Mechanical keyboards are amazing, but Razer has built something magical by combining that technology with the standard membrane keyboards that you are likely most familiar with.

 Razer Ornata Chroma

  • Pricing: $100 ($80 without Chroma)
  • Availability: Out now

I’ve never had a clickier, more satisfying typing experience than using the Razer Ornata Chroma keyboard. It doesn’t use mechanical switches, which is a system where an actuator engages a key once it moves past a point of resistance. It’s also not a true membrane device, which is tech that places a plastic surface that activates a key when you depress it into its well.

It feels different from either of those — and it feels good. It does have drawbacks, and it’s not actually “better” than a keyboard that uses something like a Cherry MX Blue or Brown switch. I’m saying that I don’t care about the ways in which it is worse, because it is such a damn pleasure to use.

What you’ll like

A Razer mecha-membrane key in action.

Above: A Razer mecha-membrane key in action.

Image Credit: Razer

Incredible feel

I was skeptical of the Ornata when Razer first announced it. I’m well aware that Cherry switches — the industry standard for mechanical keyboards — are in short supply these days. And the Ornata, with its proprietary “mechamembrane” switches (as Razer calls them), seemed like a silly distraction to try to sell an odd new keyboard.

I was wrong.

Typing on the Ornata is magnificent. Each key meets your finger with a firm, consistent amount of resistance. I think this is likely due to its membrane half. But once you fully engage one of the keycaps, you get a loud click to let you know that you’re getting work done.

Smashing away on the keyboard creates this beautiful symphony of clicks that I find enchanting. Simultaneously, though, the action of pushing down on the keys never feels quite as violent as using a mechanical keyboard. By that I mean that using something with Cherry switches can often feel wild because the keys are supported by the switch in the center. So if you hit the key off to the side a bit, it can have a bit of give to it that your fingers have to adjust to. With the Ornata, every key is fully supported along its entire base by the membrane, and it makes each press reliably predictable.

Gorgeous Chroma lighting

RGB LED lighting in a keyboard is definitely a luxury, but Razer embraces that with the Ornata. Around the base of each key, a semi-translucent material emanates Razer’s rainbow-spectrum Chroma lighting. This is dope when it reacts to games like Overwatch, but I also really dig the option to turn on a Fire option that makes it look like embers are burning under the keys. It’s transfixing — even my wife agrees.

Comfortable, magnetic wristrest

For $100, I’m also impressed that Razer includes a really nice faux-leather wristrest. This pad is ideal for the mid-height keycaps of the Ornata. It doesn’t physically attach to the keyboard, but a pair of magnets keeps it in place so that it doesn’t slide around your workstation.

It makes the whole package feel more premium, and it ensures that you can enjoy the feeling of those awesome key switches for an extended period of time.

What you won’t like

The clicking is a special effect

As much as I love typing on the Ornata, I still have to point out that the mechanical nature of its switches are primarily an audio effect. On a standard Cherry switch, the click happens because the switch is activates, so the noise is an indicator that you’ve fully engaged the key. With the Ornata, it looks like the key should activate before you hear the click.

That only bothers me when I really think about it. I would prefer the click happen simultaneously with the actuation, but it’s not something I ever think about during use. If you’re a pro gamer and you want those clicks to give you an idea of exactly when you’re doing something in a game down to the milliseconds, maybe you will think about it during use. Keep that in mind.

Conclusion

I think the Ornata is my favorite modern gaming keyboard. Razer wanted to make something different, and it succeeded. But this isn’t just a novelty — it provides a thoroughly satisfying typing and playing experience, which I think is the ultimate test for a keyboard. I would only hesitate to recommend this keyboard if you want something that you know for sure will last you for years and years. With a new tech like this, we have no way of telling how durable it is. If you want one keyboard that’ll last you for the next decade, then you should probably stick with a device that uses more familiar mechanical switches.

But outside of that situation, I am all about the Ornata. The clicking, the pressing action, the lighting — it’s an amazing keyboard.

Razer provided GamesBeat with a sample Ornata for the purposes of this review. It’s available now for $100 in a Chroma version. You can get it without RGB lighting for $80.