Sure, you’d still face them out in the open, utilized by persons who either didn’t care or didn’t find out about mechanical keyboards. For enthusiasts, though, it has been all mechanical for a long time now. Whether ear-splitting buckling springs or Cherry switches or some of a half-dozen Cherry knock-offs (Razer, Kailh, Omron), persons have already been upgrading from the lowly rubber dome en masse.

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Last updated on June 18, 2022 9:42 pm

But instead of go quietly in to the night, the rubber dome has reinvented itself. Well, Razer and Logitech have reinvented it. Both released rubber-dome keyboards this past year that make an effort to incorporate the feel of mechanical switches-a hybrid that Razer annointed with the catchy term “mecha-membrane,” which we’ll use from here on out.

So can an ol’ rubber-dome keyboard compete head-to-head using its trendy mechanical siblings? Whenever we put Razer’s board to the test, the answer ended up being, “sort of.”

Dressed all in black
A passing go through the Ornata certainly doesn’t betray its rubber-dome innards. From the black chassis to the ultra-thin sans-serif typeface to the RGB lighting, it offers all of the trappings of today’s Razer keyboard. The more costly version of the Ornata even has Razer’s Chroma RGB lighting, identical to its mechanical peers.

IDG / Hayden Dingman
And it looks great. The well-trained eye will spot the Ornata has shallower keycaps than Razer’s mechanical models, this means more light bleeding between and underneath keys. Whether you find that appealing or not, it’s still eye-catching. Razer’s got among the best RGB lighting available, and the Ornata’s probably its most impressive showcase.

The Ornata can be the first Razer keyboard to add a magnetic wrist rest, about an inch high and containing maybe half an inch of foam. It’s plush. While I’m uncertain the way the leatherette-covered foam will endure over time, fresh from the box, this wrist rest is among the finest freebies I’ve seen. And it’s not simply me. People apparently enjoy it so much that Razer’s made a decision to fold it in to the new BlackWidow mechanical keyboards, too.

The Ornata’s only design weakness is that letters are offset near the top of each key, seemingly for no reason. The same look can be used on Razer’s mechanical keyboards, but there it’s to align with the RGB LED directly underneath. (Because Razer uses Cherry-style switches, the LED can’t sit dead center in the main element, so for uniform lighting the letters are moved upward.)

IDG / Hayden Dingman
With the Ornata though, the LEDs are centered. Razer’s mecha-membrane switch actually resembles Logitech’s Romer-G-a square, with an LED in the centre. Thus by offsetting letters to the most notable of every key, the Ornata actually has less uniform lighting. The most notable of every letter is distinctly darker compared to the bottom.

I imagine Razer went this path to keep carefully the Ornata’s design fairly near that of the BlackWidow and Razer’s Blade laptops, however the effect is somewhat bizarre.

Switch it up
Let’s speak about the mecha-membrane switch. That’s the important part.

Razer’s to call it a hybrid, though really it’s simply a rubber-dome keyboard with pseudo-vestigial parts. You understand how certain animals have adopted the appearance of another to assist in survival? The Scarlet King Snake and Eastern Coral Snake look practically identical for example, but only one of these can kill you.

Well, the mecha-membrane switch is actually simply a rubber dome with just a little clicker privately. Here, look into this side-view:

Observe that metal bit on the proper side? The “mechanical” facet of the mecha-membrane switch-aka the clicky bit-isn’t actually doing anything here. It just clicks because persons like clicky keyboards.

That’s all well and good, nonetheless it differs from a Cherry MX-style switch, for instance. A Cherry Blue or Brown doesn’t click simply for the heck of it. The tactile feedback is a sign to an individual that they’ve hit the actuation point, or the stage where a keystroke has been registered. With Cherry Blues and Browns, this actuation point is approximately half the length from pressing the main element to the main element bottoming out.

The select Razer’s mecha-membrane switch gives no such useful feedback. The actuation point on a rubber dome is (for all practical purposes) when the main element bottoms out. Whenever a key hits underneath, it registers. Thus the Ornata’s click is merely a second method of letting you know, “Yes, you hit underneath of the keystroke,” alongside the thunk of the main element hitting the backplate.

I’ve tested and you could somewhat register a keystroke without completely bottoming out if you are very careful. Therefore the click isn’t totally useless, however the resistance is indeed low that by enough time you get to that time, a standard typist will bottom out the main element.

IDG / Hayden Dingman
All having said that…it sort of works.

I’m not likely to say Razer’s mecha-membrane switch is the best, nor that I’d choose it over a genuine mechanical. It really is, at its heart, still a rubber-dome keyboard and features the same pitfalls as any other-particularly wrist and finger strain. Typing upon this thing all day long has been fatiguing in comparison to my usual Cherry MX Blue switches, both from the stiff key resistance and the regular bottoming out.

However the click, superfluous or not, helps a bit-at least psychologically. One of the primary complaints about rubber domes is normally that they feel “mushy” or “imprecise.” That mushiness still underpins the Ornata, however the click acts a mental trick to offset those misgivings. It’s a rubber-dome keyboard, nevertheless, you could almost think you were by using a mechanical.

It’s worth pointing out that faked mechanical feel is pretty not the same as Topre switches, a favorite rubber-dome hybrid that incorporates more areas of mechanicals-to the idea enthusiasts argue whether Topre switches ought to be categorized as mechanical or rubber domes. Razer’s mecha-membrane switch is firmly in the rubber-dome category.

Bottom line
The Razer Ornata is a weird beast. I’ve been through the entire gamut of reactions within my time with it-from “Ew” to “Okay, it’s growing on me” to “Wow my fingers are tired” to “I assume I can start to see the appeal?” to “I can’t start to see the appeal” to “Well, maybe…” and so forth.

Ultimately, I believe the Ornata is good, for a rubber-dome keyboard. As a mechanical keyboard, it’s bad. And unfortunately, Razer’s priced it such as a mechanical.

At $80 for the single-color version and $100 for the RGB, the Ornata’s prices mean you could just buy for yourself a decent mechanical instead-HyperX, Logitech, Corsair, and even Razer itself all have full-mechanical models in the same range. Sometimes they are often had even cheaper in the event that you locate a good sale.

Which makes the Ornata something you’d need to want, rather than a compromise for the budget-strapped gamer. For my money, I’d go with a genuine mechanical. It’ll become more precise and stronger, with the same feel on your own 10,000th key stroke as on your own first.