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Last Updated: March 14th, 2023
Simple yet elegant, another classy product from Zowie this time in the shape of an esports ready keyboard. The Celeritas II performs as well as it looks.
The Celeritas II keyboard is a stroke of simplistic genius as the keyboards understated design looks phenomenal. Some may consider the design boring but it is down to preference and this board features some interesting switch development under the keycaps to make up for it. It’s home to optical switches, which are some of the most responsive I have ever used and the board was a pleasure to type and game on. The Celeritas II may not be packed with all the features and RGB you come to expect for a keyboard at this price but it’s hard not to admire when it’s on your desk and it was made with professional gaming in mind.
Quality build – Sturdy, well-built keyboard
Switch design – Fantastic optical switches
Elegant – Simplistic and sleek design
Plug and play
Weight – could be considered too heavy by some
Keyboard Size & Weight
Weight: 1890g with cable
Length: 44.2cm – 17.4 inches
Width: 17cm – 6.7 inches
Height: 3.8cm – 1.5 inches
Switches: Flaretech Optical Red
OS Support: Windows XP,7,8,10
Media keys: Yes (not dedicated)
RGB: No (backlit: red)
Cable length: 1.8 m
What’s in the box
The box for the Celeritas II follows other Zowie products which seem to match the colour of the product inside. We have a plain black box with a lifesize drawing of the board centered on the front. It’s elegant packaging and does a good job of making it have a more premium feel.
Inside we have:
Celeritas II Mechanical Keyboard
USB to PS/2 adapter
Size & Weight
The Celeritas II is a full-sized keyboard (100%) encased in a thick, sturdy shell that makes the board look and feel solid. It has a length of 44.2 cm which plonks this board roughly in-between the Corsair K70 and the ROG Strix Flare. This is one of the wider boards I’ve used (17cm) but only by a few millimetres and it isn’t because of dedicated media keys like other keyboards for once. The Celeritas II case is elongated to give you half a wrist rest which seems more for aesthetics than functionality but still provides comfort. The depth is virtually the same as the Corsair K70 MK.2 board at 3.8mm and it appears to be very chunky.
The weight of the board is 1890 grams and is the heaviest board I have ever used. It has some serious heft to it but only when comparing to other boards otherwise it won’t be that much harder to transport if you are used to lugging full-sized keyboards around. I’m a big fan of the weight as the board is cemented to my desk and it just makes it feel like a very durable product that could survive a nuclear blast (doubtful). It would have been nice to see a TKL version of the board for anyone who doesn’t like 100% boards but also for regular tournament goers who don’t want this extra kilogram in their luggage.
Standard black OEM caps are used for the board with that slight ergonomic curve for comfort and the unoffensive font that we see across many keyboards. The keycaps are made from ABS plastic and have a clear legend to help the backlight penetrate. The keys pick up dirt like most boards but the main issue with this standard material for caps is that it does wear down a lot easier. I would prefer to see manufacturers taking this into consideration for keyboards over £100/$100 and implement PBT caps as standard.
The switches on this Zowie board are my favourite feature. I had never used an optical switch before so I took the cap off and had a look to see what was revealed. There is an LED separate to the backlight of the switch that beams constantly when the button is pressed, the beam is then reflected through the switch into the LED sensor resulting in a keypress. This type of switch is similar to what is used in console pad trigger buttons but don’t let that put you off, it’s essentially just using light instead of an electrical signal. The Flaretech switches are available in red or blue and follow the same characteristics as Cherry switches, the red switches featured in this board are linear and have no tactile bump. Overall the switches seem more reliable and you are less likely to make any accidental double presses when you compare it to Cherry MX Red switches.
Design, Shape & Texture, Case/Internals
I have seen some people refer to this keyboard as boring or plain when they talk about its design and features and I completely disagree. The board sits on my jet black mouse pad next to my black mouse, black monitor, and black bungee where everything is red and black and the setup looks stunning to me. It’s down to preference as we all know but wait till you have one of these boards in your hands before you decide if it’s boring as I think it’s one of the sleekest boards on the market and would look good on anyone’s desk. The keys appear to sit in the case rather than float which is an equally attractive design. So yes it’s a simplistic full-size keyboard and its a fantastic one.
It’s your standard shape but the edges have been rounded. The board has an angle to it and from the side, its shape resembles a doorstop with the thin end being underneath your wrists. It feels like quite a unique design and they have done this as there aren’t any flip-out feet to create that angle which is great unless you prefer a perfectly flat board. Regardless of the lack of a stand, it’s comfortable to use from the get-go and even after a few hours of typing it continued to be an enjoyable keyboard. The board is completely black and is accompanied by some red backlighting which I’m a fan of as the two colours do go well together, especially on peripherals. The shape is wider than most due to the bottom section protruding out like a mini wrist rest but other than its aesthetic appeal its nothing worth noting. There are no media or macro keys around the outside of the board which adds to its understated simple feel but there is a little bit of room above the number pad which I would have preferred to see some dedicated media keys or a volume scroll bar. There are some function buttons doubled up with the F keys at the top of the board which you can control media by using the Fn key along with these.
The material reminds me of the shell to my FK1+, it’s matte black plastic with a soft touch feel and looks superb. It contrasts the standard ABS plastic keys nicely but it does seem to pick up dirt really easily, especially fingerprints meaning if you are a little OCD you may need to get some baby wipes too. There is no give in this material, the board is completely solid and feels excellent to hold.
The branding is kept to a minimum as we would expect apart from a nice etched BenQ logo on the side and that’s it apart from the Zowie logo down the bottom. The underside has nothing going on apart from 4 extra-long rubber feet to provide grip not that this board will move much due to it being a bit of a fatty. The Celeritas II has a no-nonsense cable to go with it, like the Zowie mice it’s a non-braided rubber cable and unfortunately, it can’t be detached. The cable is around 1.8 metres long and you won’t get any issues with the cable as the keyboard is rarely moved but considering this is aimed at e-Sports professionals who travel globally I’d of liked to have seen extra protection.
