Did Razer Learn From Their Keyboard Sins?

Photo taken by the author.

Earlier this month I reviewed the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition. It’s a TKL gaming keyboard that seems to do everything right — on paper.

It has PBT key caps, a sleek design, and Razer’s first generation linear optical key switches. They have a fast actuation, smooth travel… and thanks to a number of baffling design decisions, emit some of the loudest and most unpleasant noises I’ve ever heard come out of a gaming keyboard.

After the release of the TE, Razer trotted out the Huntsman Mini. I happened upon a store display for the linear model in a Best Buy, and when I first touched it I thought it was broken because it made so little noise.

Turns out, Razer learned from their transgressions. The linear Huntsman Mini is my favorite keyboard I’ve tried out of their lineup, and one of the better ones they’ve ever sold — even if the price point doesn’t challenge the market standard.

Note: I bought this keyboard at Best Buy myself at full price. I don’t earn any money if you decide to get one. None of the links in this article are affiliate links, as I don’t believe in the practice. For my full reviews policy, please click here!

On with the review.

Photo taken by the author.

OVERVIEW

Before you even buy one, the Razer Huntsman Mini is a little confusing because it comes in two different varieties with two different prices. The linear model I’m reviewing here, with Razer’s new second generation linear optical switches, is $129.99 (official site). There’s also a model with Razer’s purple clicky optical switches, and that one costs less at $119.99 (official site).

The reasons behind those extra ten dollars? Lubrication and dampening. The newest version of their linear switch not only features a tweaked actuation distance to lessen potential mistakes (1.2 mm vs 1 mm on the original), it also has a silicone dampener on the bottom and some factory-installed lubrication grease.

Those last two perks are why the demo unit sounded so quiet compared to the TE, and a big part of why I like this keyboard so much more.

Holding function shows you which keys have extra functions in white. Picture taken by the author.

PERFORMANCE

In spite of the longer actuation distance, the linear Huntsman Mini still performs just as quickly for gaming as the absurdly fast switches in the Tournament Edition. Each keypress registers in an instant, and my gaming performance is right in line with what I’d expect with any other top keyboard.

The experience of using the keys is so much better thanks to the smoother travel, gentle bottom-out, and pleasant soft sound of the keyboard. There’s still just a little bit of the TE’s signature clanking, thanks to the aluminum top plate and per-key stabilizer bars, but it’s so much better that it’s astounding.

Both typing and gaming are light, soft, enjoyable, and responsive. The larger stabilized keys are still the loudest but most of the keys are enjoyable to press and respond quickly enough that any screw ups in a game are entirely my fault. The sound is strong enough that you’ll still get that pleasant mechanical-style brain feedback, but quiet enough that it won’t bother anyone else in your household. In comparison, the Huntsman TE sent metal nightmare sounds all the way down my apartment hallway. I sometimes pick it up from the corner I’ve banished it to and clank around on it, just to tease the other people I live with.

Actual final resting place of my Huntsman TE keyboard. Photo taken by the author.

Now sure, it’d be even quieter and more impressive if every key switch didn’t have a weird metal bar stabilizer grafted to it and if their choice of PBT didn’t clank quite so strongly into the metal top plate. But the linear Mini has an excellent sound for a non-modded, mass-produced keyboard and it’s such a strong improvement on the issues with the previous version that I can’t believe it.

It’s very surprising to me that Razer hasn’t yet upgraded the Huntsman TE with these switches, at least as a premium-priced option. Yes, you’re giving up .2 mm of “actuation speed,” but that’s not enough to make a noticeable difference. The performance here matches other popular fast keyboards using things like CherryMX Speed switches, and thanks to the lubrication and dampening now provides a typing experience that doesn’t make me want to claw out my brain after a few minutes.

Have I mentioned enough times that the Huntsman TE was one of the loudest keyboards I’ve ever used? It was even louder than some of the clicky models I’ve enjoyed in the past. The linear Huntsman Mini is exceptional by comparison, and it’s no contest that it’s the better option of the two. I can’t get over how much better it is in spite of the core switch being largely unchanged.

Photo taken by the author.

BUILD/DESIGN

The Huntsman Mini uses the same frame design as the larger TE, just shrunk down to accommodate the sixty percent keyboard size. It’s a sleek little device, without any extra unnecessary trim or wasted space. The Razer logo isn’t even present save for the underside of the board, so this will fit into non-gaming setups too.

Chroma RGB integration is in full effect just like on most Razer boards, and you don’t even need Synapse installed to control it if you don’t want to. The keyboard comes with several pre-installed basic effects and colors you can access through shortcut keys. Like on Razer’s larger boards, holding the function key down highlights the keys that have secondary functions, and the legends on the front of the key caps allow you to quickly find what you’re looking for.

It’s a little bit awkward not to have arrow keys if you’re used to bigger layouts, but the function key assures that you still have access to everything you’d have on a larger model.

The aluminum top plate is a bit thinner than on other popular designs, and the plastic bottom means that this keyboard is a bit lighter than it looks like it will be. But it’s still very sturdy and the small size and detachable cable means it’s easy to take on the go.

The USB-C cable is removable, and has a notched design on the end to hold it in place securely. Fortunately, the cable area is wide enough that a third party design should fit if you ever want to replace it. The underside of the keyboard includes flip out feet that can adjust the angle, and some rubberized squares to hold the board in place during use. I’ve read that some other folks have had trouble with it sliding around during intense use, but in two weeks of using it as my main keyboard it has never moved around on me.

I love that Razer includes PBT keycaps by default. A startling number of higher end gaming keyboards still don’t offer this nicer plastic as their default option, instead leaving you in the dust or requiring an additional aftermarket purchase and the cumbersome task of installing new keys yourself. The key caps are a bit basic as far as doubleshot PBT goes, with some minor molding errors inside a couple of the numbers and letters that get in the way of the RGB, and a basic rough texture that’s fine but unremarkable. But they’re very thick and durable and still feel like a premium touch that helps this keyboard deserve its price.

Photo taken by the author.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Could you get a nicer keyboard value-for-the-money-wise if you go the OEM route or buy a kit and build one yourself? Of course! But it wouldn’t have full Razer synapse integration, a cool design that might match your other gaming devices, or the precise wonderful combo of soft sound and fast performance that the linear Huntsman Mini has.

Something about this keyboard really does it for me. I got into mainstream mechanical keyboards many years ago with a big chunky aluminum Corsair model, and I’ve used around a couple dozen since then in my house plus hounded my friends to let me give theirs a spin. This is one of my all-time favorites.

It has a sleek, subtle design that’s surprising for a Razer keyboard, and the small form factor is all the rage right now. It has soft, awesome-feeling dampened switches that show Razer actually listened to all the people (like me) who complained about how absurd and loud the Huntsman TE felt. And it has full Synapse integration on one end when you need custom lighting in games like Diablo III, and basic built-in effects for those that don’t want to run one more software package.

So no, this isn’t the most extreme example of value for the money. Corsair and HyperX both make cheaper sixty percent keyboards with very similar features…minus the optical switches. As do a bunch of smaller companies you can find online.

But the Huntsman Mini has that little extra wow factor, particularly with these quiet dampened switches. It’s got little details and care in its design that you don’t always see from a mainstream tech product, and it shows that Razer is really trying to take the high end keyboard market seriously. You’re not getting absolutely everything here that you’d get from going the custom kit route, but you’re getting far more of that experience than you’d probably expect from a big gaming company.

If you’ve been looking to dive into the small, premium keyboard space, this is an excellent place to start.

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Alex Rowe

Alex Rowe

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