It’s not very often that hardware manufacturers surprise you, but I wasn’t expecting this from Razer. They’ve just announced their latest product, the Razer Black Widow mechanical keyboard.

Razer BlackWidow Keyboard

The clue as to what makes this keyboard so special is in the last sentence – mechanical keyboard. Most keyboards, and just about all gaming keyboards, use a rubber dome that sits underneath each key, under which is a plastic membrane. When a key is pressed the rubber dome pushes onto the membrane, closes a circuit and triggers a signal to tell the computer which key was pressed.

On mechanical keyboards this is quite different. Under each key sits a mechanical switch and a spring. The switch gives a very definite action and an audible click when you press the key, so you know exactly when the key is triggered (like clicking a mouse button). the spring then pushes the key back up so that it’s ready for the next key press more quickly – important in gaming if you’re repeatedly hammering the same button.

Another advantage of mechanical keys is that the button press is registered more quickly – roughly halfway into the movement of the key, rather than on a standard keyboard where the key has to be fully pressed to register. The movement also requires less force from your finger, so the typing experience is easier on your hands.

Mechanical keyboards are nothing new – you’ve probably heard of Cherry keyboards and Das Keyboard, the only keyboard I know that can be ordered with blank keys in an attempt to improve touch-typing skills. But the Razer BlackWidow is the first mechanical keyboard specifically aimed at the gaming market.

The BlackWidow keyboard offers the usual gaming features. There are five additional gaming keys, that can be reprogrammed on-the-fly using two special buttons to start and stop recording. There are also up to ten keyboard profiles available, so you can configure the keyboard for your favourite games.

Like other Razer keyboards the key polling is done at 1000Hz (1 millisecond response time). There are also multimedia keys as well as a gaming mode switch to disable the Windows keys.

The Razer BlackWidow will retail at $79.99 and will be available in September, but if you want the first back-lit mechanical keyboard you’re going to have to shell out more and buy yourself the BlackWidow Ultimate edition.