It wasn’t all that long ago that we took a look at the Razer Orbweaver, their mechanical gaming keypad. I was a little surprised when the latest product from Razer was actually another gaming keypad, the Razer Tartarus. The Tartarus is a non-mechanical gaming keypad that is sold along with the Orbweaver. That means it actually is replacing the Nostromo for Razer’s membrane gaming keypad. I’m excited to see what has changed, the Orbweaver made a few big improvements, I’m curious if any of those made it into the Tartarus.

Product Name: Razer Tartarus

Review Sample Provided by: Razer

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

Specifications

Number of keys

25 Fully programmable keys including an 8-way thumb-pad

Back Lighting

Yes

Cable

Braided fibre cable

Approximate Size

Width: 153mm/6.03"

Height: 186mm / 7.32"

Depth: 54.8mm/2.16"

Product weight

370g/0.66lbs

System Requirements

-PC with USB port

-Windows® 8/ Windows® 7 / Windows Vista® / Windows® XP (32-bit)/ Mac OS X (v10.6-10.8)

-Internet connection (for driver installation)

-At least 200MB of hard disk space

-Synapse 2.0 registration (requiring a valid e-mail), software download, license acceptance, and internet connection needed to activate full features of product and for software updates. After activation, full features are available in optional offline mode.


Packaging

Other than the name on the front and the photo of the Tartarus the packaging is the same here as with the Orbweaver and even with the old Nostromo as well. It’s part of Razer’s branding to stick with the black and green look. Not only can you see the Tartarus on the cover, but if you open up the front you can get your hands right on it. I have done this a few times at Best Buy for example with mice, it’s important to know it’s going to fit you before you put your money down. Around on the back you have another photo of the Tartarus, but this time around there are lines going to each of its key features with short descriptions attached to each line. The rest of the back is covered in the feature listings in 10 different languages so you aren’t going to find anything else here. As with any Razer product you also get a little packet with a user guide, two Razer stickers and a certificate of authenticity. I did notice on that the certificate has two signatures now where they used to all just have Razerguy’s. Now the current CEO is also listed. This is just a little clue to things that go on behind the scenes, Razerguy is actually a friend and it’s a little weird seeing more than his name on there.

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Pictures/Features

There is actually an additional row of keys on the Orbweaver compared to the Tartarus but without having them next to each other most wouldn’t even notice. In fact both devices look very similar. The flat black finish and green backlighting fits with Razer’s current product line and will go perfectly with your 2013 Blackwidow and 2013 Deathadder. The shape of the Tartarus goes back well before the Orbweaver though. It goes all the way back to an old product from Belkin back in the day called the N52. Razer got involved in the design later with the N52te and that design later was rebranded as the Nostromo after Belkin dropped the N52te from their product line. It’s interesting that this design has been around for so long under so many names. The Tartarus though is more of a departure than the other designs because this is the first time (other than the Orbweaver) that Razer handled all of the development rather than just working with Belkin like the other models.

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The thumb area of the Tartarus is basically the same as what we saw on the Orbweaver. You get a direction pad that you can place your thumb on and from there you have two buttons one above and below the direction nub. The bottom switch uses a switch from a mouse trigger that gives it a very short throw and that distinctive click sound that clicking your mouse button gives you.

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The underside of the Tartarus has four rubber pads taking up most of the contact area on the bottom helping keep the Tartarus in place. You wouldn’t want the Tartarus to move around in the middle of an important or intense game. Much like the Orbweaver the Tartarus does also have a little adjustability. There isn’t as much as the Orbweaver, but we can still slide the palm rest in and out using the small button on the side as show in the picture below.

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Honestly at first glance the Tartarus looked exactly the same as the Nostromo to me. It wasn’t until I put them next to each other that the differences became more obvious. For example the finishes they went with, the Nostromo mostly has a glossy finish and the Tartarus has a matt finish to avoid all of the fingerprint issues that the glassy finish causes. The Nostromo also has a scroll wheel and the Tartarus doesn’t have one at all. This gave us an additional key to use as well. The wrist rests are basically the same with the exception of the Tartarus’s adjustability as I mentioned before.

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The thumb area is a little cleaner looking with a larger top button, and the bottom button was changed from a push button to a switch like a mouse trigger meaning easier activation. The three lights in the thumb area on the Nostromo was moved out of the way on the Tartarus as well.

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Software

With Razer combining all of their software into one program with their Synapse 2.0 a while back, I didn’t have to dig a download for the Tartarus’s software because I already had I installed from the Orbweaver. I did however have to install an update and much like when you install Synapse 2.0 it asked me to reboot my PC. To some this might not mean much, but because I always have something that I’m working on and 50 other tasks open it’s a big production for me to reboot my pc. Because of that I wanted to point out that it is a little frustrating that their software requires this while most other manufactures don’t. Additionally, and I pointed this out in our Orbweaver review, but the Razer Synapse 2.0 does also require that you sign up and sign into their software as well as requiring an internet connection when you sign in. The whole idea is that all of your settings are on the cloud and you can jump on any PC and go, but I will be honest that I would much prefer my settings just be on my devices and once I have everything configured I can plug them all into another computer and have them work without installing any software at all. These design choices with their software has cause some vocal opposition from some enthusiasts and it is important to at least know about going in. I always have an internet connection for one, but also once I was signed in and marked as keep me signed in I really never had to worry about the problems again. Although I’m not a fan of them at all, I can admit that they are mostly issues that only cause a problem during setup. Once you are setup you shouldn’t have to worry about it again.

