Corsair K65 and K70 Keyboards

When my old CM Storm mechanical gaming keyboard stopped working a while ago, I looked around for replacement alternatives. I ended up getting the new Corsair K65 RGB LUX narrow keyboard. A while earlier this year, I got a Corsair K70 at work. Thus, I can do a double review on a pair of closely related keyboards, but with different key switches, sizes, and backlighting systems.

K65

K65_LUX_RGB

The K65 RGB LUX is a small keyboard without the numeric keypad. It has full color backlighting that is controlled per-key. The design of the switches and the keycaps is specifically designed to let through the light, making it the most shining keyboard I have ever used. The lighting is controlled using the CUE, Corsair Utility Engine, software, which appears to send different programs or settings to the keyboard. Doing the light show appears to require so much from that keyboard that Corsair lists “ARM processor” as a feature of the keyboard!

The K65 is sold as a “gaming” keyboard. It features red cherry MX switches with linear response, which is supposed to make keypresses register faster and keys move faster compared to the more clicky switches (blues or browns) that target typing. The reds still make a noise when pressed, but not as much as a blue switch.

The keyboard comes with two sets of replacement keycaps for gaming. Looks nice, but are a bit detrimental to typing. Makes it easier to find the main Minecraft and FPS control keys though. You get a WASD kit for FPS, and QWERDF for League of Legends and other games that I do not play. As well as a tool to change out the keys. Note that you do get two copies of alternative D keys, with subtly different shapes.

k65 contoured keysThe contoured WASD keys on the K65

On top of the regular keys, you have volume up and down buttons, a key that changes the brightness of the backlighting, and a Windows key lock key. The Windows key lock is a nice feature for gaming, where you do not want accidental presses of the Windows key to bring you back to the start menu or start screen… but when not gaming, you have to remember to check if it is on in case the Windows key does not seem to work.

By cutting out the numeric keypad and narrowing the side margins, the end result is an impressively small keyboard. It really does bring the mouse closer to the center, which is appreciated by my pre-teens children when using the computer. It also makes for a very portable keyboard, significantly more compact than a regular keyboard. Compared to the old CM Storm, it is positively minute.

k65 - cmstorm vs corsair k65

K65 vs CM Storm, with a rather large Mionix mouse also shown.

K70

keyboard iconThe K70 I have at work is also sold as a gaming keyboard, of a more pedestrian variety. There is no programmable backlighting, and no shine-through switches. The keyboard simply features backlighting of a single color that can be turned on and off with the backlight control key on the keyboard. There are a few different modes to cycle through, most significantly a special setting that only lights up the regular FPS keys like WASD and the arrow keys.

The keyboard is full-size. With the added space, Corsair had room for quite a few extra buttons compared to the K65. There is a key to change the keyboard light between “All” and “Just the gaming keys” – this is all the control you get over the backlight on the K70, as it does not use the CUE software. There is a set of media control keys almost hidden right above the numeric keypad. Notably, the volume control is a roller rather than a pair buttons. The roller is textured and feels cool to the touch, providing a premium feeling to the keyboard – while being a largely irrelevant feature.

The K70 is equipped with blue cherry MX switches, which are supposed to be optimized for typing. Those blue switches have a satisfying click and a very nice clicky feeling. They are also rather noisy.

Review

The keyboards share the same basic look and design. The keys sit raised on a plate, and you can see the sides of the keys from the sides of the keyboard. I think that is actually a good feature, it should make using spray air to clean the keyboard much easier. It does mean that backlighting leaks out significantly on the sides, making for a pretty light show in a dark room. It gives the keyboard an industrial-mechnical raw look that I must admit to rather like.

k65 profile

K65 from the side, showing the raised keys and the wrist rest profile

The included wrist rest is nicely textured and works very well for me.

