A sound choice or two: Razer Huntsman V2 keyboard line review

Upgrading never sounded so good.

Image via Razer

Razer is clever in how it positions itself within the PC gaming peripheral market. Despite having brand recognition equal to giants in the peripheral space, Razer seems more in touch with its community at times. The Strider mouse pad recently showcased this by taking into account Reddit users’ opinions, and the updates to Razer’s Huntsman series of keyboards are backing up that trend. 

The Huntsman V2 lineup brings two older Huntsman keyboards up to date with Razer’s current direction. Both models share the same successes, but one of them makes its flaw heard louder than the other. 

Nuts and bolts

Razer revamped the Huntsman line with two new models that improve on some of the company’s long-running faults. The Huntsman V2 TKL is tagging in for the Huntsman Tournament Edition TKL, and the Huntsman V2 is jumping in for the Huntsman Elite.

From the outset, both the Huntsman V2 TKL and Huntsman V2 look fairly standard. Razer fans will recognize the evenly textured feel of Razer’s doubleshot PBT keycaps and the vivid color of the brand’s signature lighting. Underneath the keys are a black aluminum plate and two layers of flip-up feet. The Huntsman V2 TKL connects with a detachable USB-C cable, and the Huntsman V2 retains its predecessor’s non-detachable connection. 

Switch choices include two of Razer’s optical switches. The company offers users their pick between its Clicky Optical Switches and its second-generation Linear Optical Switches. Razer’s Clicky Optical Switches provide an audible click, while the Linear Optical Switches provide near-silent motion. Both switches offer wickedly fast performance that may not be for everyone. 

Backing the responsiveness of Razer’s Optical Switches is the company’s 8,000Hz HyperPolling. This technology can drop latency down to .2 milliseconds when used with optical switches, according to Razer. However, 8,000Hz polling has been known to spike CPU usage when using it with gaming mice and may not offer anything more than a marginal improvement. Razer allows users the option to drop their polling rate down to the standard 1,000Hz and below. 

Despite sharing Razer’s signature design, both keyboards feature some drastic visual changes. The Huntsman V2 retains its access to dedicated media keys and multi-function dial but loses its RGB underglow in the process. In ditching the underglow, Razer addressed Huntsman Elite fans’ complaints. The dual-cable connection is trimmed to a single, left-sided USB connection. Meanwhile, the Huntsman V2 TKL now sports a semi-plush wrist rest. Fans of the original Huntsman Elite also receive a standard bottom row to use whichever keycaps they prefer. 

Photo by Colton Deck

Visual changes on the Huntsman V2 TKL aren’t as plentiful, but the singular change to its appearance is a significant departure from its predecessor. Not many TKL keyboards ship with a wrist rest, so Razer’s inclusion of one on the V2 TKL is a rare, comfort-oriented addition that can make a bit of difference over time. 

The most intriguing and thoughtful addition to the Huntsman V2 line is the sound dampening foam. While this is a common practice in the enthusiast community, it isn’t too common to see larger brands include in their keyboards. Using sound dampening foam can cut down on noise to mitigate the hollow, metallic pinging and switch bottom out that are synonymous with mass-produced mechanical keyboards. 

A softer click, a quieter clack 

Choosing to put sound dampening foam in its keyboards is the wisest decision Razer could have made in improving its keyboards. There’s a lot to be said for a keyboard that won’t wake the house, and this keyboard lineup does a pretty convincing job of keeping it down. While the execution isn’t perfect across each board, the difference between a Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition and a Huntsman V2 TKL is night and day. 

For background, Razer keyboards are notoriously noisy but not as offensive as HyperX’s space bar stabilizers. There’s typically plenty of rattle and reverberation within the plastic housing. The aluminum top plate never did the previous Huntsman’s any favors, with the aluminum producing a metallic pinging sound upon bottoming out. 

Photo by Colton Deck

Now, the Huntsman V2 line is largely free of those overly loud woes, but not everything is uniform here. A noticeable difference between the Huntsman V2 TKL and the Huntsman V2 is the stabilizers. The V2 is much louder overall, and its stabilizers produce more rattle than the V2 TKL. While the larger form factor partially informs this rattling disparity of the V2, it’s a little too noticeable and seems like more could have been done to counteract the pitfall of the full-size form. The V2 stabilizers also feel like they have a touch more wobble in them, which definitely contributes to the noise. 

The quick and the… you know

Photo by Colton Deck

Both the Huntsman V2 and V2 TKL review units feature Razer’s second-generation Linear Optical Switches. With an actuation distance of 1.2 millimeters and a light 48-gram actuation force, these switches feel sharp. The red variants provide an accurate and immediate experience, adding confidence to the competitive experience. The immediacy may not be for everyone, given the unforgiving response time that may present a learning curve. 

Aside from their performance, Razer’s Linear Optical Switches offer added sound dampening. This sound dampening isn’t present in the first iteration of the Linear Optical Switches and helps quite a bit with the bottom out. Some users may not enjoy the softer bottom out. It can easily be described as a bit mushy. The dampening does nothing to hinder performance, though, and will win or lose users on personal preference alone. 

Photo by Colton Deck

The one issue with Razer’s switches is the metal key stabilizer bar. In theory, the key stabilizer is a thoughtful addition to the standard switch design in that it is meant to lower the number of moving parts in a key switch. Instead, it just makes a lot of noise. Even with the second-generation Linear Optical Switches, the rattle of each key is fairly pronounced and even more so when compared to other non-Razer keyboards.

Even after considering their noise level, the biggest downside to the second-generation Linear Optical Switches is their $10 premium charge. Adding that $10 premium to the general $10 price increase of the Huntsman V2 line might be a bit steep if you’re not in love with these switches. 

Are these for you?

Razer made some smart decisions in how it chose to upgrade its Huntsman lineup. Tossing sound dampening foam into both the Huntsman V2 TKL and the Huntsman V2 makes a massive difference in the acoustics of each keyboard. While the Huntsman V2 TKL takes the cake in terms of execution, the Huntsman V2’s wobbly stabilizers partially negated the good work of the sound dampening. The key stabilizers of the second-generation Linear Optical Switches exacerbate the issue. 

Despite the Huntsman V2 lineup’s flaws, the upgrades to these keyboards are successful in bringing their predecessors into the modern Razer catalog. Huntsman Elite fans finally have a single-cable connection and a standard bottom row, while Huntsman Tournament Edition fans gain some additional wrist comfort to take on the road. 

For those looking to upgrade their keyboards, the Huntsman V2 line provides worthy successors to some of Razer’s most trusted steeds. The only concern here is whether buyers are willing to swallow the $10 price hike for the second-generation Linear Optical Switches over the clicky alternatives. 

Pros

  • Sound dampening foam fixes pinging
  • Second-generation Linear Optical Switches
  • PBT keycaps for durability and texture
  • Single-cable connection on Huntsman V2
  • Standard bottom row on Huntsman V2
  • Detachable USB-C connection on Huntsman V2 TKL

Cons

  • $10 premium for second-generation Linear Optical Switches
  • Second-generation Linear Optical Switches pronounced rattle
  • Huntsman V2 stabilizers feel looser than Huntsman V2 TKL