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Razer Huntsman V2 and V2 TKL gaming keyboards replace old favorites

With 8,000Hz polling, sound dampening and Razer's gen 2 optical switches, there's good reason to like these replacements for the Tournament Edition and Elite.

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Lori Grunin/CNET

Razer updates two of its Hunstman highly praised line of gaming keyboards with second-gen optical switches and its highest polling rate to date, 8,000Hz. The Huntsman V2 replaces the full-size Huntsman Elite and the Huntsman TKL pushes out the Huntsman Tournament Edition. And yay! -- with the move from Elite to TKL comes the option to equip it with Razer purple (clicky) optomechanical switches as well as the red (linear) optical switches. Now the v2 and the v2 TKL are more similar to each other than their predecessors were.

Both are available now. The Huntsman v2 costs $190 with the purple switches and $200 with the red; the TKL's price goes up from the TE to $150 for purple and $160 for the red switches. Razer charges more for the linear optical switches because of the silicone dampener it added to the second gen to reduce noise.

Razer has increased the polling rate of the keyboards to 8,000Hz using the same HyperPolling as the Viper 8K mouse; most gaming keyboards have polling rates of 1,000Hz and only Corsair's K series of keyboards match the new Huntsmans' at 8,000Hz. So the keyboard reports input to your system every 0.125ms rather than every 1ms, cutting latency even further. (Razer did not provide a scan rate, which is the frequency with which the keyboard controller receives keystroke input, and which makes a difference.)  

Even if you don't care much about latency -- not everyone who buys these keyboards has money or fame riding on their gameplay -- a high polling rate can be beneficial as long as it doesn't impact your system performance or frame rate and doesn't add much to the price. You may not be striking the keys every millisecond or every 10ms, but the smaller the gaps between keystroke reporting the less chance that any particular keystroke will fall between them and pause before registering. 

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Razer redesigned the media controls for the Huntsman v2, but removed the underglow lighting. Sniff.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Think of it this way: If a bus comes every 10 minutes you will likely be faced with waiting more of the time than if the bus comes every 5 minutes. You may not care about it most of the time, but there will be days you do. But when faced with one coming every 5 minutes vs. once a minute, that's a different story: The streets will get backed up with buses and it will be worse than if they came less frequently.    

You can select polling rates from anywhere between 125Hz and 8,000Hz in Razer's Synapse utility if your system balks at the amount of data the keyboard's throwing at it during intense gameplay, which can be a fairly CPU intensive process.   

The second gen optical switches aren't new -- they debuted in the Huntsman Mini -- but this marks their rollout to the rest of the line, and the first time I've gotten to test the second generation reds (my Mini evaluation unit had the purples). I'm normally not a fan of linear switches; as a keyboard pounder I always feel like my fingertips are whacking the keyboard mounting plate uncomfortably. These had somewhat of a softer landing, enough to make them comfortable enough for extended use.

The response of optical switches is more decisive than mechanical, making them far less prone to bounce and almost immediately ready to accept a subsequent press (lower latency). For those of you into double negatives, that's called zero debounce delay. Razer offers a new option in its Synapse utility to add back debounce delay in cases where latency isn't an issue, called Typing mode. I found it unnecessary for typing, but I suppose it can help if your system or software is confounded by the input coming at it far faster than it expects, something games are less likely to choke on.

People complained about the noise of the older linear switches and with the Mini Razer added silicone padding to dampen the sound. These keyboards get another level of sound dampening via a foam layer that sits between the switches and the plate. On one hand, it is pretty quiet, at least as quiet as it can be when you're slammin' the keys. 

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The Huntsman v2 TKL (nee Tournament Edition) gains a wrist rest along with the under-the-hood improvements.

Lori Grunin/CNET

But it makes the hollow, somewhat high-pitched, plasticky sound made by the longer keys -- backspace, enter, shift and of course, the space bar -- stand out irritatingly against the almost deadened sound of the rest of the keys. Thankfully, all of them feel secure and stable regardless of where on the key you strike.

After using the full-size keyboard and its quiet optical switches, return to the noise of the clicky switches on the TKL was jarring; all the keys sound the same as the big keys on the v2, just with added click. As I said when I tested them on the Mini, whether you'll like them or not depends on if you're sensitive to slight differences in actuation points (when a keypress registers) and reset points (when the key is ready to register a subsequent press). I like a response gap between them because it keeps me from too many accidental double taps when my fingers get twitchy, a bigger issue than missed presses when I'm running, crouching and shooting; double tapping when you're trying to crouch can be especially frustrating.

Both keyboards received some cosmetic surgery over their predecessors, including standard keycap sizes on the bottom row so they're compatible with most replacement caps; they still use Doubleshot PBT keycaps for durability. The Huntsman v2 lost the pretty underglow illumination, but in exchange it ditched the somewhat uncomfortable wrist rest that allowed the underglow to pass through. It still attaches with a noticeable magnetic snap and if you yearn for the underglow there's always the Huntsman v2 Analog. The TKL gained a wrist rest in a more petite size, but it doesn't attach in any way, which can be annoying. 

Razer also moved the cable from right of center to the left side of the v2, though I still found it a bit obstructive because it's relatively stiff so it's hard to tuck out of the way neatly. And both continue Razer's frustrating trend of not letting the backlight shine through the secondary uses of the function keys. Oh, the irony of turning on the lights just to find the keys for changing the brightness of the keyboard backlight.