Gaming keyboards outfitted with mechanical switches tend to command high prices, but there are a great many gamers who aren't onboard with blowing a big hole in their wallets just for a keyboard. However, many of those folks would also prefer not to use a super-cheap membrane keyboard. This juxtaposition has created a market for what are often referred to as mem-chanical keyboards.
Mem-chanical keyboards add some kind of mechanism or extension above the membrane switches to give them a more mechanical or tactile feel. These keyboards are offered as lower-priced alternatives to full-on mechanical models. I've used mem-chanical keyboards in the past and haven't been all that impressed, but Razer's Ornata Chroma takes the mem-chanical concept to the next level with membrane modifications that I've never seen before. There's just one wrench in the machinery, though: this keyboard sells for $100, or about the same as actual mechanical-switch boards. Let's see how Razer justifies the Ornata Chroma's price tag.
The Ornata Chroma doesn't have any visual cues that would give away the fact that it isn't a mechanical keyboard; it looks like a pretty standard gaming deck. The chassis is made of black plastic, and the keycaps are lit by per-key RGB LED backlighting. It doesn't have the "floating keys" effect that is often associated with more premium keyboards, but I personally like the way the RGB light seems to flow through the gaps between the keys on keyboards with shielded base plates.
The top row features a layer of alternative actions that can be accessed by holding the Ornata Chroma's function key. Media controls are a pretty standard feature for gaming keyboards, but in this board's case, they are quite a ways away from the function key. Media controls are ideally close to that key so that you can comfortably press the function key and media controls with one hand.
The Ornata Chroma also has built-in LED brightness controls with 20 brightness levels, including an off mode. However, the onboard brightness controls are strangely limited to only 15 brightness levels and unable to fully turn off the LEDs when you're signed into Razer's Synapse software. More on that later, though.
The media and brightness controls are separated by two additional alternate action keys. One of these keys allows you to create macros without ever needing to install any software on your computer. The other key activates gaming mode, which can be customized in software to disable the Windows key, Alt + Tab, and Alt +F4. Disabling the Windows key, in particular, is a handy feature for avoiding accidentally pulling up the start menu while in an intense gaming session.
A slick Apple-esque LED indicator is positioned above the numpad to indicate whether the lock keys, macro mode, and gaming mode are active.
The Ornata Chroma comes with a cushy leatherette-topped wrist rest that magnetically snaps onto the bottom side of the keyboard. The magnets are sufficiently strong to hold the wrist rest up against the keyboard, but also make it much easier to remove than units that rely on plastic clips. The wrist rest is also held in place by six rubber feet on its underside. A Razer logo is embossed into the leatherette, but it's shallow enough that you can't feel it while resting your wrist on it.
The underside of the board is home to four rubber feet, two flip-up stands, and some cable channels. The rubber feet do a good job holding the keyboard in place, though the flip-up stands lack similar pads, which isn't ideal. Even so, the stands snap confidently into place and prop up the keyboard without a problem. The cable channels give you the option of routing the cable out the back or sides of the keyboard—a nice touch for cable management.
The Ornata Chroma's cable ends in a single USB connector that powers the whole operation.