K70 RGB Mechanical Keyboard
Bling. It’s the one word that perfectly sums up the Corsair K70 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. The RGB part is the reason why, as these are the three individual LEDs that can be found in each Cherry mechanical switch that forms the backbone of this keyboard. This means that the backlight of every single key is capable of illuminating in one of 16.8 million colours formed by the mixing and matching of each of these three LEDs. Add to it the multitude of possible custom effects and you have a product that just screams Bling.
The review sample of the K70 RGB that we received used Cherry Red switches. It is the standard US format 104 key Keyboard with a few extra media buttons. The keyboard requires two separate USB connectors as well as special Driver software that can be downloaded from the Corsair website to customise the lighting and key macros. Theoretically, you could remap every key on the keyboard and assign custom macros.
The base of the K70 RGB keyboard is fashioned from a single moulded sheet of aluminium with a brushed metal finish. The Cherry Red Key switches are designed to respond to a keypress of the pressure 50 centi-Newtons, but lack physical feedback such as clicks as may be found with Blue and Brown switches. The concave standard profile Key caps are made of semi-transparent white plastic with a matte black finish that fit comfortably on the switch and are easy to remove. There is an additional plastic wrist rest that covers the length of the keyboard and can be easily attached or detached. It has a rubber surface with circular indentations. The keyboard also has four feet under it to raise the height on the bottom or the top side as per your typing preferences and the switches have suitable height alignments to make for a comfortable experience. Every key is also shaped in a concave manner to facilitate grip while typing.
The LEDs in the switches are the weak point of the K70 RGB keyboard. They can bug out at times with the keyboard not being recognised by the motherboard during start up unless one switches it to the BIOS mode using a switch. If one sets a ripple effect, multiple quick keypresses of the same key can cause the software to bug out and freeze the effect. There is also the question of the durability of the LEDs as we found that some of the keys would light up randomly if we selected a particular colour for another key on the same circuit. During our month long testing period, we found that a LED had permanently failed on one of the switches making it unable to show a third of the colours. However, the Mechanical part of the switch is guaranteed to have a much longer lifespan with some 500000 presses per switch.
The K70 RGB is a black on black design. The main selling point of the keyboard is the Cherry RGB mechanical switch that is capable of being lit up in one of 16.1 million different colours. The switch has a transparent plastic body that makes it glow like a gas burner underneath the keycap. The switch itself is opaque and colour coded as per the actuation pressure and feedback type. The metal body of the K70 RGB keyboard lets the switches protrude above its brushed metal surface instead of providing a hollow for the keys as may be found in other keyboards. This makes for a rather brilliant appearance with the major drawback that the keyboard becomes a very visible Dust Magnet. Expect to have to clean it up on a weekly basis. The keyboard isn’t very spillproof and provides no drainage holes.
There is a switch at the top for setting the polling rate from 1ms to 2, 4 and 8ms as well as BIOS mode. The cable is thick and braided and splits into two USB connectors, one for controlling the RGB effects and the other for the Keyboard inputs. One can however, use only the Keyboard connector if using a USB 3.0 slot. Corsair advises users to first connect the control connector and then the keyboard connector in USB 2.0 slots.
Besides the standard 104 keys that use the Cherry switches, the K70 RGB has a few extra keys. There is a key to control the brightness of the lighting, another to lock some predefined keys while gaming so that one doesn’t accidentally trigger the Windows key or some such. There are Media keys to Play/Pause, Move forward and back and Stop. The Volume control has a mute button and a Scroll wheel that provides excellent feedback. The lights for the Num Lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock keys are easy on the eyes though their position means they can be partially hidden behind the standard size Keys. The Key spacing is decent and makes for a comfortable typing experience. The Enter key is only one row tall, which may prove an annoyance to some.
