I have always dabbled in PC gaming in some form or another. Whether I was playing daily with a dedicated crew as a part of a Quake 2 clan or occasionally sinking a few hours into a Torchlight adventure here and there, the mouse and keyboard has always been part of my gaming lifestyle. It wasn’t until the past year or so, however, that I have made the push to take my PC gaming a little more seriously. As I have explored the more competitive aspect of it, I have found myself yearning for better tools to improve my game. I have a high-quality mouse, a sleek gaming keyboard in the form of the Razer BlackWidow
, and even a dedicated gaming mousepad. Now that I have assembled a full set of those tools, I am seeking out other options to not only enhance my PC gaming experience but help give me a little bit of a competitive edge. My first step in that direction is with the Razer Orbweaver.
The Orbweaver isn’t a required piece of hardware for PC gaming. It doesn’t do anything in particular that your standard or existing keyboard doesn’t already do. Instead it provides a much more comfortable and streamlined “keyboard experience” for gaming purposes. The device takes the functions of a keyboard and compacts them down into a minimal design that fits within the confines of a single hand. It is like taking the WASD section of your keyboard, along with the 16 surrounding keys, and putting them into a standalone keypad than can be completely encompassed by your hand.
All 20 of the buttons are fully programmable and incorporates the same mechanical key technology Razer uses in its keyboards. This means that each one of them is incredibly responsive and has that oh-so-satisfying clicking sound when pressed. From a technical aspect, the actuation distance of the keys is only 2mm, so it doesn’t take much to press them down and it is easy to rapidly fire off button clicks in quick fashion. In addition to the 20 base keys, the Orbweaver also features an eight-way directional thumbpad that can be programmed as well. Whether you want to use it for character movement within your game (default setting) or program each of the eight directions to a different function.
The default layout of the keypad is set up with first-person shooters in mind. Most of the keys are mapped in a traditional layout featuring what would be W, A, S, D, E, R, and the space, control, and alt keys, among other traditional keys, on your standard keyboard. Most of the time these all have the same function in different shooter games. If you want to get the most out of the pad, though, you need to fire up Razer’s Synapse software (which is available through their website
Using the software, you can set up profiles for every game in your rotation and program the keys however you see fit. I highly recommend doing this versus changing the key mapping in the individual games’ settings so that things won’t be confusing if you find yourself playing without the Orbweaver. There is no limit to the amount of profiles that you can create. Plus it is all stored in the cloud, meaning you can access it where you play (as long as you have access to the Internet).
The Synapse software isn’t required though. You can save keymaps to the Orbweaver itself via individual profiles. They can be switched on the fly during your gameplay with the simple press of a button; there is no additional software required. However, you will get a lot more customization out out of the device when you use it in conjunction with the Synapse software. You can even program and save macros with no limit to their length.
Even more beneficial than the effective layout of the keys is the fact that the pad is also incredibly comfortable. The resting places for your palm and thumb are fully adjustable so they can be fine-tuned to your preference on the fly. All of the keys are fully backlit as well, making it easy to see even in the darkest settings.
The first time that you use the Orbweaver, things will feel a little awkward. The layout of the keys doesn’t exactly feel natural thanks to the stacked-manner of the keys (being perfectly vertical). After roughly an hour or so, it almost becomes second nature. You have to get used to letting your hand rest in its natural position rather than curling your fingers like you would on a traditional keyboard. Because of that, switching back and forth between a keyboard and the Orbweaver requires a bit of an adjustment; you will likely want to use the Orbweaver exclusively for gaming after you make the adjustment.
As I have found with most of Razer’s products, this little device is an incredible piece of hardware. It is uber-comfortable and extremely effective. While it isn’t exactly the cheapest piece of hardware out there, it is a great alternative to a full gaming keyboard, which can set you back a whole lot more. In a way, the Orbweaver is almost like compacting a keyboard down to a traditional console controller. When can I get one of these for my PlayStation 3 for Xbox 360? Between this and Steam’s Big Picture mode, PC games have become a lot more accessible in the living room.