For the previous two weeks, I’ve carried the $99 Razer Zephyr mask with me just about all over the place I am going—however that is not the identical as sporting 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 anticipate from fabric 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 are so ubiquitous lately.
And because it’s from Razer, a peripheral producer greatest recognized for neon-tinged gaming mice, headphones, and keyboards, the masks appears to be like putting. 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 strive it.
I’ve come away from my expertise with the masks equally impressed and underwhelmed. If nothing else, Razer has taken an fascinating 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 harder promote for one thing you affix on to your face.
So my Razer Zephyr masks has principally 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 seemed 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 gentle strips
- Slots for replaceable N95 filters
- Pair of rubberized ear straps **
- An ultraviolet sanitation and charging stand **
Out of all these proposed “Challenge Hazel” options, solely three did not make the ultimate reduce, as denoted by asterisks.
The unique pitch made me suppose that Razer understood a number of the frequent 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 just a few buddies who’re laborious of listening to (regular masks muffle sounds and stop lip-reading).
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 am going to by no means know the way the unique mannequin really carried out, the present mannequin positively would not reside 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-reading. However in follow, 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, connected 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 connected to your face. You needn’t have the followers on to make use of the masks, however “low” is crucial for long-term consolation, because of 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-reading is doable in sure situations, however it requires the wearer to maintain their head principally nonetheless. And for individuals who do not depend on lip-reading, the plastic cowl and always-running followers muffle common speech. Until you are in a quiet room, anticipate to lose most of what you say, otherwise you’ll want to talk at a higher-than-usual quantity with additional enunciation.