A $200 keyboard is unnecessary. You can get a great mechanical gaming keyboard for $70. You can add RGB LED for a bit more. And really what else do you need? Well, Razer has some ideas about that, and it put them into its Huntsman Elite mechanical gaming keyboard.
The Huntsmasn Elite is out now, and it retails for two Benjamin Franklins. While I’ll stress that you don’t need a keyboard like this, it does a lot to justify its price.
What you’ll like
The gaming keyboard market is crowded. With high profit margins, everyone wants in. That means you have ample choice when it comes to picking something off the shelf that uses high-quality materials and key switches. But that also means that manufacturers have to do more to stand out.
GamesBeat at the Game Awards
We invite you to join us in LA for GamesBeat at the Game Awards event this December 7. Reserve your spot now as space is limited!
Cherry MX mechanical switches don’t really stand out anymore. So Razer is using optical switches to give the Huntsman Elite some pizzazz.
But what does this mean for you? Well, it’s mostly good or neutral news.
In real-world use, you’re not going to notice much of a difference between optical switches and traditional mechanical-only parts. Razer’s “opto-mechanical” variant works like a gaming switch. It actuates instantly, and it has a satisfying click as well. Razer insinuates that these switches are actually more responsive because they use the speed of light to activate a key, but you won’t notice that.
Where these switches should actually improve things is in reliability. Optical lights don’t require as many welds and moving parts. That’s not to say they don’t have moving parts — they absolutely do. But by removing a few pieces of plastic and a few welds, the switches should behave more consistently and last longer.
Where I think the Huntsman Elite truly stands out is in its overall design and look. The clicky switches feel premium, and that is how I would describe the keyboard as a whole.
As you would expect for $200, it uses a combination of metals and plastic. This gives the frame a weighty feel. That helps keep the keyboard in place. But you also get a cool-to-the-touch sensation while using it. I love that when my wrist grazes again the chassis and feels that cold alloy. Sure, it stabilizes the device and eliminates unwanted vibrations, but metal also just looks better. And that’s important when you’re spending this much money.
This is also the best implementation of Razer Chroma on a keyboard. The Elite comes with a wristpad, and both the keyboard and pad have a continuous led strip around their edges. It makes it look like the keyboard is emanating from a glowing portal on your desk.
Like most Razer keyboards, the Chroma LEDs shine their lights through the top of the keycaps. Light doesn’t come around the edges of the key wells as much, which is something I like. But the Huntsman Elite’s LEDs are bright enough that it is going to catch your eye no matter what.
The Huntsman Elite’s wristpad is a comfortable leather-like pad surrounded by the same metal and plastic of the keyboard. Because the wristrest needs a connection to the keyboard for its lights to work, you’ll want to keep it right next to the keyboard at all times. Thankfully, it is quite long, so even if your wrists hang back from the keyboard (like mine), you’ll find a comfy spot to place them.
Razer has also ensured the media buttons have enough dedicated space that they are easy to reach. The volume knob even sticks off the edge of the frame as well as above it. I find that makes it easy to adjust with one finger.
If you are ludicrous about RGB LED lighting, this is the keyboard to get. That outer ring is gorgeous and it goes well with other Razer devices. But the company has also incorporated Philips Hue Sync into its software.
You can connect the Huntsman Elite and something like a Razer Mamba Hyperflux mouse and pad and whatever other Chroma products you have to your Hue smartlights. You can then use Hue Sync to have the lights adjust color and brightness in conjunction with the action happening on your computer screen.
I think this looks great, and it adds a layer of immersion to your gaming experience.
What you won’t like
Missing some features that would help justify the price
The Huntsman Elite isn’t the only keyboard in this price range. Corsair has its Gaming K95 RGB keyboard, HP has the Omen Sequencer for around $180. You can find plenty more. The problem for Razer is that Corsair’s competitor has a huge bank of macro keys. The Sequencer even has optical switches.
Razer’s most premium of keyboards, however, doesn’t have any macro keys. Personally, I kinda like that because I don’t use those. I would just use an Elgato Stream Deck Mini. For me, less is more in this case. But I think that most people in this price range are going to want those extra keys.
The Elite also requires you to plug in two USB cords. One of those is the connection for the keyboard, the other is the power for the wristrest. I’m OK with that, but I would also want a USB passthrough as well. Razer didn’t include that, though.
I’m going to assume that if you’re looking at reviews for a $200 keyboard that you can afford a $200 keyboard. But if you can’t afford it, don’t feel like you’re missing out. Your $70 mechanical keyboard has everything that you need.
But if you want to spend the money because you have the money, the Huntsman Elite also does everything that you will need. Those optical switches might last longer, but more importantly, this keyboard looks great. At a certain point, building a gaming rig is more about fashion than function.
Razer is the best at mashing up fashion and function into a holistic family of products, and the Huntsman Elite is the best example of that design ethos. For that reason, as long as you’re thinking about combining it with other Razer devices, the Huntsman Elite is easy to recommend as the centerpiece of your gaming PC setup.
Razer provided a sample unit of the Huntsman Elite. It is available now for $200.
GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.