The Razer Blackwidow Chroma, Logitech G910 Orion Spark, and Corsair Vengeance K95 RGB are all powerful, high-end, and expensive mechanical keyboards from top-tier PC gaming peripheral manufacturers. So which one is right for you?
[UPDATE 2017 – This article has been updated slightly to reflect Razer’s latest iteration of the Blackwidow Chroma, the Blackwidow Chroma v2 (2017) edition. You can read a full review of the Blackwidow Chroma V2 here.]
Color control: Blackwidow shines brightly
The color capabilities of all 3 keyboards boards are similar as far as general customization goes. You can make any key on the keyboard any color you like, and a host of built-in special effects (spectrum cycling, breathing, etc.) are also available. Logitech’s software is slightly better in terms of making it easier to ‘paint’ the keys with the colors you want, although you only get 1 custom layout and 3 customizable modes, each of which can be configured with a variety of effects.
The Razer Blackwidow Chroma, subjectively speaking, seems to have more vibrant LEDs, slightly better color quality and multiple brightness levels you can cycle through with FN+F11/F12.
Strangely, the Logitech G910 Orion Spark lacks any sort of dedicated brightness controls on the keyboard aside from an OFF button to turn off the LEDs. (You can adjust the colors and saturation in the Logitech Gaming Software, but a dedicated button for brightness adjustment seems like an odd oversight.)
The Corsair K95 RGB definitely trumps both the Blackwidow and the Orion in terms of its overall color capabilities, which are almost infinitely customizable. You can make keys splash light or create waves across the board with every keypress, for example. But you have to be willing to learn the Corsair’s unintuitive software to make it all happen.
Switch weapons: Razer Green/Orange or Romer-G?
Both Razer and Logitech are now using custom-designed, gaming-optimized mechanical switches instead of the popular mechanical Cherry MX varieties (Blue, Brown, Red, and Black) that have been the staple of mechanical gaming keyboards for the past few years. Corsair, by way of comparison, continues to use ‘classic’ Cherry MX Red mechanical switches in its K95 RGB.
‘Gaming optimized’ generally means the travel and reset distance have been reduced for the switches to activate, making them faster and more responsive—at least in theory. It’s questionable whether or not it’s anything you’d really notice in actual gaming and somewhat dependent upon on the type of keyboard you’re upgrading from. (Stepping up from a low-end, non-gaming keyboard to a high-end mechanical would certainly be ‘noticeable’ in every respect.)
The Razer Blackwidow Chroma is available in 2 models, each based on a different switch type. The standard Chroma is based on Razer Green switches, which are similar to Cherry MX Blue switches—in other words they are noisy, ‘clicky’ keys—some of us love them, but they may also drive office mates and loved ones to have an unfortunate coffee accident on your favorite board.
Razer Green switches require 50g actuation force, 1.9mm (+/-.4mm) of travel distance to actuate, and they are rated for up to 60 million keystrokes.
The Blackwidow Chroma Stealth model uses Razer Orange switches, which are closer to Cherry MX Brown/Red switches and thus quieter than Razer Green switches.
Razer Orange switches require 45g of actuation force, .05mm (+/- .4mm) of travel distance to actuate, and they are also rated for 60 million keystrokes.
The Logitech G910 Orion spark uses a switch Logitech has dubbed Romer-G, which is close to Cherry MX Red/Brown switches in general feel. They are (by far) quieter than the Blackwidow Chroma (Green switch) keyboard and considerably quieter than even the Cherry MX Red switches on the Corsair K95 RGB keyboard. (A full review for the K95 is pending. It will be added to this roundup in the near future.)
In addition, the G910 key caps have a unique shape with a slight, angular indentation. This adds an even greater degree of tactile response to the keys. Subjectively, it seems better for gaming in that it provides a measure of additional feedback (dipping in and out of tiny valleys) as your fingers move from key to key. However, there is a slight cost to typing because the indented shape makes it slightly harder to ‘glide’ over the key tops.
Romer-G switches require 45g of actuation force, 1.5mm of travel distance to reach their actuation point, and are rated for 70 million keystrokes.
The Corsair K95 RGB’s Cherry MX Red switches require 45g of actuation force, 2mm travel distance for actuation, and are rated at around 50 million keystrokes.
Software: Razer and Logitech tie, Corsair needs work.
[UPDATE 2016 – to reiterate: Since my original review of the Corsair K95 and the publication of this article, I had the chance to see Corsair’s new software at PAX 2016. Suffice to say they ‘got the message’. Their new driver software is significantly improved over what was available when the K95 launched with.]
Both Razer’s Synapse software and Logitech’s Gaming Software are well-designed, intuitive driver suites that are easy to use and give both products a good ‘out of box’ experience—in other words, hook up your device, install the software, and you’re ready to start playing.
Corsair’s software, unfortunately, is far less intuitive than both Logitech and Razer’s—especially if you want to create advanced effects. It’s very powerful software, and arguably the most powerful and flexible of the three compared here—but it’s also by far the least user-friendly.
Both Razer’s and Logitech’s software make it easy to customize the colors, effects, macros, and other aspects of their respective devices. Both software suites have roughly comparable macro editors, with a notable advantage going to Razer in this regard (see below).
Razer’s Synapse 2.0 software stores all your Razer device settings, macros, etc. in the cloud, but this does require you to setup a (free) Razer ID account. Razer Synapse software also provides one notable capability missing from Logitech’s gaming software: the ability to record a mouse action (left-click, for example) as part of a macro. (Logitech could likely add this capability to their own driver software if they saw fit to do so.)
The Logitech G910 and Corsair K95 RGB store settings in onboard memory in 3 keyboard profiles and don’t require an account for cloud storage. You can switch between profiles using the dedicated profile buttons.
