Mechanical gaming keyboards are almost ubiquitous with something for everyone and in every price range. However, that price range is still pretty high for most people which is why something like the Razer Cynosa V2 exists.
Razer calls it the essential RGB gaming keyboard and that’s exactly what it is. No fancy key switches or metal volume dials and certainly no space-age metal alloys here. What you do get is a relatively simplistic keyboard that covers the essentials well and sprinkles it all with a dose of RGB lighting. At $120, it’s a wee bit above the magical $99 number that makes you think ‘budget keyboard’ but, is it worth your time?
Yes. Yes it is.
Razer Cynosa V2 RGB Gaming Keyboard
Keeping things essential, you won’t find anything special about the overall design of the Cynosa V2. It’s your standard keyboard design and if not for the RGB lighting, you’d think it was just another office keyboard. It’s a sturdy plastic build with no defining marks, etches or otherwise gamey flourishes. The plastic has a subtle sandy texture that gives it a bit of grip – not that you’d need it.
Even with the plastic build, the Cynosa feels anything but cheap. It’s very solid with a good heft that won’t have it sliding around the desk every time you tap a key. It has rubber feet to help keep it fixed and two height-adjustable stands to give it some elevation. You don’t get a wrist wrest which is a shame considering the similarly priced Steelseries Apex 3 comes with one in the box.
Like the Apex 3, the Cynosa has cable routing channels on the underside. The three groves allow you to channel the USB cable coming out of the keyboard to the top left, middle or right of the chassis. For the neat freaks amongst us, this is such a great feature to have for cable management. This is also the first non-braided Razer cable I’ve encountered in a long time.
The Cynosa V2 is a full-size keyboard which affords it some space for dedicated media keys. The keys are chunky buttons that are fun to press especially the volume rocker key. Funny thing is, I often forgot they were even there. It’s just easier to use the on-screen controls unless you are, say, playing music while you game. That’s when they are most useful.
The Cynosa is a membrane keyboard but the keys still manage to feel crisp and responsive. The use of a membrane helps keep costs down and they are quite durable and resistant to the oh-so-common coffee or water spills. The keys are noticeably quieter than your traditional mechanical keys which makes the Cynosa V2 very practical for office use or shared spaces.
I honestly enjoyed the typing experience on the Cynosa even though it’s not mechanical. The keys have great travel and a surprising crispness as they bottom out which feels better to me than Cherry MX Red linear mechanical switches. They also have a subtle bounce back that gives some tactile feedback. Typing and gaming with this keyboard is great thanks to the quick response despite the long travel.
Anybody order RGB?
Now while the rest of the Cynosa V2 is rather plain Jane, the RGB lighting is the total opposite. This is the best RGB I’ve ever seen on a membrane keyboard. Unlike other membrane keyboards, The Cynosa V2 has per-key lighting which is insane. Even the Apex 3 has four-zone lighting meaning it could only light up groups of keys. The lighting comes through the membrane with a good amount of brightness and clarity. You can choose from a variety of lighting styles in Razer Synapse with my favourite being the new ‘Fire’ effect which makes your keyboard look like an inviting fireplace on a cold winter night.
If you have the time and patience, you can create your own masterpiece light shows using Razer Chroma Studio. You can get as complex as you wish with several controls for layering, animating, and programming the lighting for the keys. I’m not a fan of Chroma Studio though – I find it rather complex and confusing and yet I’m someone who’s been using Adobe Suite for decades. There’s so much power in the software and the guide is just insufficient at explaining the myriads of layers and animation tools at your disposal.
But, thankfully you don’t have to use it. Razer Synapse will give you access to basics much easier. Another cool trick with the Cynosa V2 is support for Razer Chroma Apps. These are apps that have been developed with the Chroma API allowing them to control the lighting of the keys. There are over 150 games that work with Chroma lighting including popular titles like Fortnite, Apex Legends and Doom to name a few.
The lighting isn’t the only thing you can customize on the Cynosa V2. Every key is fully programmable so you create macros and quick keys for literally anything using any key on the board. Add on Razer HyperShift and you can effectively double the number of assignable functions on the keyboard. HyperShift basically does the same thing as your shift key giving every key a secondary function that you set in Synapse. So you can have multiple profiles for different use cases such as video editing, coding or custom spell bindings for your favourite RPG.
The Razer Cynosa V2 crams a lot of great features that are both useful and delightful. It really does cover the essentials without any of the over the top and quite frankly unnecessary features in higher priced keyboards. The Steelseries Apex 3 costs about the same as the Cynosa V2 and is definitely the better-looking keyboard for me.
Plus, it comes bundled with a wrist wrest. However, the Cynosa V2 has the better feeling keys and more dynamic lighting which gives it that edge over the Apex 3. At $120, the Cynosa V2 is hard to beat for those looking for a well built, customisable gaming keyboard with great lighting that doesn’t break the bank.
The Razer Cynosa V2 was provided by Razer Australia to PowerUp! for the purpose of this review.