Features & Performance
As soon as you plug in the board you are met with the vibrant red backlighting and it gives a fantastic visual first impression. The backlighting illuminates the legends from an LED on the switch itself and it’s vivid red colour. They added a bluish-white LED to show when caps lock or number lock is activated rather than having an LED located at the top of the board which we had become used to which is a nice feature but it doesn’t really matter. That’s it for lighting with this board and it’s not like the Asus Rog Strix Flare when it comes to RGB customisation but if you are considering the Zowie board this probably won’t deter you.
The features to this board are minimal and it’s not for everyone but if you are a streamer or MOBA player who needs some serious key customisation then this might not be for you but for casual and professional gamers alike the board does everything you want it to without looking like a Christmas tree. It is worth noting there are some function keys aside from the media ones, you can alter the backlighting brightness and adjust the speed of keystrokes by 1, 2, 4 or 8 times.
The switches’ performance for typing was excellent I found accidental presses were kept to a minimum and I still got nice audible feedback from them that wasn’t deafening. The actuation distance to these switches is 2mm which is similar to the Cherry MX Blues and they have travel of 4mm too. The actuation force is 45g which is the same as the Cherry MX Reds however with the optical switches you get a reduced bounce time. Bounce time is how long it takes the key to ‘bounce’ back into position after a keypress. Now, these Flaretech switches boast a 0.3ms bounce back which might not be noticeable to our human senses but it’s still faster than cherry and this could be a big factor for serious gamers looking for faster response times.
So most keyboards around this price point will usually be packed with features or millions of colours to illuminate your desk but Zowie went a different way and its something I appreciate. don’t get me wrong I’m an avid fan of RGB in keyboards but it depends on the board and you can help but think RGB would totally spoil the design of this keyboard. I’m not sure why it’s so heavy though it feels great however seeing as its aimed at pro players I can’t quite work out why they would make it harder to transport, I mean at least make the cable detachable! Anyway, complaints aside its one of the nicest looking boards I have had the pleasure of using and I realise maybe simple and understated is the best way to go. Its performance is top drawer, whether I was in-game or typing up this review I had zero issues and a high level of consistency. So if the weight and lack of features don’t worry you and you’d love a sleek and stylish board then you should really consider the Celeritas II from Zowie.
BenQ Zowie Celeritas II
Flaretech Optical Red
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It isn’t too hard to argue that the keyboard is the most essential part of any good gaming setup. First off, without one, you’d struggle to get pretty much anything accomplished, but having a sub-par keyboard can easily do more harm than good.
But how do you know what makes a good keyboard? With so much to remember and so much to look out for when comparing models, it’s no wonder people start to get confused. That’s why today we’re going to look at what makes a great gaming keyboard, some of the features you should be on the lookout for, and of course, some recommendations.
We’ll be focusing on a brand we all know and love today – Corsair. You’d struggle to find a poor keyboard in this lineup. Corsair has a wide range of products that include both wired and wireless versions.
Why Buy A Corsair Gaming Keyboard?
With such a wide range of choices out there, shopping for a brand that you trust is a way that many people narrow down their search to ensure they still end up with a high-quality product.
Corsair’s keyboards have quickly become a staple of many gaming builds due to their great build quality and great set of features. Even though many of these products are built and marketed towards gamers, they’d easily fit in an office environment – as long as you tone down some of your RGB lighting that is.
Where Can You Buy A Corsair Gaming Keyboard?
To get the full picture of what you can expect from Corsair’s lineup, you can check out their full range of products on their website. Here, you’ll be able to filter by product type and even by pre-set categories in the keyboard lineup.
At the moment, these categories are “Speed and responsiveness, lit by a vivid spectrum of color”, “UNPLUG and PLAY with the latest in wireless mechanical keyboards”, “Quality keys, with no distractions” and “Performance gaming starts here”.
If this seems a bit confusing, you can also use filters to narrow down your choice by lighting, switch type, connectivity, keyboard type, and model range.
You’re probably already familiar with the next method of finding products – Amazon. If you want to broaden your search a bit then this online marketplace will allow you a little bit more fine-tuning in your search criteria. Once you have found a product that looks good, you can check out detailed specifications, reviews, and even customer questions to get an idea if this keyboard is right for you.
Which Corsair Gaming Keyboard Is Best for You?
Size – Full size, 480 x 166 x 34 mm
Switch – Rubber Dome
Connection Type – Wired, 1.8 m cable length
We’re going to kick off our list today with a great looking budget option. With the price of peripherals seeming to only go up and up, it’s great when we find something in the $50 price bracket that feels premium.
Yes, you’ll have to suffer some sacrifices at this price range but it’s nothing too drastic. The main turn-off that we can see with this keyboard is the fact that it only has membrane switches. This keyboard is still branded towards gamers however, but the mushy feel of a membrane switch is something that is quite hard to get used to after using mechanical switches for so long.
This keyboard probably won’t be winning any awards in the design department either, but that’s not to say that it’s bad. This is a value board that cuts a bit of cost through the use of a two-tone plastic design which may be prone to scratching.
There are, however, a lot of great features for gamers. There is a full row of macro keys on the left of the keyboard that can be customized however you see fit as well as a handy set of media controls located just above the number pad. This does increase the length of the board just a bit but it’s a small price to pay for the extra functionality.
For the price, this is a great keyboard to pick up – especially if you aren’t too sure if you want/need any extra features. You’ll get a decent quality keyboard with some RGB functionality and a handy set of features for the price of a AAA game. Not bad value we’d say.
If you want to read up a little bit more about this keyboard, why not check out our full review here?
Corsair K70 MK.2
Size – Full size, 438 x 168 x 29 mm
Switch – Cherry MX Speed
Connection Type – Wired, 1.8 m cable length
Moving away from the budget side of things for now, next we’ll be looking at a truly premium keyboard. While it’s still in the wired category, this full-sized keyboard comes with a set of Cherry MX Speed switches and a great host of features to justify its price.
This may be a bit of a different keyboard than you are used to, this is a low profile keyboard that cuts down on the clunky-ness factor while still delivering the same level of precision found in standard keyboards. We wouldn’t say this is the same as typing on a laptop keyboard, but it’s probably the closest you’re going to get while retaining a mechanical feel to the keys.
