Razer Huntsman Elite: A hyper-exciting hybrid that lives up to the pricetag
- Top-notch design and build quality
- Opto-mechanical switches are hyper-tactile
- Key innovations aren't quite a game-changer
Time will have to tell whether opto-mechanicals are the next gold rush for the gaming accessories space. However, for now, the products like Razer Huntsman are great - but not quite a gaming necessity.
It’s hard to imagine a better time to be in the market for a gaming keyboard than now. We’re at the tail-end of both the ‘make-it-RGB’ and ‘make-it-mechanical’ trends, with consumers poised to reap the benefits. When it comes to software, almost all of the major brands offer comprehensive RGB customizability. When we’re talking hardware, things like full N-key rollover and 30-million keystroke durability are pretty much the norm.
The baseline for what your everyday gaming keyboard offers feel like it has never been higher than it is at the moment. This means that even the most established players in the space are looking for any kind of edge over the competition.
It’s out of this situation that Razer have debuted their first ‘Opto-Mechanical’ keyboard, the Razer Huntsman.
Keyboard Type: Opto-Mechanical
RGB Lighting Software: Razer Chroma + Synapse
Price: Starts at $269
In terms of design, the Huntsman is textbook Razer. A slick, if a little by-the-numbers, unit that effortlessly melds plastic and metal, it’s matte black and lit by an array of fully-customizable and wholly-impressive RGB lighting.
Razer have two variants of the Huntsman on offer here. The regular Huntsman comes in at a cheaper price-point but lacks the magnetically detachable, leatherette wrist-rest with built-in Chroma LED lighting that comes with the Elite. The Huntsman Elite also touts a set of nifty media keys and a multi-function dial haunting the right corner on the keyboard.
Unsurprisingly, the key callout here is the opto-mechanical switches on the thing. Razer aren’t the only or first vendor out there offering this kind of keyboard but they’re certainly the only major one. Boasting a 1.5mm actuation point, Razer Opto-Mechanical Switches promise to actuate 30% faster than traditional clicky mechanical switches. The new switches also feature identical actuate and reset points, allowing for the same kind of rapid fire key presses you’d be able to get out of a linear switch.
[Related Content: Four Alternatives To Cherry MX Switches]
In addition, the reduced reliance on moving parts is also said to provide added durability. Razer claim the lifespan of a Razer Opto-Mechanical Switch is rated up to 100 million keystrokes, double that of traditional mechanical switches and well beyond the lifespans of most humans. It’s an impressive number but, on a practical level, kinda meaningless.
Both the Huntsman and Huntsman Elite keyboards come fully outfitted with these new switches plus fully-featured, per-key integration with Razer's Chroma and Synapse lighting ecosystems.
As exciting as the opto-mechanical switches involved are, the Huntsman and Huntsman Elite don’t feel like massive reinvention or leaps forward for Razer. That said, they do feel like a pinnacle and culmination of the brand’s efforts in the gaming space to date. If money is no object and you want the best gaming keyboard there is, the Huntsman Elite makes a pretty strong case for itself - but if you’re happy to settle for less, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives that’ll do just fine.
Still, this thing is pretty much as polished, refined and reliable as mechanical keyboards get - and there’s definitely an appeal to that quality. Razer have pulled out all the stops here and the results reflect it. Every keystroke is a rhythmic, punchy, satisfying and probably a little too obnoxiously loud to use in any sort of shared workspace.
The last thing worth highlighting here are the media keys perched on the top right corner of the Huntsman Elite. I’m usually not a fan of such inclusions but it’s hard to fault Razer on this particular incarnation. The dial itself looks formidable and feels really tactile to use and, assuming you’re the kind of user who is on-board enough with these inclusions to begin with, they definitely help the Huntsman Elite justify that higher asking price.
The Bottom Line
Within the broader context of the gaming accessories space, the Razer Huntsman and Huntsman Elite are both technically-impressive and appealing on their own merits but don’t necessarily feel like they’ll change the game in the way that Razer might hope it will.
[Related Content: Which RGB Lighting System Is The Best]
More and more gaming peripheral brands are investing in their own alternatives to Cherry MX keyswitches these days. Razer’s branch into opto-mechanicals ultimately feels like an extension of that, rather than the start of something new. It’s a niche-within-a-niche that’s very exciting and easy to recommend to those with the cash to burn.
Time will have to tell whether opto-mechanicals are the next gold rush for the gaming accessories space. However, for now, the products like Razer Huntsman are great - but far from a gaming necessity.
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