Razer brings Switchblade UI to standalone keyboard

Razer was keen to show off its Blade gaming laptop at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, but the system is a little large—and pricey—for our tastes. One of the most interesting elements of the notebook is its keyboard, which eschews a traditional numpad in favor of a configurable touchscreen with programmable keys. Otherwise known as the Switchblade UI, this novel user interface has now made its way into a standalone keyboard.

The 10 programmable buttons that line the top of the Switchblade panel are backed by an LCD, allowing the look of each key to be changed to suit its purpose. These keys can be programmed to launch applications, toggle functions like the Windows key, and execute macros. Below them lies a decent-sized touchscreen that can masquerade as a touchpad, a numpad, a directional pad optimized for gaming, or even a secondary display.

Razer says it’s planning to release an SDK that allows developers to write their own applications for the Switchblade UI. There’s already a YouTube app and a web browser, and you know a Facebook client can’t be far away. Switchblade also supports on-the-fly macro recording, allowing users to quickly automate combos without having to exit a game. All user preferences and macros are stored in the cloud, as well.

At the moment, the only keyboard to have received the Switchblade treatment is a special edition designed for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Razer says the keyboard is coming soon, but brace yourself, because the thing is set to cost $250. Even with fancy backlighting and a claimed one-millisecond response time, that seems a little steep. The keyboard doesn’t use mechanical key switches, instead relying on membrane-style switches that didn’t feel all that impressive under my fingertips.

While the Star Wars keyboard’s lofty price is hard to swallow, I do like the direction Razer is moving with its Switchblade UI. I use my numpad constantly, but I wouldn’t mind having it replaced by a programmable touchpad that served the same function while also being flexible enough for other duties.

Comments closed
    • ChangWang
    • 8 years ago

    I *really* wanted one of these…. until I saw the $250 price tag on amazon

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    without mechanical keys its all for nothing, I’ll never go back now!

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    And… this is useful because we’ve seen how well it worked on the G15.

    Those keys look like the same type you’d find on a laptop and they probably feel just as bad.

    • trackerben
    • 8 years ago

    They’ll market it as some kind of new “pad input computing”, its chip a “pad interface processing unit”, or PIPU. If Razer succeeds, future desktop builders will have a choice of PIPUs to go along with their pick of CPUs and GPUs. Multi-core/multi-screen, and now diverse-core/diverse-screen computing. Forth, and multiply!

    After all, why should one’s screen be the sole monitor output, eh? With two eyes, split brains, and socialized ADHD, just imagine what man can accomplish. What a beautiful world this will be, what a glorious time to be free (cue for I.G.Y. to start playing)

    • Arclight
    • 8 years ago

    I got nothing against this but it needs improvements. First of all there should be a version with mechanical switches and keycaps with normal travel. Also the LCD that replaces the numpad should be detachable (connecting to the left side of the keyboard’s body through USB or something).

    If they offered you the parts separately as in i buy the awesome mechanical keyboard today and later down the road i’ll buy the expensive man toy LCD, the costs upfront would be smaller. The addon could be also changed, from a lcd to idk, like ohers suggested smartphone dock or whatever the great unwashed demands. You could keep the keyboard for years and as time passes you could add new addons, switch between them as you desire, or if you need the space, take it out.

    • Xenolith
    • 8 years ago

    Why didn’t they base Switchblade on Android? Then there would be apps-a-plenty.

      • ludi
      • 8 years ago

      This. Otherwise, custom one-off is as custom one-off does; who is going to invest a lot of effort in learning to program apps for a boutique product that costs as much as an entire XBox 360 starter pack?

      An Android implementation and a matching WiFi server application for the host PC, with perhaps a streamlined remote control app, would seem a much better place to start.

    • jrr
    • 8 years ago

    Anyone have any idea what you’d do with this thing?

      • Xenolith
      • 8 years ago

      Social stream? IRC? Weather display? Video podcast window? Porn?

        • Kollaps
        • 8 years ago

        All stuff that’s worthless.

        I admire Razer for showing some unique products, but they seem to be missing the mark with each one. The keyboard doesn’t need a screen and they know as well as we do that this product is a dead end.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 8 years ago

    $250 is pretty pricey but if they port angry birds to it then suddenly it becomes worth it!

      • burntham77
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, as attractive as this thing is, I am having trouble justifying the price to myself. For 100 less, I think I could manage it.

    • pikaporeon
    • 8 years ago

    Remember when the Optimus was going to be the next big thing?

      • Grigory
      • 8 years ago

      No.

    • UberGerbil
    • 8 years ago

    Maybe they should just use the space for an iPhone dock and be done with it.

      • slash3
      • 8 years ago

      Surprise, it’s been done.

      [url<]http://www.amazon.com/Omnio-WOW-KEYS-Full-sized-Keyboard-000WOWKEYS/dp/B004XYJKZU[/url<] Whether or not it's actually useful, I couldn't say, however.

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