Tag Archives: Razer

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Logitech and Razer both have some pretty awesome gaming peripherals. Whether you’re playing games or getting real work done, they’re both great options. The software they use have some small, but important differences. Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Both Logitech and Razer have a wide array of gaming peripherals to choose from, and we’re not going to suggest any particular models in this post. Instead, we want to know about the capability of the software as a whole. During our testing, we used the Logitech G410 keyboard and G602 mouse, as well as the Razer Blackwidow Chroma Tournament Edition keyboard and Naga Epic Chroma mouse. While there’s a lot we could say about specific models and such, today we’re going to talk about something no one really reviews—their software, and how easy it is to customize your gear with macros, profiles, and even lighting.

The Contenders

Both Logitech and Razer use a single application to manage all of your peripherals at once. In most ways, they’re pretty similar. However, they both have very slightly different ways of handling their tasks that leave the choice between them largely up to personal preference. We’ll get to that in a bit. For now, here’s what we’re looking at:

  • Logitech Gaming Software: Logitech’s application is named with all the creativity of an above-average brick. Fortunately, the company spent more time on features than it did on naming its software.
  • Razer Synapse: Razer’s app, Synapse, looks pretty dang cool. The company even has an account system that you can use to log in and sync your profiles between multiple computers. Handy if you don’t want to keep setting it up on new machines.

Both apps perform most of the same key functions, including programming buttons on your peripherals, recording macros, customizing the color scheme, and recording usage statistics. The way they go about each task can be very different, though. Keep in mind as we review that neither way is necessarily wrong. We’ll explain how each one differs and you can decide for yourself which platform is best for you.

Keyboard Shortcuts and Profiles

Logitech and Razer allow you to customize special macro keys so you can quickly perform complicated actions. Both allow you to set up multiple profiles, as well, so you can customize your buttons on a per-application basis. For example, you can make a button on your mouse open a new tab while you’re in Chrome, or punch some guy in the face while you’re in Mass Effect. Both will automatically switch based on which application is in focus at the time. However, each piece of software handles this a bit differently.

When you create a Logitech profile for an application, that profile is used across all your Logitech devices. So, say you create a Skyrim profile for your keyboard, your mouse will also have a Skyrim profile, based on a default blank profile, with no customizations until you deliberately change it. Razer, on the other hand, requires you to set up a Skyrim profile for your keyboard and mouse separately. If you only set up a Skyrim profile for your keyboard, your mouse will use whatever profile it last auto-detected.

In practice, I found this could cause some problems. For example, I have a Chrome profile on both the mouse and keyboard that I use for productive things like opening a calculator or entering a block of text for work. If I only set up a Skyrim profile for my Razer keyboard, and the last program I opened (or alt-tabbed to) was Chrome, my Razer mouse would still have my Chrome shortcuts bound to it. Accidentally launching the calculator application is not ideal while I’m fighting a dragon. Worse yet, if Chrome wasn’t the last application I alt-tabbed to, the mouse might be using an entirely different profile. This could make it very hard to know what a particular button is going to do unless you customize it specifically.

With Logitech, if I only set up a Skyrim profile for my keyboard, the mouse would disable the Chrome profile while I was in the game, and use the default shortcuts instead. These were usually more harmless shortcuts like displaying my mouse’s battery level or pressing a number key. More importantly, it was consistent. If I only set up a few keyboard shortcuts on a profile, I didn’t have to worry that a button might be bound to a complex macro from some profile associated with a different application that I’d forgotten about.

There are a few other differences I noticed as well:

  • In general, Logitech’s better at general purpose features, while Razer focuses on options a user might like while in-game. For example, with Logitech you can have a button paste a large block of text, play or pause media that’s currently running, and even mute or unmute your microphone in Ventrilo. Razer, on the other hand, has fewer functions for dealing with outside applications, but it does have options for switching profiles on the fly, customizing shortcuts while in a game, and communicating with its other devices. If you want to use your peripherals for the office as well as games, Logitech probably has the upper hand here.
  • Logitech’s interface is slightly easier to use. The app will show you an image of your device, with the buttons you can customize glowing. Just click on the buttons you want to change to edit the shortcuts. Razer, on the other hand, requires you to manually change which “view” you’re facing to edit all of the available buttons. It’s only a mild annoyance, but it’s jarring nonetheless.
  • Logitech allows you to choose either software-based profiles, or to store profiles on the device itself. So, if you store a profile on your mouse’s memory and plug it into a different computer, it will remember your customizations. Unfortunately, you can only store a limited number of profiles on a certain device. While Razer used to allow storing profiles on devices, newer hardware uses an account-based syncing option. You can sync more profiles this way, but it involves using a third-party server that may not always be active down the road.

The differences between Razer and Logitech on this front were largely cosmetic. Personally, I’ve used Logitech’s software more, so I found Razer’s interface a bit more confusing, but not catastrophically so. This is probably a result of me having used Logitech’s app longer. In both cases, there’s a bit of a learning curve, so which one you choose doesn’t really matter.

The only exception is the profile switching issue. Your needs may be different than mine, so I won’t say one is definitely better than the other, but it’s important to understand how both platforms handle profiles. Logitech assumes you want the same profile active across all devices at all times, while Razer allows (or, more accurately, requires) you to specifically create a profile for each application on each device.

Recording Macros

Manually customizing your keys is nice, but sometimes you need to perform an action that’s too long or complex to create by hand. That’s where recording macros comes in handy. You can just hit the record button, press the keys you need in the correct order, and then save that action for later. You can then assign that action to a specific button later.

If you’ve ever played an MMO, you know how awesome this can be. My mage in World of Warcraft can stop casting, switch targets, remove a curse, and get back to the current target at the press of a button. It’s also handy for work. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I use macros to do routine tasks like add photo credits or tags regularly.

In my experience, Logitech’s interface for saving macros was a bit more straightforward. On the screen where you assign commands to buttons, there’s a small, searchable sub-window called “Commands.” Here, you can create new macros before you even assign them to a button. Then, drag them to the key you want to use to trigger that Command. Everything is in one place and it’s super easy to use.

In contrast, Razer Synapse has a few more steps involved. First, you need to create macros in a separate tab of the application. Then, you have to go back to the key assignment screen, click the button you want to assign, choose “Macro” from a drop down list of options, and then choose the name of a macro you created from the list. It’s a lot more steps for something so simple.

When it comes to on-the-fly recording, Logitech is once again slightly simpler than Razer, but only if you have certain hardware. Some keyboards have a dedicated Macro Recording button (or “MR”). You can simply press this button, then press one of the programmable keys. This will begin the recording. Perform the action you want to save and, when you’re done, click the MR button again. That action is now saved on your keyboard. You don’t even need to touch the application.

Razer instead uses a Fn-style button (like you find on most laptops) to trigger on-the-fly recording. The keyboard I tested had an “M” symbol on the F9 key. By pressing Fn+F9, you can start recording a macro. When you’re finished, press Fn+F9 again, then press the button you want to save that action to. It’s slightly more cumbersome than having a dedicated macro recording button, but it does also save space on the keyboard, so you don’t necessarily need to buy hardware with a dedicated button to get the feature.

Both platforms also handle macro repeating slightly different. Logitech allows you to set several repeat options (like repeating while pressed, or repeating while toggled) on macros when creating the macros themselves. For example, you may want one button to reload your gun every five seconds until you say to stop, but a different button should reload your gun every five seconds for one minute. With Logitech’s platform, you’d have to create two separate macros for this. However, Razer only makes you choose a repeat option when assigning a macro to a key. So, you could create a macro to reload a gun. When you assign it to a button, make one button repeat every five seconds until you disable the toggle, and make the other button repeat it for one minute. This gives Razer a bit more flexibility.

Razer also has an option to repeat a macro a specified number of times, which Logitech does not. Both Logitech and Razer can repeat a macro as long as the assigned key is pressed, as well as repeating the macro forever, using the assigned key as a toggle to turn the macro on and off. This gives Razer another advantage in creating macros.

There’s very little difference between how Logitech and Razer handle their macros, but depending on your use cases, the slight differences could mean a substantial change to your gameplay or workflow. If you need macros that you can repeat a specific number of times, Razer is much better. If you need to create a large list of macros you can easily search, Logitech is going to be more your speed.

Lighting and Colors

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Are light-up keyboards with customizable color schemes functionally pointless? Yes. Are they badass? Also, yes. Logitech and Razer both have gorgeous hardware, so customizing the color scheme to suit your style makes a lot of sense. However, color options vary greatly from product to product. Some peripherals can only change the lighting colors of the device as a whole, while others can change colors on a per-key basis, which is even cooler.

Understandably, the hardware with the most customization options are also the most expensive. We’ll look at the differences in how each platform handles coloring, but keep in mind not all devices will have all of the features described here. That being said, here are some of the key differences:

  • On supported devices, Logitech makes it super easy to customize the color of each individual key on your keyboard. Just click a color in the color picker, then click the keys you want to change. The keyboard updates in real time. You can also choose from a selection of pre-programmed effects like the entire device cycling between colors, or a rainbow wave across your keyboard that looks trippy as hell. Some devices may come with more limited options. Logitech also has a feature called “lighting zones.” You can group keys together (like WASD or the number keys) and change their colors as a group, based on which game profile you’re in.
  • Razer uses a separate app called the Chroma Configurator to customize the lighting scheme of its peripherals. This makes it a lot more powerful, but also a lot more complex. You can customize the keys individually, or add effects like color waves, rainbows, and ripple animations. If you really want to get fancy, though, you can add layered effects. So, for example, you can choose a few keys to stay static (like WASD or the F and J home keys), while everything else has a fancy animated rainbow effect. I have to admit, in testing this looked cool as all hell, but also got a little distracting. If you like colors, though, Razer has a bit more to offer.

On pure color customization power, Razer wins, but both platforms are pretty stellar. Personally, I think there’s a limit to how much color customization I really want to do. On my own keyboard, I use a mostly blue color scheme, with a few important keys highlighted so I can find them more easily in my peripheral vision. I don’t need a rainbow effect that ripples outward from every key I press. However, for those who like to trick their hardware out, both are pretty awesome.

The Winner: It’s All About Your Preferences

If you’re looking into gaming peripherals, you probably have some pretty specific needs. Fortunately, Logitech and Razer have pretty comparable feature sets. It’s the minor details that can be the determining factor in your preference. For example, in my case, I need commands where I can easily paste blocks of text, sometimes using non-standard characters, I want on-the-fly macro recording with dedicated buttons, and I create a library of macros I can search later. For me, Logitech is the clear choice. If you want a bit more colorful flair from your hardware, prefer to finely tune shortcut profiles per device, or want to sync your profiles between devices, Razer is what you want. Ultimately, it all comes down to preference and both are awesome options.

