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One of the most indispensable tools for my work today is the keyboard. It is the device that I use most when writing an article or when I play games on the PC. However, I have never thought of getting me one of the best keyboards on the market.
The situation changed completely when a few weeks back I had the opportunity to review the Razer Huntsman Elite (Check on Amazon.com). Till then I always used a good quality membrane keyboard, which was also backlit, extremely quiet, took up a normal amount of space on my desk, and was comfortable when writing.
However, as I already stated, the Razer Huntsman Elite has made me change my way of thinking making me seriously consider upgrading my device for a better one. That being said, let me tell you why Razer has created one of the best keyboards ever made.
Razer Huntsman Elite – Design
The Razer Huntsman Elite features a very classic design. It is built with quality black plastic that looks sober and elegant on any desk. The wrist rest (magnetic and removable) has enough padding to support the wrists in an arc that is ideal for all three height settings of the Huntsman.
The keycaps are of subpar quality (ABS) but are sleek and feel quite nice to the touch. RGB lighting permeates all the keys. Sadly the secondary symbols on the number keys are printed on the keycap, so they do not “light up” and are difficult to read in the dark.
Note: the previous version of the Huntsman (Check on Amazon.com) features the same optomechanical switches, and the same finish and RGB Chroma lighting, but it does not have the multimedia buttons or the wrist rest.
Razer Huntsman Elite – Opto-mechanical switches
Both the Razer Huntsman and Huntsman Elite use optomechanical switches. They are called Razer Purple and are 45-gram tactile switches. Their “click” sound resembles that of the Cherry MX Blue switches, but it is even louder. With a travel of 3.5mm and an actuation point of 1.5mm, they can be considered linear switches with an audible click (something of a contradiction), but their particularity lies elsewhere.
Instead of a metallic connection that completes a circuit and sends a signal Razer’s Purple switches uses a laser beam. When one of these switches is pressed, the horizontal laser beam reaches the optical sensor on the opposite end and sends the signal to the board. In theory, this approach cancels the response time because it works at the speed of light, but in reality, the difference is of just a few milliseconds and there is no human that can appreciate the difference. Also because the Razer Huntsman Elite doesn’t use an optical fiber cable for the subsequent transmission of the signal.
Note: the Razer Huntsman is not the first keyboard to use optomechanical switches; almost identical switches, both in shape and specifications, called the LK3 Libra or Light Strike 3, are mounted in some Bloody A4Tech keyboards. They have been known to enthusiasts for years. So there is no innovation on Razer’s part.
Razer promotes them by advertising a 30% speed improvement compared to traditional mechanical switches. This is why Razer recommends them for eSport tournaments where you can’t risk “missing a click”.
On paper, optical technology has other advantages too. Fewer internal components mean less chance of failure; in fact, the Razer Purple has an estimated duration of 100 million clicks, against “just” 50 million for the Cherry MX.
Razer’s implementation also includes a stabilizer bar between the stem (the purple plunger) and the base of the switch: it serves to make the click more consistent so that there are no differences between pressing the edge of the button and the center. So it is more of a normalizer than a stabilizer.
Technical details aside, the writing experience with Razer Purple is strange and unique. Up to 1.5mm down these switches feel lighter than the Cherry MX Red; then they bounce with a loud metallic click. I don’t like this kind of sound since it can really bother whoever is in the vicinity but I appreciate the tactile feedback.
And I love the soft wrist rest, the discreet lighting and the hollow shape of the otherwise poor keycaps. They are manufactured in thin ABS, with a smooth and veiled finish and are the exact opposite of what is considered premium. I definitely prefer the porous ones in thick PBT, and I think I speak for all the fans here. If nothing else, they are compatible with the Cherry standard and therefore easy to replace.
On the other hand, in the upper right corner, we find three dedicated multimedia keys and a wheel that is very comfortable to use and if you press it, it will deactivate the sound.
Razer Huntsman Elite – Expensive for the features
Although Razer is clearly promoting this as a premium model, the Huntsman Elite doesn’t offer a great many features. Apart from the wrist rest, RGB lighting and the multimedia buttons, there are no other extras.
There is no USB hub or other ports (audio passthrough?) and no dedicated macro buttons. In the case of the USB hub, we understand that it would have required a third USB port (this keyboard already takes up 2 USB ports). But, for the price, we really think that Razer should have gone the extra mile and implemented those extras.
Razer Huntsman Elite – User experience
Wearing a blindfold and typing on this keyboard you would have thought that it was using Cherry MX Blue switches. The activation point is higher but both sound and feel are very similar.
The Razer Huntsman Elite feels superb, especially when writing text, which is where the Cherry MX Blue switches also excel, but without any of the drawbacks when gaming. It lets me type even faster than my membrane keyboard and is also really comfortable with the wrist rest being an absolute delight. In addition, the height adjustment allows you to further customize the experience. Of course, you have to keep in mind that this is a loud keyboard!
Yes, one can game using any type of keyboard (I use a membrane one), but a mechanical keyboard for competitive games such as StarCraft II, CS: GO, Call of Duty and Overwatch is of the utmost importance.
The Razer Purple switches are comfortable but also linear. They are “light” and give solid clicky feedback, plus there is no rebound (a strange mix) and the keycaps have a smooth finish.
Razer Huntsman Elite – Verdict
If I had to recommend this keyboard to someone, it would be to those who use their PC to both write and game. These optomechanical switches provide the speed of the Cherry MX Speed and the tactile feedback and satisfactory “clicky” sound of the Cherry MX Blue. Of course, not everyone will like this type of mechanism (especially since it is noisy), but that depends on personal taste.
In short, the Huntsman Elite (Check on Amazon.com) is a great keyboard with many customization options great build quality and it is going to fully illuminate your desktop.