A Deep Dive Into The Razer Tartarus V2
Pulling off the seeming unlikely, in looking both modern and classic, this ergonomic keypad has a small board above a hand rest. Off to the side, there’s an eight-directional D-pad, a small circular (Alt, by default) button, and a thumb button that usually functions as the space bar.
While most keypads are typically nothing more than a micro-sized keyboard, the Razer Tartarus V2 is not your average keypad. It features Razer’s Mecha-Membrane technology, Chroma backlighting with 16.8 million customizable color options, full anti-ghosting, 32 fully programmable keys, and much more. The palm-rest is now adjustable and features a faux leather pad for added comfort and support.
Once a growing subcategory of gaming keyboards, gaming keypads like the Razer Tartarus V2 may seem like a niche item in 2020. A one-handed PC gaming controller that lets you replicate the primary gaming keys from a keyboard, even create your custom setup, might seem of much less value today when most gaming keyboards let you make custom-mapped profiles.
But for what it is, it works very well. And if your gaming experience would be enhanced by a small, programmable keypad with a directional stick, it does the job. Sure, it’s not as versatile as a full keyboard, but if you’re a hardcore gamer who doesn’t need the full 104 keys, it could boost your performance.
Is Razer Tartarus a worthwhile investment? After an exhausting time testing and using (ok, weeks of late-night fun gaming!) we’ll make our final taking into consideration the most important features, we’ll give you our opinion.
Who’s It For?
A keypad is not just a piece of a keyboard, as it might seem at first, Instead, it’s a fully independent device that makes things easier and more comfortable when playing. For a gamer, its ease of taps, hand comfort, and promotion of greater relaxation is a real boon.
When it comes to a regular keyboard, its keypad is nothing more than a numeric tool on your keyboard, likely to be to your right, and the only games that you can play using these are probably math games. You could play some other games on the mainboard itself, but it would be an inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even possibly painful experience.
With a specialist separate keypad, your hand can be placed on it perfectly and not get tired, even after those marathon gaming sessions! The model should initially fit your posture and hand size and shape, which you can then adjust for a custom fit. So, the more axis of settings are available, the better it is for you.
But of course, it’s not only in its form but also in its function that you’ll get the benefits of a specialist gaming keypad. If you want to play multiple characters during a game. With their profiling, you won’t have to change your layout, creating new binds each time you re-log. Instead, you only need to set everything up once, and then be able to easily switch between your profiles with just a keystroke.
The features of these keypads and how to unlock their potential, are most marked in MMORPG and MOBA games, in RPGs, These are the games where there’s a huge range of various actions, movements, and options. With the right binding, everything will be at your fingertips and you don’t need to set up any combinations of keys. Everything will have been bound beforehand, and the only thing you need to do is click.
If you’re playing WoW or Dota, or maybe even LoL, then we strongly recommend such a device. With one, the game is transformed, and with it your perception and experience.
Extra functions such as modular buttons, analog control sticks, removable
panels, and other features will always be handy and add to your comfort, convenience, and enjoyment. But it’s not worth buying a model which is over-tuned. A keypad should just be a keypad – not a printer, a scanner, etc. And don’t forget that you’ll still need a standard keyboard for chatting. There’s nothing to be done about that.
Some genres of games don’t have such a strong need for a keypad. They simply wouldn’t unlock its potential. Buying a separate keypad for the use of just 6-7 buttons? You’d be better off saving your money and buying a PC racing wheel instead.
Razer Tartarus V2, is especially useful then for keen MMO players, with its easily programmable buttons. And don’t underestimate the convenience and benefits of the easy portability of its small size. Particularly for players whose gaming isn’t just limited to their homes.
But for gamers who have acquired a taste for and like the flavor of custom keypads, or for those who haven’t yet done so for custom keyboards, Razer Tartarus V2 could be a worthwhile gadget.
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Let’s examine more closely the reasons that are the case…
What We Like About Razer Tartarus V2
Probably the most useful feature of the Tartarus V2 is that you can switch between three different keymaps, which is perfect for different characters in an MMO or MOBA, for different weapons layouts in an FPS, or different races in an RTS. Without question, it’s a device that can make almost any game better.
Its layout allows you to access everything faster than even a gaming keyboard. We felt this particularly during our MMO gameplay testing, with all movements, as well as every spell and action just at our fingertips. Having to spend less time finding the right keys to press, we felt even more immersed in the game.
World of Warcraft is probably where it showed the greatest utility. High-level MMO play requires a lot of buttons, and Razer Tartarus V2 can fully leverage macros to manage complicated DPS sequences or effective healing chains. Especially as you can reprogram the keymap for different alternatives, MMO diehards could really benefit from the Tartarus V2. It was much the same playing other genres of games too.
