Editor's note: This review has been updated to clarify that only some of the keys, and not the main QWERTY keys, are backlit. (11/9/06)
It only makes sense that after tuning the lowly mouse to gamer specifications, the various input device makers would turn their attention to keyboards. Razer's new $99 Tarantula gaming keyboard is not the first of this new breed, but it's definitely one of the best. It's also one of the most expensive. Still, if you're willing spend a little bit more for gaming-input precision, then the Tarantula should be your pick. Among other reasons, it has more out-of-the-box features that will matter to gamers as soon as they set it up.
Gaming keyboards seem to universally take up massive swaths of desk space. Although it looks very large when you take the glossy, KITT car-black Tarantula out of the box, it's only a little wider than Saitek's competing Eclipse II gaming keyboard (19.5 inches vs. 20.25 inches). And Logitech's 21.5-inch G15 is even wider.
One of the things we like most about the Tarantula is its build quality. At 2 pounds, 8 ounces, it feels more substantial than the Logitech (2 pounds, 14 ounces) or the Saitek (2 pounds, 11 ounces), even though it actually weighs the least of the three. Its glossy black finish also looks the sharpest. The Tarantula has stick-fast rubber feet on the bottom that give you the confidence that during an intense gaming session, it won't slide out from under you. It almost feels like it attaches itself to your desk. The other two don't hold their position as well.