Each year at CES, Razer reveals some far-out concept that grabs the headlines and excites its fanbase, but never materialises into a real product. That changed when Razer’s Project Hazel, an RGB-illuminated smart face mask, gained enough fanfare to force Razer into actually selling the thing.
Despite it looking like a rave mask made for our inevitable dystopian cyberpunk future, Project Hazel, renamed Razer Zephyr, sold out within minutes and is still as difficult to buy today as an N95 mask at the start of the pandemic.
At CES 2022, Razer is unveiling a new version of the mask with a feature that didn’t make it into the original. The Zephyr Pro is essentially the same mask as the Zephyr but with voice amplification built-in so you don’t sound muffled speaking through the plastic shield.
Wait, but didn’t it already have that feature? It did as a concept, but not when it launched. Razer told us that removing the feature allowed the company to get to a more accessible $US99 ($136) price point. Indeed, this single addition increases the cost by $US50 ($69), bringing the Zephyr Pro to $US150 ($206).
You’ll notice the Zephyr Pro looks slightly different from the front than the standard model. That’s because two small speaker grilles flank the exhalation valve and are attached to a microphone in the silicone mould casing to amplify your voice by 60 decibels for up to one metre. A small button on side of the mask next to the intake valve (those RGB canisters) lets you turn amplification on and off, which Razer explains can save battery life.
Everything else about the Zephyr Pro (which is not FDA-approved, by the way) matches the cheaper model, including the N95 respirators embedded in a transparent shield. The biggest draw to this mask, I suppose, is the two large ventilation valves with RGB light rings around them, along with the interior RGBs that shine a light on your mouth so your face is visible in dark conditions.
While I appreciate a company using its resources to make a product that could protect people through the pandemic, it takes a certain person to wear the Zephyr. The mask is, well, loud, both visually and audibly — the Zephyr Pro looks like a futuristic gas mask and reports claim the fans on the inside of the original Zephyr make a low whine. Still, if this is your aesthetic, then the Zephyr will save you from using those often uncomfortable single-use N95 masks.
The Zephyr Pro will go on sale “sometime this year” for $US150 ($206) — and don’t forget to buy filters, which cost $US30 ($41) for 10 and are good for three days each.