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Logitech and Razer both have some pretty awesome gaming peripherals. Whether you’re playing games or getting real work done, they’re both great options. The software they use have some small, but important differences. Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Both Logitech and Razer have a wide array of gaming peripherals to choose from, and we’re not going to suggest any particular models in this post. Instead, we want to know about the capability of the software as a whole. During our testing, we used the Logitech G410 keyboard and G602 mouse, as well as the Razer Blackwidow Chroma Tournament Edition keyboard and Naga Epic Chroma mouse. While there’s a lot we could say about specific models and such, today we’re going to talk about something no one really reviews—their software, and how easy it is to customize your gear with macros, profiles, and even lighting.

The Contenders

Both Logitech and Razer use a single application to manage all of your peripherals at once. In most ways, they’re pretty similar. However, they both have very slightly different ways of handling their tasks that leave the choice between them largely up to personal preference. We’ll get to that in a bit. For now, here’s what we’re looking at:

  • Logitech Gaming Software: Logitech’s application is named with all the creativity of an above-average brick. Fortunately, the company spent more time on features than it did on naming its software.
  • Razer Synapse: Razer’s app, Synapse, looks pretty dang cool. The company even has an account system that you can use to log in and sync your profiles between multiple computers. Handy if you don’t want to keep setting it up on new machines.

Both apps perform most of the same key functions, including programming buttons on your peripherals, recording macros, customizing the color scheme, and recording usage statistics. The way they go about each task can be very different, though. Keep in mind as we review that neither way is necessarily wrong. We’ll explain how each one differs and you can decide for yourself which platform is best for you.

Keyboard Shortcuts and Profiles

Logitech and Razer allow you to customize special macro keys so you can quickly perform complicated actions. Both allow you to set up multiple profiles, as well, so you can customize your buttons on a per-application basis. For example, you can make a button on your mouse open a new tab while you’re in Chrome, or punch some guy in the face while you’re in Mass Effect. Both will automatically switch based on which application is in focus at the time. However, each piece of software handles this a bit differently.

When you create a Logitech profile for an application, that profile is used across all your Logitech devices. So, say you create a Skyrim profile for your keyboard, your mouse will also have a Skyrim profile, based on a default blank profile, with no customizations until you deliberately change it. Razer, on the other hand, requires you to set up a Skyrim profile for your keyboard and mouse separately. If you only set up a Skyrim profile for your keyboard, your mouse will use whatever profile it last auto-detected.

In practice, I found this could cause some problems. For example, I have a Chrome profile on both the mouse and keyboard that I use for productive things like opening a calculator or entering a block of text for work. If I only set up a Skyrim profile for my Razer keyboard, and the last program I opened (or alt-tabbed to) was Chrome, my Razer mouse would still have my Chrome shortcuts bound to it. Accidentally launching the calculator application is not ideal while I’m fighting a dragon. Worse yet, if Chrome wasn’t the last application I alt-tabbed to, the mouse might be using an entirely different profile. This could make it very hard to know what a particular button is going to do unless you customize it specifically.

With Logitech, if I only set up a Skyrim profile for my keyboard, the mouse would disable the Chrome profile while I was in the game, and use the default shortcuts instead. These were usually more harmless shortcuts like displaying my mouse’s battery level or pressing a number key. More importantly, it was consistent. If I only set up a few keyboard shortcuts on a profile, I didn’t have to worry that a button might be bound to a complex macro from some profile associated with a different application that I’d forgotten about.

There are a few other differences I noticed as well:

  • In general, Logitech’s better at general purpose features, while Razer focuses on options a user might like while in-game. For example, with Logitech you can have a button paste a large block of text, play or pause media that’s currently running, and even mute or unmute your microphone in Ventrilo. Razer, on the other hand, has fewer functions for dealing with outside applications, but it does have options for switching profiles on the fly, customizing shortcuts while in a game, and communicating with its other devices. If you want to use your peripherals for the office as well as games, Logitech probably has the upper hand here.
  • Logitech’s interface is slightly easier to use. The app will show you an image of your device, with the buttons you can customize glowing. Just click on the buttons you want to change to edit the shortcuts. Razer, on the other hand, requires you to manually change which “view” you’re facing to edit all of the available buttons. It’s only a mild annoyance, but it’s jarring nonetheless.
  • Logitech allows you to choose either software-based profiles, or to store profiles on the device itself. So, if you store a profile on your mouse’s memory and plug it into a different computer, it will remember your customizations. Unfortunately, you can only store a limited number of profiles on a certain device. While Razer used to allow storing profiles on devices, newer hardware uses an account-based syncing option. You can sync more profiles this way, but it involves using a third-party server that may not always be active down the road.

The differences between Razer and Logitech on this front were largely cosmetic. Personally, I’ve used Logitech’s software more, so I found Razer’s interface a bit more confusing, but not catastrophically so. This is probably a result of me having used Logitech’s app longer. In both cases, there’s a bit of a learning curve, so which one you choose doesn’t really matter.

The only exception is the profile switching issue. Your needs may be different than mine, so I won’t say one is definitely better than the other, but it’s important to understand how both platforms handle profiles. Logitech assumes you want the same profile active across all devices at all times, while Razer allows (or, more accurately, requires) you to specifically create a profile for each application on each device.

Recording Macros

Manually customizing your keys is nice, but sometimes you need to perform an action that’s too long or complex to create by hand. That’s where recording macros comes in handy. You can just hit the record button, press the keys you need in the correct order, and then save that action for later. You can then assign that action to a specific button later.

If you’ve ever played an MMO, you know how awesome this can be. My mage in World of Warcraft can stop casting, switch targets, remove a curse, and get back to the current target at the press of a button. It’s also handy for work. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I use macros to do routine tasks like add photo credits or tags regularly.

In my experience, Logitech’s interface for saving macros was a bit more straightforward. On the screen where you assign commands to buttons, there’s a small, searchable sub-window called “Commands.” Here, you can create new macros before you even assign them to a button. Then, drag them to the key you want to use to trigger that Command. Everything is in one place and it’s super easy to use.

In contrast, Razer Synapse has a few more steps involved. First, you need to create macros in a separate tab of the application. Then, you have to go back to the key assignment screen, click the button you want to assign, choose “Macro” from a drop down list of options, and then choose the name of a macro you created from the list. It’s a lot more steps for something so simple.

When it comes to on-the-fly recording, Logitech is once again slightly simpler than Razer, but only if you have certain hardware. Some keyboards have a dedicated Macro Recording button (or “MR”). You can simply press this button, then press one of the programmable keys. This will begin the recording. Perform the action you want to save and, when you’re done, click the MR button again. That action is now saved on your keyboard. You don’t even need to touch the application.

Razer instead uses a Fn-style button (like you find on most laptops) to trigger on-the-fly recording. The keyboard I tested had an “M” symbol on the F9 key. By pressing Fn+F9, you can start recording a macro. When you’re finished, press Fn+F9 again, then press the button you want to save that action to. It’s slightly more cumbersome than having a dedicated macro recording button, but it does also save space on the keyboard, so you don’t necessarily need to buy hardware with a dedicated button to get the feature.

Both platforms also handle macro repeating slightly different. Logitech allows you to set several repeat options (like repeating while pressed, or repeating while toggled) on macros when creating the macros themselves. For example, you may want one button to reload your gun every five seconds until you say to stop, but a different button should reload your gun every five seconds for one minute. With Logitech’s platform, you’d have to create two separate macros for this. However, Razer only makes you choose a repeat option when assigning a macro to a key. So, you could create a macro to reload a gun. When you assign it to a button, make one button repeat every five seconds until you disable the toggle, and make the other button repeat it for one minute. This gives Razer a bit more flexibility.

Razer also has an option to repeat a macro a specified number of times, which Logitech does not. Both Logitech and Razer can repeat a macro as long as the assigned key is pressed, as well as repeating the macro forever, using the assigned key as a toggle to turn the macro on and off. This gives Razer another advantage in creating macros.

There’s very little difference between how Logitech and Razer handle their macros, but depending on your use cases, the slight differences could mean a substantial change to your gameplay or workflow. If you need macros that you can repeat a specific number of times, Razer is much better. If you need to create a large list of macros you can easily search, Logitech is going to be more your speed.

Lighting and Colors

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Are light-up keyboards with customizable color schemes functionally pointless? Yes. Are they badass? Also, yes. Logitech and Razer both have gorgeous hardware, so customizing the color scheme to suit your style makes a lot of sense. However, color options vary greatly from product to product. Some peripherals can only change the lighting colors of the device as a whole, while others can change colors on a per-key basis, which is even cooler.

Understandably, the hardware with the most customization options are also the most expensive. We’ll look at the differences in how each platform handles coloring, but keep in mind not all devices will have all of the features described here. That being said, here are some of the key differences:

  • On supported devices, Logitech makes it super easy to customize the color of each individual key on your keyboard. Just click a color in the color picker, then click the keys you want to change. The keyboard updates in real time. You can also choose from a selection of pre-programmed effects like the entire device cycling between colors, or a rainbow wave across your keyboard that looks trippy as hell. Some devices may come with more limited options. Logitech also has a feature called “lighting zones.” You can group keys together (like WASD or the number keys) and change their colors as a group, based on which game profile you’re in.
  • Razer uses a separate app called the Chroma Configurator to customize the lighting scheme of its peripherals. This makes it a lot more powerful, but also a lot more complex. You can customize the keys individually, or add effects like color waves, rainbows, and ripple animations. If you really want to get fancy, though, you can add layered effects. So, for example, you can choose a few keys to stay static (like WASD or the F and J home keys), while everything else has a fancy animated rainbow effect. I have to admit, in testing this looked cool as all hell, but also got a little distracting. If you like colors, though, Razer has a bit more to offer.

On pure color customization power, Razer wins, but both platforms are pretty stellar. Personally, I think there’s a limit to how much color customization I really want to do. On my own keyboard, I use a mostly blue color scheme, with a few important keys highlighted so I can find them more easily in my peripheral vision. I don’t need a rainbow effect that ripples outward from every key I press. However, for those who like to trick their hardware out, both are pretty awesome.

