Do you rotate your keyboard at an off-angle relative to your monitor when you play video games? It’s a popular habit among pro and competitive players who want a more comfortable, ergonomic setup for gaming. With that in mind, a growing number of gamers are putting aside their feature-laden, full-size gaming keyboards for smaller ones.
Typically, those have been tenkeyless (TKL) models, the industry lingo for keyboards with the number pad lopped off. Of late, though, even-smaller boards in the “60 percent” form factor have been building up steam, mostly among lesser-known, enthusiast-minded keyboard makers. Plenty of companies offer TKL models, but with the Huntsman Mini ($119.99 for the purple-switch version tested here), Razer is among the first of the big PC-gaming brands to make a 60 percent keyboard in the name of esports. And it’s a pretty good effort.
Rolling Back to the 60s
For the uninitiated, a 60 percent keyboard is an ultra-compact design with 60 to 65 keys, or roughly 60 percent of the layout you’d get on a standard 104-key keyboard. With 61 keys, the Huntsman Mini has all the keys you’d find in the primary “typewriter” section of an ordinary keyboard: the alphanumeric keys, plus primary system keys like the two Ctrl and two Alt keys and the Windows key. All the other keys, such as the function row, the cursor arrows, and Delete, have been stripped away to make the keyboard more space-efficient.
The Huntsman Mini comes in black or white (“Mercury”) body-and-key designs. Measuring 1.5 by 11.6 by 4.1 inches and weighing 15.3 ounces, the Huntsman Mini is significantly more compact and lighter than most gaming keyboards. Losing all those keys reduces the footprint by a lot. That doesn’t necessarily confer any typing-related benefits, but it does have other advantages.
For one thing, if you’re switching from a full-size or TKL keyboard, you’ll have a lot more free space on your desk, which you can use to angle and rotate the keyboard to suit your style. You can easily rotate the board to create an ergonomic setup for gaming, then move it back parallel to your screen again when you need to type. I recently purchased a dual monitor arm and found myself reorienting the keyboard whenever I adjusted either screen or switched my attention between them. It’s much easier to make these kinds of spot tweaks with a small keyboard. With a full-size board, I wouldn’t have room to turn or shift it at all.
I never thought this kind of adjustability was something I needed in my gaming or computing life until I gained it, and it has ergonomic benefits. With a wider keyboard, you don’t feel the strain on your shoulder from pulling your arms in front of you to type. That said, if you find yourself frequently typing with your head tilted to look at a second screen, or feel pain in your non-dominant shoulder after long gaming sessions, having a smaller keyboard gives you the opportunity for a more flexible setup.
The small size also lends itself to another consideration that competitive players prioritize more than the average gamer does: portability. Since Razer uses a detachable USB Type-C cable here, rather than a fixed-in-place one, it’s really easy to pack up and carry this keyboard when you need to. (Just don’t forget the cable.)
The reduced design, though, will present some initial challenges for players used to full-size and TKL gaming keyboards. The functions from all the lost keys live on as secondary inputs accessed using the Fn key. The up, down, left, and right arrow keys, for example, are relegated to the respective combinations Fn+I, Fn+K, Fn+J, and Fn+L. If you use these keys frequently, it can feel like an inconvenience.
Likewise, if you don’t use shortcuts or key combos on an everyday basis, you’ll need to start. Minimalist (60 percent or smaller) keyboards are often dubbed “programmer” keyboards for a reason: They appeal to power users who are very comfortable with a keyboard and use just a limited subset of keys, to the point where convenience isn’t necessarily a primary concern. That makes the Huntsman Mini an inherently niche design.
If you’re up to making the switch, though, the keyboard comes with multiple features to help you learn and keep track of its more complicated finger maneuvers. The Huntsman Mini comes with “doubleshot” PBT keycaps (these have more durable keytops that don’t get shiny or wear off) with additional legends on the leading edges for keys with secondary inputs. Also, when you press and hold the Fn key, the keys with essential shortcuts light up in white. These little touches make it much easier to adapt to the 60 percent design without having to keep a manual or cheat sheet of shortcuts handy.
Ultimately, though, the Huntsman Mini stands apart because it comes with the many unique gaming-focused features that Razer builds into some of its other keyboards, including an updated version of Razer’s optical switches. As we’ve discussed in past reviews, Razer makes some claims about the advantages of these switches that we can’t substantiate via anecdotal testing; we’d need specialized, esoteric equipment. (With optical switches, the key is activated by the cutting-off of a light beam, rather than the making of an electrical contact.)
Our test keyboard has Razer’s “purple,” clicky optical key switches, somewhat akin to the classic Cherry MX Blue. Razer also offers the Huntsman Mini (for a $10 higher list price) with its own “linear red” optical switches, which don’t have the characteristic tactile bump of the clicky style. That said, the switches on my sample impart that Razer keyboard feel—responsive, with a very light touch.
60 Percent Makes Synapse 100 Percent Important
As a Razer keyboard, the Huntsman Mini supports the company’s configuration software, Synapse. Synapse gives you the ability to remap its keys, configure the board’s RGB lighting, and save software-specific configuration profiles. You can save up to five profiles to carry in the Huntsman Mini’s onboard memory, adding to the keyboard’s practical portability.
Though there’s nothing new or specific to the Huntsman Mini about Synapse, the software feels even more essential than usual with it. Having the ability to remap the keys relegated to shortcuts for specific games can be very useful.
Unfortunately, you cannot remap the 60-percent-specific shortcuts, so you can’t swap in a secondary input without removing the input it’s replacing from that layout. That’s a small limitation, but a limitation nonetheless.
Little Keyboard Talks a Big Game
If you’ve used a Razer keyboard before, especially the Huntsman Tournament Edition, you’ll recognize the Razer look and feel, and the software advantages. At the same time, the compact form factor opens the door for new use cases, to see the Huntsman in a new light.
At $119.99 with clicky purple switches or $129.99 with linear red optical switches, the Huntsman Mini is slightly higher-priced than many of its most popular counterparts, such as the $99.99 Ducky One 2 Mini RGB. That said, that’s a relatively small price bump for Razer. The unique features and software support make the Huntsman Mini an appealing option for Razer-familiar gamers looking to try a 60 percent design wi
thin a known ecosystem, and without diving into the daunting nooks and crannies of the really serious mechanical-keyboard scene.
Razer Huntsman Mini Specs
|Number of Keys||61|
|Key Switch Type||Razer Optical Clicky|
|Key Backlighting||RGB Per-Key|
|Media Controls||Shared With Other Keys|
|Dedicated Shortcut Keys||No|
|Onboard Profile Storage||Yes|
|N-Key Rollover Support||Yes|