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Razer Cynosa Chroma review: Chroma made affordable

By Peter Chu & Koh Wanzi - 27 Oct 2017
Launch SRP: RM299

Razer Cynosa Chroma review: Chroma made affordable

Razer Cynosa Chroma
 

Razer thinks some people really want Chroma lighting

When it comes to keyboards, Razer’s probably better known for its BlackWidow line of products, which span the range from the more affordable BlackWidow X models to the super pricey BlackWidow Chroma V2.

The company introduced something new with the Ornata and its mecha-membrane keys, but it hasn’t had something to fill the gap where the Lycosa once stood.

That changes today with the release of the Cynosa Chroma and Cynosa Chroma Pro keyboards, a pair of relatively affordable keyboards that feature Razer’s signature Chroma lighting.

At RM299 and RM389, respectively, one of their strongest selling points is no doubt their price. Unfortunately, those of you hoping for an affordable mechanical keyboard will be disappointed, as both of them feature decidedly ordinary membrane keys.

Razer Cynosa Chroma

Razer describes these as 'soft-cushioned gaming-grade' keys, which may or may not be a way of excusing their mushy feel. But for what it’s worth, the membrane keys on the Cynosa feel way better than those on the Lycosa, and while they can’t compare to actual mechanical keys, we can see less picky users being okay with them.

Razer also says the keyboard is spill-resistant, and while we didn’t get to test this out, at least there’s the assurance that the Cynosa will live through small accidents.

Still, Razer’s making up for the lack of mechanical keys by including per-key RGB lighting that can be customized using its Synapse 3 software. Per-key customizations are a rarity at this price point, so it’s nice to see Razer making the feature more accessible to the masses.

Each key has its own individual LED, so the lighting is bright and quite even. The inside of the base plate has also been colored white, which helps accentuate the lighting even further.

Razer Cynosa Chroma

You’ll find a mind-boggling range of options inside the Synapse 3 utility, including options to adjust the peaks of your roiling wave of color, tweak the speed and angle of the wave, or even stack effects on top of one another to combine them.

Other features offered in Synapse 3 include a dedicated Game Mode, which lets you disable pesky keys such as the Windows button or the 'Alt+Tab' combination. This can be a lifesaver when you’re frantically button-mashing in game, so the Cynosa has most of the basics covered.

Some of the function keys also double as media, volume and backlight controls. When you hold down the 'Fn' key, the entire function row lights up in white, so you immediately know what keys have additional functions available to you. The brightness adjustment keys offer very minute adjustments, and because the non-function keys have their backlight deactivated when you hold down the 'Fn' key, it's a little hard to tell what extent of adjustments you've made.

Razer Synapse 3

Nevertheless, the sheer degree of customization available has always been Chroma’s strongest suit, and the Cynosa doesn’t disappoint. We definitely appreciate Razer making this feature available in the sub-RM300 price bracket, where the keyboard leaves most of its peers in the dust when it comes to lighting options.

The Cynosa Chroma Pro, on the other hand,  is more or less the same keyboard, and the only difference is the addition of 24 discrete lighting zones on the left, right, and front of the keyboard.

If you want still more LEDs than you’re getting on the Cynosa, the Pro hopes it’ll make you happy. However, the higher price tag makes the keyboard’s other shortcomings harder to justify. For instance, Razer’s own BlackWidow X Tournament Edition is cheaper at RM319, but it makes you give up the Chroma lighting in favor of honest to goodness Cherry MX Blue switches.

That’s a pretty good trade-off to us, but then again, we're not exactly RGB LED fanatics.

Razer Cynosa Chroma

Alternatively, there’s Logitech’s G213 Prodigy RGB Gaming Keyboard, which, at RM299, costs exactly the same as the Cynosa Chroma. It too features RGB LED backlighting, but has the added advantage of having Logitech's Mech-Dome switches (which are decidedly better than ordinary membrane switches), and an integrated palm-rest. 

The build quality of the Cynosa Chroma isn't anything to write home about: The all-plastic (at least there’s no glossy finish anywhere) body feels mediocre and unimpressive. It’s also super light and has some flex to it, so this isn’t one of those keyboards that feel like you could use to knock someone out with.

The keyboard is also missing more premium features like a detachable, braided cable, but that’s to be expected at this price.

Fortunately, the rubber feet on its bottom does their job of holding the keyboard in place, so you won’t find it sliding around despite it being relatively lightweight. We also like the inclusion of two different sets of feet for different angles of elevation.

Razer Cynosa Chroma

With all things considered, we probably shouldn't be complaining too much about the Cynosa, given how affordable it is. Things like a metal chassis and mechanical keys would definitely cost more, and Razer is going after the mainstream crowd here.

Previously, it used to be that per-key lighting was a feature reserved for expensive mechanical keyboards. The Cynosa isn’t the first to break the mold and make the feature available at a much lower price point, but it just might have one of the best implementations.

If mechanical keys aren’t your top priority, and you absolutely love being able to play with different lighting effects, you’ll probably want to give the Cynosa a look. It stands, or falls, on the RGB Chroma features, and how much you like it will depend on what you think a keyboard should be.

7.5
  • Design 7.5
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Value 8
The Good
Per-key RGB lighting
Very affordable for such features
Synapse 3 software is highly customizable and intuitive to use
The Bad
Mediocre build quality
No mechanical keys
Keycaps prone to shine