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Razer Huntsman Mini Review: Go small or go home

Tiny but deadly?

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

If you’ve had your eye on a compact keyboard, you’ve probably already noticed that Razer’s smallest keyboard was only a TKL — until now. The Huntsman Mini takes last year’s top-grossing gaming keyboard and shrinks it down into an ultra-compact 60% form factor. Packing the responsiveness and programmability of the originals, and featuring Razer’s optical key switches, it hits the market at $119 for the clicky version and $129 for the linear version. Should this be your next gaming keyboard?

Specifications

  • Current Price: $119.99 (Razer Store)
  • Key Switches: Razer Clicky or Linear Optical Switch
  • Layout: 60%
  • Lighting: Razer Chroma customizable backlighting with 16.8 million color options
  • Onboard Memory: Hybrid onboard storage – up to 5 profiles
  • Media Keys: Embedded (Fn)
  • Passthrough: None
  • Connectivity: Wired
  • Keycaps: Razer Doubleshot PBT Keycaps
  • Other Features
    • 100 million keystroke lifespan
    • Standard Bottom Row Layout
    • Aluminum construction
    • 60% Compact form factor
    • Detachable USB-C Braided Fiber Cable
    • Hybrid onboard storage – up to 5 keybinding profiles
    • Onboard lighting presets
    • Razer Synapse 3 enabled
    • Fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording
    • N-key roll-over with built-in anti-ghosting
    • Gaming mode option
    • 1000 Hz Ultrapolling

Razer Huntsman Mini Unboxed

Razer’s original Huntsman Elite was an impressive keyboard across the board. It was the first keyboard to feature the company’s new optical switches, which were super clicky and super fast. It was built like a tank, had a slick, RGB-lit wrist rest, an innovative multi-function dial, and frankly, felt like the flagship product it was. Knowing all that, it still came as a surprise to find that the Huntsman was the top-selling keyboard throughout last year, even as the new gaming keyboard market becomes more crowded than ever. 

The Huntsman Mini takes a different approach. It’s a tale of minimalism but not simplicity, cutting the large footprint of the Huntsman Elite and tenkeyless Huntsman Tournament Edition down to its bare bones with an ultra-compact 60% form factor. This design cuts out all but the most pivotal keys. No function row. No number pad. No arrow keys. No navigation cluster. The result is a board that takes up a tiny amount of space, freeing you to comfortably position your keyboard and mouse close together with angling it to the side and straining your wrists. 

Secondary functions are accessed by holding the Fn key

Those extra keys aren’t gone, however; they’re just moved onto a second layer. With the exception of the number pad, all of your other keys (including dedicated media controls) can be accessed by holding the Fn button. It takes some getting used to, especially when it comes to arrow keys, but as a user of compact keyboards almost exclusively, I can tell you that you get used to it and may actually come to prefer it. Why waste space on keys you rarely use?

Still, there’s a learning curve to be climbed and the 60% layout is an acquired taste that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In particular, using the arrow keys can be especially cumbersome. The Mini uses the same misguided approach of putting the Fn key and arrow keys on the same side of the keyboard, forcing you to hold Fn and press the arrow keys with the same hand. which I find uncomfortable fairly quick (but lets you keep your right hand on the mouse, which is more important for most games).

But, as I recommend to every new compact user, give it time and the benefits begin to reveal themselves and that’s doubly true with a board as versatile as the Huntsman Mini. The 60% form factor is nothing new; it’s actually one of the most popular layouts in the keyboard enthusiast world, but the Mini sets itself apart in its programmability. Using the Synapse software, you’re able to remap keys, program macros, assign shortcuts — the works. Despite its small size, this board packs all of the programmability of Razer’s other headliner keyboards, like the Blackwidow line. That includes full, per-key RGB programming too, with a healthy selection of preset lighting effects and full custom animations using Chroma Studio. 

Like other Razer peripherals, the software is something you’ll need to pick up to make the most of your board. The software has a multitude of options for assigning different commands to your keys. The design means there aren’t many keys to spare, using HyperShift, you can assign secondary functions to any keys that currently lack them. Because there are so many functions already assigned, this doesn’t exactly double your key count, but it does give you more than a dozen to assign macros to, not including other key combinations you can assign in-game. 

