Razer's Zephyr face mask has been officially released into the wild at this year's RazerCon.
It's part mask, part wearable air purifier, and part Cyberpunk cosplay accessory, and I've been fortunate enough to have hands-on with it over the past week or so to see what it's really like - and whether it's worth getting, and living with.
Announced as a concept at CES 2021, the Zephyr is the finished product from what was previously called Project Hazel. After months of development, testing, and some community involvement, the mask has become a reality and you can order yours now.
It's a striking-looking thing, for sure, and bigger and bulkier than any other mask that folks have used every day of the past 18 months or so. Cutting to the chase, the Zephyr is an RGB, air-purifying mask, that can offer N95 grade levels of protection. But what's it like to use?
Firstly, it is genuinely comfortable to wear: two adjustable straps, that can be tightened and loosened to give a good fit, sit at the top rear of your head, and around your nape respectively. There is plenty of flex and you should be able to find a great fit, even though the mask itself will feel very front heavy until you get used to it. The soft silicon face cradle is comfy but take a little jostling into position - be aware that if you have a beard, like me, then this might stop there being a genuinely tight seal between mask and face.
Now, to the Zephyr's credit, it is genuinely safe, due to the filters and dual intake fans. The fans can be set to three speeds - off, low, and high - and do a good job of circulating the air and also keeping condensation down too. And the filters in the mask provide 72 hours worth of use before needing to be swapped out.
In a move to boost the social characteristic of the mask, the Zephyr's front, or mouth, part is transparent. This means you can see the mouth of the person you're talking to, breaking down a barrier other masks have. When lit, though, it does have the effect of making the wearer look like they have a form of Inverse Bane accessory - and the lighting can give a pretty ghoulish appearance.
Generally, in broad daylight, the RGB isn't as bright and powerful as you might think - particularly from Razer. I turned the fans and mouth to 'The Division' orange, but it all seemed a bit weak and pale - it's far better in the more multicoloured patterns and effects that we're used to seeing on the likes of Razer keyboards, and also better when there's a bit of darkness to your environment. The colours can be controlled on your phone via Bluetooth and an accompanying app - this will also allow you to change the fan speed (though this can be done with the multi-function button, too).
There's an awful lot of cool tech and features packed into this mask. However, I do have reservations. I just don't know if it is going to be something that will really appeal - especially as an everyday mask.
Would I wear it to the supermarket or high street? Nope, I'd just grab my usual cloth one. Would I wear the Zephyr in a big metropolitan city centre, or an event? Perhaps. Given its air purification and aesthetic, and being in a more populated area, the Zephyr could be a viable and strong option. As a result, it could be a tech-lovers dream mask this winter when Christmas shopping can be done in person (hopefully) and we can travel across countries to see our family and friends for the festive season (hopefully). One can always turn the RGB off too, if the attention was too annoying.
Enforced mask-wearing has been loosened almost everywhere now, and plenty of folks are happily tossing their face coverings - whether they should or not, or whether the incoming winter will change this is another thing. But the Zephyr shouldn't be a product that ' hopes' for a pandemic to keep going, or to get worse - and it sort of feels like it is.
It may well have a better market and uptake in those countries more used to mask-wearing, but, otherwise, it may just be for those who are Razer fans, admirers of cool tech, and for those who have a bit of a budget when it comes to face masks.
None of us want to wish for a world where we get more opportunities or conditions that encourage us to wear things like the Zephyr. The other side to this is, should things start to go downward, then at least there are developments in mask technology happening to offer more methods of safety.
Remember there's going to be plenty of Razer gear in this year's upcoming winter sales period. Prepare for the hardware behemoth's gear to crop up in the Black Friday laptop deals, Black Friday gaming headset deals, and Black Friday gaming keyboard deals.