As far as media controls are concerned, the Lycosa is simply too smooth for keys. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll find a touch-sensitive panel above the number pad, which regular readers might know is not something I tend to be enthusiastic about. It sure looks stylish however, especially the Razer logo, which is itself a button. It includes the usual play/stop/skip and volume controls, and a backlight mode switch.
Here is where the problems start. Quite apart from being too close together, the controls, much like the rest of the keyboard, are hard to make out because the lighting is simply too dim – far more so than on competing products. Since the Lycosa’s key-symbols are not painted but purely transparent, they can be very tricky to distinguish. For touch-typists this will not be a problem, and many gamers will know the locations of their favourite keys by heart, but for everyone else this could well be a major annoyance during daytime use.
There are three backlighting modes: off, on (all keys) and gamer (WASD only). The brighter gamer setting, unlike the normal one, is clearly visible under any amount of ambient light. I can’t help but think that Razer would have been better off combining the gaming and normal modes into a slightly usable single one.
Like any self-respecting gaming board, the Lycosa offers a hardware switch to deactivate the Windows key, though the process is the most convoluted I’ve come across. You need to touch the Razer logo and press the Windows key at the same time, but due to the touch-sensitive nature of the logo you have no tactile feedback, and there is no indicator to tell if you’ve succeeded, meaning you need to test before you play.
There are microphone and 3.5mm audio ports, and an integrated USB port, which doesn’t win you any ports because it’s simply a pass-through; there’s another connector for it alongside that used for the keyboard. That’s arguably a good thing though. After all, you wouldn’t want another peripheral eating up your pro-gaming keyboard’s 1000Hz Ultrapolling™ bandwidth and power. Another advantage to this system is that it offers full USB 2.0 speed, while many competitors (including Razer’s own Tarantula) only caters to the older, slower 1.1 standard. The USB port could be handy if, for example, you’re using a USB headset and don’t want to reach behind your PC to plug it in.
The Lycosa also has a feature called anti-ghosting, meaning (as entirely unimplied by the name) it can register up to ten simultaneous key-presses. This can be a genuinely useful feature, especially in complicated FPSs like Crysis. Though rather than applying to the entire keyboard, as with the Tarantula, this model only supports a ‘gaming cluster’ – hope this extends beyond just WASD!