Razer DeathStalker V2 Pro review: low profile and low ambitions

The DeathStalker V2 Pro is a redesign of Razer’s original DeathStalker gaming keyboard, which used membrane switches and chiclet keycaps. While the V2 Pro may share a name with the 10-year-old keyboard, little else has remained the same. The V2 Pro is a full-size, low-profile keyboard that incorporates a shorter version of Razer’s optical switches that are available in linear or clicky varieties. It also features 2.4GHz wireless and Bluetooth connectivity for anyone who prefers a wireless setup or wants to quickly swap inputs between devices.

The suite of features on the DeathStalker V2 Pro is certainly impressive but can be something of a tough sell when you consider the $249.99 price tag. The low-profile nature of the DeathStalker V2 Pro gives its chassis a slimmer design that’s roughly two-thirds the height of what you might expect. Its switches and keycaps are also shorter than typical mechanical keyboards, which can be faster to press when gaming simply because your fingers don’t have to travel as far.

The design and overall aesthetics of the DeathStalker V2 Pro are extremely clean when stacked against some of Razer’s previous designs, and honestly, if it weren’t for the RGB lighting, you might even have trouble telling that this is a gaming keyboard. The aluminum top plate and plastic body feel sturdy with no noticeable flex in the chassis. The DeathStalker V2 Pro feels deceptively heavy for a keyboard this slim. You aren’t going to throw your back out, but at 1.6 pounds, the DeathStalker V2 Pro feels like a strangely dense piece of kit given its rather diminutive profile.

Razer’s optical switches have a mixed reputation in the gaming community, especially among mechanical keyboard enthusiasts. Optical switches use an interrupted beam of light to register individual keystrokes — as opposed to mechanical switches, which register using a completed electrical circuit called a crosspoint contact. This results in a faster response time and more consistent keypresses that don’t rely on as many moving parts. Some say that optical switches feel mushy and don’t offer a noticeable performance difference from conventional mechanical switches. Tastes differ, but I personally don’t have a problem with how they feel so much as how they sound.

The new low-profile optical switches are available in linear red and clicky purple flavors.

Razer has incorporated sound dampening foam to some of its newer keyboards, but it’s unclear if attempts to improve the acoustics were overlooked as part of the DeathStalker V2 Pro. This isn’t the worst-sounding keyboard I’ve ever used. (That distinction belongs to the Corsair K68.) But if you’re particular about how your keyboard sounds when you’re using it, I’d recommend looking elsewhere. The regular keys sound all right, but the stabilizers, which are used with larger keys like enter, shift, and the spacebar, exhibit a distinct rattle when pressed. It may be possible to rectify this somewhat through liberal application of some dielectric grease and the popular “band-aid mod,” but you’re unfortunately stuck with plate-mounted stabilizers unless you’re willing to perform some destructive disassembly.

Razer’s low-profile optical switches feel similar to the full-sized versions I’ve used in its Huntsman line of keyboards. Keystrokes are snappy and responsive with a full travel distance of just 2.8mm and an actuation point of 1.2mm. That compares to a 4mm distance and 2mm actuation point on a regular-height keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches. The actuation force is relatively light (45 grams if numbers are important to you) but still requires a deliberate effort to register, and the lower travel distance can make you feel a little quicker on the draw. I usually prefer a higher profile keycap, but I did notice that the lower profile and higher actuation force compared to my usual Kailh Box Silver switches led to a cleaner typing experience overall, with fewer typos and missed inputs.

Speaking of ergonomics, I initially thought that the lack of a wrist rest wouldn’t be an issue, but as someone who’s used to having one around, I can confidently say that I was wrong. While Razer’s prepackaged wrist rests haven’t impressed me in the past, this is something I would’ve liked to see included in a keyboard that costs so much.

A keyboard that’s so low to the ground that Razer didn’t think you’d need a wrist rest.

The ABS keycaps that are used on the DeathStalker V2 Pro are treated to resist accumulating visible oils, and fortunately, they work as advertised. Even a couple of hundred hours down the road, the keycaps look almost as pristine as when I took the keyboard out of the box. I typically prefer the textured feel of PBT keycaps to smooth ABS plastic, but these keycaps still managed to surprise me with their ability to stay clean, which is important for anyone who doesn’t want their keycaps to show a visible wealth of forensic evidence on it after a few hours of use.