The design of this keyboard is something special. The RGB features paired with the low profile key-caps make this keyboard seem to almost disappear into your desk. The RGB lighting can be easily customized through Corsair’s iCUE software and there is also an included wrist rest to keep you comfortable during long play sessions.
There is also a handy USB Pass-Through port as well as dedicated media keys on this keyboard which makes it the perfect fit for those who are looking for a keyboard stacked with features. The only thing that we can see missing from this keyboard is a set of dedicated macro keys which could be enough to deter some potential buyers.
If you want to read our full review of the Corsair K70 MK.2, check out the following page where we take a deeper dive into its features.
Size – TKL, 366 x 173 x 41mm
Switch – Cherry MX Red
Connection Type – Wireless, up to 25 hours (low brightness), up to 75 hours (backlight off)
If you think a wireless keyboard would suit your gaming setup a bit better than a wired one, Corsair offers a few great options. If you want to avoid spending a fortune, one of the cheaper options is the impressive K63.
Although we say ‘cheap’ it certainly doesn’t feel like it. While you will be paying a fairly large markup for a wireless version of the Corsair K63, you won’t be sacrificing anything in the way of build quality and features.
One thing to remember when picking up this keyboard is that it is a tenkeyless model. If you are attached to having a number pad and tend to use it for games, you won’t find one here. Dedicated macro keys are also absent from this keyboard, however, you will still get a full set of media keys and a wrist rest.
The battery life of the K63 is fairly decent for its price range. You’ll be able to get up to 75 hours with no backlighting and up to 25 if you have the lights turned on. Speaking of the lights, there’s no RGB to speak of here. You do get a nice blue color as the toggleable backlight though which can still be customized through the iCUE software. As the lighting tends to destroy battery life on wireless keyboards though, you probably won’t find yourself missing it much.
Corsair K95 Platinum XT
Size – Full size, 465 x 171 x 36 mm
Switch – Cherry MX Blue
Connection Type – Wired, 1.8 m cable length
Our most expensive keyboard on the list today is the Corsair K95 Platinum XT. This keyboard is a great fit for those who are competitive gamers or just want the best of the best.
There are six dedicated macro keys on this keyboard and integration with Elgato Stream Deck software. As well as these macro keys, you will also get a full set of media keys which is something that is pretty standard across Corsair’s lineup.
The design of this keyboard isn’t too far off most of the other keyboards on the list. You’ll get an impressive amount of RGB customization as usual with Corsair as well as a sturdy and well-built keyboard that will last for years to come. On the underside of the keyboard, there is also a way for you to route your cable through to help reduce a bit of cable clutter.
Things to Consider
The first thing that most of us weigh up when we’re shopping around for any product is the price. Having a clear budget in mind is one of the best first steps when it comes to picking up a new peripheral or piece of hardware.
With keyboards, there’s a huge variety in price so narrowing it down by budget is important. Generally, you can pick up a great budget keyboard for around $50 but be aware that they will lack certain features that the high-end ones will have. Features such as RGB lighting and wrist supports will drive up the price of a keyboard so that’s worth bearing in mind.
Further up the pricing scale, you’ll also get things like macro and media keys, key switches, and individual key lighting. If you’ve got something very specific in mind, you might have to expand your budget somewhat.
The design of a keyboard can sometimes be overlooked but after all, it is taking center stage on your desk. A great looking keyboard can really add something special to your gaming setup, particularly if you’re looking at the flashy, high-end keyboards out there.
Deciding on how you’ll be using the keyboard is perhaps the first consideration. If you’re planning to use this in an office as well as your gaming setup, RGB lighting is probably a no-go. If this is just a personal keyboard, then feel free to shop around for the flashiest designs on the market to help transform the look of your setup.
Keyboards come in a range of different sizes so it’s important to check what size keyboard you want. There are three main sizes to choose from, the self-explanatory full-size ones, TKL, and 60% keyboards. Full-size keyboards are great if you don’t want to miss out on any features including the Numpad and you have space.
The smallest size is the 60% keyboard. These will only have the most essential keys and the keys themselves will often be a bit squished together. Expect tiny arrow keys or a small return key. This can be fine for some but they can be frustrating to type on for others.
Comfort is another overlooked aspect of searching for a keyboard. While many gaming keyboards won’t label themselves as ergonomic, most brands are now taking the time to create keyboards and mice that are comfortable for prolonged use.
Some things to look out for include wrist supports and adjustable legs to change the angle of the keyboard. Removable wrist supports are handy because they allow you to adjust according to what’s the most comfortable position for you. However, this will drive up the price a bit so it might be a good idea to test them out in a store to see if you really need them.
What really makes gaming keyboards special is the number of extra features you can play around with. You’ll often find remappable keys, dedicated macro keys, fully customizable RGB lighting, and even wireless technology on more premium models.
Although some of these are offered in most base models, features such as per-key RGB customization and wireless technology can often drive the price of your keyboard upwards. It’s worth making a quick note of what you can and cannot live without on a keyboard before you go shopping – this way you’ll be able to easily filter your results to find that perfect match.
Mechanical vs. Membrane
Depending on whether you prefer a membrane keyboard or a mechanical one, this can have a huge effect on the number of options you’ll have available. Generally, membrane switches are usually reserved for only the most budget of keyboards in the gaming brand.
Some keyboards will even allow you to change these switches out at will, but you will need to pick up two different sets of switches to do so. With mechanical switches also being more durable, we’d definitely recommend going this route for your new gaming keyboard.
We hope our buyer’s guide today has helped ease a bit of the stress that comes with picking up a new keyboard. As it’s something that you’re going to be using every time you’re on your computer, we know it has to be perfect.
Corsair is a great brand to put your trust into and the amount of options they have available is impressive. We’re sure that even if none of the keyboards we listed today takes your fancy you’ll have no problems finding one that does.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of Corsair gaming keyboards though if you still aren’t too sure on what to pick up, take a quick look at their other products or even some of their competitors such as Logitech and Razer for ideas.
