The force is pretty strong with this one.
In recent years Razer has released a lot of tie-in products with various games, and while most of these are just new paint jobs on existing peripherals, every once in a while you’ll get something completely new and truly unique. Their StarCraft II and TRON peripherals are some prime examples of this. Today I’ll be looking at something just as new, the SWTOR keyboard.
Some time back we reviewed both the SWTOR mouse and headset, and with the keyboard finally being made available, we’ll finish the set. What makes the SWTOR keyboard unique is not just the way it’s designed, but also the first time implementation of the Switchblade interface Razer showed off in their Switchblade concept. Of course, the Switchblade UI has been used in the Razer Blade gaming laptop, but given its limited availability around the world, the SWTOR keyboard is as close as we can easily get to the Switchblade experience.
First thing’s first, the SWOTR keyboard is primarily designed for SWTOR fans and players. The idea is that not only do you get a keyboard that has the aesthetic appeal of the Star Wars universe, but something that serves your internet surfing needs even while you’re playing EA’s most popular MMO to date.
The keyboard itself is very slick, thin body with a metallic grey paint job. They keys themselves are laid out in chiclet style orientation. Each of the keys is backlit with a golden hue, while each key itself has Star Wars ‘Aurebesh’ lettering on it. The keys are surrounded by two thin strips of LEDs whose colors are customizable, unlike the permanent golden backlit keys. In the dark the keyboard looks really slick.
On the left you have five macro keys, while just above the INS/ HOME/ PAGE UP keys you have the Macro recording buttons and the Switchblade UI home key. The Switchblade interface is one of the biggest selling points of the SWTOR keyboard.
When playing SWTOR, the 10 tactile keys above the trackpad switch dynamically depending on the class you have chosen in-game. Of course, each of these buttons can also be reassigned with a different macro if you’re not happy with Razer’s pre-defined settings. On that end, the Switchblade interface is most definitely functional, as you spell icons are conveniently located on your keyboard itself. However, this means that you’ll actually be playing the game with your right hand on the trackpad and the tactile keys instead of your mouse. How else are you going to utilize the macro keys on top for spells while also using a separate mouse? To that end the trackpad is equally functional and responsive to the touch.
What makes the Switchblade interface great, however, is not its performance in SWTOR, but outside of it. You can use the trackpad as normal mousepad, but given that it’s also a high-resolution multi-touch display. You can use it for a calculator, browse Facebook and Twitter, check out your Gmail, watch YouTube videos as well as browse the internet. There are 7 separate apps, including a clock, that you can use the trackpad for, while playing any game and using a separate mouse. And at any time when you have to fill in a field, or just type something when browsing on the trackpad, the keyboard can obviously be used.
Now here’s the thing, the screen looks good enough to easily read text and watch videos, but the responsiveness of it is off. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m scrolling through a webpage or emails, or even when moving the mouse around when playing a game the trackpad is very responsive. However, nearly 50% of the time it doesn’t respond properly when I’m clicking on links or searching results on Google, or even when selecting the username/password field for Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is excruciatingly annoying whenever it happens, but I’m hopeful that this is something Razer can fix with a firmware update in the near future.
All in all, the Razer SWTOR keyboard is great not only for SWTOR players, but Star Wars fans in general. It’s functional beyond the custom icons for SWTOR as all keys can be reassigned a macro for any game using the Razer Synapse 2.0 software. Furthermore the additional applications for being constantly in touch through social media and emails. While YouTube playback is a little choppy, the overall experience is akin to what you’d expect on a smartphone (given the limitation of the screen size).
It’s a great novelty item at first, but because of the multiple applications and the potential for further upgrades in the future (via firmware upgrades), the SWTOR keyboard will remain an entertaining and versatile experience unlike any other keyboard in the market.