The Winner: It’s All About Your Preferences

If you’re looking into gaming peripherals, you probably have some pretty specific needs. Fortunately, Logitech and Razer have pretty comparable feature sets. It’s the minor details that can be the determining factor in your preference. For example, in my case, I need commands where I can easily paste blocks of text, sometimes using non-standard characters, I want on-the-fly macro recording with dedicated buttons, and I create a library of macros I can search later. For me, Logitech is the clear choice. If you want a bit more colorful flair from your hardware, prefer to finely tune shortcut profiles per device, or want to sync your profiles between devices, Razer is what you want. Ultimately, it all comes down to preference and both are awesome options.

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Logitech and Razer both have some pretty awesome gaming peripherals. Whether you’re playing games or getting real work done, they’re both great options. The software they use have some small, but important differences. Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Both Logitech and Razer have a wide array of gaming peripherals to choose from, and we’re not going to suggest any particular models in this post. Instead, we want to know about the capability of the software as a whole. During our testing, we used the Logitech G410 keyboard and G602 mouse, as well as the Razer Blackwidow Chroma Tournament Edition keyboard and Naga Epic Chroma mouse. While there’s a lot we could say about specific models and such, today we’re going to talk about something no one really reviews—their software, and how easy it is to customize your gear with macros, profiles, and even lighting.

The Contenders

Both Logitech and Razer use a single application to manage all of your peripherals at once. In most ways, they’re pretty similar. However, they both have very slightly different ways of handling their tasks that leave the choice between them largely up to personal preference. We’ll get to that in a bit. For now, here’s what we’re looking at:

  • Logitech Gaming Software: Logitech’s application is named with all the creativity of an above-average brick. Fortunately, the company spent more time on features than it did on naming its software.
  • Razer Synapse: Razer’s app, Synapse, looks pretty dang cool. The company even has an account system that you can use to log in and sync your profiles between multiple computers. Handy if you don’t want to keep setting it up on new machines.

Both apps perform most of the same key functions, including programming buttons on your peripherals, recording macros, customizing the color scheme, and recording usage statistics. The way they go about each task can be very different, though. Keep in mind as we review that neither way is necessarily wrong. We’ll explain how each one differs and you can decide for yourself which platform is best for you.

Keyboard Shortcuts and Profiles

Logitech and Razer allow you to customize special macro keys so you can quickly perform complicated actions. Both allow you to set up multiple profiles, as well, so you can customize your buttons on a per-application basis. For example, you can make a button on your mouse open a new tab while you’re in Chrome, or punch some guy in the face while you’re in Mass Effect. Both will automatically switch based on which application is in focus at the time. However, each piece of software handles this a bit differently.

When you create a Logitech profile for an application, that profile is used across all your Logitech devices. So, say you create a Skyrim profile for your keyboard, your mouse will also have a Skyrim profile, based on a default blank profile, with no customizations until you deliberately change it. Razer, on the other hand, requires you to set up a Skyrim profile for your keyboard and mouse separately. If you only set up a Skyrim profile for your keyboard, your mouse will use whatever profile it last auto-detected.

In practice, I found this could cause some problems. For example, I have a Chrome profile on both the mouse and keyboard that I use for productive things like opening a calculator or entering a block of text for work. If I only set up a Skyrim profile for my Razer keyboard, and the last program I opened (or alt-tabbed to) was Chrome, my Razer mouse would still have my Chrome shortcuts bound to it. Accidentally launching the calculator application is not ideal while I’m fighting a dragon. Worse yet, if Chrome wasn’t the last application I alt-tabbed to, the mouse might be using an entirely different profile. This could make it very hard to know what a particular button is going to do unless you customize it specifically.

With Logitech, if I only set up a Skyrim profile for my keyboard, the mouse would disable the Chrome profile while I was in the game, and use the default shortcuts instead. These were usually more harmless shortcuts like displaying my mouse’s battery level or pressing a number key. More importantly, it was consistent. If I only set up a few keyboard shortcuts on a profile, I didn’t have to worry that a button might be bound to a complex macro from some profile associated with a different application that I’d forgotten about.

There are a few other differences I noticed as well:

  • In general, Logitech’s better at general purpose features, while Razer focuses on options a user might like while in-game. For example, with Logitech you can have a button paste a large block of text, play or pause media that’s currently running, and even mute or unmute your microphone in Ventrilo. Razer, on the other hand, has fewer functions for dealing with outside applications, but it does have options for switching profiles on the fly, customizing shortcuts while in a game, and communicating with its other devices. If you want to use your peripherals for the office as well as games, Logitech probably has the upper hand here.
  • Logitech’s interface is slightly easier to use. The app will show you an image of your device, with the buttons you can customize glowing. Just click on the buttons you want to change to edit the shortcuts. Razer, on the other hand, requires you to manually change which “view” you’re facing to edit all of the available buttons. It’s only a mild annoyance, but it’s jarring nonetheless.
  • Logitech allows you to choose either software-based profiles, or to store profiles on the device itself. So, if you store a profile on your mouse’s memory and plug it into a different computer, it will remember your customizations. Unfortunately, you can only store a limited number of profiles on a certain device. While Razer used to allow storing profiles on devices, newer hardware uses an account-based syncing option. You can sync more profiles this way, but it involves using a third-party server that may not always be active down the road.

The differences between Razer and Logitech on this front were largely cosmetic. Personally, I’ve used Logitech’s software more, so I found Razer’s interface a bit more confusing, but not catastrophically so. This is probably a result of me having used Logitech’s app longer. In both cases, there’s a bit of a learning curve, so which one you choose doesn’t really matter.

The only exception is the profile switching issue. Your needs may be different than mine, so I won’t say one is definitely better than the other, but it’s important to understand how both platforms handle profiles. Logitech assumes you want the same profile active across all devices at all times, while Razer allows (or, more accurately, requires) you to specifically create a profile for each application on each device.

Recording Macros

Manually customizing your keys is nice, but sometimes you need to perform an action that’s too long or complex to create by hand. That’s where recording macros comes in handy. You can just hit the record button, press the keys you need in the correct order, and then save that action for later. You can then assign that action to a specific button later.

If you’ve ever played an MMO, you know how awesome this can be. My mage in World of Warcraft can stop casting, switch targets, remove a curse, and get back to the current target at the press of a button. It’s also handy for work. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I use macros to do routine tasks like add photo credits or tags regularly.

In my experience, Logitech’s interface for saving macros was a bit more straightforward. On the screen where you assign commands to buttons, there’s a small, searchable sub-window called “Commands.” Here, you can create new macros before you even assign them to a button. Then, drag them to the key you want to use to trigger that Command. Everything is in one place and it’s super easy to use.

In contrast, Razer Synapse has a few more steps involved. First, you need to create macros in a separate tab of the application. Then, you have to go back to the key assignment screen, click the button you want to assign, choose “Macro” from a drop down list of options, and then choose the name of a macro you created from the list. It’s a lot more steps for something so simple.

When it comes to on-the-fly recording, Logitech is once again slightly simpler than Razer, but only if you have certain hardware. Some keyboards have a dedicated Macro Recording button (or “MR”). You can simply press this button, then press one of the programmable keys. This will begin the recording. Perform the action you want to save and, when you’re done, click the MR button again. That action is now saved on your keyboard. You don’t even need to touch the application.

Razer instead uses a Fn-style button (like you find on most laptops) to trigger on-the-fly recording. The keyboard I tested had an “M” symbol on the F9 key. By pressing Fn+F9, you can start recording a macro. When you’re finished, press Fn+F9 again, then press the button you want to save that action to. It’s slightly more cumbersome than having a dedicated macro recording button, but it does also save space on the keyboard, so you don’t necessarily need to buy hardware with a dedicated button to get the feature.

Both platforms also handle macro repeating slightly different. Logitech allows you to set several repeat options (like repeating while pressed, or repeating while toggled) on macros when creating the macros themselves. For example, you may want one button to reload your gun every five seconds until you say to stop, but a different button should reload your gun every five seconds for one minute. With Logitech’s platform, you’d have to create two separate macros for this. However, Razer only makes you choose a repeat option when assigning a macro to a key. So, you could create a macro to reload a gun. When you assign it to a button, make one button repeat every five seconds until you disable the toggle, and make the other button repeat it for one minute. This gives Razer a bit more flexibility.

Razer also has an option to repeat a macro a specified number of times, which Logitech does not. Both Logitech and Razer can repeat a macro as long as the assigned key is pressed, as well as repeating the macro forever, using the assigned key as a toggle to turn the macro on and off. This gives Razer another advantage in creating macros.

There’s very little difference between how Logitech and Razer handle their macros, but depending on your use cases, the slight differences could mean a substantial change to your gameplay or workflow. If you need macros that you can repeat a specific number of times, Razer is much better. If you need to create a large list of macros you can easily search, Logitech is going to be more your speed.

Lighting and Colors

Gaming Software Showdown: Logitech Gaming vs. Razer Synapse

Are light-up keyboards with customizable color schemes functionally pointless? Yes. Are they badass? Also, yes. Logitech and Razer both have gorgeous hardware, so customizing the color scheme to suit your style makes a lot of sense. However, color options vary greatly from product to product. Some peripherals can only change the lighting colors of the device as a whole, while others can change colors on a per-key basis, which is even cooler.

Understandably, the hardware with the most customization options are also the most expensive. We’ll look at the differences in how each platform handles coloring, but keep in mind not all devices will have all of the features described here. That being said, here are some of the key differences:

  • On supported devices, Logitech makes it super easy to customize the color of each individual key on your keyboard. Just click a color in the color picker, then click the keys you want to change. The keyboard updates in real time. You can also choose from a selection of pre-programmed effects like the entire device cycling between colors, or a rainbow wave across your keyboard that looks trippy as hell. Some devices may come with more limited options. Logitech also has a feature called “lighting zones.” You can group keys together (like WASD or the number keys) and change their colors as a group, based on which game profile you’re in.
  • Razer uses a separate app called the Chroma Configurator to customize the lighting scheme of its peripherals. This makes it a lot more powerful, but also a lot more complex. You can customize the keys individually, or add effects like color waves, rainbows, and ripple animations. If you really want to get fancy, though, you can add layered effects. So, for example, you can choose a few keys to stay static (like WASD or the F and J home keys), while everything else has a fancy animated rainbow effect. I have to admit, in testing this looked cool as all hell, but also got a little distracting. If you like colors, though, Razer has a bit more to offer.

On pure color customization power, Razer wins, but both platforms are pretty stellar. Personally, I think there’s a limit to how much color customization I really want to do. On my own keyboard, I use a mostly blue color scheme, with a few important keys highlighted so I can find them more easily in my peripheral vision. I don’t need a rainbow effect that ripples outward from every key I press. However, for those who like to trick their hardware out, both are pretty awesome.

