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The Razer Huntsman V2 Analog gaming keyboard presents some exciting opportunities for PC gaming, but you'll need to jump a few hurdles to enjoy it to its fullest.
While a good gaming keyboard and mouse will almost always trump a controller in competitive environments, it's hard to deny the analog upsides of a gamepad. Feathering the pedal to make it safely around a corner without losing speed, creeping up behind an enemy to deliver a devastating backstab, and slowly inching across a thin platform to make it safely to the other side--these are just a few of the actions that require the meticulous control of an analog gamepad. With the Razer Huntsman V2 Analog keyboard, Razer has tried to bridge the gap by evolving its classic Huntsman gaming keyboard into an analog device capable of providing that pinpoint input.
The Huntsman V2 Analog keyboard is capable of providing that accurate 360-degree analog movement, and while there are some significant hurdles that come with that, Razer has also used its new key switches to add some transformative features that take unique advantage of its analog capabilities. Dual-step actuation gives users the ability to assign two actions to a single key. The analog movement is impressive on its own, but being able to perform actions like equipping a grenade and throwing it with a single key is a game-changer and one of the most exciting features I've seen added to a gaming keyboard in some time.
Setup and performance
The Razer Huntsman V2 Analog gaming keyboard features analog optical key switches, which means they're able to detect how far a specific key is being pressed. This allows for more direct control over how fast a character moves, among other things. You don't have to repeatedly tap the WASD keys when you need to slow down a vehicle or move slowly in a game to remain undetected. This works by binding specific keys to different aspects of a controller, such as the sticks and triggers, as the V2 Analog utilizes the XInput API that lets Windows read your inputs as an Xbox controller.
This is one aspect of how the analog keys work, but you're also able to adjust the actuation point of each key, making it so a keystroke isn't registered until you push down a certain distance. In addition to that, you can set a second actuation point, giving one key two different functions. Being able to equip a grenade in Apex Legends with a light press and then throw it by pushing the same key further is an exciting utilization of the analog functionality, even more so than having the keyboard emulate a controller. It opens up the possibilities for quicker performance in competitive settings, and the potential for unique keybindings with the dual-step actuation is vast.
The conversion of keyboard inputs to those of a controller is not perfectly recognized in games. Binding the WASD keys to the left analog stick and moving around will turn all in-game button prompts into Xbox controller inputs--instead of asking you to press E on your keyboard to pick up an item, it'll ask you to press the X button. Once you press E to pick up the item, most games will recognize you're using a keyboard and switch back to key prompts. This can be a bit distracting if you're using keys not mapped to controller buttons. An easy solution to this back-and-forth is to map every possible action to a controller's input. This will keep the on-screen prompts from changing, and while it won't be an issue for those familiar with their favorite game's controls, it does produce a hurdle, especially for those learning a game for the first time.
This makes setting up the Huntsman V2 Analog a bit complicated. Binding keys means they won't be recognized as standard keyboard keys. My first time playing Grand Theft Auto V, I was able to quickly bind WASD to my left analog stick. This allowed for analog movement, while I used the rest of my keys' default PC controls for every other action. This worked well until I got into a car and tried to drive. The PC controls required me to press W to accelerate, but I had already assigned that to my analog stick. This meant I couldn't drive until I assigned Right Trigger to a key in Razer's Synapse software.
I also found that in some cases, if I didn't map all of the controller's functions to my keys, the game wouldn't work properly. For example, I tried using the WASD keys as an analog stick in Dark Souls Remastered and keeping the rest of my default PC controls, but this particular game wouldn't recognize key presses when moving with the rebound WASD keys. You'll need to bind every aspect of the game's controls to have the proper experience, and after I backed out of the game and did exactly that, it worked flawlessly. The setup is easy once you know what to do, but with the sheer amount of options at your disposal, it can be overwhelming and time-consuming when setting binds for each game.
