Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Razer Orbweaver Review

Preface

I apologize for the lack of photos in this post. I had taken a bunch, and they just didn’t come out right. (Plus, they made my tiny hands look fat… does the camera add 10 pounds to hands too?) I’ve linked to their product pages on the Razer site (http://www.razerzone.com) below, but if anyone has any specific angles they are looking for I would be happy to try re-taking some shots. Also, their site doesn’t have any screenshots of what their addon looks like in-game so here’s the basic layout of it: http://flic.kr/p/e31Yo6. There’s an admin piece behind this as well, but this is really the basics of it. 

The Need

I recently decided to get back into World of Warcraft after taking a substantial hiatus. I have always been a “clicker,” but I have always wanted to be proficient with keybinds. I figure since I was starting the new Monk class now would be a good time to try to learn.

My biggest hurdle has been the fact that I have short fingers, and a fairly limited range of motion in my last two fingers. So I’ve always had a hard time adapting to the “standard” keybind layout.

Probably about two years ago someone gave me the Razer Nostromo game pad as a gift. (Some of you may remember the Nostromo as the Belkin n52te.) I had always wanted to dabble with one so it was a great gift, but I could never get comfortable using it. Then Razer released the Razer Orbweaver

The Orbweaver

The Orbweaver had the Nostromo are very similar, but here are a few major differences:
  • The Orbweaver is fully mechanical
  • The Orbweaver uses Razer’s profile syncing software (Synapse 2.0)
  • The Orbweaver has an in-game World of Warcraft Addon*
  • The Nostromo has 16 keys versus the Orbweaver’s 20 keys
  • The Nostromo stores up to 20 game profiles versus the Orbweaver’s unlimited
  • The Nostromo has an adjustable wrist pad versus the Orbweaver’s adjustable hand, thumb, and palm rests
*In my opinion the addon is not a major purchasing point, but it has one…

Judging:

The Good

The Orbweaver, in my opinion, has four major things going for it:

1. Mechanical Keys

I know mechanical keys are “in” right now, but honestly, I have always liked them. I like the tactile feedback I get back from them… and the clacks. (Seriously, who doesn't love that sound?)

The Orbweaver uses Cherry MX Blue mechanical keys, which aren’t bad by any means, but typically Cherry MX Blue’s are popular for every day typing. Cherry MX Clear or Cherry MX Red tend to be more suited towards “gaming.” All the same, I appreciate having mechanical over the standard.

If you'd like to learn more about mechanical keyboards, and the key switches Das Keyboard has a great guide here: http://www.daskeyboard.com/blog/?page_id=1458

2. The Thumb-pad

My goodness the thump-pad on the Nostromo is awful. It’s too bulky with that horrendous knob on top. It is just too awkward to use. Also, I think the texture made my thumb sore, which I am sure would have gone away… along with all my thumb skin.*

The Orbweaver’s directional thumb-pad is definitely much more akin to what I would consider a thumb-pad. It’s concave on top, and fits the thumb much more nicely. Plus that rough "gripping" texture is now gone. Thumbs rejoice!

*I apologize to Razer for my overly dramatic reaction; however, I do believe someone somewhere may be using that thumb-pad as sandpaper.

3. The Bottom “Thumb” Button

My issue with the Nostromo’s button underneath the thumb-pad is that it is very far away. With my smaller hands I really have to reach for it. At the same time I feel that if they move it up it wouldn’t be nearly as arduous to reach it. So…

Thanks Razer for reading my mind! They’ve moved that button up, and enlarged it. It’s in a much better position on the Orbweaver. If I use the thumb-pad to move, I still cannot technically reach it with the side of my thumb, but shifting from thumb-pad to button feels more natural.

4. Ergonomics

Technically, the original Nostromo is very ergonomic; however, it isn't really comfortable for me. The thumb area feels like it is in the wrong place, and no matter how I adjusted the pad it never seems to feel right. The whole thing just feels like it was made for someone with much bigger hands.

The Orbweaver I feel still brings that nice ergonomic feel, but the adjustable hand, thumb, and palm rests are really what does it for me. I feel like my whole hand just sits better on the Orbweaver than it ever did on the Nostromo.

That being said I do want to give a quick note to all my short-fingered friends, the Orbweaver has more buttons, and I have found that most of the top row buttons are a stretch for me to reach. I can reach them, but they are bound to things that I rarely use or for out-of-combat abilities.

The Bad

Like all things in life, the Orbweaver is not without faults. I think I probably have three major complaints, and honestly, one of them is kind of petty…

1. The Cost

The Orbweaver is a whopping $110 versus the Nostromo’s $50-ish. Even Logitech’s competitor product, the G13 is about $55. Granted mechanical keys tend to cost more, and there are a lot more moving parts in the Orbweaver, but I had a really hard time justifying the purchase to myself.

2. Synapse 2.0

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan. I understand the practicality of it, and the syncing stuff is kind of cool. Frankly though, most of those cool features are going to go unused.I don't, personally, have a good use-case for those features. I also don’t like needing an internet connection (even though mine is excellent 99% of the time). I always feel like these sorts of things are a slipper slope.

3. The Petty Reason

Okay, this is going to sound extremely petty, but it’s important to me. The Nostromo has a rope-braided cable. My Razer Imperator has a rope-braided cable. The Orbweaver does not have a rope-braided cable. It’s the standard plastic covering. I’m not saying it’s not durable, but through years of brutalizing my peripherals I have found the rope-braids always last longer.

The Verdict

Okay, so in the end should you spend your $110 on the Razer Orbweaver…

Yes!

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst, I think the Orbweaver is a solid 7.

If you are in the market, and you like Razer I would say go for it. It’s a hefty price tag, but I would recommend it more than I would the Nostromo. I’d say the positives definitely out-weigh the negatives, and I’m finally feeling fairly comfortable with my keybinds!

I also do want to mention one more thing. I read a lot of reviews that said the build quality wasn't great. I can't speak directly about that since I've literally had mine for 2 days; however, my Imperator mouse is one of the originals. I've had it for at least 2 years now, and it is still going strong with zero problems. I've also so-far encountered zero problems with my mechanical keys sticking, etc.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this review!

    I also have small hands, and I'm wondering if I should purchase this or not.

    I was wondering if you can comfortably use the directional thumb pad while still being able to reach all the other buttons without strain?

    I'm also a WoW player and I raid, so most of my time will be spent moving around, while still being able to reach any of my abilities at the same time.

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