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Last Updated: November 28th, 2023
Having already tested many of Razer’s premium-grade keyboards and mice, we thought it was about time we put their less expensive offerings through the same stringent testing process. So, with that in mind, today we’re going to be taking a look at the Razer Cynosa Chroma – a flashy, RGB-riddled, budget gaming keyboard that falls into a very competitive pool of similarly priced alternatives.
The Cynosa is a keyboard that comes to shelves offering an array of cool RGB options, decent build quality, and fully programmable keys. However, it is a budget offering – meaning features are fairly limited. It doesn’t come with mechanical switches and has no dedicated media keys either. So, it’s gonna be very interesting to see how this stacks up against the likes of Corsair’s K55, HyperX’s Alloy Core RGB, and the Redragon K552.
So, with all that in mind, let’s waste no further time and dive straight into it.
Nice Aesthetics – A decent looking design considering the price point
Hotkeys – Users can adjust media settings via hotkeys found on the F-buttons
Decent value for money – A keyboard that showcases good value for money if you like RGB
Anti-ghost and Key Rollover – Great for games that require several key-binds or “button bashing”
Build Quality – Plastic construction that does feel a little flimsy
Limited Features – Doesn’t’ really offer many premium features
Keyboard Size & Weight
Size: Full Size
Length: 463mm/ 18.22 inches
Width: 154mm/ 6.06 inches
Height: 31mm/ 1.22 inches
Switches: Membrane Rubber Domes
OS Support: Windows 7,8,10
Media keys: No
RGB: Full RGB
Cable length: 2m
What’s In The Box
Like all Razer products, the Cynosa keeps the same green-on-black color theme. The box is fairly generic and showcases the Cynosa Chroma in full RGB mode on the front. The back offers more details regarding the keyboard including sizing and weight, along with some additional info regarding the features too.
Inside we get:
Razer Cynosa Chroma Keyboard
Razer’s Cynosa doesn’t really offer anything new when comparing its design to other models within the Razer keyboard family. However, this is a keyboard marketed around its RGB. So, when Razer unveiled this model, offering almost nothing in terms of physical design, it wasn’t the end of the world – as long as the RGB could live up the name.
With that in mind, the Cynosa Chroma comes to the table with an all-black color theme and a fairly boxy design for the most part. The main body of the keyboard is comprised entirely of plastic (what we expect at this price range) and has been finished with a subtle matte roughness for additional grip whilst gaming and typing. The Cynosa has been further stripped-back and now loses almost all signs of Razer branding, apart from the small RGB logo that is found at the bottom of the keyboard.
Razer has always been renowned for packing as many features as possible into their peripherals – whether it’s a high-end keyboard or a budget mouse. Thankfully, they’ve used that same ideology here with the Cynosa Chroma. With this being a keyboard that retails under $50, we were extremely intrigued to see what this keyboard brought the table – apart from the RGB.
So, let’s dive straight into it.
Let’s begin by discussing the most important aspect of any keyboard when it comes to gaming – the switches. The Razer Cynosa, unfortunately, does not make use of mechanical switches. Yep, in the case of the Cynosa Chroma, users will be treated to the quiet and mushy feel of the membrane rubber dome switch. Oh, joy. Razer is calling their specific brand of membrane switches “Soft cushioned keys with gaming-grade performance”, but we’ll take that with a pinch of salt.
The switches on the Cynosa are pretty much what you would expect from this price point. They’re membrane switches and, like most switches of this ilk, feel pretty spongey for the most part. Having said that, they do offer a slight tactile edge which was welcomed. When comparing the Cynosa switches to the Alloy Core RGB switches (from HyperX), there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the two. If I had to give any critiques, I’d say the Razer probably offered a slightly heavier actuation point. But, Overall, they were pretty generic in design and feel.
On a more positive note, the Cynosa does offer spill resistance thanks to the membrane design it uses. Unlike the HyperX Alloy Core, which can effectively handle 120ml of spilled liquid, the Razer’s survival limit is not published on their product page. I did try tipping a little bit of water on the keyboard, and it seemed to work fine afterward. So, yeah, water-resistant.
RGB lighting is an area Razer has exploited over the last couple of years, offering some of the best RGB lit peripherals the market has to offer. So, with that in mind, we naturally expect big things from a keyboard that has been named after their proprietary RGB technology. Thankfully, we were not disappointed.
The Cynosa, even though a budget keyboard, offers excellent RGB that pretty much outperforms anything in its price range. Most keyboards of this price point offer specific RGB zones on a keyboard, usually around 5-8 running vertically or horizontally across the board. However, on the Cynosa, that is not the case. Each and every key is customizable within the Chroma RGB Studio. Alongside an almost infinite amount of RGB customization – making use of 6.8 million colors – the Cynosa also comes equipped with a ton of presets to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a generic color cycle or something a little more elaborate like the ripple effect, you’ll be happy to know this keyboard’s RGB offers it all.
Unfortunately, this keyboard does not come equipped with media keys. Then again, neither does the more expensive BlackWidow that outperforms this in most areas – so it was no real surprise. What it does come with, however, are handily placed hotkeys, making the Cynosa a bunch more versatile. Hotkeys are basically media keys but require a function button to be activated before they work. Users will find an FN button to the right of the spacebar, which when pressed, lights up all the relevant media keys – darkening every other key. It’s a nice feature if truth be told, and whilst these aren’t proper media keys, they’re probably the next best thing.
Anti-Ghosting & Key Rollover
Like a lot of modern keyboards, the Cynosa comes equipped with anti-ghost and Key rollover – a feature crucial for certain gaming scenarios. Keyboard ghosting is a name given to the un-registered keypresses that occur when several keys on the keyboard are pressed simultaneously. To stop this occurring, keyboard manufacturers implement key rollover technology into their boards. This technology allows the keyboard to read and register every pressed key, no matter how many are pressed at the same time.
It’s worth mentioning that key rollover comes in a number of different variations ranging from 2-key to every key. On this particular board, Razer has equipped 10-key rollover, meaning 10 keys can be pressed simultaneously and all will register. So, more than enough for most gaming scenarios.
