Razer Huntsman Elite Review
Razer is an ambiguous and often rather controversial manufacturer of equipment for players: some love and gladly use their products, others refuse even to try using them. One of the Razer products that has received controversial feedback is the Huntsman Elite keyboard. The main thing that dominates promotional campaigns, descriptions, and reviews is optical keyboard switches, which have been introduced as "innovation", changing the limits of "speed and accuracy" in the use of keyboards.
It should be pointed out that optical switch is not an innovative product. BenQ Celeritas II, Bloody B840 and B975 are just a few keyboards that have been using optical switches but have not been promoted so well as to attract much attention.
Razer keyboards have been known for being noisy, clapping, lighting effects and as pricy ones. Itsprice has often been considered as too high. So, no wonder that with the news about one more "revolutionary" Razer product, there rise many less attractive images in mind about the three-digit price that starts with number 2, noise and failures after the first year of use. But still I wonder, whether Razer has created something really good and of best budget this time?
On the market, the price for the keyboard ranges from 170 to 220 euros, so the keyboard is placed in a premium keyboard class. So it's no surprise that the packaging is a luxurious box – a coloured (black-green – color that has long been easily recognizable with Razer symbol) with keyboard photos and an optical switch image and description.
When opening the package, the future user is greeted by a transparent plastic-covered keyboard. To remove the keyboard, you have to almost completely disassemble the package. A pleasant detail about the cable is that its USB connectors are "dressed" with removable rubber caps, and on the cable there is a rubber strap that can be used to bind several cables together. Pleasant little things that pay tribute to the manufacturer for having thought of such small details.
The keyboard is attached to your computer by a 1.8-meter-long braided black cable. There are two gold-plated USB connections on your computer, and the cable can't be detached from the keyboard. The cable is rigid and rather thick – its rigidity and scope is almost equivalent to a 220V power cable that connects to a monitor or computer. At the end of the cable, there is a rectangular hub, from which two USB connections come out.
Both the thickness of the wire and the cheap-looking angular hub cause some kind of disapointment. Was it so difficult to make the wire thinner, the hub smaller or smoother? Perhaps there are explanations for these cable flaws, but they are not explained, so you have to give up and straighten the wire, which will take few weeks to straighten.
When you connect the keyboard to your computer and if your computer doesn't need Razer Synapse 3 software, the browser turns on and starts sending it to your computer — it's a bit scary that your computer does it on its own, but convenient: you don't have to search for software on the Internet on your own.
The keyboard design follows the guidelines outlined by previous Razer keyboards. Straight lines, no "playerish" patterns. The body is thick due to the RGB strip at the bottom and the joint at the bottom for handrest.
The upper part of the keyboard body is opaque metal. The other is black, not very rough plastic. The body itself gradually narrows, as the RGB strip goes around the entire perimeter of the keyboard. By taking Huntsman Elite into the hands, it becomes clear that the keyboard is designed for stationary use. It's heavy, clumsy, and the cable is not detachable.
On the keyboard there are rubber pads that keep the keyboard sturdy. Folding legs – two adjustable heights. Convenient, pleasant, but nothing surprising – it can also be found on cheaper keyboards.
The wrist support, like the keyboard – multilevel one with illuminated diod tape. It is wired to the keyboard with gold-plated contacts, and specially designed recess on the keyboard supports the body.
Keys and switches
Computer keys are black, made from ABS, but not very easy to collect fingerprints. The keys are difficult to remove from the switches, they hold firmly, and the package does not include a keycap puller to remove them. The keyboard is suitable for standard Razer key sets so you won‘t have any difficulties to give your keyboard a personalized look.
The spacebar is stable, even for a long time, it does not crack one side when pressing it. Other buttons with stabilizers also hold tight, clinging a little. Unfortunately, stabilizers aren't lubed so rattling will be there. However, the keys without stabilizers – a bit wobbly and click-clack quite noisy; nothing new in terms of Razer keyboards.
One of the most advertised features of the keyboard is Razer optical switches. Operating principle – by clicking the key the light signal is no longer blocked and the signal is sent to the computer. This principle of operation prevents delays caused by physical contact arising from conventional switches.
