Razer's new ProType Keyboard has two major highlights. The first is that it has a built-in iPod docking station that helps keep your desk free of cable clutter. The second is the keyboard itself, a just-feels-right design we awarded with a CNET Editor's Choice award when it debuted with Razer's Tarantula, a gaming-oriented, dockless keyboard. We're holding back on an Editor's Choice award here because Razer eliminated most of the Tarantula's customizability in the ProType and raised the price from $99 to $129. It's still an outstanding typer, and the iPod dock lends your workspace tidiness that any iPod owner will appreciate.
Other than its color and the dock, the ProType is almost exactly identical to the Tarantula. Aside from the typical QWERTY keys, you get a handful of hot keys for media control and zooming in, as well as ten customizable macro keys, five on each side. As with the Tarantula, typing on the ProType is a dream. The keys have a satisfying tactile response that is neither too soft nor too "clacky."
Also like the Tarantula, the peripheral keys and the Razer symbol below the space bar glow with a soft blue LED light that's inoffensive when the lights are on, and useful for those of you who like to work with the lights off. We also like that the extra keys and buttons dot the sides of the keyboard, making them much easier to reach than when they line the top edge.
Aside from the keys themselves, what we liked most about the Tarantula was the near-infinite degree of customization. With Razer's configuration software, you could remap and key on the keyboard, and because the keys were removable, you could even physically reposition them to any layout you wanted. That unique feature is absent in the ProType, which rankles us. Instead, all you can program are the macro keys on the sides.
Razer says it made this decision based on the reasoning that the professional designers for whom the ProType was designed wouldn't want as much customization as a gamer might. Perhaps, but then we don't see how taking away one, arguably more useful feature and adding an extra $30 to the price tag are offset by the more cosmetic iPod docking station.
As for the docking station, we can report that it works, but it doesn't really bring you anything new, technologically, that you don't already have if you own an iPod. It adds the aesthetic benefit of letting you consolidate the cables on your desk, but you still need to use two USB slots on your PC (one for the keyboard, and one for the iPod data). Aside from that, the dock on the ProType doesn't really lend any utility beyond that of the standard iPod power and data cables.
For some of you, of course, that integration might be enough. The dock in its standard mode will accept fifth generation iPods, third generation models, the iPod Nano, and the iPod mini. Razer kindly throws in port adapters for the U2 Special Edition models. Other adapters are sold separately.