Razer “Tarantula” Gaming Keyboard Review

Admin - 2007-01-22 20:52:53 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: February 1, 2007
Razer
Razer
Price: $129.99

Introduction:


This black beauty has all the potential to be a gamer’s best friend, but is the Razer Tarantula Gaming Keyboard poisonous enough to make its competitors shudder at the thought?

In the late 90’s Razer introduced their first piece of gaming hardware, the “Boomslang” a 2000 DPI Gaming Mouse. Since then, Razer has produced many other high end gaming peripherals. These include the “Copperhead” Mouse which uses it’s own firmware and has a 32kb onboard memory. Recently, Razer has also started producing gaming sound ware with the recent release of their “Barracuda” Gaming Headphones" and the “Barracuda” AC1 Gaming Sound Card”.


Closer Look:


Plain and simple, Razer corners the market when choosing their packaging. I have not encountered one of their products yet that didn’t scream "pick me up."

The Tarantula comes packaged in a black and gray box with a bold picture of its contents right up front.


       

         

The box comes with Velcro tabs to keep it closed and also doubles as a quick way to open the box and see its contents.

 

 

So what do you get when you finally pull the contents out of the box? A jet-black keyboard that shines like a grand piano. The bright acrylic finish is protected by plastic tape so the finish will not get scratched.

This keyboard is very reflective. You can clearly see the wall and ceiling just behind and above while I took this image.

 

Also included are a quick install manual, a user’s guide with driver disk and the Razer “Certificate of Authenticity”.

But what is this? More Keys and a funny looking ring shaped thing. I will explain them thoroughly later in the review.

 

Installation:

Looking at the keyboard things might get confusing. The keyboard has two USB connectors and two connectors for sound?


The USB connectors are set as primary and secondary and provide power / lighting to the keyboard. The other two connectors are so you may plug your headphones directly into the keyboard. One for your microphone the other for earphones, there are also two additional USB connectors.

After connecting the keyboard to your computer insert the driver install disk into your CD/DVD Rom drive and follow the on screen instructions. This is the simple part; your next step will be tweaking the keyboard to your desired preferences. (See Testing)


Configuration;

Razer has produced a Power Point presentation for the software configuration; I will be using their presentation and commenting on my own experiences. The Power Point presentation is very thorough and I found it as a useful aid when I was learning about the Tarantula Keyboard. If you have read any of my other input device reviews you are aware that I normally go through the configuration with my own screenshots, I will use some of my own but due to the complexity of the keyboard and since Razer has provided the presentation, I feel it will be easier to explain using their images.

Graphic User Interface (GUI) of the "Tarantula"

Looking at the keyboard it appears slightly larger than a normal keyboard but it also contains a few extra keys and some media controls.

While in the GUI you will have options to set which media player, graphics program and profile you would prefer. These are some of the many options that can be set.

 


 

Imaging and Media Player Options

The first steps are to configure which imaging and media program are preferred. On each end of the keyboard are the controls for each, the left side will control zoom rotation and percentage for imaging. The right side will open your media program, control playback, system volume and mute. I've chosen Adobe Photoshop and iTunes.


Macro Keys 

Macros are a series of keystrokes commands that allow you to launch programs, or set one key to perform a specific function that may take multiple keys. (Ex, Alt + Ctrl + I to resize an image in Photoshop) By setting a macro all you need is one key.


 

 

    Robert "Razer Guy" Krakoff has provided OCC with a Macro Tutorial which he has written,  I found it to be another useful tool in configuring the  keyboard.

Key Options

    The Key option toggle is used to set the keyboard to either open a standard window popup or the “Tarantula” driver control.


 


 

Auto Switching Override

 Auto Switching allows the keyboard to choose a selected profile once a program is opened. By marking the check box in the driver control panel this option can be set on or off.


Onscreen Changes Option

By toggling this check box on or off you will be able to see your changes onscreen once a program is opened and your profile changes.

Profile Customization

This is used to store profiles and there are five different purposes on why you would want to do this

Purpose A:

Has four ways, by using the profile button, configuring F1 to F12 keys, using a profile in the profile selection menu or programming a macro key.

 

Purpose B:

Auto Switching of profiles and, setting your default profile.

 

Purpose C:

Saving a profile.

 

Purpose D & E:

Loading a profile and resetting a profile.

 

 

Keymap Swapping and Re-Assigning QWERTY Keys


Keymapping can be considered as using two profiles as a single profile, which contains two different sets of macros and QWERTY keys.

QWERTY; what does this have to do with a keyboard? Consider it as the universal interface of all keyboards. The “Tarantula” keyboard allows you to change the universal layout within a profile.

