Razer’s Lycosa is their second keyboard offering and seems to be an about-face in terms of approach. Gone is the idea of extra button-laden keyboards with jam-packed features that tend to lack practicality; enter a keyboard that is trying to bring something that’s slightly different to the gaming arena.
Razer first arrived back in 1998, unleashing the Boomslang mouse on unsuspecting gamers. After promising reviews but slow adoption, Razer fell into the shadows around the new millennium. Four years later, and with over 30 peripheral products under their belt, we catch a glimpse of the Lycosa. While nothing Earth-shattering is upon us in this review, the adage of “less is more” is never too far behind; and while many companies are trying to pack more features and ideas into products, Razer seems to be playing on simplicity and practicality this time around. We find out if it works.
|Interface||USB + 3.5mm|
Packaging & Contents
Taking the product from the shipping box, we find the keyboard package is wrapped in a clear plastic, Razer-branded sleeve. After removing the sleeve, we are greeted with an incredibly well-designed exterior box, which usually accompanies Razer products.
Upon opening the lid of the box, we are presented with the Razer logo, followed by their slogan of “For Gamers. By Gamers.” in the familiar green color. The next thing noticed is that the box is partitioned. On the top portion of the partitioning piece of the box, we have a message from the Razer guy, a few shots of the keyboard, and a Razer-branded paper sleeve that contains a few items: a manual with driver CD, a booklet of other Razer products, Razer stickers, and a certificate of authenticity. Below the partition, we simply find the keyboard in the common foam bag, with the cords separated in a plastic bag.
The Razer Lycosa is slim, quite light and remarkably sturdy. Outside of that, this thing looks sharp. We have a monotone design, with a superb glossy finish surrounding the keyset, followed by a matte wrist rest with the Razer logo in the center. For interested parties, the wrist rest is far-and-away the most well-built one I’ve used or seen for a keyboard. You will not find cheap, flimsy plastic attached by clips with the Lycosa; instead, the durable rest is attached via four Phillips screws, and is obviously removable for those so inclined.
Continuing, on the underside of the keyboard are six rubber pads (including two on the wrist rest) to prevent slippage. The standoffs that raise your keyboard only bring it up about an inch or so, and make the rubber pads on the bottom slightly less effective. Located at the top-middle and bottom-middle of the keyboard (with and without the wrist rest) are cutouts; these serve as aids in transporting your keyboard around to various LANs as they will keep the bulk of the cord within them to protect your cables as you wrap it around the keyboard.
The Lycosa sports input jacks for your headphones and microphone, as well as a USB port. The keyboard jacks sprout from one single cable at the base of the keyboard into two USB connections and a microphone and headphone jack. The reason for two USB connectors seems to be that Razer wants to ensure full-powered connectivity for your 1000Hz Ultrapolling™ keyboard, and a separate one for the hub portion.
Next, rubbing your hands over the surface, you immediately notice the well discussed rubberized, laptop-style keys. This is one of the deal-breakers for some people, in that they don’t know how these will handle. The only way to describe the feeling of the Lycosa is to imagine a laptop keyboard, but without the deadening, tactile effect, but also without the full cushion depression of a normal keyboard; quite the comfortable middle-ground, especially with the coating.
The last stops on the tour of the Lycosa, are the backlighting and media buttons. Located at the top-right corner of the keyboard, are the TouchPanel™ media keys, directly below your standard lock lights (Caps, Scroll, Num). On it, we have the Razer logo dividing the standard play/pause, stop, back and forward buttons on one side, and the volume and backlighting control on the other; it too (the TouchPanel™) is glossy.
The first thing I did with the Lycosa was trot over to IRC and type away to test the feeling of the keys. Now, as some of you have probably guessed or assumed, typing on a laptop-style keyboard with rubber-coated keys will feel different. Since the keys are flat and lower to the base they are closer together. For those with large hands coming from standard keyboards or those who don’t get to have a go on a laptop too often, relying on the feeling and the memory of the gaps between keys on your old keyboard will inhibit your early typing and gaming as you get accustomed to it. All in all, it feels great.Onto gaming testing, I loaded up the above games and played through. Keeping this short and sweet, I found nothing odd within any of the games. Now, granted, I play within the common WASD cluster of keys; Razer cleverly addresses this in their technical specifications as well, by citing “gaming cluster with anti-ghosting capability.” As such, ghosting, did not occur in this region.