The D-pad is an interesting feature. You expect it to be similar to a full thumbstick, like on a game controller. But in fact, it’s more like arrow keys, with a command between each of the two main directions. How useful it is, will depend on the gaming genre. Although for sure, using the D-pad to explore the minimap is very useful, letting you micromanage your units more effectively.
Another new feature that Razer has adopted in the Tartarus V2 is a ‘Hypershift’ mode which completely changes what each key does when you press or hold down a button of your choice. Hypershift on/off can be attached to any key, allowing you to switch into a second alternative function. In theory, your 32 keys can be doubled for full-featured programmability within Razer’s Synapse software to remap, rebind, launch programs, record and execute macros.
Razer Synapse provides some useful functions for setting the keypad. You can create a profile for yourself, which is convenient when more than one of you uses the device and maybe the included 8 pre-set modes won’t be enough. And as the Tartarus V2 is now equipped with Chroma functionality, Synapse is where you customize the RGB backlighting. You can set your personal color preferences or use one of the pre-set modes.
Another side of this keypad is the good non-gameplay potential it has. You can custom profile to make all your Adobe Photoshop tools key bound in an order that gives you quick and easy access. The Tartarus V2 allows you to focus on your actual design works themselves, rather than on looking for the correct windows and interfaces.
Razer’s designers and engineers deserve credit for assembling a neat and compact ergonomic device. With its shape resembling the anatomy of the human palm, it provides excellent support for your own so that no fatigue or discomfort appears even after long use. The wrist rests are adjustable and the lower part of the keypad is equipped with retractable legs that stick well to the surface of the table. Spend the necessary time setting it up, and you’ll end up with a perfect keypad for you.
What We Don’t Like About Razer Tartarus V2
One area where the Tartarus V2 loses points right off is in the form and structure of its keys. Instead of the mechanical switches of most of its high-end keyboards, Razer has used its ‘Mecha-Membrane’ tech or those of the Tartarus V2. Designed to mimic the feel of a mechanical keyboard, while still giving a squishy membrane underneath the keycaps, in our view this ‘best of both worlds’ approach doesn’t work. It fails to deliver the best of either. We’d rather that Razer, with only 32 keys to equip, had just decided on and gone with offering the full mechanical experience.
Synapse 3.0 is still in beta, and it shows. Certainly, visually it’s moving in the right direction of improvement on Razer’s previous Synapse 2 version software. Large, colorful icons have replaced all of those many dropdown menus. But as a whole, the program still looks and certainly feels sparse, a bit sparse. There’s a lot of white backgrounds and space between options. And those Synapse 2 drop-downs made it pretty much foolproof. Synapse 3.0’s tabs within tabs, means that there are many confusing steps to get where and what you want, even in single simple tasks.
Yes, 3.0 has all the features of a gaming suite, but still, in the beta version, its UI navigation is just difficult and awkward. It’s confusing and so very time-consuming, to find a way to lock profiles to games. This was easy with Synapse 2. The same for games-focused settings, such as the ability to control acceleration.
Overall, the admittedly more utilitarian looking, Synapse 2 is superior all round in its raw simplicity, to this beta. It had many more easily executable-specific profiles and separate DPI axes. As of yet, Synapse 3 has far fewer of these important features for workers as well as gamers. Simply put, it doesn’t operate very well. it frequently lags and has so many bugs that after a while we just stopped using it for online profile saving.
Setting up the Chroma lighting options also requires some trial and error, although it’s achievable. And once it’s done, it automatically syncs with other Razer products, which is a nice touch. Otherwise, you can reprogram the keys, link individual profiles with games, and record macros; all in an attractive interface.
Hypershift much less so. Setting up its options requires a lot of time. Especially as you’ll need to test and optimize your choices in-game. We tested Hypershift mainly with StarCraft: Remastered, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft. A spread of the gaming genres in which players are most likely to use and benefit from it.
The experiment wasn’t entirely successful. Every time that command that wasn’t programmed in was needed – for example, M to train Terran Marines, or Ctrl + 1 to designate a control group – focus would return to the keyboard instead and stay there until we remembered the Tartarus V2. After reprogramming the Tartarus V2, shortly the same would happen again as we realized that we’d forgotten another critical command, and had to repeat the process all over again.
It is worth a special note (because of its popularity), that Overwatch was probably where there was the least improvement. Special skills can be assigned to the keypad, but the D-pad didn’t have a clear purpose, and the game just doesn’t benefit from macros. Sure, some FPS snipers might like having the extra scroll wheel, but unless you REALLY don’t like a mouse-and-keyboard setup, the Tartarus V2 won’t have much of an impact at all.
So, it’s not that Tartarus V2’s Hypershift doesn’t work properly, it does; but just, is there a clear and enough advantage in buying, and having to train oneself in the use of a wholly new peripheral?
