedicated game mode can be set so you can disable certain keys, which tend to get accidentally pressed while gaming. These include Alt, the Windows key and others. Also while in Gaming mode or logged in to Synapse 2.0, users get a 10-key rollover, where 10 keys can be pressed simultaneously and all are recognized. Yet the features that set the Deathstalker Ultimate apart from the rabble are the aforementioned multi-touch LCD track-panel and the sophisticated 10 dynamic display keys (80Hz response time)
Unboxing the Deathstalker Ultimate is as simple as removing the board from the packaging and briefly flipping though the small bundle of stickers, product brochure and user manual. There is no assembly required. This is the complete opposite of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7. There are an assortment of plugs, wrist rests and so much more, which all requires some form of assembly. The down side of that setup ease…? The Deathstalker Ultimate does not break down. It’s one solid unit from the left macro keys all the way to the touch screen. You can’t even remove the wrist rest. So if some form of modular customization is what you seek, the Deathstalker Ultimate is not for you.
How about “elegance” is that for you? Because this one radiates it like a high fashion GQ model. From the solid, less-modular look to the lowered chiclet style keys to the 800×600 capacitive multi-touch screen interface. The Razer Deathstalker Ultimate is a showstopper! You can even display your favorite images on the touch screen for a more tailored appeal. These can be pulled right from your computer directories. I should note this feature is untested as I could not get my images to appear on-screen. But that’s a minor crumb from a very rich table.
Getting things up and running is not quite as cut and dry as the unboxing. You must download Razer’s patented Synapse 2.0 software. Run the installer and follow the instruction prompts. Now register for an account, plug in the Deathstalker Ultimate to your computer, run the Synapse 2.0 application and then log in. From there Synapse 2.0 will begin downloading all the most recent components of which there are usually no less than 18 upon your initial installation. The installation process took more than half-hour. Something must be done about that. But if you’re an existing Synapse 2.0 user, then you should be very used to the frequent updates and such.
It’s a nuisance for sure, but Synapse 2.0 seems “…better. Stonger. Faster”. In the past it was plagued with freezing and crashing. There is no sign of that. Bravo Razer! Moreover, it’s intuitive and makes creating and editing macros just as easy as the Smart Technology used by Mad Catz. I did run into a couple issues. One is mentioned above–the wallpaper problem. The other… The LCD touch screen replaces a traditional Numpad. You can pull up a virtual Numpad which looks very similar to what you see on your touch screen smartphone when looking at the dial pad. But sometimes, when I hit a series of numbers only the first digit appears and removes the cursor from whatever field or file I was working in. I have to manually move the mouse cursor back to the file and then punch in the numbers using the garden variety keys fund at the top of the keyboard. I’m sure this can be fixed, but currently it makes the Numpad app quite unreliable.
The other touch screen applications, of which the Deathstalker Ultimate holds no shortage, seem to function just fine. The touch screen has apps for Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, a timer, clock, YouTube, trackpad and the Numpad mentioned above. There is also a very handy screenshot application that captures and organizes your screenshots. You can choose between a gallery panel style listing or a general list with all your screenshots. You can even view the images right on the touch screen. For me, this is the single most useful app among the fluff offered currently.
Again, this is a full capacitive touch screen. It supports gestures such as two finger scrolling up, down or sideways. You can also use 3-fingers to single swipe left and access the game profiles(3-finger swipe right to return), the screenshot app and a title-specific set of timers. The timers are more fluff. But the game profiles…? There are profiles tailored to Team Fortress 2, Battlefield 3, Counter-Strike: GO and SWTOR. Choose one of these profiles and a nice corresponding game title image will appear on the touch screen. For instance if you select BF3, then you must choose which class you plan to play (Recon, Assault etc…) right from the touch screen. The 10 display keys then show an image that corresponds to one of the in-game actions. Go prone, or switch to your pistol, or specialty item are but a few of the baked in options. You can even customize and edit this further. Or go and create a completely different profile. You can also have the display keys show your custom created button images. It’s kind of neat but not really what I want from a touch screen-on-a-keyboard solution.
I wish there was something here more compelling, regarding the apps. Both the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 and Deathstalker fall short of a game changing killer app. The best each offers is the screenshot dealy on the Deathstalker Ultimate and the Team Speak integration on the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7. Razer, like Mad Catz, is aware that gamers want more from their screens. So hopefully we will see more apps in the future.
Each keyboard’s LCD focuses on something different. The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7’s is best for launching programs and it’s TS collaboration. The Deathstalker Ultimate screen is best used as a secondary input device and on-keyboard web browser. But I found no way to set favorites or change the homepage from razerzone.com–which is so self-serving in a gastric-churning kind of way.
But I can’t complain a lick about the general keyboard performance. The Deathstalker Ultimate is not a mechanical keyboard by any means. Yet I really like typing on it–a lot!! I thought I preferred the mock-mechanical feel of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 over the Deathstalker Ultimate. But I can type so much faster on these lowered chiclet style keys. There is no lag and everything seems very responsive. The flat keys have a bit more surface area and are easy to reach all around. I have no issues in typing or gaming.
There you have it–a big complicated review for an equally sophisticated product. The Razer Deathstalker Ultimate is an impressive board that needs a bit more time to realize its full potential. Only a couple apps are majorly useful to gamers. I am confident more sought LCD functions will trickle down eventually. Let’s not forget Razer now has its own GameBooster client that does do video capture, among many other things. Theoretically this could be tacked on to work with the Deathstalker Ultimate multi-touch LCD screen. Until then you get an obscenely stylish all black keyboard, a large cache of fun but not particularly useful applications and general-use performance that is as handsome as the aesthetics.
Bottom Line: The Deathstalker Ultimate is unlike any keyboard we’ve seen thus far. The full capacitive keyboard will turn many heads. Plus general keyboard performance is excellent. I can easily recommend this one as I know Razer is committed to enhancing the longevity of that touch screen with more gamer-targeted applications.
- Most handsome keyboard on the market
- Super comfortable and responsive
- Chiclet key layout actually speeds up typing
- Multifaceted multi-touch LCD screen
- Screenshot app is a winner
- Some software kinks
- Few compelling touch screen apps
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.