The Winner: It’s All About Your Preferences

If you’re looking into gaming peripherals, you probably have some pretty specific needs. Fortunately, Logitech and Razer have pretty comparable feature sets. It’s the minor details that can be the determining factor in your preference. For example, in my case, I need commands where I can easily paste blocks of text, sometimes using non-standard characters, I want on-the-fly macro recording with dedicated buttons, and I create a library of macros I can search later. For me, Logitech is the clear choice. If you want a bit more colorful flair from your hardware, prefer to finely tune shortcut profiles per device, or want to sync your profiles between devices, Razer is what you want. Ultimately, it all comes down to preference and both are awesome options.

Five Best Gaming Mice, 2015 Edition

Five Best Gaming Mice, 2015 Edition

This year’s set of contenders for best gaming mouse is 60% Logitech after our nomination round, which is in line with the interest in gaming mouse brands we see across our Deals and gaming peripherals coverage. Of 2013′s contenders, the DeathAdder and Naga, in their latest incarnations, make a return. Once again, five mice enter and one mouse leaves. Read up and cast your votes by starring your favorite in the comments.

Note: Discontinued products were not considered.


Five Best Gaming Mice, 2015 Edition

Logitech G502 Proteus Core

The marquee spec here is the DPI range of 200-12,000, adjustable on the fly. New ergonomics, aesthetics, and custom weight, surface calibration, and balance are all notable features here as well, especially on an $80 mouse. There are five easily movable and removable weights, and 11 customizable buttons, along with the classic Logitech dual-mode scroll wheel. Mechanical microswitches and a braided cable are also nice touches. – Kinja Gear

The G502 has instantly become my new favorite mouse, gaming or otherwise, so much so that I bought two for work and home.


Five Best Gaming Mice, 2015 Edition

Razer DeathAdder Chroma

Simple, comfortable, reliable, and more DPI settings than you’ll ever need. Reasonably priced, down from the $80 when I originally bought it 2 years ago. Long periods of use don’t bother my hands with this mouse. Main buttons are responsive with a nice click and side buttons sit nicely behind my thumb without having to move them much to access them unlike some of the other side buttons on mice I’ve had. Did I mention the Chroma is on sale for cheaper than the original with the added benefit of having a 10k DPI cap over 6.4k? – Wild Beard


Five Best Gaming Mice, 2015 Edition

Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse

Not just great for gaming, but for ALL applications. I have macros and button combinations set for Illustrator, Photoshop, Windows, Chrome, and each game that I play. The Logitech software, while prone to crashing on my system (and only mine, it seems. Works fine on wife’s and daughter’s) is still pretty top notch. The hardware is also superb. It has survived many hulk-smash rage quits, and even when I managed to break the axl of the scroll wheel, I was able to take it apart and fix it with a paperclip and a lighter. XD I’ve had mine since it came out, almost 3 years, and it shows no signs of quitting. We currently have 3 in our house, and I’ll likely pick up a fourth soon so that when mine does eventually quit, I’ll have a backup. – Kaostick


Five Best Gaming Mice, 2015 Edition

Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball

I have actually gamed extensively for over a decade with a trackball. I guaran-damn-tee you that my thumb twitch is faster than any of your other gaming mice in a FPS. May not have all the extra buttons, but that doesn’t matter if I pop off a headshot while you drag some dinosaur mouse across the whole desk. – cablemonkey


Five Best Gaming Mice, 2015 Edition

Naga Epic Chroma Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse

Bought this mouse because I love buttons. The 12 button grid makes it so you can add a ton of useful shortcuts not just for games. I’ve been using it for work a lot and it’s been fantastic so far! – SergioAM


Commerce covers the best products on Kinja Gear, finds you deals on those products on Kinja Deals, and asks you about your favorites on Kinja Co-Op, click here to learn more. We operate independently of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. We want your feedback.

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Whether you’re gaming, taking video calls, listening to music, or doing all three, a good headset makes a huge difference. There are tons of choices on the market, lots of them good, but this week we’re looking at five of the best, based on your nominations.

Earlier in the week we asked you which headsets you thought were the best for whatever you may want to do—whether it’s chatting with teammates in-game, talking to coworkers on Hangouts or Skype, or listening to music when you’re not doing the other two. You offered tons of great nominations—way more than we have room for here. Even so, here are the five options that rose to the top, in no particular order:

Sennheiser PC350 Special Edition

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Sennheiser’s PC line of headsets has always been popular, largely because Sennheiser goes to great lengths to not compromise sound quality with the addition of a microphone. Technically the PC 350 SE has been discontinued, but it’s still easily available ( about $127 at Amazon) and it earned more praise in the call for contenders round than its successors, the pricier Sennheiser G4ME ONE (about $180 at Amazon) or the G4ME ZERO ($200 at Amazon). In any case, the PC 350 represents a great compromise between high-end headsets and comfort. They’re closed back, circumaural (and large, even in my experience) so they rest on your head without compressing your ears, and the drivers are designed to be more like headphones and optimize the listening experience over anything else, without anyone around you having to hear what you’re listening to. That means they’ll also function as a great pair of headphones when the noise cancelling microphone isn’t in use. The microphone, for its part, uses Sennheiser’s patented noise cancellation technology, and can be muted just by flipping the boom mic up and out of the way. The headphones are wired (analog via two 3.5mm audio output and input jacks), but the cord is long enough to connect and use without it getting in your way or it being too short. Finally, the collapsable design means the headphones are portable enough to take with you, but they don’t look like huge, bulky, garish gaming cans when they’re on your head and you’re video-chatting with coworkers.

Those of you who nominated the PC 350 SEs noted that you love audio quality as much as you love hearing every detail of the games you play, or hearing your teammates when you’re playing together, so it was important to have a headset that didn’t compromise on either. You also noted that the PC 350 SEs were comfortable to wear, your ears won’t sweat, and several of you praised the microphone quality above others in the roundup for its noise cancellation and clarity. Integrated volume control on the earcup and the fact that the microphone has an audible "click" when you swing it up to mute it or swing it down to speak were also nice features mentioned in the nomination thread. You can read more in that thread here.


Razer Kraken 7.1 Chroma

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

The Razer Kraken 7.1 Chroma headset will set you back $89 at Amazon, and for your money you get a closed-back, circumaural design with virtual 7.1 surround sound and a digital microphone. You can customize and "calibrate" (according to Razer) your own personal audio profile in the included software, to specifically accentuate highs, boost bass, or if you do a lot of video chatting or Skype calling, to bump up the mid-range so voices sound clearer. Plus, like any Chroma device from Razer, the lighting on the earcups is customizable (not that you’ll see it while you’re wearing them, but it’s a nice perk.) The headphones connect via a 6.5ft braided USB cable to avoid kinks and tangles, and the microphone is retractable, so you can pull it out from the left earcup when you need to speak and push it back when you don’t need it.

The Kraken was a fairly controversial nomination, but it earned enough support to make it to the top five. Some of you praised its customizable sound profiles and the virtual 7.1-channel surround sound, which makes for great positional audio in games. You also praised the mic quality, but the audio quality was a different matter. At best you referred to it as "great," but others of you complained that listening to music through the Krakens is muddy at best. Since the Kraken is actually a line of headphones, some of you noted that other models were better than the Chroma, like the Kraken Pro. You can check out Razer’s other Kraken models here. One of you suggested the nigh-indestructable Razer Tiamat ($180 at Amazon) as a far superior option, with better sound quality and more robust controls, even if they are much more expensive. You can read more in its nomination thread here.


Logitech G930 7.1 Wireless Gaming Headset

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Logitech’s leading headset is, like many others in the roundup, designed for gaming. It’s a 7.1 channel, Dolby surround sound wireless model that connects to a small, USB-powered 2.4Ghz receiver you can rest on your desk. The fold-up, noise-cancelling microphone makes sure that your teammates (or coworkers) don’t pick up a ton of background noise when you need to talk to them, and the closed-back, circumaural headphones themselves sound great when you just need to hear your surroundings or listen to some music while you work, and block out external noise as well. On top of the audio and voice quality, Logitech has three programmable buttons on the headset in addition to the volume wheel and mute button. If you have Logitech’s configuration software installed, you can program those buttons for specific commands in your favorite apps and games. Since they’re wireless, you’ll need to keep them charged though, and Logitech boasts 10 hours of use with every charge—enough to get you through a workday, or a few solid gaming sessions. If you run low on juice mid-use, you can plug in the included USB cable to charge and use at the same time. If you want one, it’ll set you back about $100 at Amazon.

If wireless isn’t your thing though, the Logitech G35 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset is the USB, wired option, and it’ll set you back about $90 at Amazon. Those of you who nominated the G930 praised both models for their superior audio quality, and solid voice quality. Most of you noted great experiences gaming with it, like playing World of Warcraft, but a few of you said that you were more than pleased with them on Skype calls or Hangouts as well. Some of you reported about nine hours or so on a battery charge (in line with Logitech’s promises), and great value for the price. You also noted that even though the headset may look oppressive, it’s actually quite comfortable to wear for long periods. You can read that—and more—in its nomination thread here.


SteelSeries Siberia V2

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Steelseries’ Siberia V2 made this roundup the last time we looked at the best headsets, so it’s no surprise to see them here again, even after several years. A number of you specifically noted that you’ve had these headphones for ages and they stand up to the punishment of regular use, too. The Siberia V2 are open-back, circumaural headphones, large enough to rest comfortably around your ears, and sport a retractable microphone in the left earcup. They’re lightweight and comfortable to wear for long periods, and don’t feel like you’re wearing a huge, bulky pair of cans on your head while you game, or while you work. The flexible "suspension system" headbands stretch and move so you can wear them comfortably, and the individual earcups are adjustable inside their housing. The microphone can be adjusted to any position as well, instead of just "out" or "in," so you can position it close to your mouth (or farther away, if you’re a loud talker), and the in-line volume control and mute button is easy to reach even when you’re wearing them. The Siberia connects to your computer via 3.5mm analog audio input and output cables, and will set you back $59 at Amazon. It’s also available in several colors, just to add a little personalization to your workspace.

Those of you who nominated the Siberia V2 praised them for being light, comfortable, and for being able to take a beating and keep working well. You praised it for its audio quality along with its comfort, especially at its price point—much lower than some of the other contenders in the roundup. One of you even mentioned that you rarely use it as a head set, and instead just use it for music because the audio quality is so good. A few others of you noted that you’re on your second or third pair of them, and still love them even though there have been newer, flashier options since you originally bought them. In fact, one of you said you didn’t like your pair….but you’re still using them and have used them for the past 15 years. You can read all about it in the nomination thread here.


