Analog technology now arrives on the youngest of Razer keyboards for tenfold sensations in game.
Those who appreciate minimalist workspaces or who simply have to deal with significant space constraints now have access to many attractive, ergonomic and high-performance small format keyboards. Razer wants to set the bar even higher and presents a new version of its Huntsman Mini equipped with analog switches.
For those who are not familiar with the Huntsman Mini, it is one of the benchmarks in the 60% ultra-compact keyboard segment; this means that it ignores the numeric keypad, the function keys, the arrow keys, and all the other elements that are not strictly essential in the context of gaming. The goal: to minimize clutter as much as possible.
There are also Razer’s proprietary optical switches, whose formidable efficiency is well established. In addition to being extremely fast, they have a reduced physical contact surface. These optical switches therefore tend to be particularly durable.
So far, nothing new under the sun. The real special thing about this Huntsman Mini is that these optical switches are also analog. To our knowledge, this is the very first compact keyboard to benefit from this technology.
An additional dimension of control
Traditionally, keyboards are all based on standard switches, which operate in an ON / OFF, or 0 / 1 pattern. The principle is the same on a mechanical or membrane keyboard. Press a key, and a contactor pulls down to close the corresponding portion of the circuit; the value of the current therefore changes from 0 to 1 (arbitrary unit). Congratulations, you have made a strike!
In the context of analog keyboards, the approach is a little different. Instead of a simple contactor, each key here is equipped with a potentiometer connected to the central axis. This means that instead of going directly from 0 to 1 at the moment of contact, it is possible to obtain all intermediate values. Half press your key, and you will get a weaker signal.
It is a concept that has been found since the dawn of time on other devices such as joysticks or triggers; controller regulars are therefore familiar with it. On the other hand, this approach is still quite in its infancy on the keyboard side. For the moment, there are only a handful of models from specialized equipment manufacturers such as Razer, Steelseries or Wooting.
At first glance, the idea may seem far-fetched, even very counterproductive for those who have a vigorous strike. But on paper, the interest is quite obvious. This feature comes into its own in certain genres like racing games. Indeed, playing a game like Gran Turismo 7 on a standard keyboard is a real ordeal.
Since this peripheral does not offer any means of adjusting the controls like a joystick, steering wheel or pedal, the only way to avoid getting stuck in the stands at the first turn is to play on the pressing time by frantically tapping the chosen key. Not ergonomic for a penny and disastrous in terms of immersion.
With an analog keyboard, all you have to do is press each key more or less hard to adjust the acceleration or adjust its trajectory with a finesse hitherto unimaginable on a keyboard.
And it’s not just racing games; many genres could benefit directly, provided they allow time for mechanical memory to settle. Indeed, it will be possible to assign totally different actions to different pressure levels; for example the same key could thus be used to equip, then to throw a grenade.
No azerty version yet
Whether the extra cost is worth it remains to be seen, as Razer is obviously not giving away this feature. This keyboard is already expensive in normal times for a 60% (129.99€ with Clicky optical switches); you will still have to add €30 to get the Analog version (€159.99).
Note that for the moment, the azerty version of this model is not yet available on the brand’s website. On the other hand, the product is already displayed in euros, and its big brother the Huntsman V2 Analog does indeed have a model with a European layout. The French version of the Huntsman Mini Analog should therefore probably arrive shortly.