Razer Turret Review - Keyboard For Laptop

Introduction, Design & Features

Virtual reality may be the current belle of the PC-gaming ball. But if there’s one other area that’s getting loads of attention among PC gamers these days, it's gaming in the living room—and the ways various factions are making that happen.

Nvidia's GameStream technology, for one, lets you stream PC titles from your gaming rig, provided it’s running a recent Nvidia graphics card, onto an HDTV via the Nvidia Shield$199.99 at Amazon Android TV device. (You can also play Android games on your TV using the Shield.) Of course, there's the traditional direct-attached-PC route, too: We just reviewed (and mostly liked) the revamped Alienware Alpha R2, a GeForce GTX 960-equipped gaming PC the size of a cable set-top box. And we’re currently awaiting delivery of the Corsair Lapdog for testing; it's designed to turn your existing wired gaming peripherals into a couch-friendlier (though still wired) setup.

But really, most gamers looking to lounge on the sofa while playing PC games don’t want to deal with wires at all. And if you’re going to opt for a conventional keyboard and mouse over a game controller, the next problem becomes what to do with those input devices when you aren’t gaming. You don’t want a bulky, blinking keyboard and mouse taking up permanent residence on the coffee table. (Or, at least, your partner probably doesn't.)

Razer Turret (Full Front Angle)

Razer Turret (Full Front Angle)

Razer’s Turret keyboard-and-mouse combo is a slickly designed attempt to solve these problems and make couch-based gaming a wireless, clutter-free reality. With support for both radio-frequency (RF) wireless and Bluetooth, it’s a versatile option that plays well with both Android and Windows. And its included dock keeps everything tidy and charged when you aren’t blasting demons in Doom.

A $159, though, it’s not cheap. And while both the keyboard and its complementary mouse are trim and space-saving, their size means they won't be the best option for all users and all kinds of games, particularly if you don’t like small mice or you often game in semi-darkness. Still, the Turret has its strong points and impressed us a lot in a particular gaming scenario that hadn't occurred to us at first.

Let's settle in with the Turret and see if it's right for you.

Design & Features

Overall, the Razer Turret is a very solid-feeling collection of hardware. It's made up of three main parts: a keyboard with a permanently attached, fold-out mouse pad; a compact mouse with side buttons; and a weighted dock that charges both devices while taking up a very little space (at least, in terms of footprint). The Turret's box also includes an extender for the 2.4GHz RF USB transceiver; the transceiver connects both the keyboard and the mouse to your PC over one connection. The extender lets you plug the little USB transceiver dongle into a square module at the end of a USB cable, so you can position the receiver closer to where you'll be using your Turret devices. (The mouse and keyboard also work over Bluetooth, so you may not need the extender or the USB dongle at all.)

Both the keyboard and mouse are compact by gaming-peripheral standards. The former is just under a foot long for the keyboard section itself, and it folds open, when in use, to expose a hard mousing surface to the right. The keyboard and the mouse pad together together measure about 20 inches across. The small size is good, in the sense that the device is easy to move, fits comfortably in your lap, and doesn't take up too much of your couch or coffee table if you need to set it down to get a snack or answer the door.

Razer Turret (Keyboard and Mouse)

Razer Turret (Keyboard and Mouse)

The downside of making things small is that, much like on most compact laptops' keyboards these days, the top function-key row and bottom up/down arrow keys get sliced down to half size. Granted, most gamers use the WASD keys rather than the arrow keys for in-game movement. But one of the primary reasons for using a gaming-specific keyboard in the first place is to get a roomy, gaming-centric layout. Those used to gaming on a laptop may find the flat, shallow keys to their liking. But the keyboard has no dedicated macro keys or media-playback keys here. (Play, pause, and the like are executed via Fn-key combinations with the top function row.) You can use Razer's included software to reprogram any lesser-used key with a macro or shortcut, but a few dedicated keys would have been appreciated, considering the price and the gamer focus.

A few other key quibbles: The WASD keys can be tough to locate without looking, as all of the Turret board's keytops have a uniform, flat texture. And don't expect to do any serious gaming in the dark, because the keys aren't backlit. In short, those used to mechanical gaming keyboards or just desktop gaming keyboards in general will be in for some adjustment.

