The ANALOG Gaming Keypad – Razer Tartarus Pro Review
I don’t know about you, but Razer is quickly becoming my favorite gaming brand of 2019. It seems like they’re listening, releasing products that are actually innovative, and doing so at competitive price points too.
Razer’s Impressive Lineup
It really started with the lightweight Razer Viper mouse that pretty much everyone in the FPS space loved, then came to Huntsman Tournament Edition (TE), a TKL keyboards with Razer’s own insanely fast optical switches, PBT keycaps, a standard bottom row, and a USB Type-C connection. Literally a perfect gaming keyboard. I’ve also received the Seiren Emote microphone, and while this one isn’t for everyone the built-in 8-bit screen is actually very cool and compliments the whole streaming experience. And then came the Razer Viper Ultimate, a wireless Viper mouse with a charging dock, awesome battery life, lightweight design, and excellent sensor performance. I’ve been using it since its arrival and finally we have something that competes against the Logitech G PRO wireless. The Viper Ultimate is a strong contender in the wireless space.
And now we have the Tartarus Pro, an update to their gamepad products. It’s got the exact same shape as a Tartarus V2, but with new analog optical switches that feature adjustable actuation. It also comes in this new awesome looking mercury white color too.
Design & Features
All right, so let’s get the basics out of the way as the shape and the design really hasn’t changed from the Tartarus V2. Unfortunately, the price has gone up to $129 USD from $79 USD for the previous model. This keypad has 20 main analog optical switches and scroll wheel that still doesn’t have good scroll steps and is kind of awkward to reach with your point finger. The spacebar is perfectly placed under the thumb, and now with better switches it makes a huge difference. We still have the same D-pad joystick with the removable tip. This way you are less likely to accidentally press it. And finally a profile switcher with three LEDs and up to eight profiles. Unfortunately, none of the profiles are saved on the game pad itself and it will not run outside of the default traditional layout unless Synapse 3 is installed. The lack of built-in memory is one unfortunate thing. The wrist rest is the same rubberized material with some padding at the bottom, with dual positions for extra ergonomics. Therefore, when it’s extended your hand is flatter and it’s easier to reach the spacebar. It’s good for large hands, but if you prefer a more claw-type shape the default position is fine for that.
As I mentioned in my original Tartarus V2 article, these gaming keypads are fantastic space savers and are much more comfortable compared to your regular keyboard because you can place them closer to the body at the most comfortable angle. It also compliments notebook gamers so you’re not suffering through two millimeters or less of travel distance of the notebook. And of course these are incredible for macros, both in gaming and productivity.
What makes the Tartarus Pro so special is the new analog optical switches. They are linear, very smooth, have four millimeters of travel distance, and dual actuation points. You can adjust either the primary and secondary point to register between 1.5mm and 3.6mm and this is pretty unique for two reasons. First, the second actuation point can have a secondary function or a macro, but it is only activated when you pass that actuation point. For example, the primary function can be W while the second function at 3.6mm can be Shift + W allowing you to walk in CS:GO by using the same key. If you set the secondary function to be the same as primary, you get fast double taps and there are plenty of options to choose from. Regrettably, you cannot record mouseclicks to be your secondary function. The difficulty here would be training your fingertips and how much pressure you apply to either hit the primary actuation point or the secondary actuation point, and to be honest the two millimeter difference is not that significant to notice or to feel in the heat of the battle. You would have to really focus on your fingertips and how much pressure you apply, which is something you would have to train for and be prepared for in order to use this functionality properly. It also feels like the secondary actuation point happens earlier than 3.6 millimeters. I feel like it would have been much better to have the secondary actuation point happen when you fully bottom out. This way you have a bit more control on when the primary happens depending on when the actuation is set, but then the secondary to always happen when you fully bottom out. I feel like this way you would have more control or even expand that secondary actuation range to be even lower to the bottoming out because at 3.6mm I feel like there’s quite a bit more travel distance before the switch bottoms out.
The second unique function behind these switches is analog input. Basically, treating all of these switches as joystick movements. Depending on how far down you press your character will move faster or slower and you can adjust analog sensitivity. I do like the slow preset to give me finer control at the very top of key travel, but this again requires quite a bit of finger training to get right.
And after all that, I feel like the Tartarus Pro is an overkill macro station because not only are there eight profiles, but there is also Razer Hypershift that adds one more layer of buttons on top of that. Not to mention there is also the secondary functionality via the actuation distance. Even if you’re not interested in using all these macro tools at least I’m happy that the switches are better and that they are linear. In my opinion, these switches are better suited for gaming than the Mecha-Membrane switches found on the V2. However, why did they have to pull a Razer? Because at $129 USD this thing is expensive. It’s competing directly against their latest TKL keyboard – The Huntsman TE – which is fantastic. Sure it doesn’t have analog switches or that much macro customization like this thing does, but if you’re not utilizing all these macro commands and analog switches and dual actuation points then this thing is going to be left under-utilized and under-appreciated.