Razer Arctosa Gaming Keyboard
Author: Zahn Funk
Editor: Shawn Knight
Date: 03-24-2009
Provided by: Razer
Testing / Conclusion

Unlike standard keyboards, which have generated that annoying multi-keypress beep on more than one occasion for me, the Arctosa took every key input I gave it without complaint. Using the Arctosa for FPS gaming was a joy, at least once you were able to locate the WASD keys. However with the black on black color scheme it was pretty touch and go in low-light conditions. To make matters worse, the lock indicator LEDs are super bright, enough to blind you in a dim room while you're looking down hunting for the right key to press. Once you have that Shift-A-W-D-Space, left-handed claw down by feel however, the fact that you can't actually read the keys doesn't really make much difference, and the Hyperesponse-powered fragging can continue uninterrupted.

Using the Arctosa for anything else but FPS gaming however requires a PHD in frustration management. Although the home keys are marked with the most minimal of raised edges, the fact that the tops are slightly convex rather than concave makes finding them among the rest of the keys a chore. ALL of the edges feel nearly the same. And if you're not well versed in using the home-key method of typing then may the gods of hunt-and-peck help you, because you'll need an act of one to locate each stroke.

It seems that Razer has kept all the negative aspects of the Lycosa gaming keyboard and removed the one thing that could offset them, the backlit keys. Presumably in an effort to reduce costs, the only illumination you'll find on the Arctosa is the three lock LEDs in the upper right corner. And unfortunately it seems they've consolidated the full candle power of all the back lighting in one spot, making each of these three innocent-seeming indicators a virtual hydrogen-fueled beacon of atomic fusion blazing forth to permanently scar the surface of your retinas. Okay, maybe I'm taking a few literary liberties with my use of hyperbole here, but in all honesty I found the lock LEDs at minimum an annoyance and distraction, and ended up turning them off so they didn't interfere with my game play.

Having the ability to change the keymap for each and every key could be very useful indeed, assuming of course that you can subsequently find that key after you've mapped it. The software is easy to use and impressive in its level of customization, although requiring that you have an Internet connection just to be able to install it. The multimedia keys in the upper right corner I found to be completely useless. If the standard keys are difficult enough to find by touch alone, it's basically impossible to locate the areas of this smooth, glossy surface to press in order to achieve the desired input. And with the lock LEDs shining directly above them, you can forget about finding them by sight.

I guess price is the one thing that the Arctosa has going for it. Compared to the Lycosa, which retailed around $80, the Arctosa looks like a bargain for $30 cheaper. However $50 will buy you a really nice Microsoft keyboard, or a Logitech even, and while they might not have nearly the same level of key customization, sleek looks and gamer-oriented key response, I'd rather have a keyboard I can actually use for the other 80% of my computing time.

Thanks to Razer for sending over the Arctosa keyboard for review.

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