The Razer Tarantula is a hardcore gaming keyboard that has every feature a gamer could want, with one noticeable exception – no backlit keys. It’s still a solid, comfortable keyboard though, with plenty of extras and although we struggled a bit with the included software, once everything was working we were surprised at the amount of customization it offered.
Features and Design
The Tarantula is a wired keyboard with full-size keys, a keypad and special feature buttons on both the right and left side of the keyboard. It’s all-black, with blue backlighting on the macro keys on both sides, and a pulsing Razer logo beneath the palm rest. The keyboard has a number of intriguing features.
The blue Razer logo on the palm rest softly pulses on and off
Anti-ghosting capability: We weren’t sure what this was when we read it on the box, but apparently it’s the ability to allow up to ten buttons to be pressed at once without the keyboard freezing.
Onboard memory: The Tarantula has 32kb of onboard memory that is used to store profiles for different games, so you can have a custom profile for each game you play (as long as you don’t play more than five games concurrently).
Ultra-responsive: Razer claims the keyboard polls (or “reads keystrokes”) at 1000Hz, which is eight times faster than a standard keyboard for increased responsiveness.
Programmable hotkeys: Each side of the keyboard has five programmable keys, and the keys themselves can also be replaced with custom keys that have icons instead of letters or numbers such as grenades, ammo, rifle, etc.
The Tarantula sports ten programmable keys, and you can even replace keys ten included icon keys for ammo, rifle, etc.
Headphone and mic jacks: You can plug your headphone and microphone directly into the Tarantula, rather than having to sneak behind your PC to plug them in. There are also two non-powered USB ports as well.
Headset users can plug their sets directly into the Tarantula for easy access
Programmable Media keys: The Tarantula features programmable media keys that let you control your media player of choice. You can also turn down the volume, zoom in on pictures, open your browser or put your PC to sleep.
Battledock: Above the keyboard is a small USB plug that lets you plug in Razer accessories such as the BattleLight, which is a light for the keyboard.
The optional BattleLight provides night time illumination
Use and Testing
We tested the Tarantula for several weeks and came away impressed, but not blown away. When we first took the Tarantula out of the box we were surprised by how large it is. It’s a normal keyboard size from top to bottom, but is extra wide due to the extra buttons adorning both sides of it.
We flipped up the little tabs on the back as we prefer a slightly elevated keyboard, and found the ergonomics immediately comfortable. We then decided to plug it in, and discovered there are two USB cables, one thick and one thin. You can get by with just the thick cable, but the other cable provides power to the USB ports. The ports are non-powered though, and run at USB 1.1 speed, so they will not work with a USB key, but will be just fine for a mouse or headset.
Once everything was connected we were stoked to find that the media keys and extra buttons worked fine in Windows with no drivers. Of course, we wanted to customize them so we decided to install the included software. Once we had done that, we were dismayed to find that the keyboard was not being detected by the software, even though it was working fine in Windows. Not surprisingly, this is the exact same problem we had with the Razer DeathAdder mouse. This is obviously a problem Razer needs to address as mice from its competitors just work, and there’s no need to update firmware, uninstall drivers and re-install them, etc. Once we had updated both the firmware and the driver for the mouse we were able to make some customizations, and we liked how easy it was to select different programs to use for the custom buttons. The buttons themselves are easy to use as well though they do take a bit of force to press down.
We also fiddled with the macro settings and were surprised at the amount of customization available. You can select a macro key, then press the buttons you want it to perform, and you can even insert delays between key presses from 50ms to 200ms. You then select which profile it goes in, and you can store up to 100 profiles. We also removed a few keys with the included “key remover tool” and found the process quite easy.
For gaming and desk jockey work the Tarantula is very comfortable and felt great to our fingers. We were never able to perceive any extra bit of precision, however, and the keyboard felt like a normal keyboard to us. The one big area of disappointment is that the keys are not backlit, which is odd given that the keys on the edges of the keyboard are backlit. And since this is a keyboard that costs $100 USD, we expect that feature.
The Tarantula is a great keyboard, no doubt. It’s comfortable, sturdy and has useful extras. But it’s a minor let down, and at $100 USD it’s a bit overpriced. We liked the ergonomics, the extra features and the general feel of the keys and the palm rest, but were put off by the difficult software installation, lack of backlighting and somewhat high price tag.
• Comfortable ergonomics
• Useful extra buttons
• Lots of customization potential
• Indiscernible “precision,”
• Main keys are not backlit
• Wonky software