Theoretically at least, you could have almost 150 different commands available to you. But by default, there are no keys assigned to enabling Hypershift or for swapping keymaps. And while programming them isn’t hard in itself, the effort that it requires makes one of the Tartarus V2’s best aspects an opt-in choice, down to personal preference, rather than a key must-use, and therefore must-have feature. A keyboard is both more spacious and more familiar. Although perhaps, the space-saving aspect alone would be enough for some gamers to go for it.
In further terms of its design and ergonomics, Razer Tartarus V2 has an adjustable palm-rest, and this latest version, a faux leather pad for added comfort and support. While this is a great idea, we found the pad to be a little bit thin. We could feel the plastic base in longer gaming sessions.
Overall, the Tartarus V2 isn’t nearly as comfortable as it could be. You can adjust the hand rest to one of two positions, but unless you have gigantic hands, in both positions you’ll be reaching for the top row of keys and the space bar.
Furthermore, the button that maps to S has a little ridge to help you identify the movement keys by touch, but it’s just too subtle of a bump. We often found ourselves setting our fingers one position to the left or right. This was at best inconvenient in a single-player game, but it was dangerous in a multiplayer one and could be deadly in a high-stakes tournament match.
- Useful for high-level MMO play
- Easy to program
- Decent button layout
- Expanded keys. Now with 32 programmable, including a scroll wheel
- Hypershift mode doubles your key count
- Easy programmability thanks to Synapse 3.0
- Fast, syncing between devices
- Beta software makes for a steep learning curve
- Maybe limited utility for most players
- Expensive for only membrane keys
- Wrist-rest padding is a touch thin
Razer Tartarus V2 comes packaged in a stylish box giving a brief synopsis of the device’s possibilities and Synapse 3.0 software. As well as the keypad itself inside the box you’ll find a power supply cable (AC Input – 110V~240V/50~60Hz, DC Output – 12 V with max, 1.5 A current), a user guide with separate easy setup information, a warranty card, and several Razer stickers for customization. As the Synapse software is pre-loaded, no driver CD is included.
Overview Of Features
You could say that the most remarkable feature of Razer Tartarus V2 is overall that it exists in itself. There aren’t too many small-form gaming keypads on the market, and even less from major and trusted peripheral manufacturers.
In terms of functionality, everything innovative or interesting in the Tartarus V2 comes from the Razer Synapse 3.0 software. This programs the keypad and the Chroma functional RGB backlighting. You can customize to set your personal color preferences or use one of the pre-set modes.
Settings are saved for all of Razer’s devices currently available, uploading them to cloud storage accessible from anywhere in the World. Therefore, you don’t have to re-record macros each time you use a new PC.
Synapse lets you switch between three different keymaps, which is great for different characters in an MMO or MOBA, for different weapons layouts in an FPS, or different races in an RTS. There’s also a Hypershift functionality, which completely changes what every key does when you press or hold down a button of your choice. The device has 8 different profiles that can either be changed with the help of the software or one of the buttons can be assigned to change a profile.
Razer Tartarus V2 is made of Classic Black regular matte plastic and has 32 programmable keys in total. The main 15 are multi-touch membrane keys. You place your thumb on a separate programmable D-Pad with 8 positions. Over and under it, there are another two buttons that you can be hit.
Razer build quality and ergonomics is generally good, and the Tartarus V2 measures in dimension 2.36 x 7.98 x 6.02 inches and weighs just 0.77 pounds.
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Razer Tartarus V2 could be an excellent keypad. With 32 buttons, you could have almost endless combinations at your fingertips. Thanks to Hypershift, it would be hard to run out of buttons for everything you need, laid out in an easy to access grid. It could be a must-have for any MMO player who wants to be able to boost their performance or who needs the most powerful macro pad around. At the same time, certainly saving them valuable desk footprint.
But of course, there’s the crunch; ‘could’ + ‘would’ = ‘should’.
Many of its promoted benefits are still just theoretical options. You could say, that to some extent the hardware of the Tartarus Synapse is let down by its software in the beta version of Synapse 3.0. At the moment, it’s not a user-friendly enough reality. No doubt that this will change as Razer develops the beta version. We hope that this comes soon because at the moment it’s undermining the usability and value of a very good little device. But so far at least, Razer hasn’t given any indication of when this might be.
For other uses, keypads, in general, aren’t great for text-chat. Razer hasn’t yet solved this problem in the Tartarus V2. And when a standard mouse-and-keyboard setup is still functional for most MMO games and players, are its benefits enough to capture enough of what is already a niche market?
There’s a market for Razer Tartarus V2; after all, gamers welcomed and bought the first version enough to demand a second one. Still, having experimented with it in some of our favorite games – albeit, at not a particularly high competitive level – it seems a bit like a device solution in search of a problem. With it, comes a steep learning curve for a relatively high price, for arguably not enough benefits. At the moment at least.
This is perhaps the central dilemma of Razer Tartarus V2. Yes, what it does, it does well enough; but is it that helpful, or that necessary for most gamers? As with many, if not most peripherals, it largely comes down to the user’s personal preference of course.
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