Mechanical gaming keyboards are so early to mid 2017. Membrane keyboards are where it's at now.
Okay, maybe not - but perhaps we're getting closer to a membrane-based keyboard that still feels good to game on.
What Is It?
The Razer Cynosa Chroma is an affordable, full-size, soft-membrane keyboard named after a species of wolf spider. Unlike that creature, but like all of Razer’s products with the Chroma title, the Cynosa’s backlighting features 16.8 million customisable colour options with an RGB LED under every key (the first of its kind to do so!).
Specs-wise you're looking at pretty standard features: 10-key roll-over with anti-ghosting, 1000Hz ultrapolling and fully programmable keys with macro recording. In addition, Razer have also launched the Razer Cynosa Chroma Pro, which is the same as the Cynosa Chroma but has the additional 'underglow' feature: A strip of RGB lighting that flares to life underneath the frame of the keyboard.
What’s Good About It?
The biggest question, “Does it feel good to use?” has to be answered in two distinct ways – “does it feel good to type on?” and “does it feel good to play games with?” In regards to the former, the fleshy bounce that you get off the soft membrane doesn’t clunk loudly like a mechanical switch but gives a softened audible click that isn’t distracting.
It doesn't feel quite as satisfying as a mechanical switch, but it's a good middle ground for those unsure if they want to deep-dive into mechanical boards.
It also feels good under hand - key travel time is one thing that membrane keyboards haven't always done well, but the Cynosa's travel time works perfectly well for any busywork.
For gaming, I didn't notice any overt challenges that negatively impacted on the experience. I replayed the first Cuphead world on the Cynosa and was happy with the responsiveness and never felt like throwing the board out the window, so I counted that as a huge tick.
I also tried it against Shadow of War and Overwatch and though it took some time to adjust from my mechanical keyboard, I adapted to the latter quickly.
The Cynosa is classic Razer, taking design cues from their long list of wares. It's a 104-key board with a small logo at its base, with no dedicated macro keys. It has a good form factor and size that fit snugly into my desktop setup (below).
It certainly makes a difference on a small computer desk, especially if the desk itself isn't deep. Most mechanical keyboards are going to take up a lot more space. In this regard, it was nice to be without a wrist rest though that will be a sore point for some.
Synapse 3 continues the heavy lifting of customising the keyboard's lighting and if individually backlit keys is something that gets you excited, then this is one of the cheapest options with such a feature. Razer is second to none when it comes to customisation and as long as they keep Synapse 3 from getting overly bloated, they'll stay at the top of the game.
What’s Not So Good About It?
We could ruminate on the positives or negatives of mechanical keyboards for another 1000 words, but I’m cognizant of the fact that not everyone likes mechanical switches. If you don’t and you're operating on a budget, then the Cynosa Chroma is a keyboard that will appeal to you. However, for anyone that's been using mechanical switches previously or those looking for highly responsive, receptive keys for gaming will likely be left wanting.
The Cynosa is built to be spill-resistant but being a cheaper keyboard, it looks lightweight and plastic, which certainly makes it feel a lot less durable than a mechanical keyboard and higher-end keyboards that feature, say, aluminium frames. Membrane keyboards don't have quite the same longevity as mechanical keyboards from an individual key stroke point of view, either, so in a way you get what you pay for with the Cynosa.
It will be interesting to see if the Cynosa holds up over the journey.
Should You Buy It?
Power users, touch typists and esports pros will likely look elsewhere but for those that are just beginning to upgrade their desktop setups, the Cynosa is worth a look - especially if you're all about RGB backlighting.