Mechanical keyboards are widely regarded as superior to cheaper, more common membrane keyboards, but their price and noise level can be off-putting for some. The Razer Ornata features "Mecha-Membrane" technology that combines the best of both worlds. But can it compare to true mechanical keyboards?
Razer Ornata at a glance
The Razer Ornata comes in two models:
- Razer Ornata Chroma – MSRP $99.99
- Razer Ornata Expert – MSRP $79.99
The Expert model features solid green backlighting, whereas the Ornata supports fully customizable Chroma lighting and effects. This review focuses on the Chroma model.
These are the Razer Ornata Chroma's features in a nutshell:
- Razer Mecha-Membrane Technology
- Mid-height keycaps
- Razer Chroma backlighting
- Ergonomic wrist rest
- Razer Synapse enabled
- Fully programmable keys with on the fly macro recording
- 10-key roll-over
- Dedicated Gaming Mode
- Anti-ghosting capability for up to 10 simultaneous key presses
Body and wrist rest
The Razer Ornata is composed of black matte plastic. It connects to your PC, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4 via a lengthy braided USB cable. Cable management notches allow users to select which side of the keyboard the cable extends from.
Most gaming keyboards are designed for gaming more than work, but the Ornata seems to be designed for both work and play. As such, it includes a sizable detachable wrist wrest for comfort. The wrest snaps on via magnets, adding a couple of inches of padding for your wrists.
The magnetic grip could be stronger, but it should stay attached during normal use. The wrist rest is such a blessing comfort-wise, I hope that more Razer keyboards include them in the future.
Mechanical meets membrane
The Ornata's big innovation is that it uses Razer's patented Mecha-Membrane technology, effectively combining design elements of traditional membrane-style keyboards with those from microswitch-based mechanical keyboards.
The keycaps themselves are mid-height, making them shorter than standalone keyboards you'd buy and a little closer to a notebook's built-in keyboard, height-wise. This shorter height allows for quicker actuations, so each keypress registers very quickly as you tap it.
Tapping a key, you still get an audible click as with mechanical keyboards. But the sound is softer and will likely be less obtrusive to other people in the room with you. The keys have a mild sponginess to them, and yet they remain just as responsive and satisfying to press as a mechanical keyboard's.
As for the actual keyboard layout, the Ornata is a mid-priced keyboard for Razer. It doesn't feature any unique keys, although the top Function key row offers media and volume controls when combined with the Fn key on the bottom row. Additional functions include the ability to record macros, adjust brightness, and a Gaming mode toggle that allows users to press up to 10 keys simultaneously during gameplay.
As the name indicates, the Ornata Chroma features Chroma lighting, Razer's name for its 16.8 million color spectrum lighting technology. Lighting profiles are set up with the Razer Synapse software, which is just about mandatory for nearly every Razer PC accessory. Synapse isn't bad, but it requires updates annoyingly frequently.
Although the Ornata has lights for every key and supports the usual Razer lighting profiles, the lights are housed a bit deeper within the key's construction than with typical mechanical keyboards. This has the effect of creating more diffuse lighting. The Ornata's mid-height keycaps look like they're floating on the lights below – a cool effect.
With the Razer Synapse software, users can turn the lighting off, create custom lighting profiles, or select from numerous lighting presets. As always, the lighting profiles can be quickly synced to match other Chroma-enabled products you might own. I find the static effect best suits the Ornata's overall design.
Once you make the jump to mechanical keyboards, it's hard to go back to the membrane style. But some computer users resist making the jump, either because of price or the perceived loudness of mechanicals.
The Razer Ornata strikes a great balance between gaming and work device. Its design is subtle and sleek, without bright logos or visual cues that specifically say gaming. And it functions wonderfully for work and play thanks to the Mecha-Membrane technology. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the feeling of traditional mechanical keyboards like the Razer BlackWidow X, and yet the Razer Ornata actually feels even better to use.
Razer deserves credit for inventing a whole new style of keyboard, one I expect will be imitated in the years to come. But the Ornata is priced quite reasonably, so there's no need to wait. If you don't need pricier features like macro keys and USB pass-through ports, the Ornata's comfort and performance are simply unbeatable.
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