Piling on to its BlackWidow line of gaming keyboards for a more mainstream crowd, Razer takes the opportunity to pair its first hot-swappable-switch keyboard with a reintroduction of its tactile Orange mechanical switches — last seen in the productivity-focused BlackWidow Lite circa 2018.
The compact BlackWidow V4 75% wired keyboard is closest in spirit to the 2-year-old wireless 65% BlackWidow V3 Mini, just a little less Mini. The 75% size adds a few more keys, including a multifunction, mute and a volume roller, as well as the accent key (grave/tilde) to the left of the 1 key. The $190 black model is available now, and a $200 white version is slated for mid-September.
Similar to competitors like the Glorious GMMK 2 and the NZXT Function TKL, you can replace the socketed switches — and keycaps — and add screw-in stabilizers, but the rest is fixed. (You can customize the GMMK if you want to, but out of the box it’s a functional keyboard.) Even if you have no desire to swap ’em, it makes replacing busted switches a lot easier, and mechanicals suffer a lot more friction than opto-mechanical or magnetic-mechanical alternatives.
The Razer ships with its Orange switches, and offers packs of its Green clicky and Yellow linear versions for $25; a dual-sided keycap and switch puller comes in the box. The included double-shot keycaps are made of ABS, not the more durable PBT. Unfortunately, the alternate switch kits weren’t available in time for review. But pulling and replacing them is pretty simple and quick, even if you’ve never pulled so much as a keycap before. While you can disassemble the keyboard if you want — six screws sit between you and the circuit board — it will void the warranty.
Out of the box, the 75% feels a lot more like a productivity keyboard than a gaming keyboard, mostly because of the Orange switches. They feel great for typing, with 3.5mm travel a 2mm actuation point and 0.3mm pre-actuation “bump” that adds a little extra tension to prevent random keypresses for those of us who tend to rest our hands on the keyboard. Those also make the Oranges most suited to slower types of games, like walking sims, turn-based strategy and so on.
The feature set is typical for a gaming keyboard at its price, though, including per-key RGB lighting that you can customize in the Razer Synapse software, recordable macros and custom key bindings. Like all of Razer’s keyboards, secondary functions like keyboard brightness, macro recording and a few others don’t get backlit, which is annoying if you work or game in the dark — a big pet peeve of mine. The keyboard includes a magnetically attached, textured pleather, padded wrist rest like the ones bundled with the rest of the family.
If you’re looking for that trademark clicky mechanical sound, these will probably seem too muted. Razer goes all out with the sound dampening, including using a plastic switch plate that lowers the pitch, built-in dampening in the switch (as with the Yellows), a tape-modded circuit board to further alter the sound frequencies and two foam layers to absorb them.
The end result is a little disconcerting. Because they’re tactile, the switches feel like they should sound clickier and instead have a soft landing, both aurally and haptically. It’s loud enough that I’m conscious of it without a headset, but soft enough that it should be relatively unobtrusive during chat (for mics that don’t have noise reduction). If you tend to bang the spacebar, the sound is slightly more hollow sounding.
Hot-swapping aside, the Razer BlackWidow V4 75% is a very nice keyboard if you want something compact and don’t need the number pad. If you type a lot, the Orange switches have a precise, slightly bouncy feel that’s quite pleasing, but if you’re more interested in gaming you might want to swap them out for something yellower or greener.