ASTRO A50 Wireless System

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

ASTRO’s A50 wireless headphones are generally regarded as some of the best when it comes to both audio quality and voice quality, but you’ll pay to own them—the "wireless system," which comes with a USB wireless 5.8Ghz (really using two-channel 2.4Ghz receivers) transmitter, display stand, and Dolby 7.1 channel surround sound. You’ll drop over $250 for them at Amazon for the PC version, or $300 at Amazon for the latest Xbox One or PS4 versions. On the bright side, whichever one you buy you can use with any system, as long as you have an ASTRO MixAmp (a desktop amplifier and DAC that will set you back $130 on its own.) They’re also over-ear, circumaural headphones with a closed back design that’s comfortable to wear. Build quality is amazingly solid (and appropriate for the price), and the flip-up boom noise-cancelling microphone mutes when it’s up and offers great voice isolation when it’s down and in front of your mouth. The built-in battery should give you around 10 hours of use before you have to recharge it, and it can either charge while it’s in use or attached via microUSB on its display stand. You also have the option to customize the audio profile (there are three EQs to choose from) to match the type of music you listen to or games you play.

Those of you who nominated the A50s praised them for great audio quality and fine tuning for in-game and positional audio. You noted that it’s not exactly the clearest for picking out the nuances in music, but for games and voice or video chat, it’s great. One of you noted that you work from home and use the A50s all the time—not just for chatting with coworkers and gaming, but listening to music, getting up and moving around the room, and then coming back—you praised its range and clarity even when you move away from the transmitter. Those of you who don’t need the wireless aspect may consider the near-legendary ASTRO A40s, ($225 at Amazon, including a MixAmp, and $125 stand-alone) a wired alternative that also brings high-quality sound and voice to a well-built, high-end package. You can read more first-hand thoughts in the nomination thread here. Then, check out Kotaku’s review of the A50s here, and their review of the A40s here.


Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to vote for the all-out community favorite.


Honorable Mentions

We have a few honorable mentions this week. The first one goes out to the Logitech Wireless Headset H800, which many of you nominated as an option for people who use their headsets primarily for video and voice chatting, and not necessarily for gaming. One thing about many of the gaming headsets—they kind of look like gaming headsets, which means they can be large, over-ear, closed back cans that boast great isolation and try to pump up audio quality for an immersive experience. If you’re doing a video call or on a podcast, you may not want huge cans on either side of your head, so the Logitech H800s offer a slimmer profile that’s still cable-free and Bluetooth enabled so you can use it with multiple devices. It’ll set you back $100 direct, but they’re rugged, portable, solid-sounding, with great battery life and can charge while they’re in use. You can read more in its nomination thread here.

We should also tip our hats to the V-Moda BoomPro and the Antlion Modmic, both of which allow you to take your favorite pair of headphones, whatever they may be, and just attach a microphone to them when you need to be heard. That way you don’t have to buy a new headset or compromise audio quality by giving up your favorite cans or earbuds. They cost much less, too, and offer solid voice quality. We discuss them—and some more options—in our guide to turning your favorite headphones into a headset.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.

The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at tips+hivefive@lifehacker.com!

Title photo by jayakrishnan.

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Whether you’re gaming, taking video calls, listening to music, or doing all three, a good headset makes a huge difference. There are tons of choices on the market, lots of them good, but this week we’re looking at five of the best, based on your nominations.

Earlier in the week we asked you which headsets you thought were the best for whatever you may want to do—whether it’s chatting with teammates in-game, talking to coworkers on Hangouts or Skype, or listening to music when you’re not doing the other two. You offered tons of great nominations—way more than we have room for here. Even so, here are the five options that rose to the top, in no particular order:

Sennheiser PC350 Special Edition

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Sennheiser’s PC line of headsets has always been popular, largely because Sennheiser goes to great lengths to not compromise sound quality with the addition of a microphone. Technically the PC 350 SE has been discontinued, but it’s still easily available ( about $127 at Amazon) and it earned more praise in the call for contenders round than its successors, the pricier Sennheiser G4ME ONE (about $180 at Amazon) or the G4ME ZERO ($200 at Amazon). In any case, the PC 350 represents a great compromise between high-end headsets and comfort. They’re closed back, circumaural (and large, even in my experience) so they rest on your head without compressing your ears, and the drivers are designed to be more like headphones and optimize the listening experience over anything else, without anyone around you having to hear what you’re listening to. That means they’ll also function as a great pair of headphones when the noise cancelling microphone isn’t in use. The microphone, for its part, uses Sennheiser’s patented noise cancellation technology, and can be muted just by flipping the boom mic up and out of the way. The headphones are wired (analog via two 3.5mm audio output and input jacks), but the cord is long enough to connect and use without it getting in your way or it being too short. Finally, the collapsable design means the headphones are portable enough to take with you, but they don’t look like huge, bulky, garish gaming cans when they’re on your head and you’re video-chatting with coworkers.

Those of you who nominated the PC 350 SEs noted that you love audio quality as much as you love hearing every detail of the games you play, or hearing your teammates when you’re playing together, so it was important to have a headset that didn’t compromise on either. You also noted that the PC 350 SEs were comfortable to wear, your ears won’t sweat, and several of you praised the microphone quality above others in the roundup for its noise cancellation and clarity. Integrated volume control on the earcup and the fact that the microphone has an audible "click" when you swing it up to mute it or swing it down to speak were also nice features mentioned in the nomination thread. You can read more in that thread here.


Razer Kraken 7.1 Chroma

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

The Razer Kraken 7.1 Chroma headset will set you back $89 at Amazon, and for your money you get a closed-back, circumaural design with virtual 7.1 surround sound and a digital microphone. You can customize and "calibrate" (according to Razer) your own personal audio profile in the included software, to specifically accentuate highs, boost bass, or if you do a lot of video chatting or Skype calling, to bump up the mid-range so voices sound clearer. Plus, like any Chroma device from Razer, the lighting on the earcups is customizable (not that you’ll see it while you’re wearing them, but it’s a nice perk.) The headphones connect via a 6.5ft braided USB cable to avoid kinks and tangles, and the microphone is retractable, so you can pull it out from the left earcup when you need to speak and push it back when you don’t need it.

The Kraken was a fairly controversial nomination, but it earned enough support to make it to the top five. Some of you praised its customizable sound profiles and the virtual 7.1-channel surround sound, which makes for great positional audio in games. You also praised the mic quality, but the audio quality was a different matter. At best you referred to it as "great," but others of you complained that listening to music through the Krakens is muddy at best. Since the Kraken is actually a line of headphones, some of you noted that other models were better than the Chroma, like the Kraken Pro. You can check out Razer’s other Kraken models here. One of you suggested the nigh-indestructable Razer Tiamat ($180 at Amazon) as a far superior option, with better sound quality and more robust controls, even if they are much more expensive. You can read more in its nomination thread here.


Logitech G930 7.1 Wireless Gaming Headset

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Logitech’s leading headset is, like many others in the roundup, designed for gaming. It’s a 7.1 channel, Dolby surround sound wireless model that connects to a small, USB-powered 2.4Ghz receiver you can rest on your desk. The fold-up, noise-cancelling microphone makes sure that your teammates (or coworkers) don’t pick up a ton of background noise when you need to talk to them, and the closed-back, circumaural headphones themselves sound great when you just need to hear your surroundings or listen to some music while you work, and block out external noise as well. On top of the audio and voice quality, Logitech has three programmable buttons on the headset in addition to the volume wheel and mute button. If you have Logitech’s configuration software installed, you can program those buttons for specific commands in your favorite apps and games. Since they’re wireless, you’ll need to keep them charged though, and Logitech boasts 10 hours of use with every charge—enough to get you through a workday, or a few solid gaming sessions. If you run low on juice mid-use, you can plug in the included USB cable to charge and use at the same time. If you want one, it’ll set you back about $100 at Amazon.

If wireless isn’t your thing though, the Logitech G35 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset is the USB, wired option, and it’ll set you back about $90 at Amazon. Those of you who nominated the G930 praised both models for their superior audio quality, and solid voice quality. Most of you noted great experiences gaming with it, like playing World of Warcraft, but a few of you said that you were more than pleased with them on Skype calls or Hangouts as well. Some of you reported about nine hours or so on a battery charge (in line with Logitech’s promises), and great value for the price. You also noted that even though the headset may look oppressive, it’s actually quite comfortable to wear for long periods. You can read that—and more—in its nomination thread here.


SteelSeries Siberia V2

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

Steelseries’ Siberia V2 made this roundup the last time we looked at the best headsets, so it’s no surprise to see them here again, even after several years. A number of you specifically noted that you’ve had these headphones for ages and they stand up to the punishment of regular use, too. The Siberia V2 are open-back, circumaural headphones, large enough to rest comfortably around your ears, and sport a retractable microphone in the left earcup. They’re lightweight and comfortable to wear for long periods, and don’t feel like you’re wearing a huge, bulky pair of cans on your head while you game, or while you work. The flexible "suspension system" headbands stretch and move so you can wear them comfortably, and the individual earcups are adjustable inside their housing. The microphone can be adjusted to any position as well, instead of just "out" or "in," so you can position it close to your mouth (or farther away, if you’re a loud talker), and the in-line volume control and mute button is easy to reach even when you’re wearing them. The Siberia connects to your computer via 3.5mm analog audio input and output cables, and will set you back $59 at Amazon. It’s also available in several colors, just to add a little personalization to your workspace.

Those of you who nominated the Siberia V2 praised them for being light, comfortable, and for being able to take a beating and keep working well. You praised it for its audio quality along with its comfort, especially at its price point—much lower than some of the other contenders in the roundup. One of you even mentioned that you rarely use it as a head set, and instead just use it for music because the audio quality is so good. A few others of you noted that you’re on your second or third pair of them, and still love them even though there have been newer, flashier options since you originally bought them. In fact, one of you said you didn’t like your pair….but you’re still using them and have used them for the past 15 years. You can read all about it in the nomination thread here.