Synapse III Software Package
Lastly, we have the Synapse III software utility. Now, even though this is a software package that can be used with other Razer peripherals, it’s still worth mentioning for the versatility and customization it gives to this keyboard. Synapse has come a long way in the last couple of years. Every time we review the software it seems to get better. This time around, it feels almost user-friendly!
For the most part, consumers use Synapse III to set up their RGB configurations. However, it offers much more than that. Inside Synapse, users will be able to create custom profiles for certain scenarios – whether it be video editing or gaming – program each and every button on their keyboard to their specific needs, and link all their peripherals together – yes, for RGB purposes.
The great thing about the Cynosa, as mentioned above, is that Razer allows users to re-map every single key on the board. That effectively gives users much more versatility when it comes to gaming scenarios. Unfortunately, this keyboard doesn’t offer onboard memory, so you won’t be able to save profiles for on-the-fly usage.
Finally, we come to the most important part of the review process, the hands-on testing. In this section, we will be putting the Razer Cynosa through performance tests to see how it stacks up in build quality and numerous gaming scenarios.
So, let’s dive straight into it.
I’m the sort of person that plays a lot of competitive esports-type titles – think CS:GO. So, when I choose a peripheral, it needs to be of the highest quality, offering excellent responsiveness, accuracy, build-quality, and overall feel. So, when swapping out my Ducky Miya Sakura for the Razer Cynosa Chroma (a keyboard tailored to gamers that like RGB over accuracy) I was less than pleased, to say the least. However, for the purposes of this review, I will be holding a strictly unbiased opinion, for the most part.
Like always, I started off by playing my favorite fast-paced first-person shooter – CS:GO. It didn’t take long before I concluded that these switches had nothing on mechanical – obviously. However, how did they fair when considering other similarly priced membrane style keyboards? Well, I have to reiterate what I said earlier in the article, the switches don’t feel the best if I’m being completely honest. They are extremely mushy and have very little tactile response to them. Furthermore, the actuation pressure required to activate each keypress feels quite high, and the responsiveness is simply not up to scratch. I played for a good couple of days using this keyboard and the feeling of disappointment only grew with time. Annoying.
We took the Cynosa for a spin on some MMO titles shortly after CS:GO. Now, gamers that enjoy MMO style titles, usually look for keyboards that come equipped with macro keys – like the Corsair K55. Unfortunately, this keyboard doesn’t come with that facility, meaning we weren’t off to a great start. I played WoW for a good while and wasn’t completely unimpressed with how the board felt. Luckily, Razer made sure this keyboard was equipped with their new HyperShift function which allows users to, effectively, double the amount of available keys they have on their board. So, a big plus for that one.
Gaming aside, I spent a good bit of time working my way through the seemingly endless amount of RGB options available to this keyboard. I now understand why they gave the Cynosa the Chroma title.
I started off testing some of the various presets. I was pleasantly surprised with the results if truth be told. You’ll have access to a bunch of different settings which range from color cycles and soft gradient changes, to starlight and ripple effects – reactive RGB that sends a shockwave through your board after every keypress. After sampling the presets, I dipped my toe in the Chrome Studio sea to see what it had to offer. The short answer is a lot.
Users will be able to customize almost every key on their board within the Chroma studio package. The keyboard is split into a grid, with each segment of the grid housing a different key. Simply select the key you want to change, and use the sidebar of options to choose your preference. Very cool.
Overall, the performance testing of this keyboard left me a little confused as to what I thought of this board. On one hand, it’s really not the best for games that require a rapid response or elaborate keybinds. On the other hand, it is extremely quiet and has one of the best RGB outputs of any keyboard at this price range.
With that, we finally make our way to the verdict section of this article. This is where we give our final impression on the Razer Cynosa while answering some of the big questions that might surround it – is it worth buying?
Ultimately, what you’re looking at with the Razer Cynosa Chroma, is a bare-bones keyboard that does the simple things quite well. It offers excellent RGB, some good features geared towards gamers, and a very nice aesthetic for the most part.
That being said, this is a keyboard that is geared towards gamers, and from a gaming point of view, I feel it falls a little bit flat. The membrane switches are not the best by any reach, and the lack of macro keys means it falls short in the MMO market as well.
Comparing this to other keyboards of similar price, I would say its a keyboard that is great for first-time gamers. It comes to the table at a price point that is very affordable, whilst offering excellent aesthetics and some cool features. However, if you’re someone who prioritizes response, accuracy, and build quality instead, I’d recommend looking at something a little more high-end.
Asus has dominated the PC component space with their brand “Republic of Gamers” or “ROG”. If you don’t know ROG then you probably know “Strix” – actually my personal favorite brand of PC components.
Asus ROG RYUJIN II 360 CPU Cooler
CPU Block Dimensions
78.15 x 87.5 x 81 mm
Intel: LGA 1150, 1151, 1152, 1155, 1156, 1200, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 AMD: AM4, TR4*
3x Noctua NF-F12 InductrialPPC 2000 PWM Fans
3.5″ Full Color LCD Screen
How We Review Hands-on Review
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CPU Block Dimensions
78.15 x 87.5 x 81 mm
Intel: LGA 1150, 1151, 1152, 1155, 1156, 1200, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 AMD: AM4, TR4*
3x Noctua NF-F12 InductrialPPC 2000 PWM Fans
3.5″ Full Color LCD Screen
ROG RYUJIN II 360
CPU Block Dimensions
78.15 x 87.5 x 81 mm
Intel: LGA 1150, 1151, 1152, 1155, 1156, 1200, 1366, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 AMD: AM4, TR4*
Radiator Dimension: 121 x 394 x 27mm Radiator Material: Aluminum
3x Noctua NF-F12 InductrialPPC 2000 PWM Fans
3.5″ Full Color LCD Screen
Aesthetically, one of the best looking AIOs on the market
More affordable options that perform similarlyWhat’s In The Box?
The box comes in a black and grey textured line pattern with a red secondary accent on the top and base of the box. There’s iridescent ROG branding on the front and side displaying the name and the one-line product description “liquid CPU cooler”. But what do you get inside the box?
