Razer has some new flagship keyboards, the Razer Huntsman and the Huntsman Elite, and these aren’t designed to replace their most popular Black Widow keyboard. These are like a secondary flagship devices that are going to be the future of their keyboards.
So, what makes these things special is their switch. They’re using these Razer opto-mechanical switches which are ‘optical switches’, so the traditional mechanical switch uses metal contacts to actuate the switch. But these use an infrared light beam that’s detected when you press the switch down. So, when the switch is up, that red beam gets blocked, press it down, the red beam goes through and the sensor picks it up and that’s an actuation.
Razer isn’t the first one to come up with an optical light switch. It’s been done before by other companies (i.e Wooting One, Bloody B845R & Aorus K9 Optical), but Razer is one of the first big players in the gaming industry to do it and we wouldn’t be surprised if Logitech and Corsair or any of the other bigger companies, if they do it relatively soon as well.
So what makes an optical mechanical switch special? For one, these switches have fewer moving parts, so they just have a longer lifespan, these are actually rated for a 100 million keystrokes. Your standard mechanical switch like Cherry is rated for about 20 – 50 million keystrokes. These are a 100 million, significantly longer lasting, significantly more durable. Now, whether or not you’re actually gonna break your keyboard because you pressed it 100 million times is a different story, but just by the nature of how the switch works, these are more longer-lasting.
Secondly, opto-mechanical switches don’t have something called debounce. So on a regular mechanical switch, manufacturers have to implement an input delay. So, this is a purposeful delay around 5 milliseconds and they do this to prevent chatter. Opto- mechanical switches don’t have chatter so they don’t have to implement this delay. So that input is just received by the computer a little bit faster.
We feel like Razer built this entire keyboard around speed. So in addition to that optical sensor that’s reading a little bit faster, they have a lower actuation force and a shorter travel on each keystroke and they’ve ended up with this gaming keyboard that feels really fast. We’re not sure if it’s the actuation force or the shortened travel or if it’s the optical sensor, we think all of them are working together, but it actually feels significantly and noticeably faster than a regular mechanical switch. It feels crisp and sharp. It’s just a faster and snappier experience.
If we’re being honest though, we noticed that most when we are gaming, our inputs feel a little bit cleaner but when we are typing, the fingers feel like they’re doing stuff faster and with less effort than normal.
In terms of how these feel, these are clicky switches so they have that very distinct tactile bump as you press it down. It’s not as pronounced as like a cherry blue or the Razer greens like, it’s not as sharp of a bump as those but it is distinctly a tactile bump as you press it down.
In terms of how they sound, it’s a very audible click but not as loud as a Cherry blue or a Razer green. The switches themselves have purple stems and the shape looks a little different from your standard mechanical switch but it uses a regular key cap. There’s actually stabilizers on each key so that metal clip that runs around the edge. Normally you only see that on bigger keys like the spacebar or the shift key, but these have stabilizers on each key.
So other features that you get on the regular huntsman. You have onboard memory so you can actually configure your device and store that Configuration on the device itself as well as the cloud. You get programmable macro keys, you get individual lighting which you can customize pretty heavily. You get 10 key rollover and it’s an aluminum top panel which is pretty good.
On the premium version the Huntsman elite you get all of that stuff but you also get media keys on the top right as well as a jog dial. So the jog dial controls volume by default But you can customize it to scroll or zoom or switch apps, it’s got a lot of functionality. There’s also pogo pins up front on this device and these allow you to connect the magnetic wrist rest that also gives you on the huntsman elite ‘under glow lighting’. So the whole device lights up underneath and on the sides and you can control that as well quite extensively through software. And because these are connected through pogo pins, Razer could develop other modules like a trackpad or a Wireless charging thing for your phone, or whatever they want they could develop different modules in the future instead of this wrist rest.
So we’ve been using this keyboard for a little and we like a lot about it. It feels fast and there is a noticeable difference in speed compared to the regular Mechanical. There’s a few things we don’t like about it. Number one. We wish those used to be passed through, we don’t like that it only comes in a full keyboard version, we wish there was a 10 keyless version. Also wish it came in a different color version but our biggest complaint is that if your interest in this keyboard; if you’re interested in this opto-mechanical switch technology, you have to use this type of tactile switch. There isn’t a linear version of this, there isn’t a variant in terms of the tactility and if you don’t like the way that it feels then you won’t be able to adopt this whole opto-mechanical technology for now. But overall great keyboard we think most people will like.
The million-dollar question though is whether or not this keyboard or technology is they’re actually gonna make you a better gamer and our take on it is this: For 99.9% of the time it won’t, we mean if you’re a good gamer, you’re a good gamer a keyboard won’t affect your gameplay. But there is that time you’ve probably experienced this; when you’re in a game and you want to use an ability or an alter or whatever it is, you press a button, it should have gone off and it didn’t whether it’s lag or whatever it is. But on a keyboard that’s recording your inputs a little bit faster, there is the chance that it goes off, you don’t die, you don’t wipe, you save your team and become a hero. In that 0.001 chance that happens, this would make you a better gamer, but we think for most people it’s just a really fast, nice keyboard.