Not all gaming keyboards are created equally. Some are full-size, some are TKL and then some are so compact, they’re to be used with just one hand, such as the Razer Orbweaver Chroma and Razer Tartarus Chroma we have in the eTeknix office today. For many games these days, you actually don’t need the full keyboard. Short of playing full-blown simulations games you can get away with a smaller key set, but don’t think that because it’s shorter on keys, that these two controllers don’t offer a huge amount of features, because they’ve got a lot to offer to you and your desktop gaming setup.
We’ve got both models in today to take a look at what they have to offer, the Orbweaver features twenty main keys and Razer’s own design mechanical green switches. The Tartarus features a membrane switch and fifteen main keys, offering a slightly more affordable solution, but still packing the bulk of the features of the more expensive model, such as Razer’s Chroma 16.8 million colour RGB lighting engine, an 8-way thumbpad, a pair of thumb switches, multiple profiles, macros, adjustable ergonomics and more!
Both devices are quite similar, with great specifications, so let’s jump right in and take a closer look at what they have to offer.
The packaging for both controllers is nicely designed, with a clear image on the front as well as a few of the main specifications. Of course, the Orbweaver also has the details about the Razer Mechanical switches, clearly highlighting it as the premium model of the two.
Around the back, a more detailed run down of the spec in multiple languages, but we’ll get them out the box and take a closer look ourselves.
In the box for the Orbweaver, you’ll find the hard-wired controller, as well as a small collection of documentation.
The same again for the Tartarus.
A Closer Look – Orbweaver
The design of this thing is certainly impressive, it looks immediately enticing to want to have a go on it and game. There’s a very clear ergonomic design to it too, with the padded wrist rest, an adjustable palm rest and a sweeping ergonomic curve to the key layout.
The actual keyboard component has a slim design and shallow key caps, this is made possible by the reduced travel distance of the Razer switches, and this can also help improve response times, if only by milliseconds.
Down the left side, you’ll see a large wing section that features three LED indicators, as well as a set of unique thumb controls.
There’s a button at the top edge, an 8-way D-pad below that which can be easily controlled with your thumb and a panel below that, which can be triggered by moving your thumb down a little; it’s really easy and intuitive to get to grips with.
The ergonomics on it fit snug in your hand and don’t worry if they don’t, as you can easily adjust the length without the use of tools.
the base of the controller is covered in firm rubber grips, ensuring that it doesn’t slide around your desk, no matter how hard you’re taking your rage out mid-game.
The grippy palm rest is curved to better fit your hand and if you look closely. Here you can see it tilted all the way back.
And finally, the metal bolt underneath can be pulled, allowing you to slide the wrist rest grip further away or closer to the keyboard.
A Closer Look – Taratarus
It’s immediately clear that the Tartarus has a lot in common with its bigger brother, much of the design is similar, but there are certainly some notable changes. The rest and palm rest is now a single piece, although this can still be extended away from the keyboard to customise the fit.
There are not only three rows of keys instead of four, and the switches are a membrane switch. Although I must admit that they’re very good switches and still have a nice tactile pop to them that’s going to be great for gaming.
The key caps have a similar short travel to the Orbweaver and you can see there are some arrows in there pointing to which keys are best suited to the usual WASD pre-sets.
There’s a nice ergonomic sweep to the key layout too, which allows for a comfortable hand and finger resting position.
While the curvy design of the palm and wrist rest allows you to get a really good grip on the device as you would on something like a gaming mouse.
The 8-way D-pad and the two control switches on the side are identical to those found on the other model, perfectly located to navigate them with your thumb.
The base has a number of thick rubber grips too, which help keep it firmly locked in place on your desktop, as you wouldn’t want it sliding away from you in the heat of battle.
Both of the controllers are equipped with Razer’s rather fantastic Chroma lighting engine, this means you can enjoy 16.8 million RGB colours, so finding your favourite tone shouldn’t be a problem at all. On top of that, you can also enjoy a bunch of effects that apply colour waves, fades, transitions and more to them, giving you a fantastic light show and one that can be matched up to any other Razer Chroma equipped products, giving you some rather stunning synchronised lighting for your desktop setup. The brightness of the lighting is very vivid, with clearly lit key caps and a nicely defined underlighting around the base of each key. A picture speaks a thousand words for lighting, so below you’ll find plenty of pictures of the Orbweaver and further down, you’ll also see the Tartatus in all its glory.
The adjustable grip of the Orbweaver is certainly a standout feature for me. Being able to adjust the angle of the palm rest can really have a drastic impact on the feel of the controller. Having it at the wrong angle can make it tricky to easily reach all the buttons too, so it’s worth tweaking it to find out what best suits your play style. It certainly takes a bit of getting used to vs a normal keyboard, as functions such as sprint and crouch are now situated on smaller keys than their usual left shift, CTRL, etc. However, having them nice and tight together like this makes them feel more nimble and can certainly sharpen up your overall responses. The removal of the space bar felt weird too, but having that large mechanical pedal will have you smiling with joy. It’s light to trigger and just needs a little flick from your thumb to operate, a huge improvement over a cumbersome space bar.
