Razer Deathstalker Ultimate Review
So let's get the elephant in the room dealt with. No, if you're solely after a keyboard for typing and don't plan at all on gaming to the degree you need a spare screen with some cool features, this is too expensive for your needs. But, and this is a big but, you still should take a look at the Deathstalker Ultimate. When it arrived in the OC3D offices we were a little confused as to what exactly the point of such an expensive bit of tech was. Then you use it, and wonder how you survived without it. The Switchblade side of the Deathstalker is the main event, but it still needs to be a keyboard, so let's do that first.
It's rare to find a keyboard that's so flat. Even the average laptop keyboard has a slight curve to the keys but it actually doesn't effect the typing experience. The keys of the Deathstalker have the same feel that you get from the most non-mechanical keyboards but with slightly more of a bounce. The tactile response is somewhere between a scissor arrangement and Cherry Reds. It's lovely to type on and, whilst not as deathly silent as some laptop style keyboards, it's certainly quieter than a mechanical. The lighting is clear and crisp without being overpowering, and it doesn't matter what colour you choose it's uniform throughout the keyboard. The only downside to the pure keyboard experience is that the numpad is missing, and although there is an app that gives a virtual numpad it doesn't support the ALT+xxx symbols. Not a deal-breaker for some, but if you explain bridge contracts ♥♦♣♠ or do heatsink testing requiring a degree symbol ° then it'll be a royal pain.
But the main event has to be the screen and the 10 LCD keys. It's something that could easily go wrong but the quality is ridiculously high. The screens of the 10 customisable LCD keys are slightly offset so that when you're sitting at the keyboard you can see them clearly. Both them, and the screen, are crisp and vibrant. They, like so many things that light up, are hard to photograph and look vastly better in real-life than they do through a lens. The touch element of the screen works flawlessly, being both speedy to display and as responsive as any capacitive touchscreen we're familiar with. Only in three finger multi-touch gestures does it not have the instant precision that it does with two finger or single finger gestures.
The app side is both brilliant and a little frustrating. Brilliant because the included apps work flawlessly, doing exactly what you expect them to with no elements cut out or trimmed. Frustrating just because, as with all new technologies, there isn't much available beyond those that come shipped with the Deathstalker Ultimate. There certainly might be hidden deep in developer forums somewhere, but in terms of Razer approved ones on their website what you see is what you get. However, that being said we can only really think the Deathstalker is missing : a messenger client, which with the closing of MSN there isn't a clear alternative beyond Skype which would require a lot of licensing, and a monitoring system akin to CPUz or AIDA64. Beyond that, as it comes with a browser that supports flash you're not left wanting for much.
So it looks brilliant, it's great to type on, it's incredibly customisable and, let's not kid ourselves, really freaking cool. Yes it might be pricey, but it's not just a keyboard. A Nokia 3310 will make phone calls and send texts without needing to be recharged every two hours, but there is a reason that most of us have smartphones. The screen/touchpad on the Deathstalker is the same resolution and capabilities as, for one example, the HTC Desire HD. Suddenly that price doesn't seem as high. Even with the rather sparse selection of game-specific applications the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate is worthy of our OC3D Performance award. If you love any of those four games (Counter Strike, TF2, Battlefield 3 or SW:TOR) then consider it a gold. Certainly if Razer and their community start producing more apps it will definitely be so.