I'm a big fan of Corsair's mechanical keyboards. When I bought my current gaming rig last year, I slapped down some cash for the Vengeance K90 Performance MMO Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, with its programmable "G" buttons (that I've still never used, mainly due to the paucity of MMOs in my gaming diet), adjustable blue backlighting, Cherry MX switches, anti-ghosting, and USB pass-through. I give my hardware a true hammering too, and the robust nature of Corsair's stuff is why I keep coming back to them.
Mechanical keyboards and backlit models are nothing new, but few have attempted to bring the very best of both worlds together. Until now (alongside Razer's Black Widow Chroma, that is). Ladies and gents, say hello to the rebranded Corsair Gaming K70 RGB Mechanical Keyboard -- a piece of kit that mixes the durability and functionality of the old K70 with a disco ball. It might just be the most snazzy piece of hardware I've ever owned.
The K70 RGB mirrors its non-RGB predecessor in many ways. Last year's K70 was an outstanding piece of kit, and at first glance, this model seems to be its equal in every way. Both models utilise the same chassis and brushed aluminium faceplate, the same keycaps and 10-key number pad, and neither offer up the option of those programmable macro keys to be found on the K90 or new K95 RGB. The multimedia buttons are still in place too, and Corsair have kept the volume roller, which is much more preferable to the usual two-button setup. Also retained from the older model are the illumination level and gaming mode buttons, with the latter locking up Windows shortcuts like Alt-Tab, should you want to game away without fear of frantic mishaps should you accidentally mash the wrong buttons.
As for the keys themselves, well, Corsair have worked together with Cherry to deliver the K70 RGB in three, certified Cherry MX setups: the Red switches are more towards the quiet end of the aural spectrum, offering up a smooth pliability and linear action; Blues (such as those used on Razer's Black Widow Ultimate 2013) are noisily clicky and offer up a small degree of resistance; and then there are the Browns, which deliver something in between the two. The K70 RGB model we received came bearing Cherry Reds (the same as my K90), and I absolutely adore the smooth rapidity of these particular switches. I'm not an enormous fan of the Blues, but I tried the Browns out recently and found them to offer a perfect middle ground. It's up to you, really, it all depends what you're looking for, though I lean towards the Reds more day-to-day use, and found that my typing speed and accuracy went up when I made the jump from membrane keyboards.
That could just be me. Anyway, the bottom line is that there are three switches from which to choose, so pick the one that suits you best.
Corsair's keyboards have always been comfortable, and the K70 RGB continues that is fine fashion thanks to the large, textured wrist rest that comes included. However, there are a few things missing out of the box. The key removal tool that used to be bundled in with the older K70 is now gone, along with the spare set of contoured WASD and 1-6 keys. Corsair suggest that statistics indicated they wouldn't be missed much, but we're never ones for scaling back on features and extras just for the sake of it. Removing keys is a little more fiddly without the tool, and although the customisable lighting array now allows you to illuminate individual keys in different colours, having a spare "gamer" set was always a nice option to have. The standard keys themselves aren't bad by any means, but I did find the contoured WASD keys useful for FPS titles.
Round the back, there is a polling switch that's included to try and ensure that the RGB is as compatible with as many BIOS setups as possible, but frankly I never had any reason to fiddle about with it. Annoyingly, though, it seems that the USB pass-through that came with the older K70 is a thing of the past, although Corsair have acknowledged that it's one feature plenty of fans have been enquiring about. I myself found it particularly useful for small USB file transfers (that didn't warrant USB 3.0), and the charging of smaller devices such as my smartphone and digital camera battery. It wouldn't feed my iPad, but it was a nice thing to have.
The juice is all being used up by the RGB bit of this new model, and it's sort of easy to see why. The standard K70 had a fairly hideous red backlight, and indeed when I plugged in the RGB for the first time, that old familiar burning glow was the first thing to greet me. You have to download Corsair's convoluted software suite to customise the lighting array. When you do, though, you'll unlock vast swathes of disco possibility. There are 16.8 million colours to play with, for each individual key, and you can draw up plans for individual games and other software. My setup for Titanfall had the WASD keys glowing red, with [CTRL] and [Shift] set to a blue hue, and [Space] a warm yellow. My muscle memory and years of computer use is such that I know where all of the buttons are, of course, but the individual lighting does make it super easy to pick out keys on the fly. I tested it out on WildStar and was pleased to note that even in the heat of PvP, I didn't panic and hit the wrong button. Seriously, watch that first vid with Carl and myself and you'll know that I don't say that lightly.
You're in for a bit of a shock, though, if you think that setting up dazzling waves of rainbow colours is going to be a cinch. The Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) is a nightmare of confusion. Setting up a basic profile and assigning macros is easy enough once you work out where everything is, but Corsair gives you so much control and so little guidance that it's incredibly easy to get lost. There are four main tabs: Profiles, Actions, Lighting, and Settings. The Profiles tab is fairly straightforward, giving you the abilities to customise a profile for the keyboard that can then be saved as a .prf file. You can also upload your work to the K70 RGB forum, where you'll find plenty of profiles created by other users, which can be downloaded for free.
The Actions tab is all about creating hotkey shortcuts, the Lighting tab deals with varying lighting effects, and the Settings tab is where you can muck about with tweaking the program settings for the keboard. The fruits of the online forum are testament to the power of Corsair's software, and some of the profiles on there are truly impressive, but I can't help but feel that the average user will find using the software itself to be a frustrating experience. It's incredibly powerful and if you have the patience to learn how to use it properly, Corsair have delivered some serious control into users' hands, but I can't see many forgoing a quick download and then immediate gaming for spending hours fiddling about with the visual interface for a keyboard with a clunky, confusing software UI .
Given the free and fertile nature of the forum, though, that's a really minor gripe. The bottom line is that the K70 RGB is a stunning piece of kit, every bit as capable as the older version, and now with a seriously impressive lighting array. The Cherry MX switches are brilliant, they really are, and it makes the K70 RGB a joy to use, help along by Corsair's characteristically excellent build quality. The price -- it's retailing here in the UK between £130-140 -- may be a little steep for some, but it's worth noting that the RGB's direct competitors, such as the Razer Chroma, are selling for around the same price. It's a cracking keyboard, although I would say that if you're not fussed about the lighting, shop around and see if you can get a K70 for under £100, as the in-box extras will certainly make up for it.
- Outstanding build quality
- Cherry MX switches are fantastic
- The sheer array of lighting options is staggering
- Free forum for profile sharing is great if you don't have hours to spare programming your own lighting setup
- Multimedia buttons and volume roller are great
- Very comfortable to use
- Convoluted software makes programming the lighting a frustrating task
- No USB pass-through
- No extra, contoured keys or removal tool
The Short Version: An incredibly robust, sleek, and satisfying keyboard, the K70 RGB is a pleasure to use, even if we do miss some of the features and extras from the old K70. It's lighting array is absolutely dazzling, but you might have to put in a bit of work or download another maestro's profile to see it at its best.