Just when you think keyboard technology has reached a plateau that would only allow for minor revisions, Razer has refreshed its Huntsman lineup with the brand new Huntsman V2 Analog. This model features a new switch that is both optical and analog and is nothing less than a revolution in what gaming keyboards can do. Analog control, similar to a joystick or trigger on a controller, allows for full depth sensing, combining the benefits of keyboards and controllers in one versatile package, allowing for more customization than ever before. It also features a USB 3.0 passthrough port, a plush magnetic wrist rest, wrap around RGB, doubleshot PBT keycaps, and more. This package doesn’t come cheap, launching for $249, so let’s see what this high-end keyboard has to offer.
- Current Price: $249.99
- Razer Analog Optical Switches
- 100 million keystroke lifespan
- Razer Chroma RGB customizable backlighting with 16.8 million color options
- Razer Doubleshot PBT Keycaps
- USB 3.0 Passthrough
- Underglow lighting
- Magnetic plush leatherette wrist rest
- Multi-functional digital dial with 4 media keys
- Hybrid onboard storage – up to 5 keybinding profiles
- Fully programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording
- N-key roll-over with anti-ghosting
- Gaming mode option
- Braided fiber cable
- 1000 Hz Ultrapolling
- Aluminum matte top plate
Within Razer’s now extensive line-up, the Huntsman has been dominating the keyboard market. It introduced optical switches to Razer’s gaming keyboards and set in motion the development to the full analog controls we see today. Thanks to its design and responsiveness, the Huntsman rocketed to the #1 best-selling keyboard in the US. Not content to rest there, Razer has put its ear to the ground and listened to the community, rolling out improvements which each subsequent release and the Huntsman seems to combine all of them in one premium package.
This week, we’re introduced to Razer’s next generation in the Huntsman line: The Huntsman V2 Analog. It’s an optical keyboard, but takes things a step further by integrating depth-sensing technology for some very cool gaming capabilities. Traditionally keyboards operate by discerning a 0 or 1 that corresponds when a key is not pressed or pressed. This is traditional digital input; a key is on or it is off with no in-between. Razer’s analog switch takes a traditional optical design (sending a beam of light under each key) and measuring its intensity at each stage of the keypress, accurately determining just how far that key is pressed, akin to a gamepad joystick – and, in fact, you can use it for exactly that.
Analog functionality is a fundamental upgrade over traditional digital input in more ways than one. At its most simple level, it allows you to set your own actuation point to anything between a light 1.5mm press to a deep, typo-slaying 3.6mm keypress. Being able to set your own trigger point is a small but meaningful change that allows you to tailor the keyboard for what you’re doing at the time: light presses for gaming, heavier presses for typing. If you have a heavy hand, lowering that actuation point could keep you from running from cover in your favorite shooter or blowing a cooldown at the wrong time. During an intense boss battle, this can mean the fate of the entire group and its success.
While you can set this for the entire keyboard with a quick “sync to all keys” button, I found for me, individually setting them for certain keys really allowed me to dial in the feel of my board for exactly my typing/gaming.
Dual-step actuation is another great feature enabled by the analog design of the V2’s new key switch. Knowing just how far a key is pressed allows you to set one command for a half press and another for a full press. This is nothing short of a game-changer for certain games, as long as you take the time to program it in a way that works for you. In my own gameplay, I found this some this more limited, but could clearly increase your responsiveness overall. The classic example is equipping a grenade with a half press and throwing it with a full press. Rather than have to full press and release, or press and click the left mouse button, you can do it with one single depression. Find a way to make this work fluidly isn’t always as easy as mapping it in Synapse depending on how the game controlled in the first place, but it’s possible with a little time and effort. Once you get used to it, you’ll find it hard to go back to a normal gaming keyboard.
The biggest advantage the V2 offers is its ability to emulate a controller or joystick. Any gamer that has played racing games using a keyboard knows the pain of digital controls: it’s either pedal to the floor or no gas at all. Here, you can set any optical key to act as a joystick, trigger, or any other controller input. As far as the game is concerned, you’re hotswapping between a keyboard and controller and reacts as such.
The V2 Analog delivers a smooth keypress with resistance that is very similar to that of Cherry Black switch (more than an MX Red). This is important as without the right amount of resistance the analog keys would simply be far too sensitive. In fact, they still can be, but Razer allows you to dial in the sensitivity of its analog emulations, so you can find a speed that works for you. When you get it set, however, you’re able to take advantage of the fine-grained control previously only available to controllers: ramp up that gas; sneak one minute, sprint the next. The works.
My experience using the Huntsman V2 Analog as a controller was enjoyable but did leave me with some reflections. The first is that this is still a keyboard with a keyboard’s depth of travel. It’s clearly very cool and works well, but it’s not as fluid as an actual controller. There just isn’t as much room for movement in each switch’s 4 millimeters or so of travel. I do believe that this can be overcome by building some muscle memory, however. The second is that once analog keys are mapped, you’ll need to change profiles or use Hypershift to access the actual letters again. Not a deal-breaker by any stretch, but you can’t simply alt+tab and start typing in Discord with those same keys.
Moving on to the larger keyboard, it’s built like a tank. The chassis is super rugged with no flex during use thanks to its sturdy aluminum top. It uses Razer’s excellent doubleshot PBT keycaps, which won’t fade or shine over time. The dual cables are also very nicely braided, though a little harder to manage since they’re not joined.
Razer has also upgraded other aspects of the keyboard. The magnetic plush wrist rest is back, but this time with an edge-to-edge design (no bezels) and was inspired by feedback from the community to provide the most comfort from every angle. It’s leatherette, so can make your wrists sweat, though, so I would love to see a shift to something more breathable. Another welcome update is the USB 3.0 passthrough. Now you can easily attach devices that require more data bandwidth to a more accessible location. This can be anything from a USB Steam drive to your favorite pair of headphones.
The multimedia keys are super handy during my day-to-day use. Using the dial, I can have fine control over the exact volume of the games I am playing. While the media playback buttons give me a direct interface to stop, start videos and music. The dial is also programmable, so you can create commands to match your favorite software shortcuts.
If there is one thing that can be said above all others when it comes to Razer products, I believe they have some of the best lighting options when combined with its Chroma Studio software. The Razer Huntsman V2 Analog features full per-key RGB lighting, as well as additional wraparound underglow that even extends to the wrist rest via POGO pins. I own a number of Razer products, and Chroma Studio has been excellent for easily syncing the lighting across each of them.
The Razer Huntsman V2 Analog is one of the most innovative keyboards we’ve seen in this space. The quality is top-notch all around, including with the fine-grained analog control that can literally transform the way you play games. The build is also excellent, as I would expect from Razer’s flagship board. With an MSRP of $249.99, it’s on the upper-cusp of gaming keyboards today, but there is simply nothing else out there that provides the level of control and customizability today.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.