ProsUnmatched industrial design; amazing LED lighting effects; instantaneous gaming response
ConsSoftware is comprehensive but clunky; short-throw keys with no tactile feedback lead to double taps while typing
Mechanical keyboards are all the rage nowadays, but the truth is that they're nothing new. In fact, some of the best, most iconic keyboard ever sold for personal PC use were mechanical, including 1984's IBM Keyboard Model M, which still sees a brisk trade in the used market. Luckily for enthusiasts looking for a style more fitting of this century, many of the PC industry's top peripherals manufacturers have caught on to the trend, and that means there's seemingly no end to the variety of new mechanical boards hitting the market.
Not too long ago, we did a thorough roundup of a number of the best keyboards on the market from the likes of Razer, Logitech, G.Skill, and Corsair. In that shootout, Corsair's Strafe MX Red placed somewhere in the middle. Since then, we've also reviewed the latest and greatest offering from Cherry, the MX Board 6.0, which not surprisingly also used Cherry's class-defining MX Red switches. It too failed to really knock our socks off. So we have to admit that when Corsair offered us the opportunity to check out its new K70 Rapidfire keyboard using MX Red Speed switches, we weren't sure what to think. We knew MX Reds already provided a very quick response, but lacked the feedback we crave when we're trying to get actual work done (like writing this review!).
But now, after having given Corsair's K70 RGB Rapidfire a thorough workout, we get it. And we think you will too once you've read through our review! So let's check out what the K70 RGB Rapidfire offers both in terms of features and performance!
We'd like to extend a special thank you to Corsair for providing us with a review sample of the K70 RGB Rapidfire Keyboard, along with the M65 Pro RGB Mouse and MM300 Extended Mouse Mat also mentioned in this article.
Description and Features
The K70's basic design has been around for quite some time, and in fact is still the high-end board against which all others are judged. Part of that is due to its clean, uncluttered lines, compact size, and elegant brushed metal faceplate. In fact, at just 17.25" wide and 6.5" deep (or 8.5" deep with the attached wristrest), the K70 is positively small for a performance keyboard, undercutting many standard office models due to its frameless design.
Of course, the K70 got a big helping hand from Corsair's decision to go all-in with German switch manufacturer Cherry. Corsair was definitely on to something in sticking with Cherry even as demand outstripped supply and other keyboard manufacturers jumped ship (Logitech and Razer, we're looking at you, and we know you're looking back with shame!). Corsair is now Cherry's biggest partner, and gets first dibs on some of Cherry's most compelling new products, including its MX Silent switches, used in the limited-run Strafe RGB MX Silent, and now the MX Speed switches appearing in a number of Corsair's products.
The key to the MX Speed (pun intended!) is a short 1.2mm throw, down from the 2mm of a standard MX Red. The actuation force has not changed (45 cN), nor has the lack of tactile feedback (which the MX Brown switch features) or audible click (which the MX Blue features). What this means is that nothing is going to stand in the way of you getting that key press recognized. We'll talk more about the performance ramifications of this on the next page, but for now let's explore that other headlining feature of the K70 RGB, its full-spectrum lighting.
Now, truth be told, we think the RGB craze is a bit over the top, with LEDs being added to everything from headsets (e.g., Corsair's VOID RGB) to mousepads (e.g., Razer's Firefly). Yes, the fact that LEDs can now display all the colors of the rainbox is kind of cool, but we have a feeling the novelty will wear off eventually, and we'll get back to judging peripherals only by their comfort and performance. In the meantime, though, Corsair has the competition beat, with a huge array of stunning lightshow presets, which a few observers mentioned to us would work great at a rave. From our point of view, they work less well when you're actually trying to use your PC, as the lights can be a distraction in your peripheral vision, and we really wish there were a way for the lightshow to only display when the PC is asleep, reverting back to something a bit more calming when you're sitting at your desk.
And that's the fault we find in Corsair's powerful CUE software: it allows you to do so much, but the options become dizzying, in part due to a lazy menu system, and then it leaves out what we think are obvious features that would really make the keyboard shine (literally). Ah well, some day Corsair will get around to a ground-up redesign of CUE, but for now, you can see what it looks like in the screenshot here, in which we've engaged CUE Link to synchronize the color shifting of the K70 RGB Rapidfire keyboard and the M65 Pro RGB mouse (which you can see in action on the next page). Note that CUE does not ship in the box - you'll need to downloaded it from the Corsair website, and while it isn't as critical for tuning performance as it is with a mouse, you won't have any control over the LEDs until you install it.
Another feature that no good gaming keyboard can go without is a USB mouse pass-through, which helps prevent the dreaded mouse cord catching that occurs if you have to pull your mouse cable all the way down to your desktop's I/O panel. And of course, the K70 has this, along with a thick braided cable sending two separate USB connectors out the back (a shared cable just wouldn't cut it for two high-performance peripherals). Corsair has opted not to include a headphone and microphone pass-through, and this may irk some enthusiasts who likewise don't enjoy having their head yanked back when their headset cord catches. If that sounds like you, check out G.Skill's awesome KM780, which has been our favorite board for quite some time.
One last feature we should mention before we move on is the comfortable snap-on wrist rest. No keyboard at anywhere near this price should ship without one, and yet many of Corsair's competitors continue to make this fatal error. We just don't get it. Anyway, the K70's wrist rest is easy to remove if you don't like it, but chances are you will, as it's raised just the right amount, has a comfortable surface that is slightly tacky without being sticky, and offers the slightest amount of cushion, meaning your hands will stay in place if you want them to.