Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition gaming keyboard review

SWITCH TYPE
Opto-mechanical red
LIGHTING
Full RGB
PRICE
R2,499
SUPPLIER
Apex Interactive

I’ll just come straight out and admit it – I’ve never been a fan of Razer’s peripherals in the past. Especially the keyboards, noisy contraptions with uncomfortably scratchy switches that were trying so hard to be Cherry For Gamers. Favouring ugly gaming fonts, over-designed layouts, and fancy lighting over form, functionality, and feel. The experience was like handing a troubled teenager a scratchpad and asking them to design the edgiest keyboard they could imagine. Then going even edgier on the final draft.

I say all of this so it’s abundantly clear just how impressed I am by the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition.

Tournament Edition is typically marketing speak for “tenkeyless” or 80%, meaning they’ve removed the numpad. I say “typically” because the Huntsman TE, a result of Razer humbly crowd-sourcing design principles from Reddit’s mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, has a few other neat additions over its standard Huntsman brethren.

The star of this show is the opto-mechanical red switch, a linear version of the clicky opto-mechanical purple switch found on the Huntsman. The opto-mechanical red is a contactless switch that uses a beam of light to determine the “press” or actuation point. Designed primarily for speed and lightness, and with stabilisers on every key, these switches are smooth. So buttery smooth, in fact, that they will put any Cherry or custom switch to shame.

Other features boasted by the Huntsman TE include PBT double shot keycaps, a more textured and fingertip-oil-averse form of hard plastic featuring Razer’s much more elegant font styling which means you won’t want to rip your eyes out every time you look at them. It also features a standardised key set, meaning budding keyboard enthusiasts can happily swap out the standard keycaps for custom ones if they prefer. The keyboard has an aluminium base plate which trades keeping the weight down in exchange for adding a noticeably loud “clack” when the keys bottom out. Finally, Razer enters modern times with the hotly requested USB3 Type-C connector cable.

The net result is a fantastic keyboard, especially considering its price point and the features packed into it. A fantastic keyboard that is nonetheless very difficult for me to recommend to ninety percent of people.

Hold on! Let me explain. See, while the opto-mechanical red switches do feel like my fingers are having sex with this keyboard thanks to that buttery smooth key press, the combination of a 1mm actuation point with a 40g actuation force makes life a nightmare. You could quite honestly blow on a key and it will register that as a key press. In my experience it’s way too sensitive for the average person, and that’s not just from a typing perspective. Make no mistake, your gaming sessions will also be affected. You will routinely experience accidental key presses, veering off to the side in racing games, or activating your skills in first person shooters because your fingers rested just too much on a certain key.

It speaks of the same design principles of past Razer, with its target market of people with more money than sense, looking to buy into that gamer aesthetic that gets old so fast. On the box Razer touts the speed of its actuation as its biggest selling point. In practice, unless you’re an esports athlete looking for a 1ms improvement to your performance, the average gamer is not going to notice an improvement. This is a massive tradeoff that means you will have to actively train your brain not to let your fingers drop onto the keyboard while gaming, which is just exhausting in practice. I can’t imagine how much worse it is if you’ve got heavier fingers, or generally hindered motor skills. An absolute travesty, because the smoothness of these switches is truly unrivalled at this price point.

BOTTOM LINE
Razer has done spectacular things for linear mechanical keyboards with the Huntsman Tournament Edition. Featuring the smoothest keypresses this side of mainstream production lines, it is an exquisite foray into true enthusiast-level design let down only by its insistence on relying on its esports target market rather than its otherwise excellent feature set.
PROS
Gorgeous aesthetic that combines Chroma RGB with PBT keycaps
Buttery smooth linear switches
USB Type-C and lightweight tenkeyless design aids portability
CONS
High actuation point means frequent typos
Light actuation is definitely not for everyone
It’s quite a noisy boy
80
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