Razer Ornata Chroma Review

January 24, 2017 | 10:48

Tags: #chroma #gaming-keyboard #mecha-membrane #membrane #synapse

Companies: #razer

Razer Ornata Chroma Review

Manufacturer: Razer
UK price (as reviewed):
£99.95 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $99.99 (ex tax)

The Ornata Chroma is posited a keyboard that merges the mechanical and membrane typing experience. Hybrid keyboards of this ilk are nothing new, and the so-called 'mecha-membrane' switches Razer uses here are reminiscent of Cooler Master's 'mem-chanical' switches seen in its MasterKeys Lite keyboard, though the two designs are different. The point of Cooler Master's effort was to undermine the high cost of mechanical keyboards, but it's hard to say the same of the £100 Ornata Chroma. It's available in a non-Chroma variant for £80, too, but even so, this tends to be the starting price of pure mechanical keyboards, so Razer is obviously looking to bring a little extra to the table through its customisation features.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

The Ornata has a plain design with a mostly matt finish, and a glossy indicator section in the top-right. It's more flexible than we're used to, and actually for £100 we were hoping it would be better built and reinforced. Craftsmanship is further belittled by a series of sharp edges around the frame – you probably won't be handling it too much, but it's still a shame. A generous application of rubber on the base keeps it planted but is undermined a little by the absence of any on the admittedly strong flick-out rear legs.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

The keyboards uses a single USB connector at the end of a thin, braided, and permanently attached cable. Left, right, and central cable channels in the base allow you to route this on your desk as you see fit.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

Supplied with the keyboard is a large, padded wrist rest. Magnetism is used to keep it in place, making for easy attachment and detachment, but the force could be stronger. That said, it too has plenty of rubber on the base, and we have to say the cushioning is extremely comfortable – it's one of the best wrist rests we've used.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

The patent pending Mecha-Membrane keys actuate in the traditional membrane way – the keycap sits atop a rubber dome that, when depressed, connects with the circuit board below. However, the shape of the plunger and a metal tab work together to produce a distinct, tactile and audible click roughly at the point of actuation, as well as a bump on the way back up, thus mimicking the feel and sound of clicky switches like Cherry MX Blues and those of Razer's own design. The illusion relies on the click aligning with the actuation point, and for the most part it works well. It's possible to click the keys without actuating them, so there is a small level of imprecision, but this is only doable with very slow and deliberate movements through the action – when typing or gaming with normal force, the click appears to correspond to actuation just as it should. The sound of the click is a satisfying one, but it does mean the Ornata loses the classic membrane advantage of low noise. Also, membrane switches have a tendency to degrade and become sticky over time. A large part of the appeal of mechanical switches is their lifetime, and Razer provides no indication of how long it expects its Mecha-Membrane switches to last.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

As you might expect, it still doesn't feel like a mechanical keyboard; the cushioned bottom is distinctly membrane, even though there is added crispness, and the actuation force feels higher than a Cherry MX Blue or Razer Green, although that may be to your favour. Mid-height keycaps are used too, and their smooth surface allows you to move around the board with speed and ease. 10-key rollover isn't as good as n-key, but it'll still be sufficient and ghosting was never a problem, even when we tried to make it one.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

As the Chroma nomenclature indicates, this keyboards features Razer's excellent Chroma RGB lighting system. Every key can have a different colour and effect, and such per-key lighting is a rarity when it comes to membrane keyboards. There are 20 brightness levels, and the white baseplate beneath the keycaps reflects and spreads the light really nicely. Also, the translucent rubber domes ensure lighting coming through the keycaps is very even – it's a really nice effect.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

Razer Synapse is unchanged since we last saw it. The Ornata depends on this for its customisation, as nothing is stored on the keyboard itself, and you'll need an online profile before you can use it, though after that you can remain offline forever. Still, it's remarkably slick and powerful, and the UI is highly intuitive. You get a number of pre-made lighting effects to choose from, or you can make your own in the Chroma Configurator with an interface based on key selections and lighting layers – it's just as powerful as it is on Razer's top-end models.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Razer Ornata Chroma Review Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

Also just as powerful is the key customisation. Virtually every key can be rebound to a massive variety of things, and you can have numerous profiles set up as well. You can make your own macros, and the macro editor remains excellent, giving you the full range of delay and playback options. Hardware-based custom functions are also present in the top row of keys when using the FN key, and these include media and volume control, on-the-fly macro recording, gaming mode, brightness control, and a system sleep function.

Razer Ornata Chroma Review Razer Ornata Chroma Review
Click to enlarge

Conclusion

To us, the Ornata Chroma is a slightly odd proposition. The reason we'd consider hybrid switches like these would be to save cash over mechanical keyboards, but at £100 this doesn't apply given there's a decent selection of mechanical models for between £80 and £100. As such, the focus is really on the Chroma lighting system and key customisation. Even then, Razer does have a few basic BlackWidow (i.e. mechanical) models that retain full key programmability, so it's really the per-key RGB lighting that appears to be the main draw. Admittedly, Razer does handle this very well, so if it's high on your priority list but your budget is £100, then this seems to be your best bet. We also want to give a final shout out to the wrist rest, as it's great and we wish more keyboards had one like it. Generally, though, we'd recommend giving weight to mechanical switches over RGB lighting at this price point.
Discuss this in the forums
Mod of the Month October 2020 in Association with Corsair

November 6 2020 | 17:30

TOP STORIES

SUGGESTED FOR YOU