ASTRO A50 Wireless System

Five Best Headsets with Attached Microphones

ASTRO’s A50 wireless headphones are generally regarded as some of the best when it comes to both audio quality and voice quality, but you’ll pay to own them—the "wireless system," which comes with a USB wireless 5.8Ghz (really using two-channel 2.4Ghz receivers) transmitter, display stand, and Dolby 7.1 channel surround sound. You’ll drop over $250 for them at Amazon for the PC version, or $300 at Amazon for the latest Xbox One or PS4 versions. On the bright side, whichever one you buy you can use with any system, as long as you have an ASTRO MixAmp (a desktop amplifier and DAC that will set you back $130 on its own.) They’re also over-ear, circumaural headphones with a closed back design that’s comfortable to wear. Build quality is amazingly solid (and appropriate for the price), and the flip-up boom noise-cancelling microphone mutes when it’s up and offers great voice isolation when it’s down and in front of your mouth. The built-in battery should give you around 10 hours of use before you have to recharge it, and it can either charge while it’s in use or attached via microUSB on its display stand. You also have the option to customize the audio profile (there are three EQs to choose from) to match the type of music you listen to or games you play.

Those of you who nominated the A50s praised them for great audio quality and fine tuning for in-game and positional audio. You noted that it’s not exactly the clearest for picking out the nuances in music, but for games and voice or video chat, it’s great. One of you noted that you work from home and use the A50s all the time—not just for chatting with coworkers and gaming, but listening to music, getting up and moving around the room, and then coming back—you praised its range and clarity even when you move away from the transmitter. Those of you who don’t need the wireless aspect may consider the near-legendary ASTRO A40s, ($225 at Amazon, including a MixAmp, and $125 stand-alone) a wired alternative that also brings high-quality sound and voice to a well-built, high-end package. You can read more first-hand thoughts in the nomination thread here. Then, check out Kotaku’s review of the A50s here, and their review of the A40s here.


Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to vote for the all-out community favorite.


Honorable Mentions

We have a few honorable mentions this week. The first one goes out to the Logitech Wireless Headset H800, which many of you nominated as an option for people who use their headsets primarily for video and voice chatting, and not necessarily for gaming. One thing about many of the gaming headsets—they kind of look like gaming headsets, which means they can be large, over-ear, closed back cans that boast great isolation and try to pump up audio quality for an immersive experience. If you’re doing a video call or on a podcast, you may not want huge cans on either side of your head, so the Logitech H800s offer a slimmer profile that’s still cable-free and Bluetooth enabled so you can use it with multiple devices. It’ll set you back $100 direct, but they’re rugged, portable, solid-sounding, with great battery life and can charge while they’re in use. You can read more in its nomination thread here.

We should also tip our hats to the V-Moda BoomPro and the Antlion Modmic, both of which allow you to take your favorite pair of headphones, whatever they may be, and just attach a microphone to them when you need to be heard. That way you don’t have to buy a new headset or compromise audio quality by giving up your favorite cans or earbuds. They cost much less, too, and offer solid voice quality. We discuss them—and some more options—in our guide to turning your favorite headphones into a headset.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.

The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at tips+hivefive@lifehacker.com!

Title photo by jayakrishnan.

Your Favorite Razer Gaming Peripherals, Discounted

Your Favorite Razer Gaming Peripherals, Discounted

There were so many Logitech peripheral deals during Black Friday (they’re still available!) that we made our own little Gold Box. Now we’re doing the same with Cyber Monday deals on Razer peripherals.

Several of these items were nominated as some of your favorite gaming keyboards, desktop keyboards, gaming mice, gaming headsets, PC gamepads, and computer speakers, and more, so you really can’t go wrong.

Gaming Mice

Gaming Keyboards

Gaming Headsets


All the Deals


Follow Kinja Deals for the best deal and product coverage year-round. We work together with you to find the best products and the best deals on them, click here to learn more and connect. We operate independently of Editorial and Advertising, and if you take advantage of an item we cover, we may get a small share of the sale. We want your feedback.

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Not all keyboards are alike, and not all keyboards cater to the same types of users. Mechanical keyboards—or keyboard with individual switches under each key—have exploded in popularity recently, and for good reason. This week we’re going to take a look at five of the best mechanical keyboards, based on your nominations.

Earlier in the week we asked you which mechanical keyboards you thought were the best, whether it was because of their switches, their added features, their bang for the buck, their overall typing comfort, or just their style and build quality.

You responded with way more keyboards than we have room to highlight, but here are the five that got the most nominations, in no particular order:

IBM Model M (and Variants)

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Ah, the IBM Model M – it’s the keyboard that started it all, and while it’s technically a buckling spring keyboard and not a mechanical in the way we’ve come to know mechanical keyboards, it’s all the same when you’re talking about keyboards that set themselves apart from the usual. If you have an old Model M in the back of your closet or an old one you’ve modded to use with modern PCs, enjoy it—they’re tanks, and won’t give up on you anytime soon. If you want one for yourself, you can still get them from Unicomp for around $80, depending on the model you choose. They’ll all come with buckling springs beneath each key, and your choice of connector to your computer. They’re even cross-platform, so you can use it with whatever computer you own.

The IBM Model M has been in production for decades, and many of you nominated the original Model M along with a number of variants that offer different quirks and features suited to your typing style. If it’s too big for you, try the IBM 5150, which also picked up a few nominations in the call for contenders thread. Whether you remember the old days of computing and miss the clack-clack of those old keyboards, or you’re interested in mechanicals for other reasons like ergonomics and tactile feel, you’d do yourself a favor by checking out the keyboards that started it all.


Das Keyboard Ultimate Model S

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Das Keyboard has been in the mechanical business for a long time—way before the current rise in popularity. For that reason, they’ve had time to refine their keyboards, stick to what works, incorporate new switch types and introduce models that work for more people, and overall just make really sleek looking, highly functional keyboards. There was a lot of love for the Das Keyboard Ultimate in the call for contenders thread, and as someone who’s used it myself, I can understand why. It’s a tank that’s designed for over 50 million keystrokes, packs a 2-port USB hub inside, features full N-key rollover (meaning pressing multiple keys at a time actually registers), and it’s available with your choice of Cherry MX Brown (quieter, softer) or MX Blue (louder, clicky) switches. You can pick one up direct from Das Keyboard for $139, or grab one at Amazon for a slight price break, around $130 depending on the switches you pick.

Of course, the Ultimate is actually a label-less keyboard, meaning the keys don’t have inscriptions on them. You’d better be good at touch-typing to use it, because you won’t be looking at your fingers. If you want your keys labeled, check out Das Keyboard’s other models, specifically the Professional (also available for Mac, although technically they all work on all platforms). The keys are labeled, you can choose between Cherry MX Brown (quieter, softer), MX Blue (louder, clicky), or MX Red (clicky, louder but not as loud as the Blues), and the keyboard sports media controls on the function keys, and more. Same price too—$139 direct, a few bucks off at Amazon.


Cooler Master Storm QuickFire

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

The Cooler Master Storm QuickFire family of mechanicals are well regarded by gamers, and our own Whitson Gordon had one and loved it. Your nominations specifically came in for the Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Rapid, a tenkeyless model with Cherry MX Blue switches (although there’s a new model with Cherry MX Green switches), a little quieter than some of the ones that ship with MX Red switches, and space-saving since you don’t have the numberpad on the right side of the keyboard. Of course, if you prefer different switches, or you want the numberpad, you have plenty of options in the same family, including the full LED backlit QuickFire Ultimate that’s available with MX Blues, Browns, or Reds, whichever you prefer, and the unassuming QuickFire Pro, available with MX Brown, Black, and Red switches.

All on all though, the QuickFire line is known for being functional, affordable (the Rapid series is around $75-$80 at Amazon, depending on the switches you choose, and the Ultimate is $109 at Amazon with your choice of switches or backlighting), and rock solid. You get incredible flexibility in switch types (as you can see), backlighting options, full N-Key rollover, auto-disabling of the Windows key while gaming, removable braided USB cables, and more. Those of you who nominated it praised it for being a solid, affordable, and flexible entry-level option that’ll provide huge bang for your buck, regardless of what you plan to do with it—writing, gaming, working, coding, whatever.


Ducky Shine 2/Shine 3

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

The Ducky Shine line was a bit of a sleeper hit in the call for contenders thread. Ducky, much like Filco, has a bit of a reputation for making incredibly high-quality mechanical keyboards that are sturdy and long-lasting without being bricks on your desk. They’re beautifully crafted, and generally targeted towards enthusiasts, keyboard geeks, coders and developers, and writers—people who live and die by their computers. The Shine 2 and the Shine 3 are no exception. The Shine series is one of the greats, available with your color choice of Cherry MX switches, and if you want one you’ll have to order from someone with stock or have them imported from Taiwan. The Shine 2 is tough to find at this point, and MechanicalKeyboards.com says they’re discontinued. If you do find one, expect to spend around $150 for it. However, the Ducky Shine 3 is widely available, over at MechanicalKeyboards.com for between $130 and $150 depending on the backlight color you choose, and the switch you choose.

That’s one of the beautiful things about the Ducky Shine series—not only can you customize the switches, you can customize the backlighting. You get all the great features of a good mechanical too: Full N-key rollover, reactive lighting to the ambient light in the room, a beautiful matte finish, and customizable backlighting profiles even on the same keyboard so you can set certain keys and areas to light up while the rest are dark, whichever you like. Those of you who praised the Ducky Shine series pointed to its heavy duty case and overall durability without being a massive, hulking keyboard, and the fact that it comes with two space bars—a flashy one with the logo on it, and a flat black one if you don’t like the default. If you can find one, it’s a solid keyboard that will stand the test of time.


Razer BlackWidow Ultimate

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Razer is pretty proud of its gaming cred, and while not all of its keyboards are mechanicals, the BlackWidow Ultimate and the BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth both are. They’re both $139 direct ($111 at Amazon). The Ultimate packs Cherry MX Blue switches, and the Ultimate Stealth packs the quieter Cherry MX Brown switches—Razer has a whole page dedicated to its switch selection options that makes for good reading if you’re curious what types of switches sound like what, which are louder, which are quieter, and which keyboards in their lineup have which features.

The BlackWidow Ultimate however is a full-sized mechanical with programmable keys on the side, individual-key LED backlighting with adjustable brightness, media controls on the function keys, a USB port on the side with USB passthrough along its braided cables, audio passthrough and headphone/microphone jacks on the keyboard, on-the-fly macro recording, and more. The BlackWidow Ultimate is a pretty solid keyboard, a bit of a tank, and while the keys are satisfyingly clicky, even the MX Blues aren’t horribly loud. Still, those of you who nominated it praised it for its heft, tactile feel, and build quality. Its price isn’t too shabby either, and since Razer updates the model on an annual basis, if you don’t like the color of the backlighting or the features in the keyboard, just wait a year—they may address your particular concern with it in the next model.


