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Tech Review: Razer Ornata Chroma

There are two types of people: those who prefer membrane keyboards and those who prefer mechanical ones. But what if there was a third option? Razer tries to answer that question with one of their newest keyboards, the Razer Ornata Chroma. This keyboard is the first to use their newest innovation, called ‘Mecha-Membrane’. Does this hybrid offer the best of two worlds?

What’s in the box

The Razer Ornata is packaged in a neat, sleek-looking box that has a cut out above the arrow keys so you can test out the ‘Mecha-Membrane’ switches without opening the box. Once you open it you’ll find the usual small paper instructions, the keyboard itself and a well-designed wrist-rest. The latter doesn’t look that special at first glance, but it’s equipped with a magnet that easily connects with the keyboard. It’s pretty comfortable to use, which is important for longer gaming sessions. The magnet inside the wrist-rest should have a been a little stronger in my opinion, but it stays in its place as long as you don’t move your arms too violently.

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The keyboard itself is equipped with mid-sized keys with the unique ‘Mecha Membrane’ switches. There are no separate buttons for macro keys, volume control or other functions. These functions are activated by pressing the ‘FN’ button and one of the top row ‘F1’ to ‘F12’ buttons. On the backside of the keyboard are the usual kickstands to increase the angle and a three-route cable channel for the USB cord. This channel directs the USB cord to either the back of the keyboard or to one of the sides, which is a neat little addition.

Mecha-Membrane

The Ornata Chroma is equipped with ‘Mecha-Membrane’ keys, a hybrid between membrane and mechanical keys. The keys themselves work like a membrane keyboard. Pressing a key down depresses a silicone dome which registers the keystroke. The difference with a regular keyboard, however, is that these keys are each equipped with a mechanical spring. This little addition to the keys makes them pop right back up immediately after you’ve pressed them down. They also give a satisfying clicking sound that is toned well. They’re not as loud as mechanical keyboards, but also not as quiet as membrane ones. It sits perfectly in between and sounds great, which you can hear for yourself with the audio sample below.

 

The audio above was recorded with the microphone aimed directly at the keyboard with little to no space in between.

While the keys do feel great to use, I doubt that it will be winning over mechanical keyboards users. The Mecha-Membrane keys still feel a little mushy and are basically membrane keys disguised as mechanical ones. I also don’t think that membrane users will be interested in this device since the keys still make more noise, compared to regular membrane keyboards.

Additional functions

Like any other gaming keyboard, the Razer Ornata is equipped with a few handy features. You can record macro keys with a few button presses and then assign them to the key of your choosing. There is also ‘gaming mode’ which simply disables the Windows key while playing games, avoiding those annoying accidental switches to your desktop. Last but not least, there is Razer Synapse, a handy tool you can install in order to customize the colours and lighting effects of your keyboard. This program also records how many times you’ve hit certain keys and which games are the most intense on the keyboard. This was the first time I’ve used Razer Synapse and I must say, I’m pretty impressed with it. Especially with how easy it is to customize your keyboard. With just a few mouse clicks I was able to design my own unique colour layout. The Razer Ornata is not the first device that supports this program, but as I’ve said, I’ve never used it before so I decided to include it in the review.

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Razer Synapse is easy to use

Different models

The Razer Ornata features two models, the regular and the Chroma, the latter being the model I’ve reviewed. Both models are almost entirely the same, with only one difference. The regular Ornata displays one colour, the famous green used in every Razer product. The Chroma, on the other hand, offers 16.8 million customizable colour options. The Chroma will cost you approximately $100, while the regular model is $20 cheaper. I prefer the Chroma because the extra colours and lighting effects are beautiful, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra $20.

Conclusion

The Razer Ornata Chroma is a pretty impressive keyboard, although some things could have been tweaked. Some separate macro keys would have been nice but assigning them to dedicated keys works just as well. While I don’t think that mechanical or membrane keyboard enthusiasts will be convinced by the new ‘Mecha-Membrane’ keys, I do believe that it is a worthy third option for people to try out. Combine this with the affordable price of $100 (for the Chroma model) and you get a great product for people in search for their first gaming dedicated keyboard.

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