Keyboards, like the PSU, are often skimped on. I mean, why would…should anyone spend 300 to 400 Dhs on a keyboard when just an equally apt looking keyboard is available for a fraction of the price? And to be honest, that’s an acceptable thought process. Why would an avg. Joe Charlie require an expensive, fancy keyboard when all he would be doing is Twittering and Facebooking every aspect of his life like the world gives a dang? But for any serious gamer worth his skills, they should not settle for anything less than the beastiest. The keyboard, an equipment that will be taking the most abuse (haaaaave you meet Lost Planet?), needs to be fancy, sturdy, should have countless buttons, be comfortable, have senseless but cool sounding technology and of course, should be humongous. That’s how we roll. The less and less of desk space we have the more ‘gamer’ and ‘important’ it looks.
Of the many choices for gaming mouses, keyboards are left high and dry with only few options to choose from. Of those is the Razer Lycosa Mirror gaming keyboard. Although not as huge as other keyboards of the category, and not featuring any additional macro buttons, it completes rest of the aforementioned requisites with aplomb. Along with a sense of style and good looks the Lycosa features 1000Hz Ultrapolling, 1ms response time, touchpanel media keys, Razer’s Hypersense technology and backlit illumination. But is the Lycosa worth its asking price (approx 300 Dhs)? For that I took a closer look:
Users obsessed with keeping their hardware in pristine condition should look away right about now. The Razer Lycosa Mirror, as the name suggests, features a black glossy mirror finish. And i mean it in all its literal sense, you can actually see yourself in this keyboard. It’s the same material that dons the PS3. That means that the squicky, new-y smooth finish will last for about like 15 mins before it is smudged all over the place, and if you live in a dusty place, you will be able to distinguish every tiny particle on it.
On the top right corner is the media player control panel. Razer opted for a touch panel rather than standard buttons. You have keys for play, pause, stop, rewind, and forward. Unfortunately, they only work on Windows Media Player, so if you are using any other player like VLC or my personal favorite The KMPlayer, you can just forget about using the control panel. There is also a button (or should i call it the..touch-ton?) that controls the backlight. It has three modes: one tap will make the entire keyboard go dark, another brings back the lights on and a subsequent tap only lits the WASD keys at roughly double the brightness. The latter is quiet useless as games require a lot more keys than just the movement functions, so your best bet will be to always keep the entire keyboard illuminated as it gets a little hard to read without any backlighting, even in bright conditions.
Moving on to the back, you will find a single USB port, a headphone output and a microphone input. Each of those ports has its own dedicated cable. I would have much rather preferred if there was just one USB cable powering both the port and the keybaord. Sure, Razer isn’t too keen on sharing any bandwith with the keyboard cable but i know it can handle it just fine and it saves me a little clutter, too.
The palm rest is well sized and has a firm grip on the surface. It is held by four screws than simple plastic clips. The rest is quiet comfortable and I have never felt it hamper my typing in any sort of way.
The accompanying Razer Lycosa ‘driver control’ software is where the heart and soul is. Though the installation required a restart, it was smooth and we had it running at no time. Let’s have a look:
The software sports a neat, catchy look, something we have come to expect from Razer. At the top you have two drop down menus - Light Options and Media Player Options. The Light Options menu lets you choose between ‘on’, ‘off’ or ‘WASD’. It functions the same as the backlight controller button on the keyboard. The Media Player Options menu lets you select which player the media keys should launch. You are given the choice between four popular players – Windows Media Player, iTunes, Real Player and Winamp (people still use that?!).
At the bottom of this window, there are few more options to be made. Auto Switching Override checkbox allows you to choose whether you want the driver control to automatically switch between profiles if the assigned application is running. Show Changes on Screen checkbox displays a message on screen when the profile changes from one to another, however, it didn’t seem to work. And the last option, System Tray Default prevents the driver control to launch when you double click the tray icon. Why did they deem necessary to have this option is beyond me.
Now, let’s come to the meat of the driver control software. As you can see, on the software window you will find a large size diagram of the keyboard. From here you can individually select every key and assign different functions and macros to each one of them. Upon clicking on a key, a menu pops down below the window giving you a plethora of customizations to choose from.
Firstly, you can record and assign a macro with options to either insert or delete delay, and can also assign mouse clicks by using the small mouse image at the bottom. You can also change how you want the macro to behave. You can choose One-Time, which as the name implies, will perform the macro once. Repeat while pressed will repeat the macro as long as the key is pressed. Repeat until next key is pressed will continue repeating a macro until another key is pressed.
You also have the options to set Basic Commands (cut, past, copy, print, etc) and Additional Commands (close window, Run, Open Explorer, etc) to a key. The Launch Program function lets you assign an application to key or you can choose to have a Windows Run command assigned to it. A key can also be assigned to change a profile in the Select Profile check box. If Normal change is selected it will instant change to the assigned profile when the key is pressed. Change only when key is held will only change to the assigned profile if the key is held, and will switch back to the previous profile upon release.
Profiles can be easily saved and set under the Profile Selection drop down menu found under the keyboard diagram. It let’s you enter a profile name and also lets you to assign an application with auto-switching capabilities so you will never have to worry about manually switching to the desired profile.
Comfort and Performance:
There isn’t any benchmark to test keyboards so I had put it through some basic subjective tests. On a comfort level, the Lycosa instantly felt natural. Usually, a new keyboard is a like a new pair of glasses. It feels awkward at first, and you hate it for being so weird but you get used it in a few days. But with Lycosa, my fingers instantly felt the connection, and since it’s a normal shaped keyboard with no funky styles, my brain mapped the buttons in the first few mins itself. Typing is great and with the good comfort level, it was quite fun as well. The keyboard keys has a nice feel to it, it’s a lot punchier and although i prefer the ghud-thug softness like of a laptop keyboard than the slap-tat-tat that is the Lycosa, i didn’t mind the noise too much.
While gaming, the keyboard performed well, only made extra-ordinary by the limitless possibilities in customization provided by the software. Also, the low profile keys make reaction time in fast paced games, like FPSes, quite a bit shorter, which could easily mean life or death in competitive online games. Razer also presents us with an option to disable the Windows key so that the gaming sessions can go without any hitches (i wonder why Microsoft themselves have not done anything about it yet).
We also put the mic and headphone ports to test. They are useful in the sense that you won’t have to strain yourself by having the headphone/mic cable going all the way back of your computer. The sound quality as is as good as a direct connection, as the jacks are simply an extension of the motherboard’s/sound card’s sound ports.
If you are short on space but still want a gaming keyboard that performs well without sacrificing looks and style, Razer Lycosa Mirror is a good bet. However, we find it hard to justify it’s price tag for what it basically is – just a normal keyboard with a fancy software. Yes, sure, it does have a handy USB and headphone and microphone ports but they hardly worth the bump in price. There are definitely better ones available at a cheaper price (Microsoft Sidewinder X4 is available for 175 Dhs), so yes, the price is bit of a hard pinch.