Razer’s answer to the problem of standing out in a saturated mechanical gaming keyboard market is optical switches. It first introduced the new clicky optical switches on the Huntsman Elite, and it’s now bringing the linear variant to the Huntsman Tournament Edition. The big difference is that the TE model has been designed with a focus on esports, which means a more compact, no-nonsense design without unnecessary trappings like dedicated media keys.
I have to say I really like the simple, utilitarian design. It’s plain, but that’s also why it looks so good, without any protruding bits of plastic or aggressive lines. razer’s esportsoriented focus is doing it plenty of favours – just look at the razer Viper, which has a fairly clean design as well and also happens to be the best mouse razer has made in a while.
Design aside, the optical switches are a very real advancement in switch technology. I’m not going to say that you can tell the difference between them and regular mechanical switches – you can’t – but they do quite a lot for reliability and durability. And that’s really what the Huntsman TE is about. It’s a combination of good design decisions, such as the inclusion of pBT keycaps and a uSB-c connector, that come together to make it a solid and sensible offering.
The new linear optical switches on the Huntsman TE have a shorter actuation distance, which means they actuate faster. While cherry MX switches usually actuate at 2mm, and their Speed Silver switches do so at 1.2mm, these linear optical switches actuate at a mere 1mm. Furthermore, the switch actuates and resets at the same point, which facilitates more rapid key presses. This is actually a pretty important specification. If the reset point is above the actuation point, as it is with cherry MX Blues and Logitech’s GX Blues, you’ll have to release the switch further before you can trigger another key press, which means you can’t click as quickly.
The doubleshot PBT keycaps are a huge boon as well. Compared to cheaper, ABS plastic on most mechanical keyboards, PBT is denser and more resistant to key shine over time. However, my favourite thing about PBT keycaps is the sound they produce when typing. This is a much lower pitch than ABS keycaps, and it just sounds much better to my ears. Furthermore, PBT has a slightly rougher and more textured surface, which I prefer to the smooth surface of ABS. One of the best parts of the Huntsman TE is also razer’s choice of connector. It’s uSB-c, a huge step up from the flimsy micro-USB connectors still used on some of the most expensive keyboards today. The connector also slots securely into its own niche on the left, so there’s little risk of it getting unplugged when you’re playing.
The RGB backlighting is bright enough, but there are certain inconsistencies in the lighting, likely due to the doubleshot moulding process. This is more prominent on legends with fine, curved lines, such as the @ symbol or the tab key. razer put the secondary legends right next to the primary ones, which means both are located directly above the LED in each key. This is not a problem with legend or LED placement, and it probably has to do with achieving better consistency with the plastic used for the legends.
There’s one other big change on the Huntsman TE that you might not notice at first glance, and that’s the standard bottom row. Many gaming keyboards, including past models from razer, have had nonstandard bottom rows that deviate from the usual 6.25u spacebar and 1.25u keys. This could mean a shorter or longer spacebar and adjustments to ctrl, Alt, and other keys, so it was nearly impossible to find a custom keycap set that fit.
With the standard bottom row on the Huntsman TE, you’ll now have more customisation options available to you.
Each key also has its own metal stabiliser.
An excellent keyboard with several thoughtful quality-of-life improvements.
Razer’s “For Gamers. By Gamers.” slogan is etched on the back of the keyboard.
AT A GLANCE
Razer Linear Optical