Razer Turret (Keyboard Backside)

Razer Turret (Keyboard Backside)

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That being said, in our time spent gaming with the keyboard, playing Grim Dawn and the 2016 Doom reboot, we were comfortable enough with the feel of the keys themselves. Mostly, we just missed the presence of backlighting, as we tended to play at night with the lights turned low. A grippy material on the underside of the keyboard/mouse surface kept the Turret from sliding around on our lap, and the mouse tracked well. (More on that in a moment.)

Razer claims you should get up to four months of use out of the keyboard between full charges. But considering that the keyboard charges every time you put it in the cradle (and keeping it parked in there is the best way of keeping your living space neat between gaming sessions), we would have traded a reduction to four weeks or even four days in exchange for some kind of key lighting. We'd also have liked to see (and feel) some texture or bumps on the primary keys (especially WASD) so we could find them without looking when our fingers strayed from their home base. That seems to happen far more often while gaming on the sofa than it does sitting at a desk.

We didn't have any issues with the modest size of the mousing area, which is about 4.5 inches front to back by about 7.5 inches across. It's cramped compared to a typical mouse pad, to be sure, but Razer helps you make the most of the space by setting the included mouse's default DPI so that you don't need to swing the rodent far to track far. Also, we rarely moused our way off of the surface while gaming, partly because the mouse has a slight magnetic attachment to the mousing surface, which helps minimize the span of your movements.

Razer Turret (Mouse in Side)

Razer Turret (Mouse in Side)

The mouse itself, however, won't be to everyone's liking. If you've used a solid travel mouse in the past, you'll know what to expect here. The Turret mouse is about 4 inches long by 2.5 inches wide, and Razer says it should run for about 40 hours between charges. It's also an ambidextrous design with two thumb buttons on each side. That's a nice gesture but a slightly odd design choice, because the mousing surface is permanently attached to the keyboard on the right side. Left-handed users would have to use their right hand, regardless, to use the built-in mouse pad, or else use the Turret mouse on some other flat thing, with the Turret's mousing surface hanging uselessly off the side of the keyboard. Also, while the mouse feels reasonably solid overall, it's not as substantial nor as button-filled as you might expect from a gaming mouse in a $159 bundle.

We found the mouse comfortable to use for short periods, up to an hour or so at a time. But we have more of a "claw" grip when gaming than a palm one, and our hands aren't all that large. Those with big hands used to large mice may find the Turret mouse uncomfortable for extended periods of use. That's probably true, to a lesser extent, of the keyboard too. We don't see how Razer could have jammed the comfortable, roomy feel of a larger gaming keyboard into a wireless package this small. But considering how the keyboard folds up and docks when not in use, it didn't have to be quite so narrow. An extra inch of depth would have made a big difference, and the Turret keyboard would have been nearly as unobtrusive when docked.

Razer Turret (Side Buttons)

Razer Turret (Side Buttons)

It's also worth pointing out that the Turret isn't ideal to use intermittently for things other than gaming, because the keyboard powers down after several minutes of inactivity. You have to press the small power button that's flush with the left edge of the device (it's a bit tough to find by feel alone) to turn it back on again. It's possible to adjust how quickly the keyboard powers off via Razer's included software, but the adjustment slider tops out at 15 minutes before sleep kicks in.

We're sure this is also a battery-saving measure. But given that the keyboard longevity is rated in months, while the mouse is rated in hours, and users are likely to be docking both on a daily basis, the auto-off range seems unnecessarily tight.

Software, Support, & Conclusion

If you don't want to program macros for the mouse or add them to the function keys on the keyboard, you don't technically need to install Razer's Synapse software. But installing Synapse not only lets you save those settings, it also lets you disable certain keys while gaming, so you don't accidentally minimize or close your game in a fit of frustrated or frenzied button-mashing. (We're looking at you, Windows key.)

