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Razer Ornata Chroma Keyboard Review: Mechanical or Membrane?

Haroon Sultan
Technology Reporter
Editors Rating

When you think of gaming keyboards, the loud clickity-clack sounds of a large gaming café come to mind. One of the most popular choices for a gamer’s most essential peripheral has always been a mechanical keyboard. Besides the general aesthetic appeal, there are numerous benefits to mechanical keys that membrane keyboards lack.

With the Ornata Chroma, Razer intends to give fans of membrane keyboards an experience similar to their mechanical superiors. Having used the keyboard for a couple of weeks, here’s what I think.

Design

The Razer Ornata Chroma is a unique snowflake in the snow-covered landscape of gaming peripherals. With their new Mecha-Membrane keys (patent pending), Razer is attempting to break the stereotype of membrane keyboards not being as much fun to type on as mechanical keyboards.

Taking a look at the design, the Ornata Chroma adopts a full-plastic body, which is a step away from the metal and plastic body of the Blackwidow Chroma. Regardless of the material, the keyboard has a solid feel to it and I couldn’t find anything nasty to say about the lack of metal.

The mid-height keys are backed with Razer’s Chroma custom lighting that features 16.8 million color options using the Razer Synapse software. Underneath the keys is a translucent white plastic that serves to accentuate the lighting effects of the LEDs. This also gives the keys the appearance of floating on a bed of light and it looks just as brilliant as it sounds.

The characters on the keys are different from the blocky Razer Blackwidow fonts and use a clean and minimal font, which I personally liked more.  The LED indicators on the top right corner are also an improvement over the Blackwidow, as the backlit indicators are clearer and better illuminated.

Hardware

At first, I had approached the keyboard with skepticism and perhaps a hint of eagerness. Having primarily used membrane keyboards in my gaming life, I had become accustomed to the mushy feeling of the keys and the nuances of typing on dome-switch or chiclet keys.

The first thing I noticed was the sound, mimicking the clicks of a mechanical keyboard. I couldn’t put down an exact relation to a specific mechanical switch, but it definitely sounded like a mechanical keyboard to the layman’s ear. The second and most important change was the faster actuation. The low profile, mid-height keycaps were undoubtedly a massive improvement over any traditional full-height membrane keyboard.

As I became accustomed to the general feel of the Ornata Chroma, I was beginning to enjoy using the keyboard. The keys felt much lighter and the aesthetic appeal of clicking keys coupled with the familiar cushioned membrane touch was a novel experience. Simply put, it felt membrane and sounded mechanical. The world we live in is a strange and perplexing place.


Credits: Razer

As fun as they might be, it’s not enough to make you forget that you’re still using membrane switches. The Mecha-Membrane switches, as shown in this lovely graphic by Razer, still employ a membrane base. This means they remain a class below full-mechanical keyboards when it comes to lifespan and durability, as well as actuation and travel distances.

Features

I’ve already talked a bit about the Chroma Lighting feature, which seems pretty much mandatory on any Razer device these days. However, one specific feature that is unique to the Ornata Chroma has downright stolen my heart and that is the “Fire” preset lighting effect. My Desktop PC follows a red lighting design and the smoldering Ornata seemed like a match made in peripheral heaven.

Razer Synapse, the software that gives the Ornata it’s customizability, is usually a point of contention for me. I never liked the interface and having to login to access my peripheral’s profiles is something that shouldn’t be forced on the user. But all things considered, Synapse has definitely upped their game over the years and the Ornata Chroma makes good use of the software.

The keyboard has fully programmable keys and the program allows you to record macros intuitively while playing. The inclusion of the “Gaming Mode” switch is always a welcome sight and the 10-key roll over is useful in case I ever need to come up with crazy keystroke combinations.

While there’s no USB or audio pass-through, the Ornata Chroma does come with a wrist rest, which snaps on magnetically to the bottom of the keyboard. While the magnets could be stronger, it doesn’t feel like it would detach during regular use. The wrist rest is plush, comfortable and I wish more keyboards took note of this kind of attachment.

Conclusion

The Razer Ornata Chroma is probably the best membrane keyboard I have ever laid my fingers on and it’s not just because of the mechanical sounds. The mid-height keys play a more important role in making the keyboard an absolute delight to type on. I had quite a few gamers drop in while I was reviewing the keyboard and while each person has their own preference when it comes to peripherals, the overall consensus was positive.

Despite all this, the Ornata Chroma can never replace a true mechanical keyboard. If you’re already using a mechanical keyboard, then the Ornata Chroma isn’t much of an upgrade in any respect. However, for those who are looking to ditch their membrane or chiclet key lifestyle, the Ornata Chroma is probably the perfect middle-ground.

The Razer Ornata Chroma is available in most retail stores for AED 459, putting it at a cheaper price than their mechanical keyboards.