I was once a very avid gamer, until I took an arrow to my free time and got a job. It’s hard to fund Cheetos and Mountain Dew without a job. The call of Overwatch was too much to resist though, and before long, I found myself in its salty embrace. I managed to put a lot of hours in a short time, and before long, I started experiencing pain in my left wrist. In a fortuitous turn of events, I found myself in possession of the Chroma version of Razer’s gaming controller, the Tartarus.
DESIGN 4 star
Being firstly a computer peripheral, but secondly a Razer computer peripheral, it’s somehow subdued and edgy at the same time. It’s not over the top, like some of the other gaming peripherals in the market, but it does seem like a serious piece of hardware. It’s hard plastic all over, and a stately Razer black. The main keys are all backlit, and being the Chroma version, you can change the colors to your will. The footprint of the Tartarus is about that of some of the larger trackballs of yore; with about the size of an outstretched hand. There isn’t any garish Razer branding on the Tartarus, save for a nicely understated Razer logo on the palm rest. It’s done in black, which is great news if, like myself, you aren’t the biggest fan of green.
HARDWARE 4 Star
25 main keys are the center of the show. They’re arranged in the slightly staggered manner a regular keyboard is, and are of the membrane type, with anti-ghosting. Just below that is a curvy, ergonomic palm rest, and with your palm on the hump, there is a flipper, an eight-direction pad, and a button, all within reach of your thumb. Underneath the Tartarus is a set of grippy feet that keep the device in place, should the gaming get a little more spirited than usual. Indicator lights are present on the right side of the device to let you know which of a number of key configurations are active, so you aren’t suddenly playing Overwatch with your CS:GO settings. It comes with a long, braided USB cable for keeping the tangles down, and for those who want to match colors, Razer’s Chroma lighting system that allows you to change the device backlighting to virtually any color you want. Is the last part necessary? Not really. Is it cool? Definitely.
USER EXPERIENCE 4 Star
The first thing you have to do before using the Tartarus is download and install Razer’s synapse software. This contains the utility for configuring the device, and retrieving those settings from the cloud. Each time you log in to Synapse, it takes those settings, and applies them to the registered devices, no matter whose they are. This is extremely handy for taking your rig to play elsewhere, for whatever reason. Once that is set, you just plug the Tartarus in, and you’re set.
The default key bindings are straightforward, and you can probably start gaming then and there. If you need a change, it’s a very simple thing to re-bind keys to whatever other key, series of keys, or other macros you want. This might be the most convenient thing about the Tartarus. It can hold more configurations and macros than anyone will need, though even in its default bindings, is quite straightforward to just plug in and use. Macros are dead simple to set up, and a few minutes with the easy-to-understand software is all you will need to get things set the way you want. It’s all rather painless,and at least at par with other utilities I have had the pleasure of using.
The palm and wrist rest, which is the main reason I was so happy to get my hand on the Tartarus. It’s just the right height, and the distance from the keys is adjustable to two positions—all the way in, and all the way out. For those who need something in the middle, a jury-rigged method may be necessary. Keys are reasonably spaced, though closer to each other than I was used to, with about the same travel as a desktop keyboard. As such, I was making a lot of mistakes while the device was new, in particular with using the spacebar flipper where the thumb falls. The key is a little oddly positioned, and I found myself keeping a finger on the 8-way directional key, and pressing it down when I need to jump. I don’t have particularly small hands, and it’s still a bit of a stretch sometimes. The same goes for the keys. The bottom row is angled and poisoned in such a way that makes it a little difficult to access. It can be done with some practice, of course, but you have to be conscious of it at first. It would be good to note though, that the keys click clearly, and each button actuation can be distinctly felt.
After config, I used the same Synapse software to change the colors of the lights from their default green, to the blue that my mouse bore on its back. Then it was time to play.
And man, did I suck. The hand position, key positions and general feel is different enough to require a significant adjustment period. It will take a while to have thought and action become one again, but once you do, it’s like magic. It’s superbly comfortable, and responds quickly, and sharply to all of the inputs.
The wrist rest is exceptionally comfortable. Your wrist resides naturally upon it, so strain is greatly reduced, and once everything is dialled it, your game will fall right back into place. I tried the macro function, which was dead easy to program, and while I wasn’t using it for the games I know it wasn’t allowed for, the titles that do allow macros are made so much simpler. FPSs, and especially MoBAs are the obvious choices for this, but since the keys can be set to do practically anything, the options are limitless. Key travel is short enough to be fast, but not so shallow as to make you feel you’re not really doing anything. Just be aware of where you place your fingers at first.
VALUE 3.5 Star
At about PHP 3,750, this is not an peripheral just anyone might just casually pick up. Though for the additional features, macros, and general comfort it adds to marathon gaming session, it really is worth a good, long look, if your’e a gamer.
It’s more than just a gimmicky accessory.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE August 2016 issue.
Words by Ren Alcantara