Razer Ornata Chroma Keycaps design to Mid-
Razer Ornata Chroma Keycaps – Features and Design
What’s Razer’s secret with the Ornata Chroma? Switches that combine the, uh, key features of the predominant typing technologies in the consumer keyboard market. Razer calls the technology “Mecha-Membrane,” and it’s just what it sounds like: part its own proprietary mechanical switch, part silicone dome. When you hit a key, the mechanical switch depresses the dome to register the stroke. This eliminates the need for a full version of either type of switch, but gives you a fair amount of the supposed benefits of both.
That all happens under the hood, though. One thing you’re more likely to be able to see are the updated keycaps, which are about half the height of traditional keycaps. In addition to requiring you to move less weight with each press, Razer claims that the shorter cap “reduce[s] the time it takes for your actions to register,” thus keeping you typing more quickly and landing more hits in games that demand quick response.
Razer also includes a big padded wrist rest (almost 3.5 inches deep) that connects to the magnetized front of the keyboard, giving you a place to rest your hands during those times the action slows down. Though given that the keyboard also supports 10-key rollover and 10-key anti-ghosting, I guess it’s left for an exercise to the player to determine when (or if) that’s supposed to happen.
In every other way, the Ornata Chroma looks like a typical no-frills gaming keyboard. Its measurements are unremarkable (1.22 by 18.22 by 6.06 inches, HWD), and it’s all black, except for the backlighting, which (per the Chroma branding) can be controlled using the downloadable Razer Synapse software to appear in any of 16.8 million colors, in a variety of preconfigured patterns or a layout of your own design. This amount of customizability is hard to find on keyboards in this price range—other worthy models, such as the $99.99 SteelSeries Apex M500$93.22 at Amazon and the $109.99 Corsair Strafe Mechanical Gaming Keyboard$78.99 at Amazon, are limited to a single color.
Even so, that lighting is about all you get that’s even partially fancy. There’s no USB or audio pass-through, for connecting additional devices or headphones. Nor are there any dedicated media keys; to access those kinds of volume, playback, macro recording, and lighting controls, you’ll need to hit the Fn key (which replaces the right Windows key) along with the appropriate function key in the top row (F1 through F12). All the other critical keyboard configuration functions, such as setting up macros or enabling the dedicated Gaming mode (which lets you disable the Windows key, or the Alt+Tab or Alt+F4 combinations), can be performed through Synapse.
As you’d expect from any product that fuses two disparate technologies, the Ornata Chroma feels a bit weird at first. Though Razer says that the Mecha-Membrane design delivers a “crisp tactile click” in line with what you get from mechanical switches and retains the “soft cushioned touch” of a silicone dome keyboard, that wasn’t the case for me. I’d estimate I got about 60 to 75 percent of the mechanical keyboard experience (using the clickier Cherry MX Blue and Brown switches as a reference point), which is admittedly pretty good. But I also got about 60 to 75 percent of the silicone dome experience, which for me has never been “soft” or “cushioned” so much as “mushy” and “unnatural.” If you don’t groove on that kind of heaviness, the Ornata Chroma may not enchant you right out of the box.
I can relate. At first, the keys felt—and no other word will do—sticky, as though I wasn’t in complete control of when they went down and when they went up. My typing and gameplay didn’t suffer too much, but everything was a little off. Just a little, though. After a week or so, this odd sensation dissipated, and I found that I was typing practically as well on the Ornata Chroma as on my favored Cherry MX Blue–equipped Das Keyboard 4 Professional$165.99 at Amazon. That’s no small achievement considering that, when almost any other switch is involved, I have much more trouble acclimating. Too much of my life revolves around typing to accommodate a significant slowdown. That never happened with the Chroma.
Even so, whether you’re used to mechanical or silicone-dome keyboards, the Ornata Chroma will require some technical and psychological reconditioning. For the reason why, look to the technology that makes the keyboard possible. Whereas the most common Cherry MX switches have a 2mm actuation point and a total travel distance of 4mm, the Mecha-Membrane switches, revealing their silicone-dome provenance, actuate and bottom out at the same point of 3.5mm. This is a desirable behavior for gaming, as you won’t have to worry about hitting a key accidentally. But because the audible click occurs before full actuation (at 3mm), you may think you’ve typed something at a different time than you actually have—this probably accounts for that stickiness, and why, for everyday typing chores, the Ornata Chroma may not feel or work quite the way you anticipate. But once you get past that, everything starts clicking (in more ways than one).
Rare indeed is the budget tech product of any kind that gives you everything you want, exactly the way you want it. But the Razer Ornata Chroma gets tantalizingly close, both as a gaming device and as a keyboard, with its cut corners bearing very few sharp edges. Given its price and performance across its intended use scenarios, you won’t much miss the standalone volume controls and macro keys, USB pass-through, or other bells and whistles you’re not getting—you’ll be too busy playing and typing at a surprisingly high level to notice. That more than warrants naming the Ornata Chroma our Editors’ Choice. Want to save even more money? The Razer Ornata costs only $79.99 and boasts all the same features—you just have to give up the multicolored backlight and settle for all Razer Ornata Chroma Keycaps, all the time.