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Razer Huntsman V2 Analog Gaming Keyboard Review

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Despite all of their different designs, keyboards have felt static for years. Razer is out to change that with the new Huntsman V2 Analog. This new flagship gaming keyboard uses optical switches to provide joystick-like control in games. It’s an innovative twist that mashes together keyboard and controller support  into one premium package that can change the way you play. But coming in at $249, these upgrades don’t come cheap. Do these innovations warrant the high price? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

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Razer Huntsman V2 Analog – Design and Features

The Huntsman V2 Analog should look immediately familiar to anyone who has been following Razer’s keyboards over the last several years. The V2 Analog is a full-size keyboard and almost an identical twin to last years’ Razer BlackWidow V3 Pro, which was itself extremely similar to the Razer Huntsman Elite launched way back in 2018. It features the excellent multi-function dial and media controls above the number pad, and the same sleek matte black design embraced by all main-line Razer keyboards. And yes, it’s Chroma enabled, because what’s a Razer keyboard without a little RGB customization?

I’m happy to say, with this release, Razer seems to have carried through everything that worked with the BlackWidow V3 Pro and Huntsman Elite and improved on much else. The board is heavy, which immediately makes it feel more premium and stays in place impeccably well on my desk. It features Razer’s excellent doubleshot PBT keycaps which feel and sound great (if a bit loud, which is becoming a hallmark of Huntsman keyboards) while also keeping light well isolated behind the legends.

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It comes with an improved leatherette wrist rest that’s easily the nicest I’ve ever seen shipped with a keyboard. It’s magnetic, so quickly snaps into place, and removes the unsightly bezels found on the BlackWidow V3 Pro. Razer has also included an improved USB passthrough port that – hold your applause – uses USB 3.0. Finally, you can actually use one of these with a USB thumb drive and get decent transfer speeds.

Strangely, this has resulted in the biggest cable bundle I’ve ever seen with a gaming keyboard. Instead of having one thicker cable with dual ends like most with a passthrough, it has two separate cables, each braided and fairly stiff out of the box. I was able to use the included wrap to keep this somewhat manageable but there’s no way around how messy it is for cable management.

Razer Huntsman V2 Analog Review

As you would expect from a flagship Razer product, it RGBs all the things, and it looks great. The Huntsman V2 Analog uses individual LEDs under each key, as well as under the multi-functional dial and media keys. More strikingly, it brings back the wrap-around RGB strip from the Huntsman Elite, and that also includes the wrist rest. Using a series of POGO pins on the bottom of the board, the keyboard is able to supply power to the wrist rest and sync up underglow lighting effects. All of this is easily customized inside Synapse or by selecting a preset or customizing your own intricate effect. If you’re not sold on RGB, you’ll likely find wrist rest lighting to be overkill, but I love the way it looks from the side and the underglow when the lights are dimmed.

The downside to those double-shot PBT keycaps is that they reduce the overall brightness of the board.  In a well-lit room, the key backlighting appears subdued. The underglow is a bit brighter but is still fairly dim in normal lighting. This isn’t the keyboard to choose if you prefer a wash of color around your keycaps. Instead, its well-isolated lighting appears much more intentional. The keycaps also have a lightly textured surface that feels great under my fingers while gaming. Since they’re doubleshot PBT, they won’t shine or have the legends scraped away over time, and should look just as good after several years of hard use as they do straight out of the box.

Razer Huntsman V2 Analog Review

The real magic of this keyboard is what’s happening under those keycaps. The Huntsman line, unlike Razer’s BlackWidow series, uses optical switches. Unlike a traditional mechanical key switch, there are no mechanical contacts to wear down over time. Instead, a beam of light is projected underneath each switch. When the key is pressed, the beam of light hits a sensor and triggers a key press. Optical switches are inherently more responsive, removing electrical interference known as debounce delay, and less prone to failure due to wear and tear on their internals.

The Huntsman V2 Analog builds upon this system to provide full analog control to each and every optical switch on the keyboard. Put another way, every key is able to provide the nuanced control of a joystick or trigger on a controller. Normal switches work in either “on” or “off” states. The key is “on” when pressed and “off”  when it’s not, with nothing in between. Here, Razer’s new analog switches are able to measure exactly how far the key is pressed to provide depth sensing, just like the sticks on a controller.

