The lines between PC gaming and console gaming have become horribly or delightfully blurred (depending on your stance) to the point of myopia. Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 games use patches and updates the likes of which PC gamers have always been made to juggle. PC games are now taking advantage of more intuitive console-style control schemes than they have before. These include various game pads, racing wheels, this thing and all sorts of tech made to embrace more hybrids setups. Steam’s Big Picture mode has shown us quite nicely what a console experience in the living can be like via your PC.
Controls like this hyrbid from Razer, the Orbweaver Elite Mechanical Gaming Keypad, are not entirely new. But this one offers more buttons, comfort adjustability and full mechanical design. An eternal proponent for PC gaming, Razer is tireless in its efforts to service the growing number of diverse gamers and the play styles they naturally gravitate to. Their new Sabertooth gamepad was a praiseworthy replacement to the Onza. Let’s see if the Orbweaver is a viable successor to their similar Nostromo.
The Orbweaver package is a modest one. It contains the main Orbweaver keypad, an installation manual and a couple Razer logo stickers. Those are in every Razer package and always go to my daughter, who loves them. Razer’s Synapse 2.0 utility suite is not included and requires a download from the company website. A full instruction manual would be nice–something detailed each button’s default function. In Razer’s favor, a nice handy diagram for such is available when you load up the Synapse 2.0 software. Plus a detailed instruction manual is available here and in several languages; so you’re not completely in the lurch. But still, what if a user cannot access the internet? It’s a bit of tedious trial and error to figure it all out.
But Razer wants you to use their software and report on its bugs and shortcomings, which are much fewer than in previous versions. The Synapse 2.0 customization allows you fully customize every input function on the Orbweaver. This includes the main 20 mechanical buttons, the thumb button above the 4-way hat switch and the one below. The hat switch can be used as a directional thumb control or made to take on 4-different keyboard functions. You can also write expansive macros with the Synapse 2.0 utility, adjust the brightness of the green illumination on the keys or set them to pulse. But the ability to set an unlimited number of profiles across 8-different keymap configurations is pretty sweet.
I should note, the Synapse 2.0 software is only required if you wish to customize the setting from their default state. Just plug the device in via USB and Windows 7/8 will find drivers for it (MAC also supported). Buttons 08, 12, 13 and 14 are WASD on a standard keyboard. And the buttons surrounding those are also the same found on a garden variety keyboard. This includes, Shift and Cap Locks. The flat thumb button is Spacebar and the upper thumb button is Alt. Hopefully this will dispell the myth that Razer is rendering devices inoperable unless user install Synapse 2.0.
I think the Orbweaver could be a great addition to your digital arsenal. It adequately comfortable, albeit a little large. But it’s virtual immovable–feet keep it in place nicely. It offers more of just about everything that the Nostromo delivered. You get more buttons, more profiles, more keymaps and a mechanical infrastructure that provides a nice tactile feeback bump to indicate a button has been actuated. The price is also nearly twice that of the Nostromo. The form factor is slightly larger than I want, even after fiddling with each of the 3-adjustable parts. The 3-buttons that mimick WASD are larger than the rest making the unit unnecessarily bigger than it needs to be.
It’s not a deal breaker and gaming with Orbweaver is much like gaming with a keyboard. Although I’ll admit, it does feel a bit cooler–like you’re taking command of some futuristic control scheme. If you’re looking to inject more familiar control with loads of freedom, then check out the Orbweaver. It’s pricey but empowering.
Bottom Line: The Orbweaver keypad from Razer is solid tech. It serves up all your main keyboard gaming functions plus several additional functions all on a diminutive form factor! If you can get a grip on the price the Orbweaver could become an essential tool.
- 20 fully programmable buttons
- Mechanical infrastructure
- Unlimited profiles
- Familiar and intuitive control scheme
- Manual is severely lacking in details