Mechanical and membrane keyboards both have their ups and downs. Mechanical keyboards have a more tactile feeling and are overall more responsive, whereas membrane keys (the ones in most common keyboards) have a lower impact with the back plate while typing, at the cost of accuracy and general ‘feel’.
The Razer Ornata tries to combine the two with a mecha-membrane hybrid switch. The result is one of the best keyboards I’ve ever typed on, however it comes at the cost of some form quibbles and a few absent features I would’ve liked to have seen.
The Ornata is heckin’ stylish. Razer sometimes has a habit of over-designing their hardware when it comes to visuals, but here it’s gone for a much more minimalist design that works well. The LED lighting looks super pretty on the solid black back plate, and transitions between colours are smooth. As per usual with Razer stuff, the cable is a tight braided cable that feels sturdy but also doesn’t drag on the surface if you need to shift the board around.
The whole piece of kit is slimmer than most gaming keyboards, sporting half-height keycaps that are a decent midpoint between towering mechanical keys and more inset keys like those you’d find on a laptop. For its size it’s a heavy-feeling keyboard, which is great for preventing accidental slippage on the desk surface, but does make intentional readjustments a bit trickier.
A much more minimalist design that works well
One problem with the design is how flat it is. Even with the raising feet flipped out the keys are almost horizontal, which makes reaching for the top few rows of keys slightly more strenuous than it could’ve been. Add in the included wrist-pad (which is incredibly comfortable otherwise) and your hand is given a bit too much height to make accessing the function or even number keys as smooth as the letters.
Your hand is given a bit too much height
To understand how it feels to type on this thing, it’s worth understanding what key switches actually are. In modern keyboards, membrane keys are small domes under the keycaps that, when pressed, complete a circuit and send the input to the computer (technically these are more accurately ‘dome-switches’, but in casual usage they’re just known as membranes these days). They’re cheap to produce, and the padding they provide reduces the impact of your finger hitting the key.
Mechanical switches, on the other hand, have physical switches underneath each key that are triggered when pressed past a certain distance. While they’re more expensive, they’re generally more durable and different switches can be produced for various actuation distances, tactility and audio feedback.
Razer’s mecha-membrane switches are a dome switch with a mechanical brace on top. The switch is still activated before the dome is pressed, but the dome still helps provide padding for the impact of the key being pressed. In the simplest terms possible, it means the keys function and have the feedback of a mechanical switch, but have the typing comfort of a membrane.
The Ornata is the first time these mecha-membrane switches have been used, and for a first outing it’s pretty dang impressive. The keys are highly responsive for what are still essentially membrane keys, being comparable to my Roccat Ryos MK FX’s Cherry MX mechanical switches. I’ve been happily playing the likes of Overwatch, The Division and Far Cry Primal without noticing any delay.
The keys are incredibly loud which will be a problem for those in shared spaces or use audio recording in their work (streamers, podcasters etc.), but I’ve noticed having a loud clack when typing has actually increased my typing speed. The membrane’s padding cuts down on knuckle pain compared to using normal mechanical switches, which is handy when typing at 90+ words per minute.
As always, Razer’s Synapse configuration program is used to tinker with the Ornata. While there’s not much in the way of settings that require changing, every key can be rebound (even the letters, if for some bizarre reason you decide you don’t really need that G key), and the lighting options look great. I’m currently using two Chroma-enabled devices, the Ornata and the Deathadder Elite, and so seeing them change colours together and react to things in enabled games like Overwatch has been a joy.
Every key can be rebound (even the letters, if for some bizarre reason you decide you don’t really need that G key)
It looks stylish and types well, but the Ornata is as bare-bones as you can get with a gaming keyboard. There’s no USB pass-through, no macro keys, no dedicated media keys, no volume scroll, absolutely zero extra features aside from the now-ubiquitous RGB lighting. It’s part of Razer’s push into the mid-budget, coming in at a cheaper £77, but when competitors are offering more extra features than this it can certainly be a hard sell. I use media and macro keys all the time in my workflow, so being without them while testing the Ornata has been very difficult.
If you want raw performance – meaning comfort, responsiveness, and tactility, there’s nothing else that I’ve tried that even comes close to the Ornata. Usually by this point in a review my hands would be aching and I’d need to stop, but I’m still going strong on this thing. It’s a shame that a few form-specific problems, such as the lack of any dedicated extra keys and the very flat profile, knock off a few marks.
A unit was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of this review.
Price: £99.99 (Chroma-enabled), £79.99 (non-Chroma)
Input: 1x USB 2.0+
Release date: Out Now
- Mecha-membrane keys are great
- Stylish look
- Comfortable wrist padding
- Missing some useful features – macro keys, USB passthrough etc.
- Flat profile can be uncomfortable
What it’s lacking for in features it makes up for in performance. The Ornata is the best of both mechanical and membrane keyboards, and looks fantastic on any desk. It won’t break the bank either.