Now that I have ranted about all of that, lets actually take a look at the Synapse 2.0 software with the Tartarus hooked up. First I should point out as you can see that I also have the new Naga 2014 hooked up and the software shows both devices down at the bottom. Clicking on them allows me to flip back and forth between their configurations even. Your main page allows you to select between 8 different keymaps as well as a dropdown menu of profiles if you want to pull a profile off the cloud and put it to use. You can use these profiles to link them to a program so when it runs the configuration changes. Here you can click on any of the keys on the Tartarus and reprogram them and along the bottom edge of the photo you can also select side view to get access to the side buttons as well.

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Once you click on a key that you want to change you have the list of options below to pick from. Some of the options like keyboard function mean you can select any key on your keyboard, all together this means you have a LONG list of options available for each key on the Tararus.

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The Macro Page lets you record, save, and edit new and old macros. You have options like setting the delay between keystrokes to nothing, a set amount, or to whatever the time was when you recorded.

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The lighting page is fairly simple, you can adjust the brightness down using a slider or if you would like you can just set it to pulse on and off. Other manufactures call this effect breathing.

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Not pictured but there is also the Add On page. Some devices like the Naga have AddOn’s that offer additional functionality. This is where you can turn those on and off.


Performance

Now that I have had experience with multiple gaming keypads like the Orbweaver, Nostromo, and the G13, I had a good idea of what to expect from the Tartarus. Especially because a lot of the Tartarus’s features came from the Nostromo and or the Orbweaver. This meant I knew how I wanted to set everything up, so I jumped right into my testing. For FPS testing I used the stock setup with a few exceptions and tweaks to keep my melee, frags, and other game specific buttons near my WASD keys. For melee I found the button just below my thumb actually worked very well for quick reactions, but it also was a great pick for binding to your voice push to talk as well if you don’t use a button on your mouse. My testing included a couple games of Battlefield 3 as well as Crysis 3. Once everything was setup I quickly adjusted from the previous Razer keypads to this new design. With a row less than the Orbweaver I still had all of the keys I needed but people who put all of the keys on the Orbweaver or the G13 will have trouble with the lower key count.

Seeing that I have been playing a lot of League of Legions recently, it was only right that I also toyed with the Tartarus in game as well. I didn’t need a high key count this time around. It was just an issue of setting the middle row to your normal qwer keys and then binding the keys around the edge to things like my 6 item locations, my TP back button, and the rest of the functions you put to use. You can also setup macros for example that will set off a q spell every 4 seconds if you are trying to build up your tear (item) in game. The thumb pad is perfect for moving your view around the map without having to move your mouse, something that you can’t do with a standard keyboard while keeping your qwer keys at hand.

The green backlighting is going to be polarizing, people who love green or have other new Razer products won’t have an issue with it but those with other backlight colors on their keyboard or mouse might not be as happy. I do with the Tartarus would support full color spectrum like the G13. Going back to the membrane keys took a little time after coming from the Orbweaver, but it wasn’t long before I had gotten used to them while doing my testing.

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Lastly I put the adjustability to the test. One picture below is with the palm wrest all the way out and the other is all the way in. If you look you can see that with the palm wrest all the way out my fingers aren’t sitting with a claw grip. Not only does this help with getting the Tartarus to fit different hand sizes but some people prefer to grip differently. I do miss the additional adjustability that the Orbweaver has that allows the thumb controls to move around as well.

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Overall and Final Verdict

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The Tartarus is an interesting product. In a lot of ways Razer combined the old Nostromo with the Orbweaver to create the Tartarus. You lose the mechanical switches and a whole row of keys but you are getting some of the adjustability that the Orb Weaver had as well as the same ergonomics. They also share the same software. All at a price point that is a little closer to being in reach for the average gamer. Because of that most of my issues with the Tartarus are the same as with the Orbweaver. The fact you need to log into the software while being online is frustrating as well as it making you reboot. The green backlighting looks amazing, but I know that a lot of people want something that matches the rest of their PC and not everyone is running green. Other than that there is just one other issue I have with the Tartarus, its name. It took me a long time to get used to the Nostromo name and now they have changed it to something that is somehow even harder to say.

The benefits to the Tartarus do make up for the downsides though. I love the adjustability, getting a gaming keypad that fits you can sometimes be hard because there aren’t many options on the market. Adjustability should help it fit more people. I may have complained about the green backlighting, but one thing is for sure no one is going to complain about the backlighting being too dim. The Tartarus’s backlighting when turned all the way up is just crazy.  The same goes for the software, I did have complaints about it, but I have to admit it is packed full of all of the features I would want or need and then some. Lastly, the new flat finish is a major improvement over the Nostromo’s glossy finish, no more greasy fingerprints.

While the gaming keypad market has to be a small one, there are still a lot of people who do utilize them. I’m happy to see that Razer isn’t just leaving well enough alone. The only problem I foresee really is that most people who like using a gaming keypad are already using one, I’m not sure if the improvements will be enough to interest them into getting a newer model. 

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Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld replied the topic: #32268 17 Aug 2013 04:20
just a few days ago Razer introduced their new gaming keypad, today we take a look at it. Enjoy and have a nice weekend

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