USA TODAY International Edition

Razer Zephyr the smart mask that is high tech, fun to wear

- Brett Molina

Want to level up your mask- wearing while also looking like you’re about to tussle with Batman or maybe enter some cyberpunk dystopia?

This is life- wearing Razer Zephyr, the wearable air purifier from the video game peripheral maker. A version of Razer’s latest gadget made waves in January when they introduced “Project Hazel” during the Consumer Electronic­s Show. It’s no surprise tech companies are considerin­g a leap beyond the cloth and surgical masks that have come to define the COVID- 19 pandemic. Earlier this year, musician Will. i. am unveiled a partnershi­p with Honeywell on the Xupermask, a $ 299 smart mask that boasted noise- canceling earbuds, Bluetooth support and a HEPA filtration system.

‘ Wearing the Zephyr: you will stand out’

I’ve tried out the $ 99 Zephyr for roughly a week now. It’s oddly fun to wear, something you’d likely never say sporting a cloth mask to the store for what feels like the billionth time. However, it requires a bit of a commitment, not to mention a comfort level with standing out.

The design reminds me of the larger respirator masks used for house painting. It boasts a hard shell with two straps to fit onto your head. There are two air exchange chambers on the front, featuring dual circulatin­g fans to help circulate cool air. The chambers feature N95 filters providing two- way protection for yourself and those around you.

It’s also transparen­t with interior lights and an anti- fog coating to help solve one of the key issues with maskwearin­g: watching mouths move when people speak. Speaking of lights, it’s a Razer device, so of course, it lights up. The two- round exchange chambers light up in a variety of colors you can control through the Zephyr smartphone app, which is where you can also adjust the fan speed, or turn it off. Even the interior lights come in different colors for added flair.

The battery lasts up to eight hours with the fans set to low and the lights off, says Razer. But the real question naturally is will this protect me from COVID- 19? According to Razer, the mask is registered with the Food and Drug Administra­tion and lab tested for 99% BFE, or Bacterial Filtration Efficiency, a measure of how well it filters out bacteria. “It is not tested specifically against the COVID- 19 virus, but offers the same functional­ity and adequate protection due to its 99% BFE rating,” Razer’s website says.

Wearing the Zephyr feels comfortabl­e. The adjustable head straps allow for the ideal fit. It also feels breathable thanks to the air circulatin­g through its fans. Remember those first couple of times wearing masks and it felt like your breathing was being stifled? I didn’t get that as much wearing Zephyr.

But one thing is clear wearing the Zephyr: you will stand out. Even without the lights, I felt like a comic book supervilla­in. Now, add multicolor­ed lights and whirring fans that do sound a little loud on the high setting, and it’s hard for people not to notice. There’s also the financial cost to consider. The mask itself is $ 99, and Razer sells a pack of 10 sets of N95 filters for $ 30. Based on Razer’s advice to change filters on the Zephyr every three days, the pack will last about a month. By comparison, a quick search for surgical masks on Amazon turned up a box of 50 masks for between $ 11-$ 14. The mask also comes with an anti- fog spray to apply to the transparen­t window where your nose and mouth sit.

Your interest in Zephyr will likely depend on commitment. Cloth masks get tossed in the laundry and surgical masks in the trash. It’s worth the upgrade if you’re comfortabl­e with the maintenanc­e, care and price. And also if you’re OK resembling Bane attending a Burning Man festival.

 ?? RAZER ?? The Razer Zephyr is a wearable air purifier with cooling fans and multicolor­ed lights.
RAZER The Razer Zephyr is a wearable air purifier with cooling fans and multicolor­ed lights.

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