September 1, 2013

REVIEW: Razer Tartarus

Since 1998, Razer has been a leader in manufacturing high end gaming peripherals, having released a barrage of gaming keyboards and mice. In their pursuit for the best possible gaming experience, Razer has also expanded their product lineups, releasing gaming keypads and audio peripherals. The Razer Tartarus is the newest breed of the former category, being built upon the widely successful Razer Nostromo which was co-developed with Belkin.

The Razer Tartarus comes the high quality packaging we have come to expect from Razer, with a black backdrop and green Razer logos. The sides of the box state product specifications and features provided in multiple languages to make it suitable for worldwide distribution. The front has a flap that can be opened to get a glimpse of the product inside.

Inside the box, we find a certificate from Razer congratulating you on your purchase, two Razer stickers, and a quick start guide, which essentially teaches you how to plug the mouse in and set up its software. The Tartarus doesn’t come with a disk, instead owners will have to download Synapse 2.0 from the Razer website to ensure it is up-to-date. Set up is a simple process as Synapse takes care of everything for you.

Most importantly, we find the Tartarus cocooned in clear and bright green plastic. There are foam pads on the plastic packaging which prevents the Tartarus from getting scratched and moving around during shipping.

Taking a look at the Tartarus, two things become apparent - the weight (or the lack thereof) and its ergonomic design. The Tartarus was designed to be as ergonomic as possible to ensure a comfortable gaming experience. The keypad is incredibly light, weighing in at a mere 370 grams, which helps when moving it around - say to a LAN party. As expected, the Tartarus sports one adjustment point, compared to the Orbweaver’s two points. The handrest slides roughly an inch back or forth, making it suitable for most people. However, it was not long enough for my large hands and others may experience problems as well. The Tartarus feels comfortable while gaming, and the large anti-slip pads on the bottom prevent it from moving around. The keys are well positioned so that they are in easy reach of all your fingers, a problem that was quite significant on the Orbweaver’s fourth row of keys. All three rows of keys can be reached easily and the eight-way directional pad is placed close to the two other buttons on the side. The large thumb button is also a plus as it makes it easier to press without looking and is placed in a closer and better position to the eight-way directional pad compared to the Nostromo. The Tartarus also loses the scroll wheel found on the Nostromo as it is already conveniently placed on your mouse.

The Razer Tartarus is made up of a high quality plastic construction which reduces weight while maintaining a high quality feel. A soft touch coating on the top of the keypad helps to improve its feel while improving grip. The Tartarus uses a gold-plated USB connector, which improves connectivity, to communicate with your computer. The USB cord is very flexible and is braided with a high quality sleeving which improves the durability while improving the aesthetic appeal. The cord is approximately 1.7 meters long, enough for most people. The Tartarus uses membrane keys which allows for a lower cost, while distinguishing it from its more expensive sibling, the Orbweaver, as it has a more cushioning feel as opposed to a tactile response.

Once the Tartarus is plugged in, you are greeted by a bright green glow emitted from the keys which can been seen under virtually all operating conditions. Thanks to the membrane switches’ ability to diffuse light evenly, there are no hotspots. Three LED indicators on the right hand side above the thumb area light up in different combinations to indicate which of the 8 customizable keymaps are currently active. These keymaps can be set in the Synapse software and can also be switched on-the-fly. This allows for a total of 125 different actions to be mapped on the keypad. The default mapping for the Tartarus uses the keys on the left hand side found on a QWERTY keyboard, which are most commonly used for gaming. If you want to re-map your keys, you will have to go through a barrage of drop down menus and selecting keys. The Tartarus allows for an infinite amount of profiles and unlimited macro lengths.

The most noticeable change from going from a keyboard to a keypad would be comfort. The Tartarus is a joy to use and fits well in your hand. This is great for long gaming sessions as it reduces strain on your fingers. In addition, the first column of keys from the left is placed slightly lower than the others to compensate for the length of the pinky finger relative to the other fingers with the rest of the keys curving to fit the contour of your fingers and the angle keycaps keep your fingers from slippinoff. The Tartarus can store a large amount of macros making it great for MMOs and it is very comfortable with easy to reach buttons. In addition to gaming, the Tartarus can be used in other applications - namely commonly used functions for programs like Photoshop.

Product features:
      • 25 fully programmable keys
      • 8-way directional thumb-pad 
      • Instantaneous switching between 8 key maps 
      • Improved ergonomic form factor 
      • Adjustable soft-touch wrist pad for comfort 
      • Full anti-ghosting 
      • Unlimited macro lengths 
      • Unlimited game profiles 
      • Backlit keys for total control even in dark conditions 
      • Braided fiber cable
      • Razer Synapse 2.0 enabled
      • Quiet
      • Lightweight
      • Gold plated USB connector
      • Comfort
      • Build Quality
      • Price
If you’re looking for a new keypad, check out the Tartarus, sporting many features with few downsides. The grippy keycaps and ergonomic design help to improve comfort compared to a regular keyboard, making long gaming sessions less stressful. Having the ability to set macros as long as your heart desires helps with MMO games while having additional keys can help with productivity. There aren’t many negative points to say about the Tartarus except that it may make your wallet lighter if you’re not an avid gamer.

The Tartarus retails for U.S $79.99/EU €79.99 and is available on Razer’s website and will be coming to other retail outlets soon.

Martin Tam is an editor and the Director of Video Production at [blank]’s Universe. He is also a technology enthusiast that particularly enjoys computers and photography. He enjoys breaking things and sleeping in his spare time.