Razer has unveiled a new premium line of gaming keyboards today, which the company has dubbed the Razer Huntsman. The line offers two Huntsman keyboards: one fully-featured Razer Huntsman Elite keyboard with dedicated media keys, wrist rest, and underglow lighting, and a performance-focused Razer Huntsman keyboard. The main novelty on the keyboards is the introduction of a new technology called the Opto-Mechanical Switch - which we'll explain later - and we were invited to attend the exclusive launch event in Hamburg, where we've been testing the Huntsman Elite keyboard for the past few weeks.
With the new Opto-Mechanical or Purple switches, each switch is equipped with a tiny infrared beam. When the keycap is pressed, a small opening is created that allows a tiny laser beam to make a connection, thus registering the press of a button without any delay compared to mechanical or membrane switches. The actuation force has been brought down to 45 grams at a point of 1.5mm which, according to Razer, registers around 30% faster. The difference between the Huntsman's 45 grams actuation point and the 50 or 60 required for other (usually mechanical) clicky keyboards using Cherry MX switches is clearly noticeable. The Huntsman's keys require very little force and in our eyes are also suitable for prolonged text writing. The keys are quite high, granted, but with the comfortable wrist rest our fingers didn't feel strained after several hours of typing.
According to Razer, the new Purple switch is meant to add to the range of Green, Yellow, and Orange switches. The company's research indicated that most of their users prefer a clicking sound when pushing a button, and it's for that reason the Huntsman line is equipped with a clearly audible clicking noise. We compared the click with Razer's Green, Yellow, and Orange switches and found that the sound produced with the press of a button is identical to that of Razer's green switch. When playing games this click is very convenient, but on the other hand the clicking sound makes the keyboard less suitable for typing a lot around others: for those who have never heard Razer's green switch, we can tell you the sound is very noticeable and can be easily heard from across the average living room.
We also tried to measure the effect of the immediate response after the keys' click, and while we couldn't establish whether it gave us any speed advantage, we did feel that repeated presses while gaming are very intuitive on the Huntsman due to the fact that the key's reset point is very close to the actuation point. Because of the immediate clicky response, you're unlikely to miss a push on the button, which could be a major advantage to rule out errors, for example when playing a shooter game competitively.
The developers told us that the new keyboard was designed with the needs of gamers in mind, but that the aesthetic has shifted to a more conventional style in order to appeal to a wider audience. This might also be the reason that the keyboard is relatively compact compared to, for example, some Corsair keyboards that feature an extra strip with volume buttons on top. The Huntsman also has no extra macro keys on the sides, but does come with three smaller buttons in the top right, coupled with a dedicated digital dial which can all be used as macro keys using Razer's Synapse software.
Lastly, the Huntsman Elite comes with underglow RGB lighting in its wrist rest, which truly makes a difference in regard to the RGB spectacle that the keyboard offers. Razer's Synapse software is intuitive to use so setting up your own custom profile takes very little effort, and it's perfect for those who like a bit of a wow factor with their hardware.
If you're looking for any potential advantage to give you an edge while gaming, or for an aesthetically pleasing RGB experience the Huntsman Elite is well worth considering, but if the competitive edge is the only thing you're after, or you're looking for a clicky RGB keyboard that requires less force to use for writing, there's a cheaper alternative in the Huntsman line that's worth a look. We liked the compact design and how it was comfortable to type with too, although it's pricy and your loved ones might not appreciate the clicking sound it makes while you play.