For those gamers playing with the arrow keys, you will have a harder time adjusting to this keyboard. Since the keys are lower and flatter than your standard keyboard, it’s a lot easier to goof up while traveling in this area. While practice helped get used to the intricacies of the arrow key orientation on the Lycosa, it might be better to avoid it if you’re one of those gamers.
Next, for information’s sake, loading up MameWorld’s GhostKey allows us to check how many keys can be pressed at once. I stuck within the WASD gaming cluster, boundaries being from tilde to 4, down to V and the spacebar key. I found that up to six keys could be pressed at once, while having Caps pressed initiated key blocking. Outside the common gaming cluster, only two to four keys could be pressed at once and key blocking was more prominent. For the arrow key gamers, I found that there was no key blocking or ghosting in the combinations I used.
In regards to the touchpad, initiating the backlighting feature or any of the others is easy enough. Simply place your finger over the appropriate area of the touchpad and press lightly. The pad is a little sensitive, so those used to an actual physical tactile effect might be a little disappointed.
Without the backlight feature on, seeing the keys is difficult, even with the lights on in the room. Using the backlight makes the keys much easier to see, and turning the lights off in the room gives us an excellent looking setup. Pressing the backlight key once, the first to light up are the WASD keys. This setting is the brightest, as all the power seems to be running to just these four keys. Pressing it a second time, we are greeted with the entire keyboard being backlit, but at a much dimmer level overall. The third touch simply turns the feature off.
One of the main criticisms across customer reviews is that the keys are really dim. While I find the position of the lighting better than the G15, the brightness is definitely lower, and possibly a point of concern. However, I personally don’t see it as a huge issue.
Finally, we have the Razer software with its programming and macro capabilities. First off, it’s incredibly thorough. You can make any key on the keyboard have an alternate task. From basic commands, such as cutting and copying, to the toggling and closing of windows, to even opening programs- the capabilities are impressive. You can have up to ten profiles and use keys to swap between them.
In the macro options you can only record up to eight keystrokes. You can insert delays and change the behavior of whether you only need to press it once, repeat while pressed or repeat until the next key is pressed. These are all very useful, not only for games but for other applications as well. Of course, the Lycosa has no extra buttons in which to use for macros; this leaves less popular keys as possible options, but the F keys seem to be the most ideal, especially for the Counter-Strike games, where using them as buying keys is very useful.
The comfort level for the Lycosa is great. Granted, there is subjectivity inherent in this section, but we can present some objective markers for which readers can judge. As aforementioned, the best way to describe the Lycosa is a cross between a laptop keyboard and a standard keyboard. If you enjoy the feel of flat keys of a laptop, and the click-clack and tactile aspect of a normal keyboard, you will like the Lycosa. If not, it might not be for you.
The Lycosa is of standard layout, so there will be no new surprises or weird configurations to get used to. However, as also aforementioned, given that the keys are flat, lower and closer together, there is an adjustment period. Those with larger hands will probably find themselves hitting keys right next to the ones they actually intend to hit. This is easily overcome with time and I can’t really see this being something to turn people away from the keyboard.
Conclusion & Value
- Well backlit overall
- Fast and comfy tactile response
- Fairly easy to clean
- Impressive programming capability
- Great gaming features (cord cutouts, USB, audio jacks, backlighting)
- Slight adjustment period
- Takes up an extra UBS port
- Glossy surface makes for easy mess
Razer makes products that seem to be hit or miss among the gaming population. To their credit however, they really seem to listen to gamers and aren’t afraid to try new things. With the Lycosa, they have strayed into new territories for the benefit of gamers. With the cutouts, audio jacks, backlighting, rubber-coated keys and great expandability with programming, they really have a solid product, albeit at a steeper price.
Ed’s Note: Matt DiVito is a long-time FPSLabs.com community member and this is the first review he has submitted to us. Having read the review, I think you will join me in saying that I hope it won’t be his last. Since Matt is not officially a member of the FPSLabs staff, we have to put the disclaimer that the ideas and opinions presented in this review do not necessarily reflect those of FPSLabs.com.