As for the analog key switches, they work as advertised. At first, it felt like I was learning how to use analog sticks for the first time. Not pushing all the way down on a key felt unnatural, as I typically only use a keyboard and mouse when pinpoint-precise aiming is more important than analog control. And while the analog keys did provide more accurate movement, it took a long time to get used to. It was eventually easy enough for me to do what I wanted to, making games like Dark Souls feel viable on a keyboard and mouse, but ultimately, I still felt I'd perform better with a controller.
The Razer Huntsman V2 Analog can also be used as a non-analog keyboard, with no need to map inputs to a controller or customize actuation points--though I highly recommend utilizing dual-step actuation even if you're not using the keyboard for analog movement. Thanks to Razer's excellent optical switches, key presses are read sooner than your typical switch, making for slightly quicker inputs. Of course, this also means that if you're not yet used to the optical switch, you may produce some typos or misclicked inputs--it's something I've grown accustomed to, and now, I rarely find myself making errors like this.
One issue I came across while using the keyboard was when I would switch back to a controller. The V2 Analog appears to take priority over controllers, so when I'd pick up a gamepad for Rocket League, my Xbox controller was being read as a second player, even if I didn't set any controller bindings on the V2 Analog. As soon as I unplugged the keyboard, it went back to normal. There are workarounds to this, as Steam lets you choose your preferred controller for each individual game, but it's worth noting if you like to switch between the two different control methods.
Razer Huntsman V2 Analog specs
|Switch type: Razer analog optical switch|
|Keycaps: Razer doubleshot PBT keycaps|
|Size: Full size|
|Connectivity: USB-C & USB-A 3.0 (also comes with USB-A adapter)|
|Onboard memory: Up to 5 key-bind profiles|
|Extras: Chroma RGB lighting, magnetic wrist rest, media keys, USB 3.0 passthrough|
The Huntsman V2 Analog gaming keyboard features the same overall shape and design as the Huntsman Elite, making it a supremely well-designed peripheral that feels as high-end as its $250 price tag suggests. The Huntsman is built like a tank, feeling heavy, substantial, and like one solid piece of metal and plastic--I could see Hitman's Agent 47 using it to take out a target. On top of the keyboard, the keys feature a slight amount of texture, giving fingers the right amount of grip to hug the keys without making it difficult to glide across them.
The Huntsman Elite's wrist rest also returns for the V2 Analog with a slight redesign. The Elite's wrist rest features a plastic border running along the outside of the plush leatherette pad, whereas the V2 Analog has done away with this border. This makes for a more comfortable experience, allowing your hands and wrists to rest however you like without fear of plastic digging slightly into your skin.
In a lot of ways, the Razer Huntsman V2 Analog feels more like the next iteration of the Huntsman Elite than an entirely different product, so if you already own the Huntsman Elite, you don't necessarily need to upgrade--unless you're particularly excited about the analog key switches. At $250, the V2 Analog is $50 more than the Huntsman Elite, which feels like an appropriate bump for the analog features and overall improvements. The Huntsman Elite is still a fantastic keyboard, however, so if you don't want or need the extra features, you can save a bit of money by going with the Elite version instead.
The bottom line
The Razer Huntsman Elite is one of the best mechanical gaming keyboards out there, and even if you ignore the analog functions entirely, the Huntsman V2 Analog is just as good, if not slightly better than its Elite predecessor. Being able to map your keyboard to a controller and take advantage of that analog control adds to the utility of the Huntsman, and the dual-step actuation can be a game-changer, especially in games where equipping items and using them take two different inputs. It has some considerable hurdles--those expecting plug-and-play for V2 Analog's innovative features should probably hold off--but if you're a fan of customization and tinkering, the Huntsman V2 Analog can be a great gaming keyboard.
- Excellent build quality
- Razer's switches continue to be among the industry's best
- Improved wrist pad provides further comfort
- Dual-step actuation is a fantastic implementation of the analog keys
- Analog key switches work well...
- ...but only after a considerable amount of remapping and customization
- Huntsman V2 Analog takes priority over controllers, making switching back and forth a hassle
About the author: Mat Paget used the Razer Huntsman V2 Analog gaming keyboard as his full-time keyboard for a week, using it for both gaming and work. Razer provided the V2 Analog for review purposes.