Getting the edge on the virtual battlefields of gaming is becoming a much more pressing concern in this age of eSports and online mockery, but PC gamers usually don’t get the flashy peripherals outside of keyboards and the amazingly extravagant (such as the glorious Oculus Rift.) It is for this reason that, a few years ago when I had some spare cash to my name, the Razer Nostromo immediately caught my eye as I was looking to treat myself. Ultimately, after a few days of trying it out, I opted to return it and instead get my trusty Lycosa keyboard, but even though the gaming-focused peripheral failed to win me over at the time, I recognised its usefulness as a gaming tool.
So when Razer asked me to test out the Nostromo’s successor, the Orbweaver, I was more than eager to put the device through its paces.
Before we get onto how it performs as device, let’s talk tech specs – the Orbweaver provides gamers with a gaming keypad that comes with twenty programmable keys, backlit to allow late-night gaming, with adjustable wrist and palm supports. On the side is a module for the users thumb, providing an 8-way programmable thumbstick and two more additional buttons. In short, it provides all the inputs a player could possibly need in one hand.
Besides its twenty input keys, the first thing that springs to mind when looking upon the Orbweaver is its palm rest, allowing the user’s hand to fall naturally upon the peripheral. What is perhaps most impressive is the ability to fine tune the positioning of the three subsections of the device, allowing the user to alter the angle of the palm rest, extend the distance of the wrist rest, or change the distance for the distance that the thumbstick and spacebar actuator (or “jump pad” as I’ll be referring to it from now on) are. It means that not only can the Orbweaver be suited to the hand span of most players, but it can be made fairly compact for storage. Making these changes is easy to do thanks to buttons on the side of each section (or the silver knob in the case of the palm rest) but the supplied manual does not explain where and how to do this, and had me exploring the Orbweaver on my lonesome to figure it all out. While it should be straight forward to most users, the fact the information isn’t included is an oversight Razer should address in the future.
By default, the Orbweaver replicates around about the first third of a keyboard, meaning it is set up for most First Person movement control schemes from the word go without any alteration, but what makes it such a versatile device is its pairing with the Razer Synapse software that links up with all of the Razer devices. Using the Synapse suite allows players to customise any of the inputs with macros, and the program detection functionality allows the Orbweaver to change its inputs between games without the player needing to do anything beyond the initial setup. This also applies to creation suites, which means the Orbweaver can potentially pull double duty for gamers who work with art design programs or video editing software. Multiple profiles can even be set up for each game, with three LED lights on the side of the device indicating which profile is active. It may not be a revolutionary step, but its inclusion makes keeping track of a player’s profiles an easy task.
Having spent a considerable amount of time with the Orbweaver now, I have had chance to test it with a number of games of varying genres. MMORPGs and MOBAs definitely have to most to gain from the Orbweaver’s versatility, although strategy fans that like to have their commands read in macros could find use from the peripheral. Most FPS fans might find the twenty keys a little overkill, but I did find using it in PlanetSide 2, having my movement, weapons, vehicle controls, and social interactions in one place, was a natural fit for the Orbweaver. Even the tumbstick worked natively without any setup, although in fairness I found using it to move around (instead of the traditional WASD keys) was a challenge to get over. That said, the option of having it there and adapting to it is incredibly welcome, and those that do will be rewarded with an extra 4 keys to assign abilities or macros for.
In terms of responsiveness, I found the Orbweaver to be one of the better PC peripherals I have used. Its mechanical keys responded to my fingers quickly and naturally, and the “jump pad” was so much fun to use I was more than likely annoying everybody in PlanetSide 2 with my bunny-hopping (yep, I was THAT TR medic on the Miller server over the last few weeks.) Even in MMOs such as Guild Wars 2, I found I was able to access my abilities with ease. I even braved a round or two of DOTA 2 for the purposes of this review, and while my performance wasn’t exactly inspiring the ability to macro commands was incredibly useful. I even used the thumbstick to manually move the camera, leaving my mouse hand to focus on incredibly devious players.
My personal gripe with the Orbweaver though is the bottom row of keys. Their positioning is lower than that of the other three rows, and to me it came across as unnatural to move my fingers to and from during gameplay. As such it came across as a row for lesser used abilities and commands instead of being a legitimate option like the rest of the keypad. Had the keys been at the same height as the rest of them it might have been a different story, but while it isn’t a dealbreaker it definitely came across as annoying. In addition to this, the lack of access to the Escape key means that accessing the main menu for most games had me reaching for the keyboard instead of staying on the Orbweaver, which I found irritating as my hand leapt between peripherals. It’s for this reason that you will need a fair bit of space to accommodate the Orbweaver, your keyboard, and a mouse, but again, with Orbweaver not being particularly huge it I didn’t see it as a dealbreaker (although if you have limited desk space, it could well be for you.)
Of course, the true dealbreaker at this point is far a more universal issue – the price.
With the RRP at £114.99, the Orbweaver really is only for the most dedicated of gamers, and even then only for those that tend to play games that require many commands or would be made easier with some serious macro-lovin’. Of course, here’s the real question – is it worth getting over a gaming keyboard? As previously mentioned, the fine tuning of its wrist and palm rests make it far more comfortable than a keyboard over extended periods of play (even compared to the fairly comfortable Razer Arctosa) but it cannot match the usefulness of a full keyboard. As such, it really is down to personal preference – if you want absolute comfort while playing FPS, MOBA, or MMO titles, the Orbweaver could be one of the better investments you make, but those on a budget will find much more agreeable compromises out there, making this Razer device aimed purely at the hardcore gamer.
- Incredibly comfortable and customisable setup.
- Very responsive keys and buttons.
- Perfect for titles with many abilities and commands.
- The supplied manual could do with being more informative.
- The bottom row of keys aren’t the most natural to use.
- The premium price point makes it a peripheral for only the most dedicated of gamers.
The Short Version:
Very responsive and easy to set up, the Orbweaver provides a versatile way for gamers to have complete control of their game in just one hand. Extremely comfortable and flexible to accommodate various hand spans, it’s only major downside is its price. Only the most hardcore gamers should apply, with better choices out there for those on a budget, but those that do invest will certainly find it a worthwhile purchase.