The contents of the box are as follows:
1x RYUJIN II AIO Cooler
1x AIO Fan Controller
3x 120mm (12cm) NOCTUA ipcc Fans
1x Intel Mounting Bracket
1x Intel Backplate
1x AMD Mounting Bracket
1x ARGB to MB Cable
1x 3-way Fan Cable (splitter)
1x ROG Fan Controller VHB Tape
12x 32x30mm Fan Screws
24x 32x8mm Radiator Screws
4x LGA 115X/1200/1366 Standoff Screws
4x LGA 2011/2011-3/2066 Standoff Screws
4x AMD Standoff Screws
4x Thumb Screws
Let’s start with the radiator, and as they go this rad is pretty rad. The aluminum monster is coated in matte black paint with a beautifully even finish with the italic letters ROG stamped on each side in Asus’ usual font. There are also four strutting support rivets spaced evenly on each side of the radiator adding to the overall industrial look this whole AIO seems to be going for… and I love it.
The RYUGIN II’s 380mm long tubes are comprised of thick rubber and are sleeved to give them a very appealing look and feel. The heavy-duty rubber really bestows confidence in their durability.
There’s more than enough to talk about here. The CPU block is where the RYUJIN II really flexes its well-designed muscles. The main feature is the 3.5″ full-color LCD screen situated front and center that has a multitude of different uses, even sporting support for Aida64’s sensor panel feature straight out of the box.
The rectangular look of the CPU block along with its vent-like texture on each side supports the industrial look I mentioned earlier, and the 7th gen Asetek pump gives this beast of an AIO some serious pumping power. Painted again in matte black with ROG branding on each side, “republic of gamers” printed in text diagonally on the top and bottom of the block, and, of course, the ROG logo on the left and right side.
A very interesting point to note about this block and pump is that the screen is magnetically attached to the pump housing and is completely removable to help ease the installation process, as the blocky shroud obstructs the thumb screws needed to install the block to the CPU. The screen itself has two wires attached to it, one USB to connect to the motherboard and one micro USB to connect to the fan controller. Under the LCD screen and pump housing sits a small internal fan, presumably to keep the 2800rpm pump nice and cool, but how does the pump get power? There’s no hardwire solution for the pump that I can see?
That’s the question I asked myself when I first unboxed the RYUJIN II but the brains over at Asus have engineered a genius way for the pump to receive power. Situated just under the screen inside the pump housing is a male copper contact point that corresponds to a female contact point on the CPU block itself – this is how power is transferred between the two components.
This is genius, but, being a benchmarker I do have to swap CPUs quite often and after a good 30-40 times of taking the screen off and putting it back on, I am starting to notice some wear on the female contact points. Could this be a potential point of failure in the future? Maybe, but under normal circumstances, I’d put good money on the RYUJIN II’s longevity.
Not only does the RYUJIN II look the part, but It’s also pretty cool, literally! And it’s all thanks to the three Noctua NF 2000rpm fans, again following the matte black aesthetic. It’s great to see some Noctua fans in something other than brown. These Noctua fans can push 121.8m3h of air and have a static pressure of 3.94mmH2O! FANtastic.
Not only are the Noctua fans top quality, but the fan power cables are also sleeved in a shrink rubber and woven rubber-like material combo. This makes them look incredibly clean, fit the aesthetic of the build, and feel super-premium! They’re also incredibly easy to cable manage.
The RYUJIN II’s PWM/DC fan controller has a lovely machined metal outer shell in the consistent matte black finish corresponding to the rest of the AIO with glossy black accented corners that house both the ROG logo and branding. The connection points are located on the left, right, and bottom of the controller. You can attach four fans to this controller with its four fan power connectors and four ARGB connectors for any Aura-Sync compatible RGB fans on the left and right. The controller power, motherboard ARGB In-connector, and the micro USB connector for the LCD screen are all situated on the bottom of the controller.Installation
Installation of the RYUJIN II follows most well-known AIOs with the first step being installing whatever mounting solution you need for your motherboard.
I’m using an AMD board so this includes removing the Intel mounting hardware and twisting on the AMD mounting bracket, very reminiscent of the way fractal design chooses to mount their bracket onto CPU blocks.
The next step includes prepping the motherboard by removing AMD’s standard clip-based mounting system and replacing it with the RYUJIN II’s included standoff pillars – all easily done.
I decided to mount my radiator into the front of my Corsair 5000X mainly because of aesthetics and I wanted to test the temperature differences in the case with a front-mounted intake cooling solution in this configuration.
Installation is pretty standard to most AIO’s – screwing the radiator and fans into the front of the case using the included long fan screws, remembering to first feed the fan’s wires through to the back of the case to save a headache later.
The CPU block then sits on top of the standoff pillars I mentioned earlier and screw in with the included thumbscrew (remember to tighten in an X pattern).
You’ll find it much easier to remove the screen when tightening the thumbscrews. It’s not impossible to mount with the screen attached but it removes for a reason so why make the job harder for yourself?
Cable management is very easy with the RYUJIN II’s fan controller and with the fans being matte black and none-RGB there are three fewer cables already. Now it’s just a matter of plugging everything into the correct header on the motherboard and fan controller respectively and you’re good to go.Performance
All of the cooler testings took place in an as controlled environment as we could achieve, with an ambient room temperature of 20.5°C. The ambient temperature of the PC case was recorded at 23.3°C. For testing, we used a powerful system equipped with a Ryzen 9 5900X and an MSI Gaming X Trio RTX 3080, running a 20-minute synthetic (CPU Only) test and a real-world gaming benchmark with a 20-minute Battlefield 5 gaming session.Synthetics
As you can see we got good thermal performance across the board, with the exception of the stock cooler really, with the RYUJIN II coming in at 72.3°C after a 20-minute Synthetic load, second only to the Lian Li Galahad. But the Galahad does win by a very large margin. It also seems based on the data that there is a trend based on cooling performance having a direct correlation with increasing internal case temperatures. In this configuration, the more efficient your cooling on a front-mounted intake cooling solution like this one, the toastier it will be for other components. Interesting to note when thinking of radiator mounting.Real world
Before performing the real-world tests, I allowed the CPU and the case to return to within control temperature. You can see the RYUJIN II coming in second place again to the Galahad by just over eight degrees. However, both tests indicated that the performance of the RYUJIN II is similar to that of the H150i. After a very intense 20 minute stint of Battlefield 5 gameplay, the final temperature for the RYUJIN II comes in at 68.2°C, only a 29.9°C increase. This is surprising considering the heat convection coefficient states essentially that the hotter the temperature around something is, the harder it is to cool it when speaking in terms of liquid.Summary
Cooling performance is a team effort and not essentially all down to one component. It’s all well and good having a great AIO but you also need a good set of fans and a case with good airflow to cool effectively. Check here to see our review of the Corsair 5000X I used to test the RYUJIN II.