The software that powers the K70 RGB is called the Corsair Utility Engine or CUE, whose latest version is available from the Corsair website. It comes with a built in firmware upgrade tool for the hardware. The User Interface sports a clean White on Black design and is moderately easy to navigate. The tool lets you set from a bunch of predefined basic and advanced lighting effects and allows you to pick the colour of every single key as well as save a few favourite colours. There is an option to import or export profiles for lighting as well as key mapping. One can also create custom lighting effects. This has allowed for such innovations as people making country flags and even a game of Snake using these effects.
The software has a drawback that the custom effects will only work when the software is running, as there is no memory to store them on the keyboard. Thus, one must be logged in to Windows (the software is only available for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1) in order to experience all the cool LED effects that one is paying a premium for. The software can also glitch out at times and fail to detect the keyboard. This is easily fixed by forcing the detection through switching the keyboard to BIOS mode and back. Strangely, Corsair has chosen not to create a single driver platform for all its various products, which means one must download and install separate software for each.
The K70 RGB keyboard is very sensitive to touch and needs some getting used to, especially if one hasn’t used a mechanical keyboard before. It is a superb typing experience and works well while gaming too. The keyboard allows for customising every single key to assign various macros and shortcuts depending on the game you’re playing. The key spacing can sometimes result in accidental key presses of neighbouring keys and can take some getting used to. Key feedback is marvellous though, making it a real pleasure to type.
The K70 RGB keyboard has some useful gaming features such as anti-ghosting support for all keys as well as Ne Key rollover allowing you to press multiple keys at once. The switchable polling rate is also useful in determining the response time of the keyboard. Depending on the effects one has set, the LEDs can be either helpful or a distraction. The various effect types available range from Ripples and Waves to individual key lighting to fading in and out or switching between colours, there is even a Rainbow Wave mode to showcase the entire range of colours the keyboard can show.
The K70 uses Cherry MX Red switches. These are the most recent switches in the Cherry MX lineup, introduced only in 2008. They have a low actuation force of 45 cN, that makes them the most sensitive to touches. Red switches are particularly marketed as a gaming, since they are light weight and allow for more rapid actuation. These switches are being increasingly seen in more and more gaming keyboards.
Comparison to K70
We were also given a K70 keyboard with Cherry Red switches that was the predecessor of this keyboard. It used a red on black colour scheme though there was a silver and blue option as well. The body of both keyboards is the same as is the key placement and key caps. However, the K70 also came with a Keycap remover and a set of gaming specific WASD and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 keys with a red surface. The Space key was slightly different with a texture for better grip. The Keycap remover is perhaps the most missed accessory in the new K70 RGB making it a chore to remove individual keys by hand.
The K70 didn’t require any extra driver and its custom key mapping was set using an additional Profile Key. While this meant the keyboard could be used without being restricted to the OS, it was not a very comfortable system to use. The same method was used for controlling its selective backlighting mode. It also had two USB connectors one of which was for a USB passthrough that was found on the top of the keyboard. The K70 released in March 2013 and costs ₹11,499 though it’s available for less in retail.
The K70 RGB mechanical keyboard is a brilliant keyboard that is a pleasure to type on. Its main hiccups lie with the RGB technology, which suffers from quite a few glitches and durability issues. The key placement also has some scope for improvement, as does the software that Corsair supplies for controlling all the advanced features of the keyboard.
The Keyboard would certainly benefit from having some internal memory to store custom profiles so as to make it less reliant on the operating system. Given the design of the keyboard requires constant cleaning; Corsair would do well to include a Keycap remover with the keyboard and any successors it designs.
Looking from a Value for Money perspective, the K70 RGB charges a premium for its Bling factor, which isn’t quite flawless. It is an excellent mechanical keyboard well worth the price of its predecessor but we are not convinced the RGB features and lighting effects are really worth the extra cost. Thus we award it the iLLGaming Silver award.
We are grateful to Corsair for letting us test the K70 and the K70 RGB for extended time periods.
+Cherry Mechanical switches
+Scroll Wheel to control Volume
+16.8 million colour backlighting
-No onboard memory to store custom profiles and effects