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Now with underglow.

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In the past Razer has been known for offering high-end gear like the BlackWidow Chroma V2, but the company has recently expanded its portfolio into more budget friendly hardware. Case in point – its newest keyboard is just $60, and it’s called the Cynosa Chroma and it’s available in both Pro and non-pro models. (See the it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK). We’re specifically evaluating the pro version, which is $20 more expensive at $80, with the only difference being the Pro has underglow lighting.

While there’s really not much of a comparison to its more expensive mechanical brethren, the Cynosa Chroma Pro is a great-looking membrane keyboard with surprisingly unique lighting. Let’s get into the specifics:

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Design and Features

 

Despite its plastic body and budget price the Cynosa Chroma Pro still has an impressive weight. The keycaps are soft to the touch and have a really comfortable concave shape on their surface, which is great for typing. This is a full-size keyboard so it has a number pad, and the key size is spot-on for reliable keypresses. Razer claims the Cynosa Pro is also “splash-resistant,” but for anything other than a mechanical keyboard this tends to be the case. Just don’t spill an entire Mountain Dew on the thing, of course.

As with most membrane keyboards, the keystrokes on the Cynosa Pro have a softer and undoubtedly quieter response than a mechanical switch. The keys do feel swift and there’s a subtle amount of tactile feel thanks to a longer than average height above the membrane below. Overall, I felt the keys were a little more loose—not in a good way—than the comparable Corsair K55 or SteelSeries Apex 150. There’s no wrist rest included, which is a real shame, because the soft wrist rest on the more expensive BlackWidow Chroma V2 is one of the best out there. But the Cynosa Pro sits at a decidedly flat angle, even with the legs engaged, and typing never felt uncomfortable.

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Like its spendier brethren, the Cynosa Pro lacks any dedicated media keys or ancillary buttons for macros. Media control is relegated to the function keys, and while there’s two function keys to control backlight brightness, there’s no onboard shortcut to change the lighting presets. There is, however, an on-the-fly macro recording key which gets the job done without having to open the Razer Synapse software.

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RGB lighting on a gaming keyboard is more or less ubiquitous at this point, but it’s certainly one area where the Cynosa Pro stands out from the rest of the non-mechanical crowd. First, there’s the ability to customize lighting for each individual key. This is a feature that’s available on higher-end keyboards of course, but it’s rare on a membrane keyboard in this price range.

Secondly, Razer has added an all new bit of lighting to the Pro version of the Cynosa with underglow. This lightbar surrounds three-fourths of the bottom edge of the keyboard that results in an excellent ambient glow on your desktop. The effect is so well executed, it’s hard to imagine why Razer hasn’t implemented the feature on its higher-priced mechanical boards. 

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Software

The Cynosa Chroma Pro utilizes Razer’s brand new Synapse 3 software to control lighting, macros, and an assortment of configuration options. The new software looks a lot cleaner than previous iterations, though it did take some time clicking around to figure out where everything is located. In an effort to make things a bit more streamlined different feature sets are broken down into modules, such as the Chroma module for setting custom key colors. Recording macros and setting key bindings is a simple process, and if you don’t want to get bogged down in the muck, there’s very easy pull-down menus to select preset configurations.

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Synapse 3 is also where you can set up Razer’s new Hypershift functionality, which allows you to click a selected button and basically use two sets of macros or key bindings, effectively doubling the number of customizable keys. This is similar to Roccat’s Easy-Shift feature we recently discussed while reviewing the Ryos MK FX mechanical keyboard. And as usual, Synapse will save your various configurations across multiple devices to keep things seamless. All in all, the new Synapse is pretty straightforward and easy to use.

There is of course a decent range of preset lighting effects. A personal favorite is still the smoldering Fire scheme which looks great with the previously mentioned underglow feature. The usual assortment of color wave, breathing, and ripple effects round out a competent list of effects—a fair bit more than what’s usually found on lower-priced keyboards.

Gaming

I used the Cynosa Pro in a number of games, including Overwatch, Destiny 2, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The results were positive, with the keys delivering a quick response throughout any gaming situation. These certainly aren’t a replacement for mechanical switches due to the lack of tactile feedback on key presses, but the Cynosa Pro is more than capable at handling whatever game you want to play. As previously mentioned, there is a slightly loose feeling to the keycaps that felt less accurate than what I’m used to, but by and large this didn’t seem to affect my gaming experience much.

As is the case with most Razer hardware, the Cynosa Pro also customizes its backlighting with Chroma-compatible games. In particular, Overwatch is a lot of fun when the game takes over the keyboard’s color scheme. Playing as Mercy, for example, there’s a gold wave across the keyboard as you send out a healing stream and a blue wave of light as you send out a power-up stream. The effects just work, without any extra hassle, and Razer has come a long way in getting game developers on board with Chroma.

Purchasing Guide

 

The Razer Cynosa Chroma Pro has an MSRP of $80 and is only available from Razer. There is a non-Pro version, which ditches the underglow, available on Amazon for $60 – it’s still fairly new and has get to see a notable discount:

The Verdict

The Razer Cynosa Chroma Pro offers unique lighting that’s coupled with fast, comfortable keys suited to gaming. But at $80, it lives somewhere in the no-man’s-land between budget and higher-end mechanical keyboards. It’s a bit too expensive for a membrane keyboard, so save $20 and get the non-Pro or the Corsair K55 as long as you can live without underglow lighting.



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