The quality of the switches and their pins is also noteworthy. A sturdy stainless steel bracket has been added to all keys to prevent unintentional side pressure on the stem and help these keyboards last much longer than a traditional mechanical keyboard. It also provides much smoother operation
- Razer Huntsman Elite Review: A Revolutionary Leap In Keyboard Tech
- Packaging and contents
- Everything But the Macro Keys
- Similar Products
- Corsair K95 RGB Platinum
- Razer Ornata Chroma
- Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard (AW768)
- Havit HV-KB390L Low Profile Mechanical Keyboard
- Logitech G910 Orion Spectrum
- Nixeus Moda Pro
- Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2
- SteelSeries Apex M750
- Roccat Horde AIMO
- Switching It Up: Opto-Mechanical
- Check Price
Razer Huntsman Elite Review: A Revolutionary Leap In Keyboard Tech
A quiet revolution is underway in the keyboard industry, led by Razer’s Huntsman Elite. A few years ago, we saw a startup called Wooting launch something called optical switches. While we covered it extensively and wrote a few articles on it, none of the big players seemed interested in adopting the technology. We understand big companies have a low risk appetite and won’t change until they absolutely have to. That’s why we were surprised when Razer announced its own line of optical switches and became the first mainstream player to adopt the technology – and by doing so – made almost all of its competitors obsolete.
Our Huntsman Elite sample was provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.
Before I dive into the actual review, we’ll cover a few of the basics. Most of the keyboards on the market are of two types: membrane and mechanical. Membrane keyboards are usually the cheapest and also break quickly. Mechanical keyboards are gamers’ preferred choice, and typically offer longer life for most premium keyboards at $ 199.
Very little has changed in the keyboard industry since the introduction of the mechanical keyboard to the mainstream market. Startups have tried to introduce new technologies over the years, but none of the big players who actually had the power to change the market has left. Enter the Razer’s Huntsman keyboard series. Seeing the promise of optical switches, the company took the considerable risk of starting its own line of optical switches and decided to offer them at the same price as its competitors.
As a result, almost all keyboard players deliver outdated technology overnight. Optical switches not only have a longer life, but also have no reflection lag as the switch basically just stops the light beam. Razer has also incorporated a horizontal bar in its switches to increase keystroke stability, extending lifespan.
Packaging and contents
The Razer Huntsman Elite comes in standard keyboard packaging and has a cutout that allows you to test keystrokes without opening the packaging if you buy from a brick-and-mortar store (or even if you want to try and return it without opening it). A detailed description of the new optical switches can be found on the back of the box.
The unboxing experience is quite premium, as you’d expect from a keyboard in this price range, and there’s a very sleek letter from the CEO under the lid of the box. There are also various stickers and accessories to accompany the keyboards. The RGB wrist rest and the keyboard itself are snugly tucked under several layers of plastic.
Everything is easy to remove and the keyboard starts immediately when connected (Razer Control Center apps will automatically download in the background within minutes). We received a variant with purple “click.
The magnetic palm rest also has the same matt black stainless steel look, but with a plush leatherette cushion on top. To attach the palm rest, simply align it with the keyboard and slide them together. It will light when the palm rest is securely in place.
Everything But the Macro Keys
Last year, the 3.31 pound Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 impressed us with its minimalist design, RGB lighting for each key and dedicated macro keys. The Huntsman Elite takes some of these ideas and puts them into a fleshy 3.82 pound board measuring 1.42 by 17.64 by 9.21 inches. If that feature set (or price) exceeds its capacity, Razer also offers a non-elite Huntsman version at $ 149.99 without a lot of bells and whistles (no palm rest, dedicated controls, or volume knob, which we’ll talk about in a moment) we’ll talk).
Since 1982, PCMag has tested and evaluated thousands of products to help you make better purchasing decisions. (Read our editorial mission.)
Much of the weight gain of the Huntsman Elite compared to the BlackWidow Chroma V2 is due to the new metal front plate bolted to the plastic center of the board. A handful of new buttons have also been added. For example, the Back, Play / Pause, and Skip controls are now above the numeric keypad. To their right is a volume knob (or, as Razer calls it, the “multi-functional digital knob”) that you adjust by sliding your finger along its side.
Corsair K95 RGB Platinum
Razer Ornata Chroma
Alienware Pro Gaming Keyboard (AW768)
Havit HV-KB390L Low Profile Mechanical Keyboard
Logitech G910 Orion Spectrum
Nixeus Moda Pro
Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2
SteelSeries Apex M750
Roccat Horde AIMO
Besides, the design of the Razer Huntsman Elite is very similar to the BlackWidow Chroma V2. The keys are identical, with the vertices curving slightly to fit my fingers. The 7-meter braided fiber cable appears to have the same circumference as that of its predecessor.
The biggest difference you’ll notice is the lack of dedicated macro keys on the Huntsman Elite. They don’t seem to be in an expensive keyboard like this one, but depending on your priorities, the sheer mass of RGB lighting and the comfortable amenities can make up for the lack of dedicated macro keys.
This is most likely to happen if you are an RGB geek; if so, this keyboard will tickle you pink (and any other color). Almost every physical function of this keyboard – from the keys to the volume knob to the leatherette wrist rest – has built-in lighting this time around. The lighting works with the Razer Chroma control scheme, which means that each key can be assigned one of 16.8 million colors. You also get 24 customizable lighting zones on the underside of the palm rest. This keyboard can be a real fireworks display if you like.
