To make more space on their desks, gaming enthusiasts and work professionals often place their keyboards at an off-angle. But while this is an adequate solution, the keyboard still ends up taking a considerable amount of space. Often, the next best alternative is to go with a tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard, where the number-pad is removed. More recently though, the 60 per-cent keyboard is gaining traction, especially among lesser known manufacturers. Razer is one of the first well-known PC brands to deliver a 60 per-cent keyboard with the Huntsman Mini. But how good is its attempt?
With a 60 per-cent keyboard, you find an extremely compact design. On the Huntsman Mini, you find 61 keys which is roughly 60 per-cent of the keys you would find on a standard 104-key keyboard. Despite this, you still get all your primary keys that you would typically associate with an ordinary keyboard. There is also room for alphanumeric keys and primary system keys such as Ctrl, two Alt keys and a Windows key. But that aside, all the other keys are absent which include the function row, cursor arrows and the Delete key. In doing so, you find the Huntsman Mini to be extremely space efficient. It measures 11.6-inches (29.5cm) in width and 4.1-inches (10.4cm) in height, weighing less than 1lb (454g).
While this does not directly mean your typing experience will drastically improve, it does give you some added advantages. Firstly, you will have a lot more free space on your desk compared to a full-size or TKL keyboard. This means not having to adjust to make room for anything else that you want on your table. For instance, my headset and PS4 controller now sit beside my keyboard on the table whereas before, I needed to store them elsewhere. And quite frankly, this is the kind of maneuverability that you only notice once you experience a 60 per-cent keyboard.
The smaller size also means ergonomic benefits. With a wider keyboard, you often find yourself reaching for certain keys, which may put a bit of strain on your wrist or shoulder. The Huntsman Mini completely eliminates that and perhaps if you work on a setup with multiple screens, it gives you added flexibility to quickly move the keyboard around. Especially for competitive gaming enthusiasts, the smaller form factor means portability. Because the Huntsman Mini uses a detachable Type-C USB cable, it is easy to pack up and carry in a backpack.
Adjusting and user experience
For those who have extensively used any other regular keyboard before this, there is a learning curve associated with the Razer Huntsman Mini. The function keys are now secondary inputs which can be accessed by using the Fn key, which personally is not a big deal. But the up, down, left and right arrow keys now being Fn+I, Fn+K, Fn+J and Fn+L respectively is an inconvenience. Typically, when editing text, the arrow keys are crucial to navigate the page and writing so this method is hard to adapt to. Likewise, Delete is also accessed via Fn+Backspace.
But the issue is not so much with the combination per say. In fact, when pressing the Fn key, all the available essential shortcuts on the keyboard light up allowing users to adapt without having to revert to a cheat sheet. But instead of the Fn key being on the bottom right, the bottom left would have made more sense. This way, you could use your left hand for the Fn key and access shortcuts with your right hand, especially Delete or the arrow keys which we think are the more popular shortcuts.
Key-caps and switches
The Razer Huntsman Mini is equipped with ‘doubleshot’ PBT key-caps. These come with more durable tops and do not get shiny or wear off with time. More so, they feature additional legends on their leading edges for secondary inputs, working hand-in-hand with the Fn key. As for the key switches, you can either get a clicky or a linear variant of the keyboard. On our unit, we find an updated version of Razer’s optical switches, where each key is activated by cutting-off a light beam rather an via electrical contact. These purple optical key switches offer a light and clicky feel, typical to Cherry MX Blue switches. You can also get the keyboard with linear red optical switches which are less tactile.
Personally, the purple optical switches offer a good typing experience raising my average typing speed by at least 10WPM. This change is both a result of the smaller keyboard and the ease of typing offered by the key switches. The actuation force required is extremely minimal and once you have used the Huntsman Mini for a while, it is hard to revert back to a chiclet style keyboard most commonly found on laptops.
Despite its smaller form factor, the Huntsman Mini makes full use of Razer’s Synapse software. As you plug it into your PC or laptop via its braided Type-A to Type-C USB cable, it automatically prompts you to download. Once you login via your Razer account, you benefit from a good level of customization. First up, you find access to a gaming mode. While this is not anything extensive, it does allow you to disable a few keys and combinations when gaming for a better experience. That aside, there is access to a robust suite of RGB lighting options. Here, you can configure the keyboard’s brightness, when it should switch off and access a lot of Quick Effects. Personally, my favorite has to be Wheel but for further customization, you can delve into Advanced Effects and tailor them via Chroma Studio.
Using Hypershift, you can also remap keys and quite conveniently, the keyboard can carry up to five profiles in its on-board memory. This means the keyboard can remember certain configurations for different machines adding to its practical nature when carrying it around. But you cannot remap specific shortcuts designed for the 60 per-cent form factor, so that is a small limitation.
For someone familiar with the Razer ecosystem, the Huntsman Mini makes you feel right at home. Whether it is the keyboard’s look and feel or its software advantages. Plus, the keyboard’s compact form factor presents new use case scenarios not possible with a larger keyboard. Even for a first time Razer keyboard user, my experience has been excellent. Of course, the keyboard does bring with it Razer’s slightly higher price tag of Dh499. But then again, this is one of the first 60 per-cent offerings from a well known PC manufacturer. And if you are looking for a safe and reliable mechanical keyboard without diving too deep into the scene, the Huntsman Mini is a fine choice.