Though I’m still far from reaching the “enthusiast” level of gaming keyboard appreciation, each new bit of gear that I’ve reviewed over the years has brought me closer and closer to wanting to really dive into the nitty gritty. To get under the hood, tinker, tailor and basically just become a big nerd about it all.
That’s daunting, though. Keyboards, especially those of the gaming vocation, are so much more than just rows of plastic keys on a slab. Like any good subsection of tech or gaming culture there’s a whole community out there of people that live and breathe this stuff. There’s a language, there are subcultures, there are titans of the craft and then… well, there’s me. The person that doesn’t know a poron gasket from GPL-205g0 lubricant but still loves the idea of being a maker, a builder and an un-builder of ‘boards.
That’s where Razer’s new BlackWidow V4 Pro 75% gaming keyboard comes in – an off-the-shelf device from a brand that feels very universal and accessible, but one that’s also designed to let folks into that new and exciting world of keyboard enthusiasm.
It’s an idea that I actually had experience with from another brand recently, but Razer’s approach differs and definitely feels a little more Razer in its execution. Where the ASUS ROG Azoth was a weighty, $400 beast with an over-the-top featureset and a veritable tool kit in the box, the Blackwidow V4 75% keeps things sleek and simple and doesn’t assume buyers are necessarily interested in the customisation it offers. What you’re getting for $350 AUD is a new form factor of one of Razer’s best keyboards with an excellent build quality and typing experience, along with the flexibility to change it up down the line.
Unboxing the BlackWidow V4 Pro 75% reveals a package much like you’d expect from any other Razer keyboard. You get the device itself, a 2m removable USB-C to USB-A cable, a magnetic wrist rest, and the only bit of evidence that this is a keyboard made with customisation in mind, a handy little combination key cap and switch pulling tool.
Coming from my beloved Razer DeathStalker V2 Pro with its full suite of 104 low-profile keys, the move to a tighter layout with 81 full-sized keys has definitely taken getting used to, but immediate impressions of this new keyboard are very positive. Razer’s included its new Orange tactile mechanical switches here and, coupled with an improved internal build over the rest of the BlackWidow V4 family, there’s a whole lot to love. It’s quite impressive how much thought Razer has put into the internals of this keyboard, an exploded view of the thing over on the official product page showing the multiple layers of plating, foam and lubricated stabilisers all working together to make every keystroke feel smooth and accurate without any discernible rattling or really any noise that isn’t incredibly intentional.
Researching this keyboard before and during my real-world use has introduced me to the idea of the “tempest tape mod,” something popular in the custom keyboard community that involves adding layers of painter’s tape to the underside of a keyboard’s PCB to create a more full sound profile with less hollow-ness, and Razer has given the BlackWidow V4 Pro 75% its own tape-based enhancement out of the box which theoretically contributes to a very satisfying “thud” sound from the keys without them being intrusively clicky.
Of course one huge point of difference with the BlackWidow V4 Pro 75% compared the rest of Razer’s current lineup, and even its sibling BlackWidow V4 devices, is that it features hot-swappable switches meaning if you don’t appreciate the feel of the included Orange switches you can rip ’em out and swap them for pretty much any 3-pin or 5-pin switches. You’re not limited to Razer gear either, though the brand obviously sells a range of its own you could chuck in your choice of Gateron or Cherry or whatever takes your fancy. Like the ROG Azoth, it’s hard to recommend picking up a fully-assembled keyboard if you fully intend to replace the switches right away, but the out-of-the-box typing experience is so good here it’s just nice to have the option for later.
One advantage I firmly believe the BlackWidow V4 Pro 75% has over something like the ROG Azoth is its software implementation. Razer Synapse isn’t perfect, but it’s getting there and the integration with other Razer devices is as good as ever. ASUS’ own software is… not great, so it’s maybe an easy win but it’s definitely something to take note of. If you’ve got other Razer gear, it’s a no-brainer to keep it in the family. The first thing I did given I’ve lost my precious numpad in using this was to set myself up with a shortcut key for typing “en” dashes – which I use far too often.
There are definitely ways in which the BlackWidow V4 Pro 75% could be improved. For one it’s not exactly cheap – $350 for a wired, 75% job might be rich for some given it’s a relatively no-frills keyboard otherwise. There’s no USB passthrough either, which necessitated using an extra port after my previous DeathStalker V2 Pro shared a HyperSpeed wireless dongle with my Razer mouse. The inclusion of a comfy, magnetic wrist rest is welcome though, and RGB geeks will be happy with the combination of per-key lighting coupled with a sexy underflow on either side of the keyboard.
For only $50 more I’d probably argue that the ASUS ROG Azoth is a better overall choice for would-be enthusiasts with its generous compliment of accessories and customisable OLED display, but if you’re someone looking for a super solid gaming keyboard in a smaller form factor and just happens to open the door to a bit of extra customisation then the BlackWidow V4 Pro 75% is an easy choice.
Razer's first gaming keyboard with hot-swappable switches is a winner, but mostly because the switches it already includes coupled with a fantastic build make it an excellent keyboard out of the box. Whether or not the customisability appeals to you, this should absolutely be on your radar as far as smaller form-factor gaming keyboards go.
Fantastic build quality
Hot-swappable switches are a nice inclusion
Included Orange switches feel and sound great
Underglow RGB lighting looks hot
No USB passthrough
An expensive starting point if you plan on tinkering