There you have it, those are your top five nominees! Seriously—there were so many great nominees that now’s a good time to go back to the call for contenders if you don’t see your favorite here. Still, we have honorable mentions listed below. Before that though, it’s time to put them to a vote to determine the Lifehacker community favorite:

Honorable mentions this week go out to the Rosewill RK-9000, an affordable (around $80 at Amazon depending on the switches you get) mechanical keyboard available with Cherry MX Blue, Red, Black, or Brown switches that we highlighted in our guide to mechanical keyboards. It earned more than a few votes from those of you looking for a simple mechanical model without a ton of bells and whistles that’s not necessarily focused on gaming, and still rocks a full numberpad. I’ve had the opportunity personally to play with the RK-9000, and it’s a great mechanical keyboard.

Another honorable mention this week goes out to the new Logitech G710+ Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming. It’s Logitech’s first mechanical keyboard, and it’s come remarkably well regarded. Logitech knows a thing or two about gaming keyboards, and this model sports Cherry MX Brown switches (with individual O-ring noise dampeners) that are quiet enough to not wake the house, but still have a firm clicky feel that you’ll love, especially if you’re a PC gamer. It sports dual-zone backlighting, programmable macro keys, a detachable wrist-rest, and more. It’s not terribly cheap though: it retails for $150 direct.

Finally, for those folks who want the ultimate in customization for their mechanical keyboard, whether they want a full-sized model with a numpad or a tenkeyless model, we have to extend a hand to WASD Keyboards (shown in the title photo), who earned praise in the nominations specifically for their tenkeyless model. They also offer a wide variety of other mechanical models that can be customized with whatever switches you prefer; browns, blues, reds, blacks, and clears. You can even get a key switch sampler pack from them to try out each type of switch before you buy a keyboard so you know what you’re getting into. Then, come back and use their customization tool to build the keyboard—keycaps and all—that’s perfect for you.

A few others that we love here at Lifehacker but didn’t pick up the nominations to make the top five (or really the honorable mentions) that we think you should consider if you’re in the market: The Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a brilliant option if you’re a PC gamer looking for a high quality, well-built mechanical packing Cherry MX Red switches. It’s $150 at Amazon. Also, the Monoprice 9433 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a solid option for gamers on a budget, since it’s only about $50 and packs Cherry MX Blue switches.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.

The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at tips+hivefive@lifehacker.com!

Photos by Robert Freiberger and Blake Patterson.

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Not all keyboards are alike, and not all keyboards cater to the same types of users. Mechanical keyboards—or keyboard with individual switches under each key—have exploded in popularity recently, and for good reason. This week we’re going to take a look at five of the best mechanical keyboards, based on your nominations.

Earlier in the week we asked you which mechanical keyboards you thought were the best, whether it was because of their switches, their added features, their bang for the buck, their overall typing comfort, or just their style and build quality.

You responded with way more keyboards than we have room to highlight, but here are the five that got the most nominations, in no particular order:

IBM Model M (and Variants)

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Ah, the IBM Model M – it’s the keyboard that started it all, and while it’s technically a buckling spring keyboard and not a mechanical in the way we’ve come to know mechanical keyboards, it’s all the same when you’re talking about keyboards that set themselves apart from the usual. If you have an old Model M in the back of your closet or an old one you’ve modded to use with modern PCs, enjoy it—they’re tanks, and won’t give up on you anytime soon. If you want one for yourself, you can still get them from Unicomp for around $80, depending on the model you choose. They’ll all come with buckling springs beneath each key, and your choice of connector to your computer. They’re even cross-platform, so you can use it with whatever computer you own.

The IBM Model M has been in production for decades, and many of you nominated the original Model M along with a number of variants that offer different quirks and features suited to your typing style. If it’s too big for you, try the IBM 5150, which also picked up a few nominations in the call for contenders thread. Whether you remember the old days of computing and miss the clack-clack of those old keyboards, or you’re interested in mechanicals for other reasons like ergonomics and tactile feel, you’d do yourself a favor by checking out the keyboards that started it all.


Das Keyboard Ultimate Model S

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Das Keyboard has been in the mechanical business for a long time—way before the current rise in popularity. For that reason, they’ve had time to refine their keyboards, stick to what works, incorporate new switch types and introduce models that work for more people, and overall just make really sleek looking, highly functional keyboards. There was a lot of love for the Das Keyboard Ultimate in the call for contenders thread, and as someone who’s used it myself, I can understand why. It’s a tank that’s designed for over 50 million keystrokes, packs a 2-port USB hub inside, features full N-key rollover (meaning pressing multiple keys at a time actually registers), and it’s available with your choice of Cherry MX Brown (quieter, softer) or MX Blue (louder, clicky) switches. You can pick one up direct from Das Keyboard for $139, or grab one at Amazon for a slight price break, around $130 depending on the switches you pick.

Of course, the Ultimate is actually a label-less keyboard, meaning the keys don’t have inscriptions on them. You’d better be good at touch-typing to use it, because you won’t be looking at your fingers. If you want your keys labeled, check out Das Keyboard’s other models, specifically the Professional (also available for Mac, although technically they all work on all platforms). The keys are labeled, you can choose between Cherry MX Brown (quieter, softer), MX Blue (louder, clicky), or MX Red (clicky, louder but not as loud as the Blues), and the keyboard sports media controls on the function keys, and more. Same price too—$139 direct, a few bucks off at Amazon.


Cooler Master Storm QuickFire

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

The Cooler Master Storm QuickFire family of mechanicals are well regarded by gamers, and our own Whitson Gordon had one and loved it. Your nominations specifically came in for the Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Rapid, a tenkeyless model with Cherry MX Blue switches (although there’s a new model with Cherry MX Green switches), a little quieter than some of the ones that ship with MX Red switches, and space-saving since you don’t have the numberpad on the right side of the keyboard. Of course, if you prefer different switches, or you want the numberpad, you have plenty of options in the same family, including the full LED backlit QuickFire Ultimate that’s available with MX Blues, Browns, or Reds, whichever you prefer, and the unassuming QuickFire Pro, available with MX Brown, Black, and Red switches.

All on all though, the QuickFire line is known for being functional, affordable (the Rapid series is around $75-$80 at Amazon, depending on the switches you choose, and the Ultimate is $109 at Amazon with your choice of switches or backlighting), and rock solid. You get incredible flexibility in switch types (as you can see), backlighting options, full N-Key rollover, auto-disabling of the Windows key while gaming, removable braided USB cables, and more. Those of you who nominated it praised it for being a solid, affordable, and flexible entry-level option that’ll provide huge bang for your buck, regardless of what you plan to do with it—writing, gaming, working, coding, whatever.


Ducky Shine 2/Shine 3

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

The Ducky Shine line was a bit of a sleeper hit in the call for contenders thread. Ducky, much like Filco, has a bit of a reputation for making incredibly high-quality mechanical keyboards that are sturdy and long-lasting without being bricks on your desk. They’re beautifully crafted, and generally targeted towards enthusiasts, keyboard geeks, coders and developers, and writers—people who live and die by their computers. The Shine 2 and the Shine 3 are no exception. The Shine series is one of the greats, available with your color choice of Cherry MX switches, and if you want one you’ll have to order from someone with stock or have them imported from Taiwan. The Shine 2 is tough to find at this point, and MechanicalKeyboards.com says they’re discontinued. If you do find one, expect to spend around $150 for it. However, the Ducky Shine 3 is widely available, over at MechanicalKeyboards.com for between $130 and $150 depending on the backlight color you choose, and the switch you choose.

That’s one of the beautiful things about the Ducky Shine series—not only can you customize the switches, you can customize the backlighting. You get all the great features of a good mechanical too: Full N-key rollover, reactive lighting to the ambient light in the room, a beautiful matte finish, and customizable backlighting profiles even on the same keyboard so you can set certain keys and areas to light up while the rest are dark, whichever you like. Those of you who praised the Ducky Shine series pointed to its heavy duty case and overall durability without being a massive, hulking keyboard, and the fact that it comes with two space bars—a flashy one with the logo on it, and a flat black one if you don’t like the default. If you can find one, it’s a solid keyboard that will stand the test of time.


Razer BlackWidow Ultimate

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Razer is pretty proud of its gaming cred, and while not all of its keyboards are mechanicals, the BlackWidow Ultimate and the BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth both are. They’re both $139 direct ($111 at Amazon). The Ultimate packs Cherry MX Blue switches, and the Ultimate Stealth packs the quieter Cherry MX Brown switches—Razer has a whole page dedicated to its switch selection options that makes for good reading if you’re curious what types of switches sound like what, which are louder, which are quieter, and which keyboards in their lineup have which features.

The BlackWidow Ultimate however is a full-sized mechanical with programmable keys on the side, individual-key LED backlighting with adjustable brightness, media controls on the function keys, a USB port on the side with USB passthrough along its braided cables, audio passthrough and headphone/microphone jacks on the keyboard, on-the-fly macro recording, and more. The BlackWidow Ultimate is a pretty solid keyboard, a bit of a tank, and while the keys are satisfyingly clicky, even the MX Blues aren’t horribly loud. Still, those of you who nominated it praised it for its heft, tactile feel, and build quality. Its price isn’t too shabby either, and since Razer updates the model on an annual basis, if you don’t like the color of the backlighting or the features in the keyboard, just wait a year—they may address your particular concern with it in the next model.


There you have it, those are your top five nominees! Seriously—there were so many great nominees that now’s a good time to go back to the call for contenders if you don’t see your favorite here. Still, we have honorable mentions listed below. Before that though, it’s time to put them to a vote to determine the Lifehacker community favorite:

Honorable mentions this week go out to the Rosewill RK-9000, an affordable (around $80 at Amazon depending on the switches you get) mechanical keyboard available with Cherry MX Blue, Red, Black, or Brown switches that we highlighted in our guide to mechanical keyboards. It earned more than a few votes from those of you looking for a simple mechanical model without a ton of bells and whistles that’s not necessarily focused on gaming, and still rocks a full numberpad. I’ve had the opportunity personally to play with the RK-9000, and it’s a great mechanical keyboard.

Another honorable mention this week goes out to the new Logitech G710+ Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming. It’s Logitech’s first mechanical keyboard, and it’s come remarkably well regarded. Logitech knows a thing or two about gaming keyboards, and this model sports Cherry MX Brown switches (with individual O-ring noise dampeners) that are quiet enough to not wake the house, but still have a firm clicky feel that you’ll love, especially if you’re a PC gamer. It sports dual-zone backlighting, programmable macro keys, a detachable wrist-rest, and more. It’s not terribly cheap though: it retails for $150 direct.

