Razer Arctosa Gaming Keyboard Review
Accessory maker Razer — known for its gaming mice, keyboards and headsets — has an ever growing array of mid-range products available, all hoping to tick the demanding boxes of PC gamers. Razer’s Arctosa Gaming Keyboard is one of company’s more economical products, catering to those with lower budgets and touted as a “bare essentials” device.
You won’t find a built-in display, backlit keys, or anything else particularly “bells-and-whistles” here. The Arctosa’s offer is one of pure simplicity — a fast, minimalist device that will simply get the job done.
Features setting the Arctosa apart (and giving it its £45 price point) include a wrist-rest, media controls, programmable keys and fast response times.
In the box you get the Arctosa itself, the usual manual, a CD to help you get the latest drivers and software, and the ever-peculiar Certificate of Authenticity.
The keyboard is available in one of two styles: silver key-lettering on a black body, or black on black. The silver on black model we reviewed is clearly the better choice here, as black lettering on a black body doesn’t strike us as the best choice from a usability standpoint — especially considering this keyboard isn’t backlit.
Beyond the keys the hardware sports a shiny black body, which is light and doesn’t feel particularly heavy-duty. Additionally the glossy body is prone to attracting fingerprints, something that may frustrate the more compulsive amongst you.
The attached wrist-rest, comes in a more pleasing matte black — a shade which would easily suit the entire keyboard. If you’re not a fan of the attached wrist-rest then it can be removed, however this isn’t as straight forward as it could be, requiring four screws to be unfastened from the bottom. Also on the underside of the keyboard are standard flip out feet for height adjustment.
Setting up the keyboard is a breeze, as for most devices it’s plug-and-play, right out of the box. In our testing, the media keys found on the top right of the keyboard worked well and, as expected, without any additional configuration required — it’s worth noting however that the Razer logo is also a button, which isn’t clear at a glance. The aforementioned CD is required to install the software that programmes the keys for macro functions — to get the most out of the Arctosa you’ll want to do this. This software is also for setting which media player you want the keyboard to control, such as iTunes or Winamp.
Unlike many conventional desktop keyboards the Arctosa keys are flat, similar to that of a typical laptop keyboard. While not to everyone’s taste, this flush style provides a generally satisfying experience, allowing for movement around the keys that’s quick and unchallenging. The keys themselves feel very short and light, resulting in snappy typing. Although they may not be quite weighty enough for those who like to punch away at keys with vigour.
Either way, whether you’re punching or tapping at the keys, Razor touts the Arctosa’s response time as a key feature, and that’s no exaggeration. The box claims that the slim keys have “Hyperesponse Technology”, which in laymen’s terms means the keyboard presses are registered fast (1 millisecond fast). During our time using the Arctosa it never felt slow, and always super responsive to each and every keystroke.
The Arctosa’s programmable keys are surprisingly open-ended, allowing a welcome breadth of customisation. Macros entered into the software can be up-to 50 keys long – which is bound to please in the most demanding gamers.
One little gripe we found during our time with the Arctosa are the white LEDs which indicate whether the Caps Lock, Num Lock or Scroll Lock are on. The LEDs are too bright, especially in the evening, where they can become an annoying distraction. This is something we’re sure a user would get used to in time, but it’s worth noting.
Overall the £45 Arctosa offers an interesting take on an entry-level gaming keyboard. The media keys, although functional, aren’t a great joy to use. The plastic housing can feel a little cheap, the black gloss finish will quickly pick up fingerprints, and the lack of backlit keys may be a deal breaker for some. However, each keystroke feels responsive and the level of customisation via macros is a great plus.
Razer’s Arctosa may be a good pick as a starter gaming keyboard for those not quite ready to put down more serious money.