Razer Huntsman V2 Analog Review

This has a few unique benefits. The first is, of course, analog control. Press the key lightly, your character walks, a little harder and they jog, and harder still, they run. A car in Grand Theft Auto can cruise at half-press and go full-bore the rest of the way down. If you’re a fan of racing or stealth games, you probably already play with a controller for the more nuanced control. The Huntsman offers a similar ability, while also being able to aim with your mouse and have the rest of the keyboard at your fingertips.

Likewise, depth sensing allows the keyboard to pull off other neat tricks. Since it can tell a half-press from a full-press, you can tie an action to each, with what Razer calls Dual-Step Actuation. This system essentially allows you to have two keys in one, increasing your responsiveness in games: swapping to a grenade with a half-press and throwing it with a full is a quintessential example, but I also found it useful to tie two stages of zoom to a single key when running around as a sniper. It’s a cool system but one that demands you be a bit creative and take the time to program in what works for your own unique playstyle.

The ability to sense depth allows the Huntsman to support customizable actuation points. Out of the box, the keys are set to actuate at 1.5mm. Though the new switches have more resistance than Razer’s prior optical linears, I still found this too sensitive and dialed it back to 2mm. Inside Synapse, the actuation point can be adjusted all the way up to 3.6mm and one-click synced it to all keys. This might seem like a small feature but is one of the most meaningful on a day-to-day basis and essentially allows you to have the responsiveness of a speed switch while gaming and the accuracy of a traditional switch with everything else.

Razer Huntsman V2 Analog Review

The early version of the software I used had an odd glitch that would occasionally detect a second keyboard when none was connected

Like all Razer keyboards, programming takes place inside of Razer Synapse but here it’s essentially a requirement. For gaming, analog control works by assigning controller commands to individual keys: WASD would be mapped to joystick movement, for example, or the triggers if you’re placing a racing game. Without Synapse, the Huntsman V2 Analog works like a standard optical gaming keyboard.

Razer Huntsman V2 Analog Review

Razer Huntsman V2 Analog – Performance

On paper, the Huntsman V2 Analog makes a lot of bold promises and, for the most part, it works well. Being able to sneak around in Shadow of the Tomb Raider or strolling the streets in Red Dead Redemption 2 felt very natural, akin to a controller but not quite. Likewise, hopping into a car in Grand Theft Auto Online and tearing around the city worked well and felt very natural over time. I also loved getting creative with the dual action commands in shooters. In Call of Duty Warzone, mapping Run to a gentle press and sprint to a full press of W was natural and intuitive.

Getting up and running with this was easy, but there was more of a learning curve than I expected. I had to do a good amount of tweaking to make the sensitivity feel just right. Even though the functionality is similar to a controller, the fact of the matter is that every key only has 3.6 millimeters of total travel. This is far less than a joystick or trigger, and it’s much harder to be precise with how far each key is being pressed. To remedy this, Razer allows you to fine tune the sensitivity of each key – but there’s no overcoming the lighter touch and the time it takes to get used to that.

 

Taken as a whole, however, the Huntsman V2 Analog is an exceptionally good gaming keyboard. The key switches feel smooth and responsive, and the analog functionality doesn’t impact how the keys actually feel at all. The added resistance does, however, and I would consider these some of the best feeling keys I’ve ever used in a gaming keyboard. The extra key weight also helps when learning how to use its analog functions.

The multi-function dial continues to be excellent, and the ability to map commands to its rotations and button makes it useful for more than just gaming. I especially appreciated it in creative apps, where I was able to map shortcuts for quickly scrubbing a timeline or adjusting tools. The only thing I don’t like are how tall the media control buttons are. If you’re tempted to pinch the knob instead of rolling it from the side, you’ll quickly find the Skip Track button in the way.

Razer Huntsman V2 Analog Review

Over multiple days in several hour gaming sessions, I was also happy with how comfortable the keyboard was to use. The wrist rest is plush and the perfect height to support my palms and avoid wrist strain while typing. The leatherette did have a tendency to make my palms sweat, however, so I would love to see a perforated option available in the future.

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This article was originally published by IGN.COM

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