I wasn’t exactly sure who would need one when I tested the Razer Tartarus V2 Chroma keypad a couple of years ago. Gaming keypads are definitely a luxury piece, but they are also a little niche. Do you need a small keyboard just beside your main keyboard? Will someone make online games tangibly better for your massive multiplayer?
A new upgrade of the Tartarus V2 Chrome, with a number of analog optical keys, was released at the Razer Tartarus Pro ($130). The Razer Tartarus Pro occupies an extremely small console, incorporates a joystick and a full-size keyboard along with multiple best features.
Instead of a proper controller or full-size keyboard, however, even taking those benefits into account, it is difficult to recommend Razer Tartarus Pro. Although the keyboard is rather well designed, the advantages are mild, and a lot of money will be spent on it. The Razer Tartarus Pro makes playing certain games a bit simpler, making some games even tougher.
If you never used a gaming keyboard, small devices are fascinating. You can put about 20 keys on a middle-shape frame with a brace, analog handle and a few other buttons, instead of a full-size keyboard.
The Razer Tartarus Pro is very similar to the Tartarus V2 Chroma from a design perspective. The scroll wheel, button to change profiles, a “analog” stick (there is no more than 19 lines of numbered buttons), a thumb button, a tough rest of the palm and a soft rest of our wrist, are all there. Imagine a single-handed player hybrid keyboard / mouse and you might come up with something like this.
The problem with the Razer Tartarus Pro is it’s a little difficult to reach anything, and when you need to push your hand around the inflexible palm rest creates some friction. You can reach middle two lines of buttons quickly if you place the palm on the palm rest and the wrist on the wrist rest, as Razer wanted to, but you’ll need to stretch for the top lines or tie your hand to the bottom lines.
As it’s nearly impossible to use both the top row and the analog stick for both the analog and thumb button (which, by default, is assigned to the spacebar command).
This is less of a problem if you need only a line of keys and are able to sit your fingers back in the middle side, like the ASDF key on the keyboard. Even then, my normal keyboard had a wrist rest and was much more convenient than curving the bottom of my hand to a 30-degree angle.
The analog stick should also be taken into account. It’s more like a D-pad with a circular cloud practically. You can press on it to switch around in four different directions.
On the 8, 12, 13 and 14 keys there are also four little arrows to mimic the WASD key on your keyboard. The Razer Tartarus Pro doesn’t have one due to its analog optical switches; I would have wanted it to be a traditional analog stick.
The analog optical keys are the most important components of the Razer Tartarus Pro. The Tartarus uses pressure-sensitive analog optical switches, instead of a conventional mechanical switch. These are more like controller buttons than traditional keys. This keys allow you to partly press them and respond accordingly, rather than a simple pressed / unpressed binary.
To offer an easy example: if you gently press the 8 key, most games will show you your character. When you keep the 8 key down, your character is flying. This goes for any action, from firing a single bullet to creeping around an enemy camp, which depends on the amount of pressure.
The Razer Tartarus Pro is based on the Razer Synapse platform, which, like most current Razer hardware, enables you to reprogram buttons, adjust RGB lighting and create profiles that are linked to individual games. The program does all it needs and is twice useful, because you can bind two functions to each key.
The first function is switched on slowly; the second function is activated by pressing down throughout. It’s very sweet, and I can’t imagine a keyboard with the same functionality. You can even change the actuation point for each feature according to the hardness of pressing the key.
Like I mentioned above, the software is good because for every new game that you play, you must get deep into it. Although you can switch between the configuration “keypad,” “joystick” and “controller” easily, you can create much more convenient profiles alone. There are still major differences in button priority even among controller optimized games.
I was pleased with the analog optical switches to give credence where it was appropriate and I enjoyed to set up two controls per click. But once I passed the novelty of this small keyboard, I did not find it particularly useful in game playing, acting as a more complex control.
The Tartarus Pro and other gaming keypads are mostly MMO accessories and were indeed a pretty good complement for my time spent in Final Fantasy XIV. Although there are many shorts on a full keyboard, it’s only the mouse, movement keys and numbers that you really need to excel in your game, to improve your performance. I shut off the rest of the keyboard and focused on battle and the analog stick was a perfect way to change my visuals in the flight.
Like the previous model from Tartarus, the Razer Tartarus Pro is very cool, comfortable and does what it wants to do. But it is also much more expensive and very limited than its predecessor. But I don’t think that it will also revolutionize most people’s gaming experience.
Truly, I don’t know what “aha” moment would be for keyboard gamers, when they realize “This peripheral could really take my gaming to the next level.” I know the high level MMO players who engage in many endgame raids and PvP would consider a keyboard to be just too large to be productive with a handful of people. For players like this, the Tartarus Pro is a very expensive addition to your arsenal, but worth checking out.