 

The "Tarantula" also allows you to change the keyboards mode from Legacy to Turbo. Legacy mode can best be described as USB supported, where Turbo would revert back to PS/2. If your motherboard doesn't support Legacy drivers setting the keyboard to Turbo will allow you to utilize it's advanced options. (EX. volume control)

Although the "Tarantula" has many tutorials and can be easily programmed, I wouldn't suggest that someone with very little computer knowledge try this on their own. In order to program the keyboard correctly time and patience is required. Once your done, playing your favorite game or using your preferred application is no farther than a keystroke away.

You can find the Software How To Power Point on Razers website.


 

Specifications;

Again Razer has produced a very detailed Hardware Outline, I will be using these and commenting if needed.

Overview and Replaceable Keys

 

HyperResponse Keys and Anti-Ghosting

HyperResponse Keys allow for decreased Latency and the Anti-Ghosting allows simultaneous pressing of multiple keys at one time. (up to ten)

 

Programmable Macro Keys and On-The-fly Gaming Detection

Store up to 10 Macros, five on each side and launch your favorite game and it's profile on the fly.

 

Profiles

With the Razer Synapse your 32kb of onboard memory will store up to five profiles, via your configuration you can store up to 100 profiles.

 

Iridescent Glow and Media Keys

The macro keys glow iridescently to be seen in the dark and the keyboard also has media keys to open your favorite media player and control the system volume. 








Technical Comparison
RAZER TARANTULA™ STANDARD KEYBOARD
ANTI-GHOSTING CAPABILITY KEYBOARD GHOSTING (MAX 3 SIMULTANEOUS KEYPRESSES)
OPTIMIZED HYPERESPONSE™ GAMING KEYTOP WITH REPLACEABLE KEYS N/A
32KB ONBOARD MEMORY POWERED BY RAZER SYNAPSE™ WITH 5 ONBOARD PROFILES N/A
100 PROFILES WITH DRIVERS N/A
10 PROGRAMMABLE GAMING MACRO KEYS N/A
10 HOT KEYS (WITH ICONS) TO ADD ON KEYTOP N/A
PLUG AND PLAY WITHOUT DRIVER N/A
BATTLE DOCK FUNCTION N/A
ON-THE-FLY GAME DETECTION N/A
EARPHONE-OUT, MICROPHONE-IN JACKS N/A
FULLY INTERCHANGEABLE AND PROGRAMMABLE KEYS FIXED KEYS WITHOUT PROGRAMMING FUNCTIONS
CONVENIENT MEDIA KEYS CONVENIENT MEDIA KEYS

You can also download the "Hardware Guide Power Point" from Razers Site.


Testing:

Testing the Tarantula was probably the easiest part of this review. After I configured my profiles, set my macros and installed my new macro keys it was, to coin an expression a "piece of cake".

When I opened Photoshop the macros in the photoshop profile worked like a charm, no more moving my mouse around the whole screen to copy and paste or resize an image. When i wanted to listen to my iTunes, I just hit my media button and I was ready to listen to my new favorite song. Adjusting the system volume and forwarding to the next song were just as easy.

What about gaming? Nice! Launch a game and the autoswitch changed my profile to whatever game I was playing. What really impressed me was that I could assign any key on the whole keyboard to anything. All keys are totally programmable and bindable.

If you remember back in closer look one of the pictures had extra keys and a funny looking ring. These keys are used to replace other keys that can be removed by using the key remover ring. Just snap the ring over the key you want to remove pull up and replace it with your desired extra. For me the new keys are visual reminders of what I binded to them, I'm using them in my Call of Duty 2 profile and now I don't have to mentally think of what I binded, I just have to look.

Razer will also be releasing accessories for the Tarantula, a "BattleLight" which will further Illuminate the keyboard and a "BattleEye" which will have a built in camera. These accessories will connect to the keyboard itself in it's top docking port. This review will be updated when they come available. (Both not pictured)

 

 

Conclusion:

I’ve used many other programmable gaming keyboards, including the Z-Board and Saitek Eclipse II, none have compared to the Razer Tarantula. While the others may have glitzy backlights or multiple keyboard inserts, they are not as programmable. They do not have the ability to be portable. Since the “Tarantula” uses Razer Synapse (onboard 32kb memory), I’ve stored 5 profiles on it and when I go to a friend’s house or at work my settings are just keystrokes away. I like the fact that every key is programmable and the keys are at the right sensitivity so I don’t have to hover over them anymore. With the keyboard being ambidextrous, I could set macros on either side, unlike its competitors. I’ve been using the Tarantula for a month now and every day I am learning something new. Just be sure to download the hardware and software guides, these are to the Tarantula what the Bible is to religion.

Razer is also forming a Tarantula Community; you will be able to download profiles to games and applications, as well as macros. I was told by “The Razer Guy” himself that there will be at least fifty professional gamers loading profiles to the community. Also if you think you might have a good setup or just to have it up, not to lose it, anyone in the community can upload a profile or macro. This might well give the average gamer a competitive edge.

Pros:

Cons: