Razer Huntsman Mini Review: Programming Remains the Bane of Mini Keyboards

Rating: 5/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $120
Hunstman Mini on desk
Michael Crider

The Razer Huntsman Mini is Razer’s smallest keyboard ever, shrinking the features of the popular Hunstman and BlackWidow lines down into a semi-standardized 60% keyboard layout. It’s a solid little board, with more features than I would have expected, and Razer’s fancy optical switches as the highlight of the list.

Here's What We Like

  • Tiny size and weight
  • Standard layout
  • Detachable USB-C cable

And What We Don't

  • Very limited programming
  • "Rattle" noise on every key
  • Expensive

Which is why it’s such a lamentable shame that Razer neglected the software side of the equation. The Huntsman Mini is set to compete with a range of “enthusiast” keyboards like the GK61 and the Anne Pro. But those keyboards allow full programming of their function commands, an essential element of a smaller keyboard that requires adaptation to use.

Razer Huntsman Mini
Michael Crider

Razer allows some programming on the Huntsman Mini. But approximately half of the keyboard can’t be reassigned on the function layer—you’re stuck with the default layout, as emblazoned on the front side of the keycaps. It’s an unpardonable mistake on a board like this.

The Hunstman Mini could have been a 60% board for the masses—a portable mechanical keyboard you could buy at Best Buy and customize to your heart’s content. Instead, it’s relegated to a nice but deeply flawed entry in Razer’s lineup. I can only recommend a purchase if you’re willing to adapt to the keyboard, instead of having the keyboard adapt to you.

Hardware

Looking at the Huntsman Mini on its own, you’d struggle to even tell that it comes from Razer. The 60% layout doesn’t leave any room for logos or other adornments: The only clue is in those blazing LEDs, which are by no means unique to Razer at this point. You might notice a couple of premium touches, in fact, the aluminum top plate and braided USB-C cable.

Razer Huntsman Mini, rear
Michael Crider

Flip the board over, and you’ll no longer be in doubt as to who makes it. “FOR GAMERS, BY GAMERS” is embossed in the plastic of the lower shell, along with the wide label sticker and some very sturdy rubber feet. A nice touch: The fold-out feet come in two stages, allowing for three different angles for comfort.

Razer Huntsman Mini USB-C port
Michael Crider

An even nicer touch: That sturdy, reversible, braided, six-foot long USB-C cable is also detachable, so the keyboard travels well. In fact the whole thing is great as a portable board, lack of a Bluetooth option notwithstanding. While the keyboard’s deck is aluminum, its lightweight plastic body means that it won’t weigh you down in a laptop bag.

Typing and Gaming

I was eager to try out Razer’s optical switches, and the Huntsman Mini comes equipped with Razer’s second-gen linear design. This means that there’s no bump at all when pressing it, and it doesn’t make as much noise as a clicky or tactile switch.

Also, it’s optical—that is to say, it registers a keypress by breaking a beam of light instead of closing an electrical circuit like a normal mechanical switch. Razer alleges that this makes its keyboard the fastest on the market. I’ll take their word for it because I don’t have the superhuman reaction time it would take to actually notice that difference.

Razer Huntsman Mini key switch
Michael Crider

Actually using the keys is pleasant enough. They’re a bit stiffer than normal Cherry or Gateron switches, with some extra resistance at the bottom of a keypress, which feels similar to the interior foam of a premium “silenced” switch. Not that these linear switches are quiet: quite the opposite. Because the unique stem design has an exterior metal stabilizer, every single keypress has a small bit of “rattle” to it on the release like a tiny space bar. It’s pretty dang noisy, and the mechanism is a little more wobbly than I’m used to. Razer also offers this board with clicky optical switches.

Using the Huntsman Mini as my work keyboard for several weeks, I grew accustomed to its key feel and noise. I’d say it’s perfectly serviceable if you like linear switches. It’s especially nice that Razer includes PBT plastic for the keycaps, something that isn’t a given even on its most expensive boards. It makes typing feel a lot better.

Razer Huntsman Mini WASD cluster
Michael Crider

Playing games with the Huntsman Mini took a lot more adjustment. I tend to bottom out the keys when I get into it, and that extra bit of firmness at the bottom of the action didn’t agree with me. I’ll be happy to get back to my normal switch for gaming, Kailh BOX Yellows, which are much more smooth and even. It’s nothing intolerable but may take a lot of adjustment depending on what you’re used to.

Software

Which is more than I can say for Razer’s software on the Hunstman Mini. It’s handled by the same Synapse program as every other Razer peripheral, which allows you to select your lighting and macro settings. The software itself is fine … the programming limitations are not.

While you can rearrange the layout of every standard key, the default function layer for the first two rows and half of the second is locked. The intention is clear: Razer wanted to make sure that the function sublegends—the white printing on the front of the keycaps—would remain true no matter what the user did in Synapse software.

Razer Synapse screenshot, Huntsman Mini

In practice, this makes the Huntsman Mini almost unusable for me. My preferred layout on a standard 60% board is to use the Caps Lock key as a Function button, then the right Alt, Windows, Menu, and Control buttons as standard arrow keys (no Fn modifier needed).

That’s almost possible on the Huntsman Mini: The Caps Lock key can be reprogrammed on the top layer, but the Fn button itself cannot. So, I tried for my backup layout: standard Fn button, with the arrow keys bound to WASD in the function layer—also impossible. The W key’s function layer cannot be changed from Volume Up, though the A, S, and D buttons can be modified.

Razer Synapse screenshot, Huntsman Mini

In an attempt to make this keyboard more user friendly, Razer has alienated pretty much anyone who’s used to a 60% board being adaptable to their user style. It’s a shocking failure for a product so clearly inspired by, and intended to compete with, enthusiast-focused mini boards.

Better Choices Are Out There

It’s possible that Razer could update the Synapse software and the Huntsman Mini’s firmware to fix the programming issues. But as a gadget reviewer, I can only review what I’ve been given, and even with a few weeks of grade time, there’s no indication that Razer actually wants to change the behavior of the keyboard.

And that’s too bad, because assuming you like Razer’s optical switches, this is a good little board that makes an excellent travel companion. But with its lack of programming options and relatively high price, I can’t recommend it to either newcomers or mechanical keyboard veterans.

Razer Huntsman Mini from the side
Michael Crider

For half the price of the Huntsman Mini, you can get a GK61 with similar optical switches, full programmability, and admittedly a much cheaper case and keycaps. Or if you’re looking for something from a more well-known brand, there’s the Ducky One 2 Mini, which admittedly requires some pretty tedious use of key commands and dip switches. But if you’re going to spend money on a premium tiny keyboard, I’d splurge on the Drop Alt, which has a better layout, body, and programming, and can use whatever switches you want.

In short: There are better options than the Huntsman Mini, no matter what your budget or feature requirements. That might change if the software improves, but for the moment, look elsewhere for a tiny gaming keyboard.

Rating: 5/10
Price: $120

Here’s What We Like

  • Tiny size and weight
  • Standard layout
  • Detachable USB-C cable

And What We Don't

  • Very limited programming
  • "Rattle" noise on every key
  • Expensive

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »

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