Razer's Huntsman V2 Analog Packs Three Fancy New Features for Discerning Keyboard Fanatics

Illustration for article titled Razer's Huntsman V2 Analog Packs Three Fancy New Features for Discerning Keyboard Fanatics
Photo: Sam Rutherford

With so many people stuck at home, upgrading the good ‘ole home gaming battlestation has become sort of a hobby. Razer’s new Huntsman V2 Analog, the company’s latest flagship keyboard, has three new features that may be worth the splurge.

The most important new upgrade on the $250 Huntsman V2 Analog is support for adjustable actuation heights, which can be customized on a per-key basis from as shallow as 1.5mm up to as deep as 3.6mm. To make this happen, Razer took the second-gen linear optical switches it debuted last year and then upgraded them with a new laser sensor that allows users to decide how deep a keystroke should be, instead of it being set in stone at the factory.

Illustration for article titled Razer's Huntsman V2 Analog Packs Three Fancy New Features for Discerning Keyboard Fanatics
Photo: Sam Rutherford
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This is similar to what’s available on Steelseries’ Apex Pro (which is a reason why it’s one of our top-ranked gaming keyboards) and it provides a handy way to deliver the more responsive feel that people often prefer in faster-paced games like CS:GO and other shooters, while still allowing you to drop keystroke sensitivity down in a slower-paced game like Stellaris.

The second big upgrade has to do with the analog part of the Huntsman V2's name. Razer added the ability for the keyboard to register full analog input, so instead of a key press simply registering as on or off, the Huntsman V2 Analog can tell how hard you’re pressing. It’s just like the analog shoulder buttons you get on all the major console controllers. It might take some fiddling around to get it working just the way you want, but this means the Huntsman V2 Analog can more accurately simulate the gas and brake pedals in a racing game, or distinguish between a walk, run, or dash based solely on how hard you press.

For those who love some nice RGB, there’s a bonus strip of lighting around the base of the keyboard.
For those who love some nice RGB, there’s a bonus strip of lighting around the base of the keyboard.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

The third major new feature is dual-step actuation, which allows you to split a key press into two different actions, like equipping a grenade in a shooter by pressing down, and then throwing the grenade when you let go of the key. Admittedly, this is a bit more of a niche feature, and while it might save time in some games, the titles where this might be useful already offer their own take on this setting, such as the Smart Cast setting in League of Legends.

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Aside from its three big additions, the Huntsman V2 Analog also comes with a handy magnetic wrist rest, built-in media controls, and a passthrough USB 3 port. And of course, like so many of Razer’s gaming peripherals, the Huntsman V2 Analog comes with customizable per-key RGB lighting, doubleshot PBT keycaps, the ability to save settings directly to the keyboard, full Chroma support, and syncing with a number of other RGB-lit devices, such as Nanoleaf lights.

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While I’ve only been using the Huntsman V2 Analog for a couple of days, there are some things I like a lot already. The first is that support for adjustable actuation heights makes it much more forgiving to try out a keyboard with sensitive actuation points. For example, Corsair’s K100 keyboard comes with a hair trigger 1mm actuation height, which is often seen as being faster and more responsive from hardcore competitive gamers.

However, keys with actuation points that shallow are also super twitchy, which means simply resting your fingertips on a key can often register as a full keystroke. The big problem for a lot of people is that they simply don’t know if they like short actuation points, deep actuation points, or something in between. And on the Huntsman V2 Analog, you now get the ability to try out a keyboard with shallow actuation, without the need to toss out or return the keyboard if you discover that’s not your jam. Additionally, if you find shallow key presses work well in some situations but not in others, you can also set actuation points individually on a per game or even a per key basis. Think twitchy WASD keys, and then deeper keystrokes for spells or loadout options.

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While I don’t love keyboards with dual USB cables, the addition of passthrough USB can be a handy option.
While I don’t love keyboards with dual USB cables, the addition of passthrough USB can be a handy option.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

Aside from that, the Huntsman V2 Analog simply feels like a well-constructed device. Its base is solid and even comes with an LED lightship that circles the base of the keyboard. On top of that, Razer includes a USB-C to USB-A adapter, so you can more easily connect the Huntsman V2 to a new laptop that might not come with bigger USB-A ports. And as for the switches themselves, while they are a bit loud when you bottom out, Razer’s linear optomechanical switches have a really smooth, even stroke that feels very balanced, even if you hit them from an angle by accident.

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The one obvious downside is the Huntsman V2's price, because at $250, it costs $50 more than a Steelseries Apex Pro, which is a significant jump up, but not super surprising, because the Apex Pro doesn’t come with full analog switches or Razer’s dual-step actuation.

Illustration for article titled Razer's Huntsman V2 Analog Packs Three Fancy New Features for Discerning Keyboard Fanatics
Photo: Sam Rutherford
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For a lot of people, an extra fancy gaming keyboard with all the bells and whistles might feel like overkill. But for more picky gamers or those who really get down on customizing every single aspect of their keyboards’ performance, Razer’s Huntsman V2 Analog has just pushed that bar just a little bit higher.

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

I’m going to nerd out a bit here because this article reads more like a press release and provides some incorrect information.

These switches, like every other switch on the market, are made by one of the handful of Chinese manufacturers. In this case, the supplier is Dongguan Mingjian Electronic Technology. Yeah, that’s quite a mouthful. What that means is that you can get those same exact switches on a keyboard for about $120. The caveat is that those boards tend to be ugly as hell.

As for the switches, by their nature, opto-electric is analog. The adjustable actuation height has nothing to do with the light source which, by the way, is LED not laser. The slider (the thing on which the keycap sits) has an opening that allows light to pass through when the key is pressed. The photo receptor can detect how much light it’s receiving and that’s what determines actuation.

The circuitry on the older, cheaper switches could only output a digital signal whereas these output analog. The issue with those is that they set the actuation point too high up in the travel given how light the switches were. So they could have easily fixed them by making them register further down the travel instead having them trigger the moment they detected light. That or a heavier spring, which may have been less favorable for gamers.

Ignoring that, these seem to be good switches. From what I’ve heard, they’re extremely smooth, better than both Cherry and the expensive third party switches people gush over and pointlessly slather in lube.

Anyway, good on Razer for designing an attractive keyboard around those switches. It’s nice that they’re using doubleshot keycaps and a decent font instead of the cheesy gamer look. However, this keyboard is too expensive for the casual market. The aforementioned smoothness is nice, but not overly apparent either. Admittedly, the whole market is getting out of hand on pricing because of the high end, but there are still plenty of good options that run $50-$100 cheaper, and at this price point you’re running up against keyboards that really feel premium. What’s more, they’re never going to attract the snobs. Those guys reject anything pre-built out of hand and will happily drop $500+ on a keyboard for the sake of exclusivity.