Hardware Reviews
Razer Ornata Chroma Keyboard Review - Bridging the Gap

Ron Whitaker | 11 Jan 2017 16:00
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If you've been trying to decide if you want a mechanical or membrane gaming keyboard, Razer has some great news for you: You don't have to decide, because the Razer Ornata keyboard gives you a little bit of both worlds.

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At first glance, it's hard to classify the Ornata. It's low profile, with keys that look more like chiclets on a laptop than the beefy mechanical keys that gamers are likely used to by now. They're half-height, so you can move quickly across its surface. It certainly looks like a Razer product, although it's a little less glossy than you might expect. The whole keyboard has a matte finish, and it lacks any sort of Razer branding on the keyboard itself.

Also included with the Ornata is a detachable wrist rest. Unlike most attached rests, this one doesn't clip on with distressingly easy-to-break clips. Instead, it attaches using magnets, which are strong enough to hold it in place while the keyboard is flat on the desk. Don't expect the rest to stay with you when you move the keyboard, though. The rest is nicely padded, with a soft, faux-leather cover that is comfortable even in long sessions. This is also where you find the unit's only Razer branding, with a subdued logo centered on its top.

As you might expect, the Ornata is fully backlit, with two options available. There's a single-color version, and of course the Razer Chroma model, which we reviewed. Razer made a conscious design choice to embrace the idea of backlight bleed, as all the lighting shines through the membrane layer below the keys. Every gap on the keyboard is filled with light, but it's softened by the membrane, making it less glaring than a similar effect would be on another keyboard. As usual, the Razer Synapse software lets you customize the lighting for color and effects, so you can get it looking exactly how you like it. Chroma integration in many current games means that you'll get some visual cues. For example, when your ultimate is ready in Overwatch, the Ornata will let you know.

All of the features of the Ornata are great, but the most interesting bit is the new keys and switches. Razer's patented "Mecha-Membrane" switches meld a mechanical switch and a rubber dome to combine the clicky sound of a mechanical with the softer action of a membrane key. While it's certainly a unique feel, it doesn't affect the Ornata's responsiveness. The switch sounds like a mechanical, even if it doesn't quite feel like one.

This is a no-frills keyboard, so don't expect to find any headset pass-throughs or extra USB ports here. There are also no dedicated media controls, although Razer has replaced the right Windows key with a Fn (Function) key that lets you perform various functions using the F keys. There are also no dedicated macro keys, but you can reprogram every single key on the board to do whatever you want (and have game-specific profiles) using the Synapse software.

After a few weeks using the Ornata, I have found that the new hybrid switches are a joy to type on. The shorter travel and softer feel make for speedy work, and the wrist rest is the most comfortable I have used in years. For gaming, the Ornata works just as well, offering comfortable play, even in long sessions. Personally, I still prefer a full mechanical keyboard for gaming, but the Ornata will be the perfect midpoint for those who want the tactile and audible feedback of a mechanical keyboard without the large keys or the premium price.

The Razer Ornata Chroma comes in at just $99.99, a great price for a high-quality keyboard. If you're on a tighter budget, you can take that price down to $79.99 if you choose the non-RGB version, but be prepared for everything to be colored Razer green. While it won't be for everyone, I think that those who try will be just as surprised as I was at how much they like it.

Bottom Line: The Razer Ornata Chroma makes it home on the line between mechanical and membrane keyboards, and offers some of the best features of both. It also keeps its price to a reasonable level, and includes a super comfortable wrist rest. .

Recommendation: No matter which side of the keyboard debate you fall on, the Razer Ornata has something for you. It's a solid piece of hardware, with nice backlighting and premium performance at just under $100.

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