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Friday
Jul192013

Review: Razer DeathStalker

For a long time I’ve been thinking about replacing my desktop keyboard and mouse combo. While it has served my purposes, I was never really satisfied with my Razer Arctosa. On the other hand, my Logitech MX Revolution has been one of my favorite mice ever, but it's beginning to show its wear after 5 or so years of abuse. I decided to replace my keyboard first since it is the main culprit of my dissatisfaction. At this point you are probably thinking the foremost issue is to decide which color cherry switches I want and then move on from there. Not so fast. While I can’t deny the sweet precision of a quality mechanical switch, years of traveling and typing on chiclet style keyboard has made me more comfortable and more accurate with them.

 

 

Low profile keys, short travel distance, and keys are a larger surface area are features that has caused me to prefer chiclet style keyboards over traditional keyboards, but unfortunately  they seem to be relegated almost entirely to the laptop segment. If someday someone makes a chiclet style keyboard with mechanical switches or high quality scissor switches I will be the first to jump aboard that train, but until then we are almost entirely with membrane dome options for chiclet style keyboards. I was a huge fan of the Logitech Dinovo Edge, but that quite was not quite true chiclet style, and has issues of its own like lack of a numpad and awkward recharging situations due to its rechargable nature before you even get to the $200+ price point.

 

(picitured wth iphone 4 for thickness comparison)

This brings me to the crux of my problem, the market for quality chiclet keyboard is pretty slim. Many people throughout the years have been turned off by the membrane dome switches found on a lot of early low-profile and laptop keyboards to the point where they've been kind of written off as cheap products. This leaves consumers looking for a quality chiclet style desktop keyboard pretty high and dry. Microsoft doesn’t sell any, Logitech has 2, one of which is a solar powered option and the other is wireless, and not full-sized. High-end boutique keyboard makers like Das, or WASD don’t carry anything not mechanical, aka not chiclet style. Apple makes a pretty competent model, and they even have a version with a numpad, but as a PC user it just doesn’t  feel right. There are a few models on Newegg, mostly around $15 but none with a lot of positive feedback.

 

My only requirements are a full-size chiclet keyboard with backlighting, it really shouldn’t be this difficult to find. Then I remembered seeing a promotional keyboard from Razer tied to Star Wars: The Old Republic. Despite my previous experience with a Razer keyboard I felt like I was grasping grasp at straws, so I decided to give it a closer look. The original Old Republic keyboard had everything I was looking for except for one thing, the numpad had been switched out for a small touch screen, a feature that boosted the price up over $200. Thankfully they later made a similar version called the DeathStalker, including a variant that reverted the touch screen back into a traditional numpad. For the reasonable price of $79.99 and overriding my hesitance to buy another Razer keyboard, I figured I would give it a shot.

 

My intial reaction: This is pretty much the exact keyboard I’ve been looking for. It’s not perfect, there is a little more side to side wiggle on the kyes than I would like, and key height is slightly taller that I had expected but overall the DeathStalker has been a pleasant surprise.

Every new keyboard takes a little getting used to, but the  getting-to-know-you phase was quite speedy and requited very little adjustment from my normal typing habits. The sense of bottoming out on a keystroke is something that many mechanical keyboard fans may not like, but it’s something that has never bothered me. If you get really picky there is also a tiny deadzone at the lowest key depression that all membrane dome keyboards succumb to.

 

The keyboard features a sleek almost minimalist design; the only adornments are the Razer logo on the palm rest and markings under the indicator lights above the numpad. The flat keys are somewhat shiny and set themselves apart from the matte finish of the rest of the keyboard. Each key is individually backlit and the color can be changed using the included Synapse software. One important feature is that there is minimal separation between the number row and the F-keys allowing a more accessible reach for people with smaller hands. The palm rest became one of my favorite features of the keyboard, it features a faint hexagonal design but more importantly has a very faint tacky texture that gives your hand a very firm footing, if that’s that kind of thing you’re into. When typing normally my wrists tend to float above the palm rest, but it was during gaming sessions that I really appreciated the palm rest, especially during more frenetic keyboard mashing. The palm rest is not removable, so that might be a deal breaker for people looking for a narrower keyboard.

 

The bottom is pretty standard and has traditional risers for those who like a more elevated typing surface. One note is that unlike many other Razer keyboards, and despite the technical specifications on Razer’s website, this keyboard only has one USB connection and does not have the pass through USB and audio ports that are found on the BlackWidow and Arctosa.

 

I can’t finish up this review without touching on the Synapse software included with the keyboard. It let’s you customize the backlighting colors and set some macros and adjust some of the gaming settings. It also features controls for the touch screen on the more expensive version, but I as this version comes without I wasn’t able to play with them. One critique I have is that you must use the internet to upload and retrieve your settings if you were to switch computers, a minor annoyance compared to other manufactures that provide onboard memory for setting storage. Even so, the keyboard will still function as a plug and play USB device if you choose to forgo the Synapse software.

 

Conclusion

 

This keyboard is a solid product for users looking for an alternative to the mechanical keyboards that dominate the $75 dollar and up market. Its low-key styling allows it to it hide in the background compared to other gaming keyboards, some might even call it minimalist. It responds well in normal touch typing as well as gaming situations with its well spaced chiclet keys. This is a straightforward  keyboard that will please users who do a little, or even a lot of both.

My grade for the Razer Deathstalker is a B.

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Reader Comments (1)

Hi. I would like to report some of the information as inaccurate. Since you are using the cheaper Razer Deathstalker and not Razer Deathstalker Ultimate, the colour of the backlighting cannot be changed, it remains green and you can only adjust the brightness using the Synapse.

November 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterA Deathstalker User

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