That we use keyboards to play games—and have keyboards designed for gaming—is an accident of history. PCs were designed as general computing machines and we only added games onto them later. Keyboards aren’t the ideal tool for gaming, but they’re the best option that doesn’t make the sacrifices of a controller. Razer is trying to find some space between the unwieldy flexibility of a keyboard and the ergonomic limits of a game controller with its new Tartarus Pro optical gaming keypad.
This isn’t the first gaming keypad—nor the first Tartarus—from Razer, but it brings a crucial change to the line and to gaming keypads. The Tartarus Pro will be the first keypad from Razer (and the first keypad that I’m aware of) to feature optical key switches.
The keypad features 32 keys with optical keys witches, each of which is fully programmable and analog. Razer even has built-in functionality to program two separate functions depending on how far you press a key.
Razer says that games that offer controller support should work with the analog key switches right out of the box. The company lists of popular titles like Fortnite and Rocket League specifically, but just about every game allows controller support these days.
In addition to analog key switches, the Tartarus Pro has a solid feature set: it features unlimited macro length, 8 quick-toggle profiles that you can toggle through with a key on the side of the keypad, and of course, compatibility with Razer’s Chroma backlighting. The pad also features an adjustable wrist rest and an 8-way thumbstick that seems to be of the digital variety. It seems odd that Razer went with a digital pad instead of an analog; everything else on the pad is analog, and analog sticks are mature technology at this point.
A compromise worth making
When we talk about PC gaming, I often hear people discuss games best played with a keyboard and with controllers. A keypad with analog, programmable keys could be just the thing to bridge the gap. Analog keys mean that you can do things like move slowly in a stealth game or have a light and heavy attack on the same key. It’s a tantalizing idea, though we have yet to see how well it works in practice.
There are optical keyboards already on the market, though it seems harder to justify analog key switches as a general-use tool when compared to the implementation we see here on a dedicated gaming device.
The Razer Tartarus Pro optical keypad is available right now for $129.