Razer Zephyr Wearable Air Purifier review: Razer's boldest product yet
A peak into the future?
Note: This review was first published on 28 October 2021.
Razer’s concept of a wearable air purifier mask isn’t new (see the PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier from LG) but it’s certainly one of the most anticipated product from the gaming company ever since its showing at CES 2021 as “Project Hazel”. Fast forward to today and Project Hazel is now a genuine product called the Razer Zephyr, which is saying a lot as it’s not very often a Razer project turns into a commercial release.
Razer has very kindly sent me a unit before it went on sale and so I’ve been testing it for about a week now. I’ve worn it while working from home (because you know, COVID-19), I’ve worn it on my way to the nearby coffee shop to get a takeaway (be prepared to get judged in public), and I’ve even worn it while cycling around my neighbourhood in the name of work research (I don’t suggest you do this). I think I've experienced it enough to give a fair opinion by now.
The Razer Zephyr is essentially a wearable air purifier and is not to be mistaken for a medical-grade mask that healthcare workers wear in a hospital setting. There’s a big difference here. Its N95 grade dual-filters act more as anti-air pollution than necessarily protecting against COVID-19. That said, the N95 grade filtration system is meant to filter at least 95% of 0.3-micron particles, and Razer says that while it isn't classified as PPE, nor has it been specifically tested against the COVID-19 virus, it has claimed that the Zephyr "offers the same functionality and adequate protection due to its 99% BFE rating."
A fan inside each filter draws air through the filter, before expelling it through another filtered grille at the base of the mask. A button on the right filter allows you to set the fan to run at a full 6,200rpm (some reviewers have noted this speed to be loud, but it didn’t quite bother me as much), a quieter 4,200rpm or turn it off completely. So, the circulated air inside the mask is purified for breathing through a medical-grade silicone seal around your nose and mouth. Unfortunately, in our hot and humid weather, the mask traps heat from your breaths and can feel stifling – in the worse cases, even causing sweat to build up inside the mask.
But otherwise, wearing the Zephyr is surprisingly comfortable. The mask is light, and I never felt like my head was being weighed down by it. The straps do a good job of keeping the mask stable on your face, although the anti-slip rubber that helps anchor the top strap to the crown of my head tends to stick onto my hair, and removing the mask usually meant losing a few strands of them.
Razer didn’t just strive to make a functional air purifier mask – every Razer product is a love letter to its fan base and gamers, and the Zephyr is no different. So, RGB lighting encircling each filter intake is an obligatory feature rather than a functional one. After all, what better way to identify a masked-up gamer? These lights can be controlled from the Razer Zephyr smartphone app, allowing you to select lighting colours, effect types, and even disabling it. Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, the mask is transparent and the RGB lighting illuminates the inside to make your face and lips more visible. I guess this helps to make one look less Bane-like threatening, but whether wearing a Zephyr allows you to walk into a bank or other secured area is questionable at best – I haven’t tried it, to be honest.
Holding a conversation whilst wearing the Zephyr also proves to be a bit of a challenge for me, as the silicone seal restricts my mouth movements a fair bit. So, my sentences sounded very muffled, moving my mouth to speak was uncomfortable, and having to remove the Zephyr to be able to speak coherently seems to defeat the purpose of wearing it in the first place. Razer had thought of a solution for this; Project Hazel had a built-in voice amp that, well, amplifies your voice. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it to the final Razer Zephyr design. What I’ve heard from a few sources in the company was that the voice-amp would have made the Zephyr much heavier and more expensive.
So, would I recommend the Razer Zephyr? From a practical standpoint, no – it just isn’t made for our topical climate for reasons I’ve mentioned earlier. I’ll likely bring it along with me for my winter holidays though. For use in Singapore and around our region, there are simply better, more practical, air purifier masks such as the Philips Fresh Air Mask series.
That said, I do think the Zephyr is Razer’s boldest product yet. The level of hype and divisiveness it created even before its launch is mind-boggling. Put it this way, friends who have seen me wearing the Zephyr always engage in a conversation with me about it, and this to me is a pretty big win for Razer.
The Razer Zephyr is available exclusively at the Razer Store for S$159. Good luck being able to score one, though. Razer is releasing units in batches, and these sell out extremely fast.