The Lycosa features smooth, sharp lines all around, which are only broken by central cut-outs at the top and bottom. The entire board is a stylish two-tone affair, and the key layout is one of the cleanest I have seen on any gaming keyboard in years. Let me clarify: apart from an out-of-the-way, modest little panel of touch-controls just above the number pad, there is not a single key that you wouldn’t find on an IBM keyboard from 1993. But it’s a gaming keyboard, right? What about macro keys? Function buttons? Media controls?
While the minimalist layout is really refreshing, dedicated keys are not simply a gimmick on most gaming keyboards – they’re there for a reason, and usually a damn good one. Simple is not always uncomplicated and uncluttered: sometimes it’s just not advanced. But then there are users out there who would claim the standard layout is all a hardcore gamer really needs (albeit usually the crowd to whom World of Warcraft is an anathema). Razer, however, gives this argument far more weight than it might otherwise warrant, by utilising some rather clever software.
What Razer’s driver does is make the entire keyboard programmable. Basically, every key you see is a potential macro key. As far as we at the office are aware, it’s a feature that’s unique to Razer – and it shouldn’t be. Hardware manufacturers are always harping on about how gaming hardware is all about customisation, and then curtail our options by not offering as much of it as they could, even at the software level.
This doesn’t alter the fact that, due to a complete absence of dedicated buttons, with the Lycosa the software is a necessity; but it does go a large way toward making up for it. Personally, I would rather have a fully programmable keyboard than a few custom macro keys, though I’d obviously prefer to have both. And though the Lycosa would have been helped by the addition of even a single button to act as macro-shift, you can always find one you never use (my victim being Print Screen) and employ that.
Still, thanks to the included software (and ten switchable profiles) Razer’s latest effort is one incredibly versatile keyboard, not just for gaming use but also for Photoshop and other complex programs. The software’s also very easy to use. You get a visual representation of the Lycosa with its blue backlighting, where keys turn red when you hover over them with the mouse. Then simply click and you’re ready to macro, with the ability to record up to 17 individual keystrokes.