Cherry MX switches take root in Corsair gaming keyboards

IDF — Corsair rolled out a slew of new gaming peripherals at the Intel Developer Forum this week. We were at the big reveal, and we got to spend some hands-on time with a couple of very impressive gaming keyboards. The K60 and K90 target first-person shooters and MMOs, respectively, and they both use Cherry MX Red switches. If you’re not familiar with Cherry’s multi-colored rainbow of switch options, the reds are non-tactile, non-clicky, and have the lowest actuation force in the lineup. This makes the switches perfect for the hardcore gamers who need to rattle off multiple keystrokes in quick succession, although the lack of tactile feedback is less than ideal for typing.

The most visually striking of the two models is the K90, which does backlighting right by placing an individual LED under each key and offering three brightness levels. A total of 18 macro keys populate the board, and support for three profiles allows for even more customization. Macros are stored on 36MB of onboard memory, which should allow custom combos to work with any system the K90 is plugged into.

One of the most eye-catching things about the K90 is how the blue glow from the LEDs highlights Corsair’s rather inspired industrial design. The K90 and K60 are both built up on sturdy aluminum bases, and the keys appear to be raised slightly because Corsair elected not to hide the lower part of the switch mechanism under a top plate. These puppies look nothing like any other keyboard on the market, and I suspect the lack of a top plate might make them easier to clean, as well.

Macro keys have been left off the K60, allowing for a smaller footprint more suited to LAN gamers. The backlight is also gone to make room for a novel set of rubber-coated key caps for the WASD triangle and the first six number keys. The contoured caps are slightly taller than the standard keys, and they have a nice, grippy texture that should be easy to find in the dark. When your gaming session comes to a close, the rubberized keys can be quickly swapped with a set of standard ones that live inside a palm rest designed specifically for FPS gaming.

As one might expect, both keyboards support wicked-fast polling rates, the ability to track more simultaneous key presses than you have fingers, and USB pass-through connectors. Corsair has also loaded ’em up with media keys, a nice volume roller, and a handy switch to disable the Windows key for gaming sessions.

We’ve seen a number of companies get into the mechanical gaming keyboard market lately, and Corsair looks to have the strongest offerings to date. Best of all, the K60 and K90 are due to hit online retailers next month at pretty reasonable price points. The K60 will cost just $99, while the K90 will ring in at $130. Now if only Corsair would make a version of the K90 with Cherry MX Brown switches for those of us who spend more time typing than gaming.

Comments closed
    • Derfer
    • 8 years ago

    Are these dishwasher safe? No detergent of course but it has to be able to take the heat and water. Best way to clean them without asinine amounts of manual labor.

      • Ryu Connor
      • 8 years ago

      Mechanical keyboards use springs and those springs are lubricated.

      So no, they cannot be drowned in water.

    • WolfRayet
    • 8 years ago

    Got to WASD and create your own keyboard..

    • WolfRayet
    • 8 years ago

    I’d prefer Black, Brown or Clear MX switches. The real question is how are the key-caps made and will the lettering and paint will rub off in 3 months like Logitech. I quit buying Logitech for that reason. Enermax wears off too. Deck’s are nice but the Font on the key-caps suck.

    • edh
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve owned almost more mechanical keyboards than I can reasonably count, from the original IBM PC Model “M” and half a dozen variants, to two versions of the NorthGate keyboard (both with the extra function keys), to Topre (2), Das (1), Filco (3) and Leopold (2). And of the Cherry key switches, I’ve used blacks, blues, browns, reds and whites.

    I’m sold on Cherry “browns” for general typing, even over the Topre. I prefer the fit & finish of the Leopold over Das and Filco. I’m not partial to Das’s piano black finish or the (IMHO) kludged extra USB 2.0 ports. Das & Leopold have better quality key caps than Filco. I like the minimalist chassis and matte finish of the Filco and Leopold. And I like the detachable & “route-able” cable on the Leopold, making it the default winner.

    That being said, if Corsair comes out with the K90 in Cherry “browns” I’ll gladly plunk down their asking price for a pair. I’ve got all kinds of designs for those macro keys that don’t involve gaming. But, based on my experience, the red switches are just too soft for extensive typing. Gamers should love them; but, as I’m no gamer, I’ll probably pass…. It’s a shame, though; it’s one hot looking keyboard.

    • just brew it!
    • 8 years ago

    While the lack of a top plate may indeed make it easier to clean, it probably also makes it easier for crap to get into the switches. So I’d say it’s a wash.

    • Ihmemies
    • 8 years ago

    I wish some firm produced an ergonomic keyboard like Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 with blue switches… (tactile.. clicky).

    Rubber cap keys or whatever they are called simply suck.

      • bthylafh
      • 8 years ago

      Maybe I’d buy a keyboard with the shape of an older Natural but with buckling-spring keyswitches.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Nkey rollover or bust for a high end keyboard….

    [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollover_(key)#n-key_rollover[/url<]

    • blitzy
    • 8 years ago

    damn that keyboard is a behemoth

    • ronch
    • 8 years ago

    I wish more keyboard manufacturers would design kyes that you could easily take out without breaking the clips underneath. I used to have an A4tech keyboard and I would take out each key so I could [i<]properly[/i<] clean underneath them, and I've done it many times to avoid having a very dirty keyboard. Now I have a Logitech, and a key clip broke when I tried to take it off. So much for properly cleaning it. I bet there's a jungle underneath the keys by now.

