When it comes to video game input devices, the keyboard is probably the furthest from ideal. Let’s face it, keyboards were not designed to serve as game peripherals. However, PC gamers have bent their gaming habits to fit the restrictions of the standard keyboard for so many years that most prefer keyboard controls to a gamepad. The WASD control scheme for shooters has long been the default but as games have become more complex - shooters especially - the need for quick access to the surrounding keys has become more and more evident. Hardware manufacturers recognized the need for faster, smoother and more-precise mice as gaming became more popular and many felt they could improve on the keyboard design as well. The problem is that the keyboard is not a finesse device. Either the keys are there or they aren’t and either you can reach them or you can’t.
I’ve never really understood the gaming keyboard market. Mice I get because a high-end mouse can make games more comfortable and the controls tighter. But I’ve always thought of gaming keyboards as a lot of overpriced hype. If you suck at games, a more-expensive keyboard is not going to save you. Maybe I’m old-fashioned. I haven’t played with any gaming keyboards for a few years though so I decided to give them another look to see if anything has changed. I wasn’t able to get my hands on a Logitech G15 in time for the article but I did snag a couple of Wolf King models and the Razer Tarantula just to see if they offered anything beyond a keyboard that comes with a new computer.
Approximate Price - £50(€74)
Razer Tarantula Gaming Keyboard
Razer has long used the slogan "For gamers by gamers," and their mouse line that includes the Diamondback, the DeathAdder and the Boomslang has proven that they know what gamers like. The Tarantula stays true to the classic keyboard shape but adds ten programmable and customizable keys - five along each side. These keys can not only be programmed with macros or assigned applications in the Razer software, but the Tarantula comes with a tool to remove the key and replace it with a different key from a set with custom icons like a fist, a knife or crosshairs. Many gaming keyboards backlight the keys for dark rooms but the Tarantula only backlights these 10 custom keys.
This keyboard also features the multimedia controls for music and picture zoom and the keys are set down the left and right side apart from the gaming hotkeys. The applications associated with these keys are assigned in the driver.
The Tarantula offers up to 100 separate stored profiles in the driver and up to five can be stored on the keyboard itself thanks to the 32 KB of onboard memory. While 100 different keyboard configurations seem excessive, being able to carry five of them with you for LAN parties is nice. It also offers the Razer "Battledock," which is a port at the top center of the keyboard where you can plug in Razer Battledock accessories (sold separately) like the Battlelight to illuminate the keys or the Battleeye which is a Webcam. The Tarantula offers what the vendor calls "hyperresponse keys," an anti-ghosting capability allowing up to 10 keys to be pressed at the same time and 1000-Hz Ultrapolling with a 1-ms response time. That all sounds pretty fancy...for a keyboard.
I don’t mean to knock the Tarantula, but it seems like a lot of flash for a lot of money. It is a great keyboard - albeit large - with a lot of customization options. The two USB ports and the easy access to headphone and mic jacks is great if you have a computer where they’re buried in the back and the keys have a nice spring to them and great feel. But the difference is not really noticeable in a game. If you’re really into custom mapping keys and macros, this may be worth the money for you. But if your regular keyboard already works fine for you, the Tarantula may not have too much to offer.
Here are some more images of the Razer Tarantula. Click them to see the full size.