The configuration also matters. If you have an AIO in the Intake configuration, it’s going to heat up your case and have a detrimental effect on the temperature of other components in your case, especially the passively cooled components. On the other hand, if you have the AIO set up in an exhaust configuration then you might be damaging your cooling efficiency by sucking already hot air from inside your case through the radiator.Final Word
When it comes down to CPU cooling, AIOs are reserved for the higher-end, higher-budget PCs. You wouldn’t slap an AIO in a $200 budget PC, but with that being said for bigger budget builds you’ll probably want to consider one to help improve overall performance. The confirmed MSRP by Asus of the RYUJIN II comes in at £279.99 ($386.99) for the 360mm AIO and £239.99 ($331.70) for the 240 version. The USD prices are at the currency’s conversion rates and are not the confirmed MSRP for the RYUJIN II in USD, (we don’t have that yet) but the GBP price is the confirmed MSRP from ASUS. So it doesn’t exactly break the bank either.
Saying that I also absolutely fell in love with the look and feel of this AIO and if I didn’t already have a custom loop on my personal PC I definitely would have considered this. But, with that being said, despite its all-singing, all-dancing LCD screen, it is only the second-best contender on our roster today. The Galahad not only beats the RYUJIN II in thermal performance but also just beats it in Bang for Buck, coming in at around the $200 mark. This is a significant deciding factor for choosing an AIO – better cooling performance for $80 or so fewer dollars than the RYUJIN II’s MSRP. If you have your heart set on this AIO there are people shipping from mainland China at the $525 mark. We won’t be seeing the RYUJIN II hit the market over here just yet as there are delays due to manufacturing issues with the LGA 1200 mounting hardware. With that being said we can’t wait for this cooler to hit the market. It truly is one of the best-looking cooling solutions I’ve seen in my 10+ years of being a PC enthusiast. Well done Asus.
The Bolt II proves that you don’t need a massive gaming tower to get massive gaming performance—as long as you’re willing to pay for the privilege of petite.
“If Valve’s SteamOS isn’t ready, we’ll just make do with Windows,” said gaming-PC manufacturers. And so it was done. Steam Machines have begun to hit retail sans the SteamOS. And if the smallish form factor Digital Storm Bolt II is an indication of what we can look forward to, that’s a-okay with us.Size matters
In case you can’t tell from the photos, the Bolt II is small: We’re talking 16 inches tall, 14 inches deep, and just 4.5 inches wide. That’s nothing compared to most desktop gaming rigs. And this incarnation of the Bolt II features feet on its left side, so that you can lay it horizontally or vertically against the side wall of your entertainment center without worrying that it will suffocate and overheat. This machine is thinner than my A/V receiver. And that’s perfect for the Bolt II’s mission: bringing high-end PC gaming into the living room.
Digital Storm’s Bolt II is amazingly small considering the power that’s packed inside its diminutive case. (Note the elevator feet on the left-hand side.)
The trade-off, of course, is internal expandability: The Bolt II is a tightly tailored machine with absolutely no wasted interior space. It’s not quite as cramped as a laptop, and it’s not as awkward to work inside of as the original Bolt, but it’s far from spacious.
The ‘Pick two: Small, powerful, cheap’ paradigm is in play here.
It’s not as if the Bolt II is crowded for no reason, anyway. Au contraire, the Bolt II is packed with hardware, and that’s what makes it such an interesting sell for the living room. The model Digital Storm provided us for review was the top-of-the-line, $2857 configuration, with a liquid-cooled Intel Core i7-4790K processor and a video card based on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics processor.
The components are packed tight inside the case, but Digital Storm’s engineers made sure you can access everything without too much trouble.
Digital Storm offers three other pre-built SKUs, with the least-expensive model selling for $1725. That one comes with a Core i5-4590 CPU—cooled by a heatsink and fan—and a video card based on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 760. Each of the four models can be customized to your liking.
The model reviewed here also comes with 16GB of DDR3/1600 memory; a 120GB SSD; a 1TB, 7200rpm hard drive; and a slot-feed DVD burner. The RAM is easy enough to replace, but swapping hard drives requires removing and replacing an internal drive bay. There is no room for a second video card—or adding any other type of card—so SLI configurations are out of the question.
Check out how that video card is mounted!Performance matters more
The Micro Express MicroFlex 97B edged the Digital Storm Bolt II on our productivity-oriented benchmarks, but that rig would never fit—much less survive—in your entertainment center.
Then again, the MicroFlex 97B beat the Bolt II on only one gaming benchmark: Running Battlefield 4 2560×1600 resolution with image quality at ultra, the MicroFlex’s AMD R9 290X graphics card pumped out 68 frames per second to the Bolt II’s 52. In every other case, however, the Bolt II outperformed the MicroFlex and a host of other machines. BioShock Infinite at 2560×1600 with visual quality at ultra? A whopping 73.8 frames per second. Compare that to 57 for the MicroFlex and 58 for our baseline system.
This was the only gaming benchmark where the Bolt II didn’t finish in first place.
I do have a few complaints about the case. Most importantly, it gets hot. That’s no surprise, considering how little space is inside the case and how much performance this baby packs in, but it makes me worry about the longevity of the system under that extra stress. To its credit, Digital Storm includes a host of software tools for monitoring temperatures, but that’s an added hassle compared to a system with plenty of airflow.
