The next big thing in keyboards might just be optical switches. We've seen the technology before in keyboards like Aorus' K9 Optical and Tesoro's Gram SE. Now, Razer is jumping on the optical key switch train with its Huntsman keyboards. They come in two varieties: the standard Huntsman, a fairly straightforward keyboard with optical switches, and the Huntsman Elite, a high-end deal with dedicated media controls, RGB LED switch and “underglow” lighting, and a leatherette wrist rest.
Razer Huntsman Elite opto-mechanical gaming keyboard
For those unfamiliar with the concept, optical keyswitches use an infrared sensor to detect keypresses. This arrangement presents a few advantages over traditional membrane or mechanical switches. There's no “bounce” from the impingement of a beam of light, so there's no need for a de-bouncing circuit or its delay. Optical keyswitches are also more resilient against fouling than mechanical switches, and more durable in general since there is no physical contact to wear down.
A render of a Razer Purple keyswitch
Razer describes the the switches it uses in the Huntsman and Huntsman Elite as “opto-mechanical.” They're color-coded purple, and like the company's green mechanical clickers, the purples are tactile switches with a bump at their actuation point. They register keypresses after just 1.5mm of travel, and have a lightweight actuation force of just 45 cN. That makes them somewhat like a blend of Cherry's MX Speed Silver and MX Brown switches, although as optical switches they're quite different in function.
Razer Huntsman opto-mechanical gaming keyboard
Aside from the fancy keyswitches, the Huntsman keyboards are pretty much business as usual for Razer gaming keyboards. That means you get Chroma RGB LED lighting, and on the Huntsman Elite, those blinkenlights extend to include an all-around underglow effect. The keyboards are fully programmable, and the company says that settings are saved to both the keyboard's internal memory as well as your required Razer Synapse Cloud profile so that you can take your re-binds wherever you go.
Razer's already got the new keyboards up for sale on its site. The standard Huntsman goes for $149, but you'll miss out on that nifty volume dial and the detachable magnetic wrist-rest. For those, you'll need the Huntsman Elite, priced at $199.