The keyboard also supports five onboard memory profiles that you can swap between on the fly, allowing you to keep a fresh layout for each of your major games. This also allows you to leave the software disabled after the initial setup process. Once my macros, key remaps, and lighting choices are set, I was able to save them to a profile and simply swap between them when I needed to. You can even change between the different lighting presets, saving you from needing Synapse even to fresh the look of your board. 

Floating key design shows per-key RGB very well

That’s a good thing because Synapse isn’t exactly lightweight. It even minimized, its different processes took up 309MB of my systems memory. If your system is strained, you’ll want to disable it after you’re done setting everything up. 

Razer Optical Switches

Razer has competitive gaming in its sights with the Huntsman Mini, a fact which is crystal clear thanks to the inclusion of its optical switches. Compared to a traditional mechanical switch, optical switches use a beam of light to trigger a keypress instead of physical mechanical contact. This increases their responsiveness and reliability, eliminating electrical debounce time and any wear and tear that might cause a typical key switch to wear out. 

Razer has also flat out made the switches faster than the Cherry MX (and clone) counterparts dominating the rest of the gaming keyboard market. Compared to a Cherry MX Blue, Razer’s clicky optical switch is lighter to the touch and triggers at 1.5mm instead of the Blue’s 2mm. It’s also rated for 100 million clicks versus the Cherry’s 50 million. I also found the click to be louder and more tactile under my fingers which is great for gaming but maybe not so great for everyone else in the room if they don’t appreciate the CLACK CLACK CLACK of a good clicky keyboard. 

For this release, Razer has also revamped its linear switch option. Like the first version, it remains very lightweight — lighter even than Cherry MX Reds — and fast, actuating at only 1mm of travel. That makes it a genuine speed switch in my book. They’ve improved the design by adding dampeners to reduce their sound and factory lubing the switches for enhanced smoothness. The result is one of the smoothest linear switches I’ve ever used in a production keyboard, even topping out the HyperX reds!

PBT Keycaps

Razer has also brought back the doubleshot PBT keycaps included with the Tournament Edition last year. Simply put, they’re fantastic. The legends are thin and seamless, really isolating the light. If you opt for the white version, you’ll get a nice bed of light under the keys, but on the black version I tested, it was absolutely minimal. They’re also thick for nice solid bottom outs and slightly textured to avoid showing the oils from your skin. 

By now, I’m sure it’s clear that I’m a big fan of this board. In many ways it feels like a love letter to the keyboard enthusiast community. Big features like PBT keycaps, its compact form factor, standard keycap sizing for easy customization, the detachable braided cable, are each features you’ll find on high-end production boards outside of the gaming space and are unquestionable upgrades to the experience. 

The only physical quality I’m not a fan of is how lightweight and plasticky the case feels. The top plate is metal, which is an improvement over it’s biggest competition, the Ducky One 2 Mini, but it’s so thin and nearly hidden behind the keys that it doesn't stand out in any way. What you really feel is the plastic back and sides, and how airy it feels. It’s a great quality for traveling (this is an awesome keyboard for throwing in a bag and taking on the go), but given how much Razer listened to the enthusiast community, it seemed to miss how often heft relates to quality in users’ minds.

Razer Huntsman Mini

Final Thoughts

Still, it’s hard to knock it too much when the design falls in line with so many other 60% keyboards making waves right now. While the One 2 Mini has garnered a lot of attention, the improved responsiveness, programmability and user-friendliness of the Huntsman Mini easily put it a cut above, in my opinion.  It's not perfect, and l still find Fn-based arrow keys difficult to use in games, but if you’re a hardcore gamer looking for a compact keyboard, this is an outstanding choice.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.
9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Excellent optical switches - fast, responsive, and reliable
  • Thick PBT keycaps with thin, light isolating legends
  • Highly programmable
  • Compact form factor saves space and allows you to keep your hands closer together
  • Synapse isn't necessary after initial programming thanks to 5 onboard memory profiles
Cons
  • Lightweight, and feels a bit too plasticky
  • FN-accessed arrow keys can be difficult to use
  • Synapse is still fairly memory intensive


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight