Mechanical luxury at the right price?
Corsair K70 RGB - What is it?Like a good pair of slippers or a comfy chair, the benefits of a decent keyboard can never be overestimated for the PC enthusiast. Coming in at the top end of the market, Corsair’s K70 RGB is the latest unit in their premium gaming range, with an RRP of £140 (October 2014) that matches its lofty aspirations. This is a fully-mechanical keyboard framed in black anodised aluminium, complete with highly customisable per-key RGB backlighting that sits below a new German-engineered variety of the now-legendary Cherry MX switch. Despite the neon glow and considerable feature list however, the K70 RGB is also somewhat of a diminutive product, eschewing tacked-on macro buttons and other gamer-centric extensions for a standard 104-key layout with a couple of small media controls nestling above the number pad.
Corsair K70 RGB - What does it look like?Given the price, the K70 RGB really needs to ooze class from the moment you open the box. Thankfully, Corsair understand that simplicity counts for a lot, and especially so in a market awash with needless pack-ins, bolt-on peripherals and reams of cables that quickly find themselves forgotten in a drawer. For your money you’ll get the keyboard, a driver CD and an optional wrist wrest that snaps to the front of the unit.
The K70 RGB is a strikingly similar product to last year’s original K70, featuring exactly the same chassis and layout. What that translates to is a weighty, solid and sturdy keyboard that feels premium in every respect. The black anodised frame is carved out of a single piece of metal and feels smooth to the touch, while the textured volume roller in the top right is satisfyingly tactile. The wrist wrest, although a little lightweight, is also incredibly comfortable, with a soft, smoothly dappled finish.
The K70 RGB is a weighty, solid and sturdy keyboard that feels premium in every respect.
The K70 RGB comes with a 1.5m heavy duty black braided cable that terminates in two red-tipped USB plugs, presumably to draw enough juice to power the considerable range of illumination and provide full support for their full 104-key rollover mechanics. The keys themselves sit quite high above the board (our test unit came with the Cherry Red variety), giving the impression they almost float on the bed of light emanating from below. Although the RGB LEDs that nestle beneath each switch are plenty capable, the K70’s light show never came across as overstated or particularly garish - despite my best attempts.
Corsair K70 RGB - How does it perform?Mechanical boards might take a little getting used to if you’re accustomed to the softer chiclet variety or your standard laptop keys, but they offer something a little different for your money. They often feel more accurate to use, with longer, lighter key presses than their membrane-based alternatives, terminating in noticeable click. They feel different, and that’s given rise to an ongoing marmite-like war between proponents in both corners. Some will love the tactile sensation of mechanical switches, while an equal amount will absolutely hate the extra finger movement that accompanies each press. Some folk swear by the satisfying clickety-clack that accompanies a mechanical typing rhythm, while others want to murder anybody in the room that’s using one.
For my money (and most of the PC gamers I know), I love the feel of mechanical keys, and if you’ve ever utilised a Cherry Red-based product previously, you’ll instantly know what the K70 RGB feels like. The compact layout of the K70 RGB makes for a superbly comfortable typing experience, while the luxurious finish on the chassis and wrist wrest make it suitable for lengthy typing sessions as well as a frantic session on DotA 2. And although it’s barebones, the contents of the K70 RGB box will likely be all you need unless you’re a truly hardcore MMO or FPS player, when the lack of textured WASD keys, a removal tool or a separate macro area might make themselves known. If you truly need those features then you’ll need to look up the range to the K95 RGB, which adds an extra 19 macro keys for around £30-40 depending on where you purchase.
Of course the big draw for the K70 RGB is its fully customisable lighting and macro support, and it’s here that Corsair’s software suite comes into play, offering powerful results with a hefty time investment. The layout of their CUE application is intuitive enough, with tabs for profiles, actions (macros), lighting, and settings. Clicking between each of the tabs can be a little sluggish, but hardly crippling.
By default, the settings tab allows you to update firmware, set language layouts and backup your settings, whilst the actions tab features some neat recording functionality that allows you to simply tap away your chosen commands and then assign your routine to literally any key on the board, maximising their utility in the absence of those dedicated macro buttons. Switching banks of customisations to tailor for different games is a simple enough process with profile management, while import and export commands open up the possibility of browsing Corsair’s dedicated forums to download the best community-designed setups with minimal fuss.
The compact layout of the K70 RGB makes for a superbly comfortable typing experience.
Corsair K70 RGB - What's not so good?The problems, slight as they are, come with the complexity of the lighting effects. The K70’s depth of customisation here is hugely commendable, but sorely lacks explanation or a quick-set mode. The range of colours and effects is vast. Individual keys can be set to pulse, static or wave intensities, with effects applied either constantly, as part of an animation or triggered by a keypress, in either background or foreground mode.
The range of combinations is staggering and entire animations can be played out across the keyboard if you have the time and inclination to program them yourself. Unfortunately if you do decide to do this, you'll discover that it isn't the easiest of processes. Commands within the CUE software are labelled in a somewhat unintuitive fashion, and things only start to make sense after an hour or two of trial-and-error editing.
To their credit however, searching online reveals a series of Corsair-produced tutorial videos for the K70 lighting engine that are well worth seeking out on Youtube. It’s just a shame the basic interface isn’t able to communicate its features more effectively. Once you get the hang of things, customising per-key lighting for an individual game layout manages to lend the RGB K70’s RGB lighting somewhat of a practical appeal, but let’s face it, making the entire board dance in a rainbow pattern with each keystroke is where we’re all likely to end up.
The level of customisation is impressive but the process itself is highly unintuitive.
- Cherry MX switches
- RGB per-key lighting
- Superbly comfortable
- Premium feel
- No additional macro keys
- Unintuitive software
- That pricepoint
Corsair K70 RGB Gaming Keyboard Review
Should I buy one?
As a piece of gaming and basic typing technology, there’s little to criticise in the Corsair K70 RGB. The mechanical keys are a thing of joy if you’re predisposed to enjoy the Angela Lansbury clackety-clack rhythms of the world (Red, Blue and Brown MX varieties of the K70 RGB are available), while the general fit and finish of the aluminium chassis and smoothly textured wrist wrest make it incredibly comfortable for everyday use.
Elsewhere, turning to the K70 RGB’s main selling point, its per-key LED lighting and accompanying software engine are also capable of some ridiculously snazzy effects - provided you put the time in to learn the interface eccentricities. For competitive players meanwhile, Corsair’s full anti-ghosting and rollover support should make it fit for even the most hardcore of professionals, while allowing macros to be bound to any standard key goes some way towards emulating the missing input area of its older brother, the K95.
What are the alternatives?
Overall, the Corsair K70 RGB is a fun, comfortable and premium-feeling device, but that luxury and frivolity comes at a hefty price. For £140, the K70 RGB is pushed firmly into territory that few other basic input peripherals ever venture. Less glamourous mechanical keyboards can be purchased for £50-60, and while the K70 RGB is a fantastic product , I’m not entirely sure of the value proposition at such a hefty markup. If you’ve got the disposable cash, the time to invest and an inclination towards Cherry MX switches however, then add another point to the score at the end of this review. The K70 RGB is a fantastic keyboard in almost every regard.
Value for Money8
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