Speaking of the palm rest, it’s comfortable. It attaches magnetically to the base of the keyboard, with an electrical contact in the center to transmit the signal and power the built-in LEDs. If you prefer leatherette plush over plastic instead of a hard palm rest, you’re in for a treat.
Switching It Up: Opto-Mechanical
The make-or-break feature of any mechanical keyboard is obviously the switches it uses, and these are a new kind. Huntsman Elite keycaps are similar to the old, well-known Cherry MX Blues – meaning they’re uncompromisingly clickable, with a distinct keystroke response and little keystroke action. They sound the same as the classic MX Blues, but have a lighter touch, requiring a force of 45 cn-newtons (cN) to run, unlike the original Cherry MX Blues 50cN.
This is an important distinction as Razer announces these new so-called opto-mechanical switches as “the world’s lightest clicking switch” based on this specification. According to Razer, these switches use beams of infrared light to detect keystrokes, rather than using electrical contacts like traditional mechanical keyboards do. As Razer puts it, “A beam of light passes through a switch stem when you press a key, which then triggers via a receiver that sends the appropriate signal to the computer, causing it to fire at the speed of light.”
I suspect there’s some marketing crap here – speed of light versus speed of electrical contact? – and I couldn’t distinguish from the touch of the keys any particular tactile distinction provided by the optical aspect. It feels like a typical mechanical switch, with its own subtle aftertaste. To see if that made a difference to real-world applications, I put the Huntsman Elite free LiveChat typing speed test against the Cherry MX Blue-equipped keyboard I had on hand, the Fnatic Streak. On Fnatic, I got a speed of 72 words per minute and an accuracy rating of 97 percent. On the other hand, with the Razer Huntsman Elite, I scored 71 words per minute with 95% accuracy the second time around.
This is completely anecdotal, of course, and I would expect an improvement on the Huntsman Elite as I get used to these lighter switches. But at first, I find that lowering each key press is not as easy as it is with non-clicking switches like the Cherry MX Reds. (On the other hand, I prefer linear key switches like the MX Reds to ones that are clickable and loud, so take my attitude with the right grain.) However, this lowest-level feature is interesting considering the Huntsman Elite switches key have 3.5mm vertical stroke distance and 1.5mm actuation point; whereas Cherry MX Reds / Brows have a stroke distance of 4 mm and an actuation point of 2 mm. So you actually have to press less of the Hunter keys to activate them.
Also worth noting: unlike the BlackWidow Chroma V2, the Huntsman Elite only has one type of switch, the so-called “purple” optomechanical. That’s all well and good, although my intuitive response is to ask where are the Razer Orange and Yellow Opto-Mechanical switch equivalents? As a longtime user of Razer keyboards, it seems strange to me that the new flagship would not have an option for quieter keys. Perhaps Ming Lian-Tang et al. Will keep them for later.
For games, the Razer Huntsman Elite is indeed fast for a clicking mechanical keyboard; I would compare it to the clicking Cherry MX Red. In PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), you can crawl through the bushes with a satisfying, audible assurance from the keys that you are on the move. Moreover, in Starcraft II you can be sure that your crazy “A” hit will be registered when a new marine spawns. For fans of Cherry MX Blues, the Razer Opto-Mechanical switch is a promising, light-to-touch alternative to the longtime favorite. Gamers and typists who prefer the metallic, firm response of the keys should like this style.
As you won’t always be using this gaming keyboard, we decided to test it while writing this review. Even if you are not a fast typist, the responsiveness of this keyboard makes you feel as if you are.
The Razer Huntsman Elite is a large, full-size keyboard that takes up even more space if you choose to use the included palm rest. If you need a compact keyboard, try the Razer Huntsman Mini.
The Razer Huntsman Elite has an excellent build quality. It has a plastic frame with an aluminum plate on top. It feels solidly built and only flexes a little. The keycaps are made of ABS plastic and are well made, but are slippery and will deteriorate if oil builds up. The keys are stable, except for the spacebar, which activates easily when hitting the desk; an issue that also occurred on the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition keyboard we reviewed. The tilted feet feel a bit brittle and the rubber pads underneath them do not provide enough grip; however, the weight of the keyboard itself prevents it from sliding.
The Razer Huntsman Elite has good ergonomics. It has two tilt settings and a plush leatherette wrist rest. Combined with the low actuation force of the Linear Optical switches, typing is not tiring for a long time.
The Razer Huntsman Elite features full RGB lighting with individually illuminated keys. There are many pre-made lighting effects to choose from, and you can also create custom lighting profiles with the customization software. There is also LED lighting around the edge of the keyboard and the palm rest for a backlight effect. These LEDs require additional power, so a second USB connector must be plugged in for them to function. If the LEDs on the palm rest are illuminated, the palm rest must be connected to the keyboard with pogo pins. The legends on the multimedia keys do not light up, making them difficult to see.
The cable is braided and appears to be of high quality, but is quite stiff and breaks easily. This should be long enough for most people to reach the desktop.
The Razer Huntsman Elite is a wired-only keyboard.
The Razer Huntsman Elite has many additional features. All keys are programmable with macros and can be programmed on the fly using a macro recording shortcut, rather than having to do it with software. You can lock the Windows key to prevent accidental minimization of the game, and you can also lock the “Sleep” hotkey to put your computer to sleep immediately. It has dedicated media controls, including a multifunctional volume knob that can be assigned to perform other functions. The multimedia keys are not as high-quality as the rest of the keyboard and have an extremely short slide distance.