Finally, for those folks who want the ultimate in customization for their mechanical keyboard, whether they want a full-sized model with a numpad or a tenkeyless model, we have to extend a hand to WASD Keyboards (shown in the title photo), who earned praise in the nominations specifically for their tenkeyless model. They also offer a wide variety of other mechanical models that can be customized with whatever switches you prefer; browns, blues, reds, blacks, and clears. You can even get a key switch sampler pack from them to try out each type of switch before you buy a keyboard so you know what you’re getting into. Then, come back and use their customization tool to build the keyboard—keycaps and all—that’s perfect for you.

A few others that we love here at Lifehacker but didn’t pick up the nominations to make the top five (or really the honorable mentions) that we think you should consider if you’re in the market: The Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a brilliant option if you’re a PC gamer looking for a high quality, well-built mechanical packing Cherry MX Red switches. It’s $150 at Amazon. Also, the Monoprice 9433 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a solid option for gamers on a budget, since it’s only about $50 and packs Cherry MX Blue switches.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.

The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at tips+hivefive@lifehacker.com!

Photos by Robert Freiberger and Blake Patterson.

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Not all keyboards are alike, and not all keyboards cater to the same types of users. Mechanical keyboards—or keyboard with individual switches under each key—have exploded in popularity recently, and for good reason. This week we’re going to take a look at five of the best mechanical keyboards, based on your nominations.

Earlier in the week we asked you which mechanical keyboards you thought were the best, whether it was because of their switches, their added features, their bang for the buck, their overall typing comfort, or just their style and build quality.

You responded with way more keyboards than we have room to highlight, but here are the five that got the most nominations, in no particular order:

IBM Model M (and Variants)

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Ah, the IBM Model M – it’s the keyboard that started it all, and while it’s technically a buckling spring keyboard and not a mechanical in the way we’ve come to know mechanical keyboards, it’s all the same when you’re talking about keyboards that set themselves apart from the usual. If you have an old Model M in the back of your closet or an old one you’ve modded to use with modern PCs, enjoy it—they’re tanks, and won’t give up on you anytime soon. If you want one for yourself, you can still get them from Unicomp for around $80, depending on the model you choose. They’ll all come with buckling springs beneath each key, and your choice of connector to your computer. They’re even cross-platform, so you can use it with whatever computer you own.

The IBM Model M has been in production for decades, and many of you nominated the original Model M along with a number of variants that offer different quirks and features suited to your typing style. If it’s too big for you, try the IBM 5150, which also picked up a few nominations in the call for contenders thread. Whether you remember the old days of computing and miss the clack-clack of those old keyboards, or you’re interested in mechanicals for other reasons like ergonomics and tactile feel, you’d do yourself a favor by checking out the keyboards that started it all.


Das Keyboard Ultimate Model S

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Das Keyboard has been in the mechanical business for a long time—way before the current rise in popularity. For that reason, they’ve had time to refine their keyboards, stick to what works, incorporate new switch types and introduce models that work for more people, and overall just make really sleek looking, highly functional keyboards. There was a lot of love for the Das Keyboard Ultimate in the call for contenders thread, and as someone who’s used it myself, I can understand why. It’s a tank that’s designed for over 50 million keystrokes, packs a 2-port USB hub inside, features full N-key rollover (meaning pressing multiple keys at a time actually registers), and it’s available with your choice of Cherry MX Brown (quieter, softer) or MX Blue (louder, clicky) switches. You can pick one up direct from Das Keyboard for $139, or grab one at Amazon for a slight price break, around $130 depending on the switches you pick.

Of course, the Ultimate is actually a label-less keyboard, meaning the keys don’t have inscriptions on them. You’d better be good at touch-typing to use it, because you won’t be looking at your fingers. If you want your keys labeled, check out Das Keyboard’s other models, specifically the Professional (also available for Mac, although technically they all work on all platforms). The keys are labeled, you can choose between Cherry MX Brown (quieter, softer), MX Blue (louder, clicky), or MX Red (quieter but still tactile), and the keyboard sports media controls on the function keys, and more. Same price too—$139 direct, a few bucks off at Amazon.


Cooler Master Storm QuickFire

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

The Cooler Master Storm QuickFire family of mechanicals are well regarded by gamers, and our own Whitson Gordon had one and loved it. Your nominations specifically came in for the Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Rapid, a tenkeyless model with Cherry MX Blue switches (although there’s a new model with Cherry MX Green switches) that’s space-saving since you don’t have the numberpad on the right side of the keyboard. Of course, if you prefer different switches, or you want the numberpad, you have plenty of options in the same family, including the full LED backlit QuickFire Ultimate that’s available with MX Blues, Browns, or Reds, whichever you prefer, and the unassuming QuickFire Pro, available with MX Brown, Black, and Red switches.

All on all though, the QuickFire line is known for being functional, affordable (the Rapid series is around $75-$80 at Amazon, depending on the switches you choose, and the Ultimate is $109 at Amazon with your choice of switches or backlighting), and rock solid. You get incredible flexibility in switch types (as you can see), backlighting options, full N-Key rollover, auto-disabling of the Windows key while gaming, removable braided USB cables, and more. Those of you who nominated it praised it for being a solid, affordable, and flexible entry-level option that’ll provide huge bang for your buck, regardless of what you plan to do with it—writing, gaming, working, coding, whatever.


Ducky Shine 2/Shine 3

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

The Ducky Shine line was a bit of a sleeper hit in the call for contenders thread. Ducky, much like Filco, has a bit of a reputation for making incredibly high-quality mechanical keyboards that are sturdy and long-lasting without being bricks on your desk. They’re beautifully crafted, and generally targeted towards enthusiasts, keyboard geeks, coders and developers, and writers—people who live and die by their computers. The Shine 2 and the Shine 3 are no exception. The Shine series is one of the greats, available with your color choice of Cherry MX switches, and if you want one you’ll have to order from someone with stock or have them imported from Taiwan. The Shine 2 is tough to find at this point, and MechanicalKeyboards.com says they’re discontinued. If you do find one, expect to spend around $150 for it. However, the Ducky Shine 3 is widely available, over at MechanicalKeyboards.com for between $130 and $150 depending on the backlight color you choose, and the switch you choose.

That’s one of the beautiful things about the Ducky Shine series—not only can you customize the switches, you can customize the backlighting. You get all the great features of a good mechanical too: Full N-key rollover, reactive lighting to the ambient light in the room, a beautiful matte finish, and customizable backlighting profiles even on the same keyboard so you can set certain keys and areas to light up while the rest are dark, whichever you like. Those of you who praised the Ducky Shine series pointed to its heavy duty case and overall durability without being a massive, hulking keyboard, and the fact that it comes with two space bars—a flashy one with the logo on it, and a flat black one if you don’t like the default. If you can find one, it’s a solid keyboard that will stand the test of time.


Razer BlackWidow Ultimate

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Razer is pretty proud of its gaming cred, and while not all of its keyboards are mechanicals, the BlackWidow Ultimate and the BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth both are. They’re both $139 direct ($111 at Amazon). The Ultimate packs Cherry MX Blue switches, and the Ultimate Stealth packs the quieter Cherry MX Brown switches—Razer has a whole page dedicated to its switch selection options that makes for good reading if you’re curious what types of switches sound like what, which are louder, which are quieter, and which keyboards in their lineup have which features.

The BlackWidow Ultimate however is a full-sized mechanical with programmable keys on the side, individual-key LED backlighting with adjustable brightness, media controls on the function keys, a USB port on the side with USB passthrough along its braided cables, audio passthrough and headphone/microphone jacks on the keyboard, on-the-fly macro recording, and more. The BlackWidow Ultimate is a pretty solid keyboard, a bit of a tank, and while the keys are satisfyingly clicky, even the MX Blues aren’t horribly loud. Still, those of you who nominated it praised it for its heft, tactile feel, and build quality. Its price isn’t too shabby either, and since Razer updates the model on an annual basis, if you don’t like the color of the backlighting or the features in the keyboard, just wait a year—they may address your particular concern with it in the next model.


There you have it, those are your top five nominees! Seriously—there were so many great nominees that now’s a good time to go back to the call for contenders if you don’t see your favorite here. Still, we have honorable mentions listed below. Before that though, it’s time to put them to a vote to determine the Lifehacker community favorite:

Honorable mentions this week go out to the Rosewill RK-9000, an affordable (around $80 at Amazon depending on the switches you get) mechanical keyboard available with Cherry MX Blue, Red, Black, or Brown switches that we highlighted in our guide to mechanical keyboards. It earned more than a few votes from those of you looking for a simple mechanical model without a ton of bells and whistles that’s not necessarily focused on gaming, and still rocks a full numberpad. I’ve had the opportunity personally to play with the RK-9000, and it’s a great mechanical keyboard.

Another honorable mention this week goes out to the new Logitech G710+ Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming. It’s Logitech’s first mechanical keyboard, and it’s come remarkably well regarded. Logitech knows a thing or two about gaming keyboards, and this model sports Cherry MX Brown switches (with individual O-ring noise dampeners) that are quiet enough to not wake the house, but still have a firm clicky feel that you’ll love, especially if you’re a PC gamer. It sports dual-zone backlighting, programmable macro keys, a detachable wrist-rest, and more. It’s not terribly cheap though: it retails for $150 direct.

Finally, for those folks who want the ultimate in customization for their mechanical keyboard, whether they want a full-sized model with a numpad or a tenkeyless model, we have to extend a hand to WASD Keyboards (shown in the title photo), who earned praise in the nominations specifically for their tenkeyless model. They also offer a wide variety of other mechanical models that can be customized with whatever switches you prefer; browns, blues, reds, blacks, and clears. You can even get a key switch sampler pack from them to try out each type of switch before you buy a keyboard so you know what you’re getting into. Then, come back and use their customization tool to build the keyboard—keycaps and all—that’s perfect for you.

A few others that we love here at Lifehacker but didn’t pick up the nominations to make the top five (or really the honorable mentions) that we think you should consider if you’re in the market: The Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a brilliant option if you’re a PC gamer looking for a high quality, well-built mechanical packing Cherry MX Red switches. It’s $150 at Amazon. Also, the Monoprice 9433 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a solid option for gamers on a budget, since it’s only about $50 and packs Cherry MX Blue switches.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.

The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at tips+hivefive@lifehacker.com!

Photos by Robert Freiberger and Blake Patterson.