Razer Lycosa Keyboard - Review

Razer Lycosa Keyboard - Review

Pros: Small profile; powerful macro software; smooth typing; strong desk grip.

Cons: Only one spare USB port; dim, non-adjustable LED backlighting; unintuitive software.

Bottomline: Razer's Lycosa gaming keyboard has a lot of promise, and it mostly delivers, thanks to its solid feel, smooth typing, and powerful macro capabilities. We wish Razer had paid more attention to the LED lighting, but for strong touch-typing gamers, we think you'll like the Lycosa once you put your hands on it.

Specifications: Dimensions (W x D x H): 18.5 in x 8.7 in x 0.6 in

Price: $65.99 - $79.99

Razer's new Lycosa gaming keyboard has several unique features. The rubber coating on the keys provides a soft, comfortable touch. You can switch between three different backlight configurations via a touch-sensitive control pad. You can even use Razer's software to program each of the Lycosa's keys to work as a separate macro, either individually or in combination with one another. We're frustrated, though, by a few things left half-baked. None of the Lycosa's issues are bad enough to make us dislike it outright, and we'd recommend it--especially for confident touch-typing gamers. For $80, though, we expect Razer to follow through on the promises of its features.

Setting up the Lycosa is only a little convoluted. It requires two USB inputs, as well as separate audio inputs if you want to plug in your own headset and microphone. Because the Lycosa has a single spare USB 2.0 jack on its top edge, we understand why Razer relies on two USB outputs; presumably it wants to preserve the pristine data stream for the keyboard itself to ensure typing responsiveness. Fair enough. Razer still could have added a second USB input, though, since the current one has a dedicated data stream all to itself via the second USB cable.

The software is easy to set up, although hard to navigate due to small type and a less-than intuitive layout. If you don't plan on using macros, you might not even need it. The touch pad's media control and backlit profile button work without installing anything.

The Lycosa's backlighting is its biggest problem. With the blue LED turned off, you're left with an almost illegible keyboard, that's similar to the purposefully blank Das keyboard of a few years ago. If you're not secure in your touch-typing prowess, the reasonable thing to do would be to turn on the Lycosa's backlighting, which reveals the letters on the keys, along with the touch pad buttons. The problem is that the lighting is so faint that in a lit room, it gives you only a suggestion of which key is which. Unlike Saitek's Eclipse II keyboards, there's no way to adjust the brightness on the Lycosa's LED, let alone the color.

In a darkened room, however, the lighting is sufficiently bright. The only other option is a third profile that lights up the W, A, S, and D keys (with roughly twice the brightness of the standard lighting scheme), commonly used by PC gamers as direction controls, but keeps the rest of the board unlit.

Assuming you can find the proper keys, typing on the Lycosa is actually a pleasant experience. The nonstick rubber coating is soft to the touch, and combined with the response of the low profile keys, we actually like the Lycosa's typing action better than Razer's higher-end Tarantula keyboard. The Lycosa's glossy plastic housing is also attractive enough, but we're less enamored with the detachable wrist rest. For one, it requires four screws, which seems overcomplicated when surely a plastic clip or two would suffice. The wrist rest is also made from a nonvented matte plastic that seems to induce sweating. This is gross, especially if, like your reviewer (he swears), you're not normally prone to sweaty palms.

If you do go so far as to install the software and can figure out how to use it, you'll find that you can make any key perform the work of several via the macro software. Razer also promises the ability to press more than three keys at a time. For gamers especially, we can see how this might be useful for executing a complicated series of moves. Unlike the Tarantula, the Lycosa has no dedicated buttons for macro hosting. The benefit, though, is that with no macro keys, the Lycosa has a much smaller footprint than the 20.25-inch wide Tarantula or Logitech's 21.5-inch wide G15 keyboard. At its widest, the Lycosa comes in just under 18.5 inches, smaller than even the Saitek Eclipse II.

Finally, in addition to the Lycosa's scaled-down size, we also like how well it holds its position on your workspace. It's not an overly heavy keyboard, but the rubber feet gripped our desk firmly. You can also elevate the Lycosa via two drop-down feet on the underside.