All 3 software drivers/suites otherwise offer a wide array of features. Synapse software enables you to program any key on the keyboard with a macro. Logitech’s macros are limited to its dedicated macro keys, but you get 9 of them and 3 profiles, for a total of 27 available at any one time (which should generally be enough for the vast majority of us). The Corsair K95 RGB, on the other hand, gives you 18 macro keys — and you can program any key on the keyboard with a macro (as you can with the Blackwidow Chroma).
Corsair’s software easily provides the most flexible, customizable color effects if you’re willing to spend a little time learning to use it.
Extras: Take your pick
All 3 boards offer a different suite of extra features that are roughly on par with one another, but will cater to different preferences.
The Corsair Vengeance K95 RGB, for example, has the most macro keys (18!) and a convenient volume roller (similar to the Orion). It also has dedicated media keys and profile-switching keys, but no pass through connectors for USB, audio, etc. It easily has the most comfortable wrist rest of the bunch (Logitech’s is adequate and the Blackwidow does not include one). The The K95 RGB’s aluminum construction is also very nice.
The key extras for the Razer Blackwidow Chroma are its 5 dedicated macro keys, a USB pass through connector, and 3.5mm stereo/mic pass through connectors (all located on the right-hand side of the keyboard). A host of other functions can also be activated through the FN+Function keys, including media controls, macro recording, brightness adjustment, and more. On the whole, the Razer Blackwidow Chroma is the less complicated and more aesthetically elegant of the 2 keyboards, which is further enhanced by its more vibrant LEDs.
[Update 2017: The Blackwidow Chroma V2 edition now includes a very, very comfortable wrist-rest that attaches magnetically to the keyboard.]
The Logitech G910 doesn’t offer any additional connectors, but it offers a ton of features, including: 9 dedicated macro keys, dedicated media controls (play, pause, mute, etc.) and profile switching buttons, and a convenient volume roller.
But the G910’s technology ‘trump card’—with a lot of potential that may or may not be tapped—is the small cradle for your smartphone. Install the Logitech Arx Control app on your phone and it can connect through your wireless network with the Logitech Gaming Software on your PC, thus enabling your smartphone to become a second screen that could hold any number of potential uses, as well as a game-enhancing device.
But much of that potential is still that: potential. Currently, the Arx control software mainly just displays PC information (CPU usage, memory usage, etc.) and enables you to launch games on your PC from your smartphone (great if you’re making a sandwich in the kitchen and want World of Warcraft waiting for you when you get back to your PC I guess.)
Untapped gaming potential: G910 wins. Maybe.
If any game makers choose to use Logitech’s Arx Control or Razer’s Chroma SDK (Software Development Kit), both keyboards could potentially offer game-enhancing effects. The G910 could turn your smartphone into a 2nd screen. The Blackwidow Chroma could offer an array of color-changing effects that respond to in-game activity.
But because both the Razer Blackwidow Chroma and Logitech G910 Orion Spark are so new, it’s anyone’s guess at this point whether or not developers will jump on board to support either. Historically, game makers aren’t keen on doing extra work for what would only serve a relatively small percentage of their customers.
[Update 2017: There has been relatively very little support for Logitech’s smart phone app/extension, whereas a few games are starting to directly support Razer’s Chroma engine.]
(Sometimes with a little incentive developers may provide limited support for a new device—for example, the special Portal 2 levels developed for Razer’s Hydra motion controller. How many other Hydra-specific PC games were released? Exactly.)
Logitech, Razer, and Corsair all offer 2-year limited warranties.
So which one?
By now you should hopefully have a better idea of which keyboard may better serve your needs. Both of them are exceptional mechanical keyboards if you don’t mind dropping nearly $200 on one. Here’s a quick recap of key features, characteristics, and advantages:
Logitech G910 Orion Spark ($180)
Quiet, feature-rich, smartphone-friendly.
- Per-key LED illumination w/16.8 million colors
- Quiet, soft-touch keys. 45g actuation force. 1.5mm travel distance to actuate. 70 million keystroke lifespan.
- Sculpted, indented keys for additional tactile feedback. Better for gaming, slightly worse for typing.
- More dedicated controls and macro keys: 9-dedicated macro keys, dedicated media keys, volume roller (very handy!), profile-switching buttons, Game Mode and LED-Off buttons
- Smart phone cradle: Just add smartphone and Arx Control App for an auxiliary screen on your keyboard. Developer support for this is unknown at this point.
Razer Blackwidow Chroma (V2) ($170)
Best LED color, software capabilities, and overall aesthetics. Noisy keys (Standard) or quieter keys available (Chroma Stealth)
- Per-key LED illumination w/16.8 million colors
- Most vibrant LEDs with multi-level brightness control.
- 1xUSB and 3.5mm mic/stereo pass through connectors
- Standard Chroma: Loud, clicky keys with 50g actuation force, 1.9mm (+/-.4mm) of travel distance to actuate, rated for up to 60 million keystrokes.
- Stealth Chroma: Quieter keys, 45g of actuation force, .05mm (+/- .4mm) to actuate, rated for 60 million keystrokes
- Synapse software stores settings in the cloud and has a slightly better macro recorder/editor than the G910.
- Chroma SDK enables games makers to create special lighting effects on your keyboard in response to in-game actions. Developer support for this is unknown at this point.
Corsair K95 RGB ($180)
- Per-key LED illumination w/16.8 million colors
- Cherry MX-Red mechanical key switches, 45g actuation and 2mm travel distance. Quieter than Razer Blackwidow, louder than Logitech Orion Spark
- 18 dedicated macro keys
- Dedicated media keys, profile switching keys, and volume roller
- Most powerful and customizable lighting effects of the three keyboards in this round up.