Switching into gear
Now that we've gone over the standard K70 platform, let's focus on what's really special about the Rapidfire: its switches. If you aren't familiar with the standard Cherry MX switch types, take a look at our guide. Cherry's MX Red switches are extremely popular on gaming keyboards thanks to their light actuation force and the absence of a tactile bump in their travel.
Even though Reds don't have a click or hump in their travel, they still bottom out in the same distance as switches with tactile bumps. Users who expect some sort of feedback from Reds have to bottom out the key to get any sense that a key press has registered. Those precious extra millimeters of motion are wasted in games, since the switch still has two millimeters left in its travel after actuation before it bottoms out. I think Reds are fine for gaming, but I've always felt like I'm sloshing through a bog when I have to do any extended typing on them.
Cherry's MX Speeds might save me from that Red swamp. They have a 45-gram actuation force, a 1.2mm actuation distance, 3.4 mm of total key travel, and no tactile bumps. I felt like this change in actuation distance and total key travel made a major difference under my fingers. Since their actuation distance is nearly halved compared to regular Cherry switches, the Speeds do seem to register key presses more quickly. They also provide a satisfying "clink" of tactile feedback quicker than Reds, since they bottom out in 15% less distance than those switches.
A large portion of my time with the Rapidfire was spent playing the newly-released Overwatch and Battleborn. Both of these games require lots of swift, precise movements, and the Rapidfire performed wonderfully. I felt like the short actuation distance and lack of tactile bumps made keystrokes on the Rapidfire feel more responsive than usual, and my movements in both games felt super snappy.
In fact, the switches are so easy to actuate that they presented a slight problem at first. Occasionally when I would press down on the spacebar, my thumb would also activate the V key, which is the default melee attack key in Overwatch. Invoking a melee attack canceled whatever action I was already performing. I faced a similar problem when I was typing. As my hands flew over the keys, I would sometimes press extra keys along the way. While these unintentional key presses might sound like a major problem, I was able to get used to the heightened responsiveness of the Rapidfire and avoid accidental key presses after a week or two of using the keyboard.
Once I was able to move past that issue, I was incredibly impressed by the Cherry MX Speeds. I now consider them my go-to switches for PC gaming. They're pleasant for typing, too, since they reduce finger movement compared to regular Cherry MX switches. I found my fingers quickly tiring out after switching back to MX Browns from the Speeds. Of course, switches are a matter of personal preference, and some will find that the Speeds aren't to their taste. If you have the opportunity to try these switches out, though, I highly recommend it.
A few notes should be made about the keycaps positioned atop the switches. The default keycaps that come with the Rapidfire have a new font that is slightly larger and more squarish than the font on the standard K70. While the font won't be everyone's cup of tea, it does allow a bit more light through the keys.
Another slight departure from the traditional K70 is a textured spacebar that comes installed on the keyboard by default. I was a bit skeptical about this textured finish at first, but I quickly grew used to it. Even so, it would be nice if Corsair provided an extra, non-textured space bar. Corsair does, however, provide a keycap puller and two sets of textured keycaps. These keycaps use gray rubber tops with the same texture as the new space bar, and the outer keys in each set are curved slightly to help gamers orient themselves by feel. The two sets are designed specifically for FPS and MOBA games. I used the FPS set a lot thanks to Overwatch and Battleborn, and they didn't let me down.
Corsair's K70 Rapidfire starts with a phenomenal platform that already has a TR Editor's Choice award to its credit. The keyboard is made of high-quality materials and has a clean look with no extra frills. Where the Rapidfire does differ from the normal K70, it excels. The Cherry MX Speeds are quick and highly responsive, and I think they're perfect for intense gaming. The only con of the Rapidfire is possibly the new font that Corsair is using on its keys, but I don't think it's worth complaining about when the rest of the keyboard is so superb.
While the MX Speed switches may not be to everybody's taste in all situations, I think they have an immediate and positive effect on the responsiveness of game input. In fact, I can't imagine a gamer that would want less of what the Speed switches provide—longer key travel, less responsiveness, or a heavier actuation force just don't sound like a winning formula. After a brief adjustment period, I enjoyed them while performing more mundane typing work, too.
The RGB LED-illuminated Rapidfire I tested is expensive, without a doubt: it goes for $170 on Newegg right now. Corsair also makes a K70 Rapidfire that only glows in red, and that board sells for $130. Gamers who can do without the numpad can also pick up a K65 RGB Rapidfire from Best Buy for $140. That range of price points makes the Rapidfire more accessible than the halo K70 RGB version might initially suggest. Whether the extra scratch for the RGB LED versions is worth it is definitely in the eye of the beholder, but we're left with no doubt about the quality and performance of the basic Rapidfire formula. This gaming keyboard is an easy pick for another TR Editor's Choice award.
14 comments — Last by Ph.D at 4:33 PM on 07/11/16
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