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.
All three keyboards have LED backlighting, making it easy to see the keys in a darkened game room. Like the G15, the Tarantula lights up blue but only on the keys along the outer edges, not the main letter keys. The Eclipse II, on the other hand gives you blue, red, and purple options, so if custom colors turn you on, the Tarantula can't compete. But we much prefer customization options with a more practical purpose, and the Tarantula beats the other two by far. Like the G15, the Tarantula comes with customizable hot keys. The Tarantula doesn't have quite as many, 10 to the Logitech's 18, but we think the Tarantula's are laid out in such a way that it's easier to remember which button does what, with 5 running down each side of the keyboard, rather than clustering the buttons like the G15 does.