Reviews

The one huge problem with this air-purifier face mask no one is talking about

We tried Razer’s Zephyr. Will this $100 RGB-customizable mask actually protect you? Or does it just look the cyberpunk part for Instagram pics?

The most-talked about product at CES this year wasn’t a TV or a laptop or a phone. It was Razer’s Zephyr mask (née Project Hazel), which the gaming brand touted as the “world’s smartest face mask” — complete with RGBs, Bluetooth, and a voice amplifier.

Razer talked a big game; it promised N95-grade protection and air purification from the cyberpunk-looking mask, a transparent design so people can see your mouth expressions, and voice amplification.

Wake up, samurai!

The shipping version of the Zephyr makes for great cyberpunk Instagram pics (basically cosplay); the effectiveness of its air purification is questionable. And there’s no voice amplification to be found — Razer cut the feature.

$99.99

Razer's selling the masks in drops, and they sell out fast.

The Zephyr mask is made of plastic, which means it’s a lot heavier than your standard surgical mask or N95 mask. There’s a silicone gasket that’s easily removable for cleaning, but the seal isn’t great.

Unlike the original concept, which had ear loops, the Zephyr mask uses two elastic bands with rubber pads to hold up the mask. The lower band goes around your neck and the top one is supposed to sit on your head.

No matter how tight I had the bands, the top elastic would slide down. The mask is just too heavy; gravity naturally pulls it down, which compromises the gasket’s seal around your nose and mouth.

Fans

The mask has two chambers with built-in fans that Razer says filters in fresh air. Pressing the button on the right chamber switches between low and high fan mode. On both modes, there’s an audible whir, that will attract attention on a subway. Yes, I wore it on the subway, and got many stares.

The “FDA-registered and lab-tested for 99% BFE” N95-grade filters sit between the fans and the chamber caps. You get six chamber filters and three bottom filters with the mask. These filters are disposable and only last 72 hours. Razer sells filter packs for $30; each pack comes with 10 sets of filters (two side + one bottom) that should last 30 days. You don’t need to be good at math to see the cost of ownership balloons quickly.

How much protection?

I couldn’t test this with science. Fortunately, YouTuber Naomi Wu (aka SexyCyborg) did, and the findings are not surprising. Comparing the Zephyr’s puny filters and fans to other NIOSH-approved N95 masks and medical-grade respirators, Wu concludes that the Zephyr’s protection is “useless.”

Update 1/10/22:

Razer has scrubbed its website of references to its filters being “N95 grade.” Razer now claims:

“The Razer Zephyr and Zephyr Pro are not certified N95 masks, medical devices, respirators, surgical masks, or personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not meant to be used in medical or clinical settings. These products are intended to be used only with Razer Zephyr Filters.”

This rubber gasket is not a very tight seal even with the two elastics tightened as much as possible.

I could definitely feel the airflow around the masks, but like Wu says, it’s not enough for proper N95-grade protection. The mask also fogs up very easily. A bottle of anti-fog spray is included, but it didn’t seem to do much.

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You can connect your the Zephyr mask to your phone via Bluetooth. The Razer Zephyr app lets you customize the inner and outer lighting — either solid colors or an effect — just like you would any Razer Chroma product. This is probably the coolest part of the Zephyr mask. But it does drain battery; Razer says the battery is good for 8 hours on a single charge. A full charge takes 3 hours.

The app is barebones.

Pick any color you want for the inner and outer lighting.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably not gonna be shocked to hear me say Razer’s Zephyr mask is a cool toy. It looks great (if you can get it to fit). You’ll be the center of attention at a comic con; it’s great for your dystopian IG pics if you pair it with techwear from, say, Acronym. Just don’t expect it to provide any serious shielding.