On the far left and far right side of the keyboard (beyond the macro buttons) the Tarantula has some extra buttons to push as well. On the left side you can push a button to put your PC in stand-by mode (appropriately labeled ďZzzĒ along with a web browser homepage button. Below those two are image keys that can be used to alter images on your PC (rotate, zoom in and out and full size view, respectively). On the far right you have the media buttons (defaulted to work on Windows Media Player but you can change to whatever media player you want) which allow you to open the media player along with play, stop, rewind, fast forward, volume and mute buttons along with a shuffle button for random song play. All in all these extra features are nice to have but not totally necessary.
In the top center of the Tarantula is a rectangular port that Razer is calling the BattleDock. While they arenít selling them yet, the BattleDock is designed to add some extra functionality to the keyboard through the use of Razer branded accessories. They have announced two such additions so far; an overhead blue light that makes typing in the dark a bit better and a web cam for people who want to communicate via video. We would love to have a port for an iPod or other MP3 device so we can listen to music while we play games but that kind of support has not yet been announced (in an odd move, Razer is selling a version of the Tarantula to business oriented customers that replaces the BattleDock with a port specifically for an iPod connection but there is no word on when or even if that kind of support will move to the gaming product).
So how does the keyboard feel while playing games? Razer has made a big deal in marketing about the keys reduce latency in games using membrane keys to cut response time but the truth is that we really didnít notice any difference playing games like Dark Messiah of Might and Magic or Battlefield 2142 while using the keys on the Tarantula for the past several days. The keys themselves feel fine while operating them; I didnít notice any mushy feeling or anything else while we push them but to say that they reduce lag time while playing games may be pushing things a tad.
However, thatís not all the features the Razer Tarantula has for gamers. One cool thing that they have done is the idea of replacing keys with not letters but icons. If you want to, say, remove your ďRĒ (for reload) key with a bullet icon that represents reloading you can. Razer provides 10 such icon keys, mostly for first person shooter titles, in the Tarantula (they have plans to sell even more separately for other game genres) along with a plastic tool that makes removing the main keyboard buttons easy. Then all you have to do is get the icon key you want and push it in place. Other icons included with the basic Tarantula include a target (presumably for sniping) a knife, a pistol, a machine gun, a grenade, a fist, and something which we think looks like a helmet (for armor maybe). Thereís also a comic book like word ballon icon includes which is likely supposed to represent voice chatting.
The main thing that separates the Tarantula from other gaming keyboards is its software. Letís start with the macro keys first. As we stated before, the keyboard has 10 of these keys that can each store up to eight separate keyboard strokes. So if you have your favorite combo you want to use in, say, World of Warcraft you donít have to use a third party macro program. You can just bring up the Tarantulaís software which brings up a representation of the keyboard itself on your PC screen. By moving your mouse cursor to one of the macro keys shown in the layout and clicking on it you bring up a screen that allows you to put in your series of keyboard button commands. You can even use it to delay the time each keystroke in the macro is used in the sequence (in 50, 100, 150 and 200 millisecond increments). You then select which profile and program the macro uses and volia; instant combo move to take out a particularly nasty enemy in your favorite game.
Speaking of profiles, the Tarantula actually has 32 MB of onboard memory which is enough to store up to five profiles and the keyboardís software can store up to 100 different profiles. Each profile can have two different keysets which means you can switch between a regular keyboard set up and a Battlefield 2142 set up on quickly. Needless to say the software is extremely powerful and extensive but thankfully itís also just a matter of pointing and clicking inside the keyboardís user interface which is pretty each to use. If you are a hardcore gamer you can probably have a lot of fun just programming different profiles for all the games on your hard drive. Itís a little daunting at first to have all of the various options that the Tarantula gives you out of the box but we found that putting the time into it was worth it.
However, even though the product is a powerful one there is one aspect that may keep some gamers from picking it up; the price. At $99.99 this is not a cheap keyboard by any means and quite frankly we could do without some of the gameís hardware aspects (particularly the glowing lights) if it meant making it a little more affordable.