Locating the front I/O ports on the side of the machine is far from optimal. And why not give us the choice to nix the optical drive?
Finally, I could do without the optical drive. It spoils the machine’s sleek looks, and who relies on discs in this age of digital media streaming? What’s even more annoying is that Digital Storm’s online order system will let you upgrade from a DVD burner to a Blu-ray drive for an additional $85, but it won’t let you delete an unwanted drive for a credit.The engineering tax
Okay, now add up what the Bolt II’s parts would cost if you built your own PC. Go ahead, I know you’ve already started. You’ll probably conclude that this machine is overpriced. You’re looking at $700 for a 780 Ti. Throw in another $350 for the 4790K, a couple hundred for storage, and so on. You’re gonna come up well short of the Bolt II’s $2,857 price tag.Bottom line
On the other hand, you sacrifice some upgradability and (potentially) longevity. And then there’s the price tag. Even stuffed with top-of-the-line hardware, it’s clear you’re paying at least as much for design and engineering as you are for components and a case. It’s a niche product for a niche consumer, and it looks mighty pretty on a shelf.
As for SteamOS? Maybe next year.
As a gaming device, the GPD WIN’s performance is of the utmost concern. All the special controls and portable design isn’t going to matter much if the device can’t handle the games that you want to play. Mind you, it’s definitely not going to play everything. There are games, even those on PC, that just aren’t designed to run on limited resources and, even in their lowest settings, will drag the GPD WIN to a crawl.
There are a few surprising titles that you won’t expect to run on the little thing at a bearable, not ideal, frame rates. And, of course, there will also be desktop software that won’t take kindly to having not much wiggle room to move in.
The benchmark scene on PCs are far more mature than on mobile, and FutureMark’s 3D Mark is perhaps the household name for gaming-related benchmarks, with the company’s PC Mark for more general purpose computers. So naturally, we had to put the relatively tiny gaming PC to the test.
Unsurprisingly, the results aren’t that encouraging. It shouldn’t be surprising considering the hardware we’re dealing with. Of course, these are just benchmark tests and, while interesting and telling, these ideal, controlled processes don’t accurately reflect real-world scenarios. And the best way to test that is to actually use the GPD WIN for what it was meant to do: gaming.
The best way to approach the GPD WIN is to set your expectations appropriately. That is, rather low. Despite designed and promoted as a gaming device, it is hampered by components that are not exactly considered the best in gaming. Again, it’s a compromise and one that is surprisingly easy enough to live with.
For these round of tests, two games were played, both installed from Steam: the rather contentious DmC Devil May Cry and Skyrim Special Edition. Neither are the latest or the heaviest games to date, though both do offer a level of resource usage enough to see the hardware in action. (For reference, the on-screen stats come from a combination of HWiNFO and MSI Afterburner)
When running DmC under high settings, the FPS during battle scenes peaked at 16 fps, sometimes dipping even lower down to 10. Setting graphics quality to low does improve things but only by little, peaking at 21 fps at times. During cutscenes, frame rates sometimes reached 30 fps, but not often.
Skyrim, on the other hand, was almost a disaster. Framerates barely went above 15 FPS, even during cutscenes. Actually it was during cutscenes that the system crawled the most. That said, Skyrim’s default “Low” settings are largely unoptimized for low settings, and there are reported successes in running the game on meager hardware, though the process is a bit more involved. Gamers, however, will be well used to it.
One way to get around the rather sub-par frame rates while still enjoying a bit of freedom of movement is game streaming. Steam and Xbox both offer such an experience, where you can run games on beefier machines but view and control them on another device. You are, however, limited by your home network’s bandwidth and won’t be able to take the game out with you.
The GPD WIN got quite warm during all these tests, somewhere along 63 to 66 C. Only once did it become somewhat too hot to touch above 74 C, and that was when running Skyrim under the default low settings. The device comes with a fan and a three-way switch to turn it off, mid, and high. While running it at high does make you feel like you have a permanent but subtle vibration feedback enabled, it’s going to be necessary when using the GPD WIN for anything non-trivial.
Unlike a gaming desktop or laptop, which usually stays inside rooms, the outdoor visibility of the GPD WIN’s screen is of utmost importance. After all, the goal is to have you playing whenever the urge, and opportunity, rises. Sadly, that screen isn’t exactly the brightest in its class and is easily rendered useless even under overcast weather.
When trying to play outdoors, it is best to find some shade to play under. Surprisingly, the screen does have great viewing angles, so you can watch your friends drool while they watch you play. Under a shade, of course.
Touch sensitivity on the display is nothing spectacular. There were fortunately no dead spots within the area of the display except at the edges, where swipe gestures usually start. A rather confusing aspect of the screen is that it sometimes boots in portrait orientation. That’s because, despite its use, it is actually a smartphone screen.
The audio is loud but trebly. Given the size of the thing and the changes GPD had to make, it’s a miracle it even came out that way at all. The placement of the speaker grills, however, is a bit puzzling. They’re at the sides, exactly where your palms would cover them when gripping the GPD WIN like a controller. On the one hand, it does muffle the sound a bit compared to when it’s blasting wide open. At the same time, however, the sound bounces inside your hand, creating a speaker effect not unlike some DIY or wooden speakers. Chances are, however, you will plug in (or wireless connect) your favorite pair of gaming speakers.
Battery life is going to be your biggest concern. The best that the GPD WIN can offer outside of standby is 5 hours. And that’s for ideal scenarios involving light use. Under constant gaming, you shouldn’t be surprised to get a warning near the 3-hour mark. Fortunately, the GPD WIN uses a standard USB-C type connector for charging. In theory, this means you can quickly top off from a power bank rather than scrambling for a wall socket. That said, it charges at 5V/2.5A, so you’ll need a battery pack that delivers that.
Overall, the GPD WIN’s performance can’t exactly be described as rock solid, especially considering how some hardware components are reported to be rather unreliable, depending on who you ask. That said, it isn’t terrible either, and the actual gaming performance isn’t gut-wrenching. Again, expectations are key.
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