On paper, it sounds attractively and gives the impression that the keyboard will be "faster". But in reality...Yes, it may react faster to clicks, but the difference is so minimal that without knowing it is unlikely to distinguish the optical switch from usual mechanical one. Oh, and the click sound isn't particularly clean – it seems that these switches use click jacket to create the click instead of clickbar, found on Kailh Box switches - that's quite unfortunate since switches click jacket tend to have less clean click.
However, the switches are faster in another sense – they have an activation process of just 1.5mm, while MX Blue or other mechanical switches are 2 millimeters or more. And here's this difference that makes the keyboard a little "faster" because, in my opinion, optical switch activation works more as placebo than gives a real effect.
All keyboard keys are individually illuminated by RGB LEDs. Diodes are installed on the front of opaque switches, so the keys do not have extremely strong backlight. The font for letters and characters is quite thin, so depending on the color, it's sometimes hard to see the inscription on the key (especially with the darker colors – purple or blue).
The illuminated sides of the keyboard and wrist rest shown in the pictures are bright, not dim, but they provide quite weak backlight when using the keyboard. But looking from the side the view is really impressive. By the way, one of the USB connectors of the cable is designed solely for the lighting of the wrist rest, so that those who do not use it can loosen one socket for another equipment.
Both the keyboard and the wrist rest illuminated borders are not solid color – the illumination can be adjusted at a couple of centimeter intervals, so problems with a color "wavy" keyboard will not occur. Only at the corners the illumination fades slightly due to the light falling from the outside.
The lighting is adjustable in the Razer Synapse software. The number of choices and possible combinations using different overlapping layers is enormous, so if you wish you can adjust the keyboard illumination to everyone's taste.
After many years, Razer has catered for the interests of the customers, and as the result, Huntsman Elite finally has separate media buttons and a volume control knob. In the photos, they look extremely attractive – high-profile buttons, which seem to be so satisfying to click. Unfortunately, this is not the case – the travel of the buttons is only about one millimeter and the click resembles the keyboards of the old Nokia phones - these buttons are just simple membrane ones.
The volume control knob is not attractive either. Of course, it is a good to have it on the keyboard, but its rotation is not what one would expect. It has sort of resistance, but it is quite weak and, by adjusting the volume it causes a feeling of uncertainty. At least, a pleasant trifle – when one mutes volume, the knob is lit in red – a convenient indicator that leads to avoiding constant glimpsing at the icons of the taskbar.
Keyboard uses Razer Synapse 3 software. Technically, it is complete (both visually and technically) and works perfectly, but its user experience isn't the best. To adjust the lighting, record macros, or change key values, you have to "search" and go through many different windows.
The keyboard has no "real" internal memory, and every time you turn on your computer, it will start and run in the background. Eye catching unattractive detail – when disconnected from the user account at the operating system level, the keyboard also loses contact with the app and starts to light up the factory-defined "rainbow" mode.
Huntsman Elite will certainly not impress those who like silent keyboards – loud click, noisy and not particularly stable switches. And if you want to lube the keyboard, you will have to take the risk – whether the grease on the switch will damage it: it will not block the light beam or its sensor. However, if rattling and clicking on the keyboard is a priority, then Huntsman Elite will probably be one of the better choices.
The keyboard is not particulary faster than usual mechanical one, but the keystrokes are accurate and sharp – perhaps it's just a placebo effect, but it was nice to use the keyboard both when you were working and playing; the speed of the clamping is also decisive for the extremely low activation of the switch. So ignoring the noise of the keyboard, the experience of using Huntsman Elite is really enjoyable.
The illuminating wrist support attached to the keyboard is really good: soft, presentable, easy to clean and... might not for everyone. Quite sharp edges of the support can be the reason to switch to more usual foam wrist rest. Of course, the potential discomfort depends on the position of the hand holding, the angle and the distance to the keys – these factors can certainly be changed, but I think the keyboard, which costs quite a considerable amount, should not have such small, reckless details.
The media keys and the volume control knob might be not fully complete, but their presence makes it easier to work on your computer (or rather avoid finger moving by trying to press the keys on the opposite sides of the keyboard to pause a song).
Summing up, Huntsman Elite is a product that will cater for the players: those who use the keyboard only in games, not working office hours. Eye-catching appearance, wide range of lighting effects, quality materials – all this allows you to enjoy the game without paying attention to the keyboard, which will cause no worries. Optical switches? Nothing particularly different, but, of course, at the moment it is the limit of keyboard switch technology available on the market.