The Synapse software is available for both Windows and macOS, and your settings are stored in the cloud. The latter is a nice touch. If you install the Turret on another system and log in, you'll have instant access to your game-specific tweaks.

 Razer Turret (Synapse Software)

Razer Turret (Synapse Software)

While the software is available for Windows and Mac machines, the Turret is also designed to work with Android. It has dedicated Android Home and Back buttons to the right of the space bar. And actually, using it with Android TV was where we had the best experience with the Turret. We plugged the device's RF transceiver into the back of an Nvidia Shield Android TV/gaming console, and used both the Shield and the Turret to play streamed Doom and Grim Dawn, the games transmitted from our gaming PC in another room onto a 50-inch Sony HDTV.

We wouldn't want to do this for extremely fast-paced online gaming, and we did have to spend some time fiddling with the mouse sensitivity in Doom to get the controls just right. But as an alternative to the controller in first-person shooters and the Diablo-like Grim Dawn, the Turret was a pleasure to work—or, rather, play—with. It actually made us want to play games on Android (and PC games streamed through Shield) that we'd normally be averse to, due to the controller-centric nature of the Shield.

Also, because we tend to game on Android in shorter bursts of between 20 minutes to an hour at a time, the Turret didn't feel overly cramped or cramp-inducing for those kinds of sessions, at least to our hands. Still, though, we would have liked some texture on the WASD keys so our fingers could find them without looking down. Otherwise, the Turret was one of the better solutions we've seen for short bursts of Android-based gaming when a game controller isn't the way you want to go.

Conclusion

Crafting a collection of gaming peripherals that works great on the couch isn't easy. Designers need to balance space-saving design with features that take up a fair bit of space by their very nature, such as roomy key layouts and dedicated macro keys. Also required is a mouse that feels comfortable in the hand, with at least a few extra buttons to program. Once you've used something better, you just can't game on a touch pad or a two-button mouse for long these days.

 Razer Turret (Full Side)

Razer Turret (Full Side)

Obviously, it isn't easy to fit all those things into a collection of devices that's wireless and compact, as well as stylish enough not to be an eyesore in the living room. We like much of what Razer has done with the Turret, particularly its singular charging dock/stand and folding keyboard/mousing surface. Those happy with compact mice and gaming on a laptop keyboard may find the Turret's peripherals to their liking, as well.

We just wish Razer hadn't made the Turret's keyboard and mouse quite so small. Since the keyboard folds up and both peripherals dock vertically when not in use, a model that's larger wouldn't be a bad thing at all. (A "Razer TurretXL," anyone? Bring it on, we say.) A slightly larger keyboard might make room for macro keys, backlighting, and full-size arrow keys—plus, a slightly roomier mousing surface for a bigger rodent with more buttons.

Some of that (especially the backlighting) would doubtless shorten the battery life. But larger-bodied devices would mean more room inside of them for bigger batteries, too. And no one really needs more than a month (or even a week) of battery life from a keyboard-and-mouse combo that's meant to spend most of its downtime parked in a smartly designed charging dock.

Razer Turret (Mouse in Hand)

Razer Turret (Mouse in Hand)

Those looking for a roomier, more traditional gaming-peripheral experience couch-side also should look into the competing Corsair Lapdog. The Lapdog is a lapboard of sorts that lets you incorporate a backlit mechanical gaming keyboard and gaming mouse into a device designed to sit across your lap. But the Lapdog's a lot larger, it doesn't fold up for easy storage, and it requires a wired USB connection, which means wires across the room, tripping up the kids, your spouse, and your real dog. The Lapdog is also a good bit more expensive than the already-dear Turret, when you combine Corsair's $120 price for the Lapdog alone with those of the keyboard and mouse required to fit it. (Stay tuned for our full review of the Lapdog in the coming weeks.)

The Turret is a noble first try on Razer's part, and we certainly haven't written off the concept. But we're still on the lookout for the perfect input-device solution for living-room gaming. In the meantime, the simpler solution, if you're not averse to splurging, may be to invest in a larger monitor and a more comfy office chair for your gaming PC. That way, you can stick to the keyboard and mouse you're familiar with, which probably work just fine on your desk.

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