When it comes to PC gaming accessories, there’s no one more well-known than Razer. Today marks the launch of their brand-new flagship gaming keyboard, the Razer Huntsman Elite. It features their brand new Opto-Mechanical switches, a multi-function dial, and some of the best lighting ever seen in a keyboard, but is it worth the premium price of $199? It’s time to find out in our official review.
- MSRP: $199.99 (Huntsman Elite, reviewed), $149.99 (Huntsman)
- Switch Type: Razer Opto-Mechanical Switch
- Actuation Force: 45g
- Actuation Point: 1.5mm
- Travel Distance: 3.5mm
- Lifespan: 100 million clicks
- Fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording
- 10 key rollover with anti-ghosting
- Gaming mode
- Braided fiber cable
- Aluminum matte black top cover
- 4-sided underglow lighting with 38 customization zones
- Ergonomic wrist rest with 24 underglow lighting customization zones
- Dedicated media controls
- Multi-functional digital dial
- Chroma game integration
The Razer Blackwidow may just be the most iconic gaming keyboard ever made. It was instrumental in returning mechanical keyboards to the gaming scene and, I suspect, it’s been on more than a few of our reader’s desks. Given the extensive history, the Blackwidow seemed destined to stand alone, the paramount entry in Razer’s ever-expanding line of keyboards and peripherals.
This week, we’re introduced to Razer’s second flagship that will stand alongside the Blackwidow: the Huntsman Elite. It’s an optical keyboard, using Razer’s in-house Opto-Mechanical switches, and packs with it a suite of features that in this reviewer’s opinion make it one of the best mechanical gaming keyboards on the market today. If you liked the Blackwidow Chroma, it’s no stretch to say that the Huntsman is an improvement in nearly every way.
One of the biggest changes is clearly the Opto-Mechanical switches. Rather than rely on traditional mechanical switches that were never designed for gaming, Razer designed their very own optical gaming switch. Instead of using metal contacts to trigger key presses, Razer’s Opto-Mechanical switches use a beam of infrared light that projects under the plastic stem shown above. When they key pressed, the beam is hits a sensor on the opposite side, sending a key press. Since there’s not metal-on-metal contact, it’s inherently more durable and results in a cleaner, faster signal back to your PC.
These new switches are also custom-made for gamers. Opto-Mechanical switches feature are 5g lighter to the touch than a Cherry MX Blue and trigger more than 30% faster by cutting the actuation point from 2.2mm down to 1.5m. The click triggers and the key resets by this point, speeding up your touch typing and the overall speed of the keyboard. I also love that Razer has stuck to their guns with clicky switches which really helps to eliminate misclicks on faster switches like this.
You’ll also notice that each key also has a stabilizer bar. This helps keep the key steam stable so it feels the same and works just as well no matter where on the keycap you press. These types of designs haven’t been out long enough to see whether they’ll squeak or cause problems over time but out of the box they work and feel great.
Typing on the Opto-Mechanicals feels very good. The tactility and click is much better (and louder) than standard Cherry MX Blues, subtly training you to be a faster typist. The upgrade to an aluminum top from the Blackwidow Chroma’s is also a solid improvement for key-feel. The one thing that would make this better would be a higher quality keycap. The set included works perfectly fine and are right in line with other gaming keyboards on the market, but after using thicker PBT caps for so long, the thinner ABS found here doesn’t stack up with the improvements found on the rest of the keyboard.
On the upper right, we find our media controls. Like every key on the Huntsman Elite, each of these keys is programmable, which is where things really get interesting. Like the Logitech Craft, the “volume wheel” is actually a multi-function dial that can be programmed with complete scroll control. It’s extremely useful for anything that requires zooming or adjusting a dial. In creative programs, like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro, you can easily map it to shortcuts to speed up your workflow.
In games, the real utility comes in thanks to HyperShift, Razer’s multi-layer keymapping function. Using HyperShift, you can assign multiple keybinds to it, and every other key, simultaneously. I like to leave my wheel set to control volume by default but by holding the HyperShift key, I can change functions to zoom in on a battle, adjust my mic volume, trigger macros, or anything else you can think of. Razer includes a handful of options, including scroll and zoom control, switching apps, or adjusting microphone volume.
In a larger sense HyperShift, supplants the need for dedicated macro keys. HyperShift functions are only available when you hold a set key. So, by pressing Shift, for example, your entire keyboard can become a defacto macro pad.
The other neat feature that comes with the Huntsman Elite is the new accessory connection. The RGB wrist rest picture above - which is very nice with that soft leatherette top - connects to the keyboard with magnets, but in the center of each side is a set of terminals, which power to the LEDs when connected. It’s not fool-proof as sometimes the magnets don’t line the terminals up well enough, but it works well overall. The wrist rest ships with the Elite but Razer mentioned the possibility of releasing future peripherals that could be powered through this connection, no additional wire required.
Whether you love RGB or want it to fall by the wayside, there’s no denying the Huntsman Elite looks stunning. The RGB light strips wrap around the entire keyboard and go right onto the wrist rest thanks to that connection. It’s also fully programmable with Razer Synapse 3, featuring 24 customizable zones on the wrist rest alone. Altogether, the Huntsman Elite features a whopping 168 customizable RGB zones. The keyboard is also fully integrated with the growing list of compatible games, allowing your lighting to change based on what’s happening in the game. If you go online, you can also download any of the hundreds of custom lighting profiles and animations created by the community.
If the $199 MSRP is out of your price range, Razer is also releasing the standard Huntsman for $149. The two boards each offer the same core improvements and Opto-Mechanical switches, but the entry-model does away with the accessory terminal/wrist rest and multi-function dial to save on costs.
I’ve spent about a week with the Huntsman Elite but it took less than an hour for it to become my favorite Razer keyboard. It’s easily the best they’ve ever made. The move to Opto-Mechanical switches, programmable multi-function dial, aluminum top, accessory terminal, beautiful wrap-around underglow, and virtually unlimited macro programming make the Huntsman Elite one of the best gaming keyboards on the market today. If you’re considering a new keyboard, don’t miss the Huntsman Elite.
- Opto-Mechanical switches feel and perform great
- Multi-function dial is a great addition, useful in and out of games
- Accessory terminal promises expansion the future
- Very good included wrist rest on Elite model, complete with programmable underglow
- Excellent lighting, easy to program - 168 zones (62 on the light strip alone!)
- New aluminum top plate
- Keycaps are the only thing not improved from the Blackwidow
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.