Review: I wore Razer’s Zephyr N95 mask for two weeks so you don’t have to

Enlarge / Creator Sam Machkovech wears the Razer Zephyr masks out in public.

Steve Haske

For the previous two weeks, I’ve carried the $99 Razer Zephyr mask with me just about in every single place I am going—however that is not the identical as carrying it.

Razer’s first foray into the world of high-tech wearables comes within the type of an “N95-grade” face masks that claims to go above and past what you may count on from material choices. The corporate set expectations fairly excessive with the mask’s initial prototype reveal in January, solely to chop down options to make the masks cheaper and lighter. But this launch model remains to be a far cry from the fabric masks which can be so ubiquitous today.

And because it’s from Razer, a peripheral producer greatest identified for neon-tinged gaming mice, headphones, and keyboards, the masks appears to be like hanging. Have a look at it! The Razer Zephyr is mainly a gaming mouse that you just strap to your face, RGB lighting and all. So I had to attempt it.

I’ve come away from my expertise with the masks equally impressed and underwhelmed. If nothing else, Razer has taken an attention-grabbing first stab at making masks extra enjoyable. You are going to put on a masks anyway, Razer appears to say with this product. Why not stand out?

With some on a regular basis tech merchandise, “imperfect however intriguing” would possibly nonetheless be value shopping for—particularly if the product provides sufficient productiveness perks to your day by day life to outweigh any compromises. The identical description is a a lot more durable promote for one thing you affix on to your face.

So my Razer Zephyr masks has largely been tucked in my bag, to be proven off as a celebration trick or worn as an experimental lark. However its spot in my bag is true subsequent to my KN95-rated masks, and I am at all times keen to modify again to these as quickly as I can.

From Hazel to Zephyr

The Zephyr’s initially teased imaginative and prescient was tantalizing, even when it regarded like a prop from that classic “cybergoth rave” GIF of old. The 2021 CES model marketed the next:

  • Clear forward-facing plate
  • Inside lights
  • An array of inside microphones and exterior audio system **
  • Constructed-in inside followers
  • Exterior RGB mild strips
  • Slots for replaceable N95 filters
  • Pair of rubberized ear straps **
  • An ultraviolet sanitation and charging stand **

Out of all these proposed “Undertaking Hazel” options, solely three did not the ultimate minimize, as denoted by asterisks.

The unique pitch made me assume that Razer understood a few of the widespread points with face masks. I used to be notably optimistic about its mixture of lights, microphones, audio system, and translucent plastic, particularly as a result of I’ve a couple of mates who’re arduous of listening to (regular masks muffle sounds and stop lip studying).

Nonetheless, I used to be involved that such an overengineered masks would possibly result in an excessive amount of weight or warmth. And clearly, one thing needed to give, whether or not it was weight, warmth, or price. Although I will by no means know the way the unique mannequin really carried out, the present mannequin positively would not dwell as much as my accessibility hopes.

Learn my lips: Hmmmphh hmph hmph

On the proper angle, a photograph of the Razer Zephyr—with its translucent plastic and inside lighting—can look clear sufficient to permit for lip studying. However in apply, that translucent plastic creates extra points than it does lip-reading alternatives.

Razer has utilized a darkish tint to this a part of the masks, and the entire set is molded in such a means that manually changing this half with a clearer choice is not possible. Why would Razer do that? Presumably as a result of the plastic entrance’s form distorts your lips simply sufficient in order that your mouth appears to be like prefer it’s sitting in a tiny, hooked up TV.

To make lips seen, the Zephyr’s inside lighting must be set at a excessive, regular brightness, which creates noticeable warmth contained in the masks. That is the place the pair of inside followers comes into play. They function at two speeds; “low” makes a mildly noticeable whine, whereas “excessive” is loud sufficient to sound like a tiny leafblower hooked up to your face. You need not have the followers on to make use of the masks, however “low” is crucial for long-term consolation, due to how securely the plastic gasket matches across the nostril and mouth. And with inside lights on, nothing lower than “excessive” will maintain warmth at bay and stop inside fogging.

Both means, the lighting cannot make up for pure points with fogging, viewing angles, and visible distortion. Lip studying is doable in sure circumstances, nevertheless it requires the wearer to maintain their head largely nonetheless. And for individuals who do not depend on lip studying, the plastic cowl and always-running followers muffle common speech. Except you are in a quiet room, count on to have most of what you say misplaced. Otherwise you’ll want to talk at a higher-than-usual quantity with further enunciation.

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