A peripheral for PC Gamers
PC gamers love their gaming peripherals. The mouse and keyboard combination is one that sets us apart from our console brethren. So when we got our hands on the new Razer OrbWeaver gaming keypad, we were decidedly ecstatic since the OrbWeaver is a peripheral that blends the two together.
Design and style
OK, so the OrbWeaver doesn’t exactly make a mouse obsolete, but it can definitely combine with the mouse to make a powerful combination. The Razer OrbWeaver looks like a cross between an oversized mouse and an external keypad. The device comes with 20 keypad keys plus two other programmable keys near the thumb as well as a directional controller, not dissimilar to a d-pad on a gamepad controller. It feels quite sturdy and weighs in at just under 400grams. Three indicator lights are positioned near the thumb rest and the trademark Razer green backlighting completes the design.
Similar to the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Gaming Keyboard, the Razer OrbWeaver comes with ‘Clicky’ mechanical keys. I didn’t find the keystrokes as loud as that on the Blackwidow keyboard, but maybe that is because I was only using the OrbWeaver for gaming, whereas the loudness of the keyboard came from typing. The keystrokes do provide precise results, though. If the somewhat loud ‘clicky’ keypad is an issue, there is also a Stealth model, which has ‘silent’ keys.
By default the gamepad acts as a pseudo left hand side of the keyboard, from the tilde (~) on the top left to the V key on the bottom right, with the d-pad as a secondary movement button. But, adapting the keypad for specific games is surprisingly simple. After downloading the Razer Synapse 2.0 software (not included in the package), gamers can customise key bindings and assign macros. If you already have the software for another peripheral, you won't need to download again, as the OrbWeaver will be automatically recognised.
The software is simple to use, allowing gamers to switch between eight different custom key map settings. Each can be preset for the various games in your collection. Not only that, but macros can be set quite easily for important keystrokes with your favourite games. I found that this works particularly well within RPGs. It is simply a matter of recording the keystrokes you want to replicate for the macro and then assigning a specific key for the macro.
The Orbweaver is quite comfortable. It has a raised key pad and a mound that somewhat moulds to the shape of your hand (similar to a mouse). A wrist rest completes the package. It has been designed with adjustable hand, thumb and palm rests for various hand sizes. Those with smaller hands may have issues reaching the top keys though. I also had an issue with the lower thumb button being placed slightly lower than what felt comfortable. But having said that, I switched the two thumb buttons around so that the corresponding keyboard button I used more was assigned as the top button. But overall, it feels quite ergonomic, probably moreso than a standard keyboard.
If you’re a southpaw gamer and use a mouse with your left hand, then the OrbWeaver will unfortunately be of little use to you. You could certainly use the keypad section of the device, but the directional button and the two thumb controlled buttons will become obsolete.
I tested the OrbWeaver with a number of games to see the benefits. With Titanfall and War of the Vikings (both FPS variants), I didn’t really notice that much difference to playing with a keyboard - apart from the fact that I could sit a little further away from my laptop screen. Having the ability to re-map the keys does allow for more individual customisation, but this could be done within the games own keybinding configuration. Where the Orbweaver shines, is in the use of the macros, particularly for RPGs where you often find yourself using a string of keystrokes within a battle. In Lord of the Rings Online, I was able to queue up a number my usual spells with the touch of a single button.
A handy peripheral to own
If you are a laptop gamer such as myself and don’t really want an extra full sized keyboard to fill your desk space, then the OrbWeaver is definitely a viable alternative to a high priced gaming keyboard. The simple macro recording and the eight different custom keymaps mean that you can have a setup for each of your favourite games. The adjustable rests mean that it will fit most gamers and allow for personal comfort settings. The OrbWeaver itself is a little on the pricey side, but with all the features it contains, it is a worthwhile piece of equipment to a PC gamers arsenal.