A Keypad is an additional peripheral that you can use along side your keyboard and mouse. It isn’t quite a controller, but it does allow you to feel more comfortable, and also allows custom macro’s to be used. Keypads are nice because they allow an easy transition from the WASD key control combination, making the learning curve faster. There are also many other benefits and features that we will discuss in this review.
I’ve been using a Keypad in addition to my keyboard and mouse for about 4 years now, and I’ve found it invaluable to my gaming experience. Having used the same one for that entire time, I’m open to trying out different manufacturers of the keypads, so when I was able to obtain Razers Tartarus Chroma, I felt it would be great to do a review & comparisson between the Tartarus Chroma, and the Logitech G13. You can read my Logitech G13 review by clicking here. (it will open in a new window)
First I will start off with the aesthetics. The Tartarus Chroma is lightweight, but don’t think that takes away from it. It has an excellent quality feel to the unit. The lightness of the Tartarus is a nice bonus for portability, which I can see happening now that gaming laptops are gaining in popularity. On the bottom of the Tartarus are rubberized feet, which will grip your surface very well. In the time I used the Tartarus, it never moved or felt like it would move while I was gaming.
The Tartarus has a wrist rest on the back side of the keypad, and with a small lever on the underside you can extend this pad out slightly, allowing for more comfortable use if your hand is a little bigger than others. I tried using both, but found my hand fit somewhere in between. So an additional spot would have been ideal. The wrist rest is covered with a matte finish, which is grippy enough to not have your wrist slide around or anything, your hand will sit right where you put it. Under your fingers will be 15 programmable keys, which can be custom programmed using the Razer Synapse software (more on that later). On the right side you have an 8-way thumbpad as well as 2 buttons, one above the thumbpad, and a large one that your thumb can rest on when not using the thumbpad. The thumbpad is quite large, and comfortable to use. While the Logitech G13 has a thumbstick, the thumbpad is more comfortable to use. As with the G13, the thumbpad is fully programmable through the software.
The keys on the Tartarus, while not mechanical, do feel quite nice, and have a great deal of movement to them. Even though they are a membrane type key, you won’t have any problems using them while gaming. I know that non-mechanical keys are a no-no for the hardcore gamer, but Razer has you covered with the Orbweaver Chroma, the Tartarus big brother. They keys are backlit with the patented Chroma system Razer has on a lot of their products. There are 16.8 million colors available with a few different lighting modes available. It syncs nicely with all the other Razer Chroma products you may own. While the Logitech G13 keys are lit individually, Razer took the Tartarus in a different direction and backlit the whole keypad area, which makes it a lot easier to see in dark conditions. The individual key markings are still quite visible, but the backlight in this method makes it for some spectacular ambient lighting from the Tartarus itself, and if you own more Chroma devices, I imagine it would look spectacular. Since the Tartarus lacks a LCD screen as the G13 does, I felt this doesn’t detract at all, as I almost never use the G13 LCD for anything other than profile switching.
Having 15 buttons right at your fingertips is great for all types of gaming. Having used the Tartarus for a few gaming sessions in World of Tanks allowed me to control my tank, switch ammo types and repair damaged modules. I used basically the same key mapping as I do on the Logitech G13. The only different to me was the G13 has 25 keys, and the Tartarus has 15. This lead to me being a little more creative in my button mapping, but in the end I got the same result. All the keys I used the most were in comfortable spots and everything worked well. The learning curve for me to get accustomed to the Tartarus in World of Tanks was very short (2 or 3 battles) and I felt comfortable using it.
The Razer Synapse software is very easy to use, allowing you to create a profile for any game within minutes. I started walking Tali through the process and in as little as 5 mins she had a profile setup for World of Tanks and was off playing. She will cover her thoughts on the software in her section of the review. The software allows you to map any key of the Tartarus to several different functions, including mouse emulation. All 15 keys, plus the 8 direction thumbpad can be programmed into 15 different sub-profiles for each profile, including modifier keys (with 1 key being programmed for profile switch). All of this should pretty much cover anyone’s gaming needs, from a FPS game to a MMORPG.
In the end, this device is great for gaming. I would recommend it to everyone. It free’s up your keyboard, and allows you to hold your hand in a more comfortable way while gaming. Programmable macros and keys make it useful and customizable for any game. Its lightweight and sturdy construction will make you confident to take with you on the go, so you can game comfortably anywhere.
Using the Tartarus was a completely new experience for me as I have never used a game pad before. I thoroughly enjoy gaming with the Tartarus, I find it more comfortable to use than my keyboard.
As David mentioned he gave me a quick tutorial on programming the keys. It took about 3 minutes for us to program it for World of Tanks. After playing WOT for a bit with it I decided to try setting up one of my other games (Party Hard – review coming in the next week or so), it was very user friendly.
I like the overall feel of the Tartarus, and the button depression is smooth and comfortable. I can not believe that I have been gaming without one and I will ensure that my children grow up using it too (my 8 year old son already loves using it)
I can not wait to start getting more Razer gear so that I can fiddle with the 16.8 million different colours.