For the last few years now I have come to rely on my Razer Lycosa for my gaming (and typing) needs. Its comfortable design and response time has made it one of my better peripheral purchases, but it wasn’t without its flaws (ie. keys randomly locking and an LED backlight that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.) So enter the Arctosa – a keyboard that aimed to improve the user experience for gamers, but unfortunately the first incarnation of the Arctosa a few years ago was met with heavy criticism due to its dark keys making it almost impossible to see what you were actually typing. A second edition of the keyboard, which I am currently typing on, was released last year with silver stickers for key identification to address the flaw.
The Arctosa proudly boasts having “slim keycap structure with hyperesponse technology,” which translates to having flat form keys to reduce latency. It also features “selective anti-ghosting capability around the WASD cluster, to avoid any issues that might otherwise occur with other keyboards when multiple keys are pressed at the same time. It all sounds impressive, but does the Arctosa deliver an input experience worth investing in from a gaming standpoint and, more importantly, would it match my experiences with the Lycosa?
Delivered in a well-presented package that you would come to expect from a Razer product, complete with manual, stickers, and driver CD, the Arctosa is surprisingly light even with the detachable wrist rest screwed on. This comes at the cost of the keyboard not having the same sturdy feel that the Lycosa does, but it in no way felt flimsy during use and I found it to be very comfortable to type on for long periods of time. However, much like every other Razer product I have owned, the matte finish is a fingerprint magnet that, while easy to clean, will need constant attention if that sort of thing bugs you.
Setup to use the keyboard in its default state is a simple affair – just plug in the USB connection of its modestly sized cable and the drivers are automatically installed through Windows for instant use. This includes the Multimedia buttons on the top-right corner of the keyboard that provide playback and volume controls, but unfortunately years of using the Lycosa’s multimedia buttons led me to assume that the Arctosa also utilised a touchpad mechanic – this is not the case. The multimedia controls are in fact tactile buttons made to look like a touchpad, something the supplied manual failed to mention causing great frustration until the answer was found on the interwebs (cheers Jon!) On the bright side though, the controls work as intended without the supplied Razer software installed, and even work with Windows 8’s native music app regardless of whether the user is on the “Metro” start screen or on the desktop, something I consider a huge plus after what could have very easily been a negative due to poor communication.
With a lack of macro buttons on the keyboard itself, the Arctosa relies on the supplied Razer Synapse software to allow for customised controls. The Synapse suite itself hasn’t changed much over the last few years so previous Razer customers will know how it handles, but newcomers should find its accessibility to manage key combinations and auto-detect games a straightforward affair. Of course, these days most games that would require macros tend to facilitate said functionality in-game, but Razer Synapse is a welcome piece of software should you wish to keep your configurations in one place.
As well as putting the keyboard through its paces by typing this very review (we’re going meta here, people) it was important to see how the Arctosa held up as a gaming keyboard. After playing a number of games of varying genres, overall I found it was one of the more comfortable input devices I’ve used in some time, and it certainly felt responsive to my commands, be it quickly selecting an item or a panicked attempt to dodge out of the way of something painful… but it didn’t really make me feel like I had gained an advantage by using the Arctosa. Besides the fact it feels comfortable, I wouldn’t say it stands out in terms of being a gaming peripheral.
One thing does stick out like a sore thumb, though – the lock key lights. Emitting a piercing white light when activated, they definitely let you know you have Caps Lock on with a brightness that is excessive (to the point I recommend you don’t look at them directly… seriously.) Compared to the cooling blue lights of the Lycosa, it surprises me this made it into the 2012 model. Additionally, the lack of a USB port to plug in a mouse (and in turn keep cabling relatively tidy) is something I miss from the Lycosa, although this was almost certainly done to keep costs down.
Here’s the thing though – if you take away the Synapse software and the Razer brand, I wouldn’t have said this was a gaming keyboard. I would certainly say it is a comfortable and responsive input device, but it doesn’t scream “pro gamer” at me when I look at it. Don’t me wrong, it has a pleasing aesthetic and it is a joy to type on, but it certainly would not be the first choice for serious gamers when for a gaming keyboard (even Razer themselves have better alternatives in that respect.) That said, it certainly comes across a good budget buy if you are in the need for a quality keyboard for under £50.
Just be sure of one thing - if you do get an Arctosa, get the Silver on Black 2012 model and not the original version with black keys if you do your gaming late at night.
- Incredibly comfortable to use, be it for gaming or typing.
- Smart looking aesthetic and lightweight design.
- Multimedia keys work universally with Windows applications…
- … but a lack of official notice about the tactile keys is nearly a deal-breaker.
- It doesn’t really come across as a gaming device.
- It’s a fingerprint magnet that could drive some users up the wall.