Both keyboards have an interesting dual USB cable. At the end of the cable that is fixed to the keyboard you have two USB connectors. One is for the keyboard itself, and the other for the pass-through USB connection in the keyboard. This means that in theory, USB traffic to peripherals like mice attached to the keyboard will not interfere with keyboard actions, reducing key latency. It also probably means that there is no additional level for the USB network in the keyboard, just basically an extension cable. It does mean that unlike the Matias Quiet keyboard I bought last year, the USB port on the keyboard does not gain you any additional ports. Not a big deal on my home desktop machine with tons of ports, but my work docking station only has four USB slots and the keyboard ends up taking half of them (using the pass-through to connect a wired mouse)… not ideal for a work keyboard, where a built in port multiplier would have been appreciated. The cable feels very solid, and since the cable is what broke my old CM Storm, I really appreciate the fixed cabling. And if you do not use the USB pass-through in the keyboard, you can just let the second connector stay unconnected.

Having volume control keys on the keyboard is really very useful, both at home and at work. It is faster to adjust volume in a phone call using the keys on the keyboard rather on the headset or the laptop adjustment keys. The media control keys on the K70 are entirely irrelevant for what I do, but they do not hurt either.

Playing with color on the K65 is fun, and while not strictly functional, it is very aesthetic. The single-color K70 feels a bit more pedestrian. The biggest issue I have with the Matias Quiet today is that it entirely lacks backlighting – it is a feature that I really miss once evening comes and it gets a bit darker. I would never get a keyboard without it in the future. If the backlight is as fun as it is on the K65, so much the better! I must say that the spacebar should  have had three lights under it at least. Right now, it makes for a dark corner of the keyboard.

I made a short video to demo some of the what the backlighting can do, which you can find on Youtube. I do have to apologize for the missing menus in the video – I am trying to get to learn an entirely new set of video capture + editing software, and I did not see until it was uploaded that the pull-down menus were entirely missing.

I have also noticed that the color scheme on the K65 actually tells me who is logged in to my desktop machine. I have set up a scheme that I like, which is different from what the son uses. When nobody is logged in, the keyboard reverts to the default scheme with a red backlight on all keys except the gaming keys which are highlighted in white. Thus, if the keyboard glows yellow I am the active user. If it showing the rotating rainbow, it is my son. Interesting little extra indicator.

Typing  and Keys

The most important aspect of any keyboard for me is how it feels to type on.

The blue Cherry switches I have in the keyboard at work are just wonderful to type on. Just as good as the true ALPS switches in the full-noise Matias keyboard I tried a while ago (), and better than the Cherry MX Browns I had in the old CM Storm. The red switches in the K65 don’t quite have the same feeling, but are still better than a rubber-dome keyboard. The blue switches are pure magic, but you need your own office if you want to use them at work – I would get defenestrated out of any open office space if I tried to use them there. Click click, happy happy click click.

The keys have a solid feel to them. Just a tad more rubbery than my Matias Quiet. I type well on all the keyboards, but the Matias just feels a bit more solid – there is something about the quality of the plastic in the keys that I cannot quite quantify.

I tried the gaming keycaps on the K65. Looks nice, but are a bit detrimental to typing, especially the W that really pops up when you reach for the number keys on top of the keyboard.

I do not miss the numerical keypad much, and the keyboard does take up less space and move the mouse in which is good for my 11-year old who uses the machine extensively. However, when it is time to enter expenses or type the OCR numbers for bills, or just generally type numbers, my hand automatically reaches for the numeric keypad that is not there. It just isn’t as convenient to type numbers using the number keys on the main keyboard. Still, a minor gripe.

Conclusion

The Corsair keyboards are excellent. Given a choice, I like the Blue switches better for typing and work, while Browns or Reds are more general purpose and amenable to home use that includes a lot of gaming. The K65’s compactness is a real plus in the living room, but for work I prefer the full size of the K70. RGB backlighting is a fun feature that is probably worth a few extra tens of Euros or dollars to get. I am very happy with both keyboards, and would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone.

K65 glows in the dark

Backlighting in the dark is pretty.

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