It takes me a while to get comfortable on a new keyboard. Typically, I’ll fat-finger my usual key combinations for a while before adjusting to the slight subtleties of the new device. After spending the past month using Razer’s Huntsman Elite as my main gaming keyboard, I think I’ve found my new favorite.
In this review, I’m going to focus on three crucial areas of the Razer Huntsman Elite:
- how its opto-mechanical switches performed,
- the wide variety of features it comes with, both physical and in software, and
- just how much fun can be had with the Razer Chroma color environment.
Feel the Speed of Light
Mechanical switches are the standard for gaming keyboards these days. So what can manufacturers do to improve on the standard? Razer, among several others, has opted to augment its mechanical switches with the power of light. No, not the RGB kind, though the Huntsman Elite is undoubtedly a leader in that field as well. More on that later on. Razer’s top of the line gaming keyboard offers its new opto-mechanical switches.
In short, these keys rely on the mechanical action of the keypress breaking a beam of light. In theory, this should result in faster response time and longer life. Being able to take more abuse is certainly a useful feature for any gaming device. In practice, the opto-mechanical switches are snappy and feel excellent. Each press of the keyboard offers a precise, succinct, and immediate response from the device. The clicky sound even feels sleek somehow, if it’s possible to assign such an adjective to an audio cue.
The overall design and build quality are typical of Razer devices. It’s sturdy, there are no squeaks, and nothing bends, bows, or moves in a way I wouldn’t want it to. The keys are resting just above the main plate of the keyboard, as is the norm these days. This allows for quicker key travel for those hectic moments in games, and also offers excellent light coverage. Each key is precisely cut and has a near-perfect level of light coverage. What I mean by this is that the backlight of each key doesn’t bleed and yet covers the entire key fully.
Rest Your Wrist, or Don’t
I used to not even consider keyboards without a wrist rest years ago. Then suddenly and for some unexplained reason, when mechanical gaming keyboards came into fashion, hardly any of them included support for your wrists anymore. Leaving the benefits – or lack thereof – of wrist rests aside, it was a bummer. Eventually, I adjusted and got to love the additional desk space afforded by a wrist rest-less keyboard.
So it came as a bit of a shock when the Razer Huntsman Elite came with a faux-leather wrist rest that is incredibly comfortable. Truth be told, however, I don’t use it often. Sometimes I connect it back to the keyboard using the magnetic connector, marvel at the additional chroma lighting and comfortable padding and then put it aside again. My point here is that if you enjoy a wrist rest, you’ll love this one. If you don’t care for me, maybe you’ll like the additional lighting. Or perhaps you’ll do what I do and use it on a whim, and set it aside when it’s time to get sweaty in some PvP. Kudos to Razer for including it no matter your preference.
It’s All in the Chroma
No modern gaming peripheral is complete without at least some level of RGB lighting. Razer is arguably the king of integration when it comes to interconnecting all its devices’ lighting schemes. The lighting synergies don’t stop at Razer products. More on that in a second.
The Razer Huntsman Elite has support for full per-key RGB backlighting and an LED light strip bordering the side of the keyboard, including the optional wrist rest. Using Razer’s software, you can customize how each key is lit up and when, and even layer different styles of color options on top of each other. Want to have a classy theme of a single color for each key that changes with each keypress? No problem. Want to combine a breathing effect with a fire effect and some other light show on just the numpad? Sure. It’s your eyes that have to look at it.
Where Razer’s Chroma ecosystem shines is its ability to sync up all your Razer devices. The list is lengthy and at a bare minimum includes your keyboard and Razer mouse and mouse pad. Add in an ever-growing number of other consumer devices, and soon your game room looks like a discotheque. A commonly found household device that Razer Chroma supports is the Philips Hue line of smart bulbs. It’s a cinch to connect Razer’s software to the other devices and control all of their effects in unison.
Add in support for many games, and you can easily have half your house glow red as things do poorly in Apex Legends or flash with happiness when you win in Fortnite. Just do yourself a favor and check in with anyone you share your living space with.
Not Much You Can’t Do
Razer Chroma is only a portion of the functionality by the Razer Synapse application. I tend to be very hard on peripheral makers who ship an excellent hardware product supported by poor software. Razer used to fall in that category, but Synapse has made significant strides in the past few years. Not only does it house the control center for all your lighting needs, but it provides one of the more intuitive ways to customize your Huntsman Elite, from simple shortcuts to complex macros.
While the Huntsman offers a set of very nice multimedia keys, the one key I missed the most is a dedicated game mode button. Sure, you can switch into an automatic game mode that disables the Windows key and Alt-F4, among others, having a dedicated button to turn it on or off quickly would have been nice. It’s a minor quibble, I admit.
If the above portion of my review didn’t make it clear, I love the Razer Huntsman Elite. It does everything I want from a gaming keyboard, and perhaps a bit more. The biggest challenge to enjoying all of this excellent keyboard-ing is the price. Yes, quality gaming peripherals are an investment and a valid one. The Razer Huntsman Elite regularly retails at nearly $200, though you can get the regular version for $30-$50 less. You’ll miss out on the media buttons and the wrist rest, but that may not be a dealbreaker. If budget is not a concern, then you’d be hardpressed to find a better combination of hardware and software than the Razer Huntsman Elite.