There is a basic set of media keys for adjusting volume, and stopping and starting media players that adhere to Microsoft's standards for such keys. On the Black Widow, these media functions are not 'dedicated keys' so they do share Function keys in combination with a special Fn key. The media volume keys worked fine for any application under Windows 7.
Microsoft Media Player, Real Player, Win Amp, and Media Monkey all responded to the volume, stop, and start keys, even if they were running the background. Nero 12 was the only media player I tried that suffered a hick-up. I had to bring Nero Kwik Media into the forground (top one of its windows) before all the media keys worked.
There's also a sleep function combo that can put your computer to sleep provided your OS is set up properly. For Windows 7 64bit based system this worked great with no extra tweaking. To wake up the computer all I had to do was tap any key or click any mouse button (might be dependent on your bios settings). Sleep work just fine without changing anything about the OS or BIOS settings, but don't be surprised if your system needs a little coaxing to make sleep work for you.
Other BW specific shared fn keys include one for quick recording macros on the fly.
You simply tap a fn+F9 combo and an led starts blinking to let you know it is recording. Punch in your macro. Tap the same key combo again, and it's done! If you need to edit the macro it'll be waiting for you in Synapse 2.0 with a default name which you can change, along with any other aspect of the macro you might want to edit.
You get a key to enable/disable a special gaming mode which can be taylored to block certain keys from accidental presses during gaming, while also stepping up extra hypersense and anti-ghosting technologies that the Black Widow provides.
Finishing out the fn key list, are a couple of combos for changing the LED modes.
What Razer did with the keys:
You will enjoy the modified (Not a true ANSI/ISO layout) key layout on the function keys and the bottom most row for gaming.The keys are easier to reach, and less stressful for gaming. This does take some getting used to if you're a stickler for having an 'exact' ANSI/ISO key layout. For me the transition was painless and more than welcome, as the only time I need to quickly press function keys is when gaming anyway. It's a more comfortable layout for me.
The function keys are clustered closer together than standard. They are also pulled down a little closer to the top row of number keys. Is this better? If you have smaller hands and want to easily reach the function row while gaming it's great! If you're more visually reliant as a typist, and concerned about easily being able to glance down and find the right function key it might not be so welcome.
Like any keyboard using the Cherry switches, you can easily remove the key-caps and refit them to other layouts (key angles may vary if a key changes rows); hence this board is ideal if you need to use alternate layouts (Dvorak, Other languages...etc).
The bottom most row of keys is slightly different from the standard as well. The ctrl and alt keys are over-sized, making them easy to find and press, while the windows-special-keys are reduced to a smaller key-size (same as the letter keys). This change also allowed them to pack an extra 'function' key on the right side for addressing keyboard specific functions. Personally, I like this layout for gaming. The only drawback here to me is that it might make it a little more difficult to match 'after-market' or 'custom' key-cap replacements on the bottom most row (You can still get after-market keys in these sizes, but it might be more difficult to get them matched up in pre-fab sets or packages).
The font on the keys is definitely non-standard and is targeted at a gaming market. This font IS very easy to see and read, and in my opinion it looks nice, and certainly isn't a deal breaker. The main thing most people notice is that the R key uses a Razer specific R that looks something like a Greek "Gamma" instead of an R. If this sort of thing bugs you, definitely take a look at some pictures close up before buying.
Due to the way Cherry MX switches are back-lit, only the top half of the keys can be lit evenly without some pretty expensive engineering. For this reason Razer chose to change some visual aspects of the key-caps. Non-shifted characters are located on top and lit. Shifted characters are placed in the center of the key and do NOT light up. This is inverted to what we're used to seeing, but the keys still type out what is expected.
Again, this should not be a deal breaker, as your choices in this price-range of back-lit Cherry based keyboards will most likely suffer from uneven back-lighting (the character printed in the center of the key will be dim, or not lit at all), or they will use the exact same technique as Razer has (not even trying to light the center of the key). Some more expensive boards (at the time this reviewer was shopping) out there might put the un-shifted character and shifted characters side-by-side on the top half of the key and light them both. In short, with Cherry MX boards, expect some kind of compromise on this back-lighting issue for any board in this price range.
Actual key-cap quality isn't bad in my opinion. Back-lit key-caps for Cherry switches all seem to require some compromises that can either shorten their lifespan or cost a premium to solve (some sort of opaque finish or layer has to be applied to a translucent plastic). Provided one keeps these keys wiped on regular basis (oils and sweat can have a high acid or base PH, so wipe them often), they should last for several years of typing/gaming abuse.
Razer's keys do have a more tapered and spherical shape to them, giving them a unique feel.You will like it, especially for gaming where hand-position can often be less than ideal, but those with really wide fingers, expecting 'flatter' key-caps should be aware of this. These keys are definitely the same 'size' as others, but with a lightly more spherical indent/shape to them.
The keyboard does light up green. Without using Synapse one gets a variety of brightness settings using a function key combo (6 I believe, from off, to a pulsating mode). Using Synapse, there are more like 100 brightness settings from barely glowing, to full bright or pulsing mode.
- The chassis finish is a nice mate black.
- You get the standard flip up feet under the back if you like more angle on your keyboard.
- There is a lit Razer logo front and center of the small thumb rest area.
Pass-throughs and cabling:
The main cord is pretty thick and it has braided shielding. It splits into two USB plugs (one is optional for making the keyboard work, but mandatory for using the pass-through), and two 3.5mm stereo male plugs for the headphone/mic passthrough.
All the plugs appear to be gold plated. I guess this is intended to help cut down on corrosion in high humidity climates?
I frequently use the USB passthrough for storage sticks, and occasionally for charging things like iPods. This is also located on the right hand side for easy reach. Since I keep the keyboard in a rolling tray, and the mouse itself lives up a level on the desk, this is a great placement for the USB passthrough...no worries about it getting the way of the mouse given my setup.
- Solid build quality
- Good price point for mechanical
- Very easy to type on and game on
- Rubber base so it stays in place when gaming
- Nice logo lighting and hotkeys
- Finger Print Magnet
- May annoy others in the room with the clicky sound
- Some of the keys are starting to fade