The volume roller and the single media button that made their debut with the BlackWidow V3 are here and still a definite win. The button and roller are made of the same aluminum as the top plate and feel extremely good to use, with a satisfying click when pressed and deliberate, tactile steps when rolled. They’re so fun to fiddle with that I often found myself accidentally messing with my volume controls. They’re a little too out of the way to be useful while gaming, but both can be mapped to different controls using Razer’s Synapse software.

It’s impossible to not mindlessly fidget with this roller.

In addition to the optical switches, the other standout feature of the DeathStalker V2 Pro is its wireless connectivity. You can pair the keyboard to devices via Bluetooth or 2.4GHz wireless and switch between connections with up to three Bluetooth devices at once. The 2.4GHz wireless dongle of the DeathStalker V2 has also incorporated Razer’s improvements to its HyperSpeed Wireless receiver, which allows several accessories, like a mouse and keyboard, to share a single dongle instead of occupying one USB port each.

Using the DeathStalker V2 Pro over Bluetooth offers largely the same experience as using it while wired or wireless, with no noticeable difference in latency. The only real exception is that you can’t configure more advanced RGB lighting effects in Razer’s Synapse software over Bluetooth.

A wireless keyboard isn’t much good if you have to charge it every other day. Thankfully, the battery life of the DeathStalker V2 Pro is fairly impressive for a wireless peripheral. Using the keyboard for roughly nine hours a day, the DeathStalker lasted a little over two days before I needed to top it off. When I did, it took a little over an hour to fully charge via the USB-C connection. This rundown test was performed with the backlighting at full tilt and having the keyboard turn off after 15 minutes of inactivity.

The 2.4Ghz wireless dongle stows neatly away in the base of the chassis.

You can’t talk about the DeathStalker V2 Pro without drawing comparisons to Logitech’s G915 series of keyboards that sport a similar layout and profile while also incorporating many of the same features, like 2.4Ghz wireless and Bluetooth connectivity and extensive battery life. While the full-size G915 was initially priced at the same $250, both the full-size and tenkeyless versions of the Logitech G915 are now less expensive and include dedicated macro keys as part of their layout — but omit the optical switches. Unless you have a particular attachment to Razer’s optical switches, you might want to consider shopping around for a discounted G915 instead.

Low-profile gaming keyboards are uncommon, but the DeathStalker V2 isn’t the only game in town. In addition to the Logitech G915 series, Corsair and Fnatic (among others) have low-profile gaming boards that cost much less, like the Corsair K60 RGB Pro low-profile for around $110 and the Fnatic Streak65 LP, which is priced around $120. If you’re looking for ways to spend $250 on a keyboard, there are better options available, like the modular Mountain Everest Max or the Corsair K100 with its 4,000Hz polling rate.

In my dozens of hours of typing and gaming with the DeathStalker V2 Pro, I didn’t run into any glaring issues aside from the keycaps and rattling stabilizers, but I can’t think of a reason to keep it on my desk, especially for $250. Even with its wireless connectivity, impressive battery life, and optical switches, I don’t think the DeathStalker V2 Pro brings enough to the table for its steep price.

The DeathStalker V2 Pro isn’t a bad peripheral by any means, and certain aspects are even well-designed, but I would’ve liked to see a little more innovation and a little less iteration in terms of the features. Aside from being Razer’s first attempt at a low-profile mechanical keyboard, the DeathStalker V2 doesn’t do much to depart from convention for a keyboard that costs so much — if you’re doing something I’ve seen before, I shouldn’t have to pay this much.

Lately, Razer’s keyboards feel like a mix and match of the same handful of features that we’ve seen on their older models, and the DeathStalker V2 Pro exemplifies this. Vendors like Corsair and Asus are busy pushing the envelope with keyboards that have modular profiles and hot-swappable switches, while it feels like Razer is content just phoning it in at this point. If Razer wants to charge $250 for a keyboard, it really needs to show up with something new.

Photography by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

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