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Hardware review: Can Razer's StarCraft peripherals cut it?

Marauder keyboard and Spectre mouse target Blizzard's hardcore

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For a keyboard pitched at the StarCraft 2 crowd Razer's Marauder (around £70) is surprisingly simple in its design. Whereas most gamer oriented keyboards are oversized beasts dotted with all manner of buttons, dials and switches for better micromanaging, the Marauder adopts a compact, minimalist frame.

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The size will no doubt be a point of interest for touring players looking for something easy to lug about, but the Marauder provides almost no valuable benefits otherwise. Instead it can feel counter-intuitive, whether you're attempting to climb your way up the StarCraft 2 competitive ladder or fill out a spreadsheet.

Causing some disruption is a hybrid number and arrow key layout, which makes navigating menus and tapping out numbers needlessly complex. Since keys have double functions users will need to turn number mode on and off for access to the desired functions. The space saved by moving them closer together ultimately feels like a sacrifice that has little upside.

The keys themselves are well spaced, feel good on the fingers and have satisfying travel, but this isn't enough to make up for the awkward layout. In the midst of multiplayer battles we found ourselves diverting attention away from the on-screen action to fumble around the keyboard.

The Marauder's marquee feature is an actions per minute lighting system, which provides feedback on a player's performance by shifting colours over the course of a game. The keyboard features backlit keys and side strips that bathe the device with a Protoss blue light. As the battle gets heated the colour changes. The APM lighting system is no doubt a cool gimmick and adds to the StarCraft themed industrial design, but can quickly become a hindrance.

Since the keys are generously spaced out a great deal of light pushes its way into the peripheral vision, where the brightness can become a distraction. Annoyingly, the lighting features also take up a separate USB port entirely to itself. You can choose not to plug it in or turn the lighting off, but at that point you've just got a really small, uncomfortable keyboard.

We'd be remiss to not mention to ability to record on-the-fly macros, but again, the usefulness of the functionality is diminished greatly by the layout of keys. Those that stick with the keyboard and get used to it may find it of great use, but in our testing we just couldn't get comfortable with it, which rendered the feature useless.

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Razer's line of StarCraft 2 peripherals also includes the Spectre (£54.99), a mouse that matches the keyboard in unwieldiness.

Razer is known for producing good quality mice, and in terms of performance the Specter lives up to the company's standards, but its boxy design and small size lets it down. It doesn't fit the hand in a natural way at all, so you'll find yourself regularly re-adjusting your grip; not something you want to be doing during a StarCraft 2 match.

A throwaway gimmick and kind-of-cool StarCraft aesthetic isn't enough to recommend the Razer Marauder, and there are far, far better mice out there than the Spectre (ironically, many from Razer).

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