The thumb controls do take a bit of practice to get the hang of, as they’re not natural to use when you’re coming from a normal keyboard. The top button is great for launching a macro or setting to an “E” key to open doors, boxes etc while playing most FPS games. However, it’s the 8-way D-pad that’s a big game changer. You can use it to control cameras, are a more complex weapon selection. Personally, I find this is better suited to simulation games, where having that extra hat switch can be used for extra camera control or flight adjustments, etc. The best way to use it is to be creative, have a play around with it and try a few things to see what works best for you.
The main focus is easily those twenty mechanical switches. Their short-range makes them feel nice and quick, which is great for virtually any type of gaming. The key layout is well suited to anything too, as you still have a layout that’s perfect for WASD and the usual activate, crouch, jump, etc. around it. What really benefits here, at least in my opinion, are MOBA, RTS and MMORPG type games, as you can keep your main keys and macros in a focused layout.
The Tartarus is noticably more compact design and actually feels a little less intimidating to use at first too. There’s still enough buttons here to get you through an FPS, MOBA, MMO, etc. However, there’s certainly a clear benefit to the Orbweaver for those who take their macros more seriously and it can have a great benefit for MMORPG and simulation game types. There’s still a lot of buttons on this model though and easily enough left over to set up a few macros beyond the usual game keys.
The membrane switches are snappy and responsive, with the advantage that they’re near silent to operate; a big benefit of most membrane switches vs the audibly clicky green switches of the Orbweaver. This isn’t so much a feature as a personal choice, some of you will prefer the mechanical and some will prefer the membrane. The only difference that’s really worth noting is that each model isn’t available in both membrane and mechanical variants, so if you want those extra switches of the Orbweaver you’re going to have to use mech switches; not really a bad thing though.
This model is a little less adjustable than its bigger brother, but it’s still extremely comfortable to use. I’m actually surprised at how natural they feel in terms of ergonomics and grip, as they obviously look nothing like a keyboard. Getting used to using all the keys to their full potential, especially the thumb controls, takes a little mental training, but it’s pretty intuitive for the most part.
Both models have excellent grips on the base, even when frantically mashing the keys it didn’t move one bit and that’s obviously a nice bonus. What really works well is if you take your keyboard completely out of the equation, you’re left with a huge amount of desktop space, which gives you a great range for a comfortable angle for both hands, as well as a wide play area for mouse control, allowing you to enjoy low DPI and a larger gaming surface for great accuracy.
These controllers are certainly unique in their approach to gaming, as they’re about as big a departure from a standard keyboard as you could get while still maintaining the core features, as well as mixing in a few new ones too. While they’re quite versatile for a wide range of gaming, the Tartarus is perfect for FPS gaming, League of Legends style MOBAs, RPGs and so on. The Orbweaver, however, dominates when it comes to MMORPG style games, as it has a much bigger control set and that means more macros, more control and thanks to that more adjustable palm rest, even greatest long-term comfort for those marathon gaming sessions.
I’ve seen a few people with this type of controller recently, with a nice little curve ball to how they were intended to be used. Do you have a racing wheel mounted to your desk? It can be tricky to reach your keyboard. Have one of these strapped to the arm of your chair and you’ve got a great range of extra macros, launchers, shortcuts and more at your fingertips, which is great if you’ve got a steering wheel with a limited button set of its own. This works for any simulation setup too, especially so for flight sims as that extra D-pad thumb control can really come in handy for camera adjustments and more. I’ve seen people have this as part of their VR setup too, as with an Oculus Rift on your head it can be tricky to navigate a normal keyboard; having something like this that fits snug into your grip is so much easier to operate blind.
There is an elephant in the room, though, and that’s the price. The Tartarus isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s nearly half the price of the Orbweaver, making it great value for money in comparison to its big brother. With most of the same core features and fewer buttons, this is easily the one to go for if you’re just looking to add a new dynamic to your desktop gaming. The Orbweaver is for those who want to take thinks a lot more seriously, with mechanical switches that give it a premium feel and premium performance, they’re fast, have a great tactile response and it’s clear Razer put a lot of work into their switch design. With a large bank of keys, you’ll not be short of control, macros and anything else you may need and this is going to pay off big for MMORPG gamers.
The amount of desktop space you can save it huge, push your keyboard out-of-the-way, give yourself a lot of extra space for your mouse and a much more natural arm resting position for both the controller and your mouse; something that will reap huge rewards in terms of comfort after a long gaming session.
- Great build quality
- Unique and stylish design
- Adjustable ergonomics
- Saves a lot of desktop space
- Great for a wide range of game types
- Thumb controls add a new dynamic to your game
- Stunning RGB lighting and effects
- Easy to set up and use
- Fantastic mechanical switches (Orbweaver)
- Great membrane switches (Tartarus)
- Prices could be better, but this is enthusiast gaming gear and quite specialist
“The Orbweaver and the Tartarus add a new dynamic do your desktop gaming. Either as an addition to your keyboard, mouse or simulation setup, or as a fresh alternative to the standard keyboard controls. With great ergonomics, functionality and design, they’re a welcome addition to any serious gaming environment.”
Thank you Razer for providing us with these samples.