      • Malphas
      • 8 years ago

      Almost all mechanical keyboards are designed so you cam remove the keys, and come with an accessory for that purpose.

      • KoolAidMan
      • 8 years ago

      It is very easy to remove keys with Cherry MX switches

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    “just” $99.

    Really? For a keyboard, that’s considered “just”?

    I understand that mechanical switches are just totally out-of-this-world-wonderful and they help you type over 9000% better and all…

    But $99 for a keyboard is still not “just” $99.

    $99 for a keyboard is more like “gosh frickin dang this had better be frickin amazing”.

    If this is “just $99” then I need to get a job with TechReport.

      • dashbarron
      • 8 years ago

      I agree. I’m still shocked by this gawking at what to me seems to be “featureless” keyboards for “just” a 3 figure wad of cash.

      I have a hard time choking down 3-digits for a keyboard with extra buttons, lcd, usb-hub, backlighting, etc….

      • Bauxite
      • 8 years ago

      Look at prices of all the other keyboards that don’t suck, then come back here and say that.

        • kamikaziechameleon
        • 8 years ago

        what makes them suck? Seriously though I can type on these “free” keyboards my parents got bundled with their computers from the 90s just fine. I’m currently typing on a similarly sucky keyboard that was free with my computer and it replaced a 6 plus year old free keyboard. The thing is that these so called expensive keyboards are indeed expensive and that is why everyone is getting in on them. The margins are ridiculous.

        If it really costs them more than 15 dollars to make that product they are doing it all wrong.

          • Bauxite
          • 8 years ago

          Not everything is bargain basement crap.

          As for what makes them suck, a minute or two with them is self explanatory.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 8 years ago

      The thing with a good, well-built, peripheral, unlike graphics cards or CPUs, is that you buy it and then you keep it forever. That $99 is buying you product that you could realistically keep using for at least a decade (look at all the old IBM buckling spring keyboards still floating around). Compare this to the numerous shitsux Microsoft or Logitech keyboards that you can buy for $10-$15 at OfficeMax or wherever that stop working after a few months. Give it a few replacements and suddenly you’ve spent more than $99.

      In addition, the people willing to pay this much for a keyboard (professional typists, which I imagine many Techreport contributors are, or programmers) see the value in a good typing experience. Obviously, people who don’t type for a living won’t see the value.

      • KikassAssassin
      • 8 years ago

      $99 is a reasonable price for a good mechanical keyboard. The only less expensive mechanical keyboard I know of is the standard Razer BlackWidow (which is $80), and that doesn’t include n-key rollover. Sure, you can buy a basic rubber membrane keyboard for $20, but that’s a completely different category of product.

      It’s like the difference between monitors with TN panels and IPS panels. Sure, you can buy a 24″ monitor for $180, but that doesn’t mean $400 isn’t a good price for a high quality IPS panel.

        • hans
        • 8 years ago

        Will a mechanical keyboard resist a water spill? If not, then I won’t pay $100. I use a [gasp] curvy Microsoft Natural 4000. They’re $25 when on sale and last 8+ hours a day of use for years or until I knock over a drink into one. Usually the drink happens first.

          • indeego
          • 8 years ago

          “water.” You must remember the quotes to be honest with yourself.

      • Flatland_Spider
      • 8 years ago

      It’s about quality. Do you balk at paying a couple extra bucks for an Asus MB over a bottom of the barrel Foxconn? (Or whatever brands you like and hate.)

      That’s not a bad price if the quality is good. A couple years ago (2) it would be a lot more expensive to import a cheap mechanical keyboard from Japan, and now the choices are expanding driving down the prices. Most mechanical keyboards are clustered around the $99-$110 range. There are a few outliers like the Topre Realforce at $265 and the defunct ABS M1 at $50, but $100 is the sweet spot.

      • Dygear
      • 8 years ago

      Apparently, you’re not a member of the keyboard cult.

      [url<]http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2010/10/the-keyboard-cult.html[/url<] And there is nothing wrong with that, I mean at the end of the day, for some people a keyboard is just a keyboard. For programmers and hard core gamer it's our tactile sense into the world of computers. If you're the type of person who is perfectly happy typing on the keyboard that came with your beige DELL computer, that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. Keep on scrolling; this post is not for you. But if you want to a better feel of the world you're in, there is nothing like having a quality mechanical keyboard, and at this price point it's on the lower end of what you could pay for not only Cherry MX Red switches, but mechanical keyboards as a whole.

        • Bauxite
        • 8 years ago

        The first rule of keyboard cult is don’t talk about keyboard cult.

        [url<]http://geekhack.org/[/url<]

        • travbrad
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]For programmers and hard core gamer it's our tactile sense into the world of computers.[/quote<] Apparently "hard core gamer" = buys expensive keyboards? It makes sense to get a good quality keyboard for writing/programming, but frankly I've never noticed any difference (maybe it was imperceptible?) when it comes to gaming. I know these manufacturers like to put "great for gaming" on the box, and it may be true, but then so is every other keyboard. Even with a gaming mouse, I think people overstate the advantage it gives you. You may gain that last few % with an awesome mouse, but if you really want to get good at a game you need to focus on the other 97% which is down to practice and skill.

      • anotherengineer
      • 8 years ago

      Actually it’s pretty cheap when you consider the detail and cost of an individual cherry mechanical switch.

      here is a blue switch
      [url<]http://search.digikey.com/scripts/DkSearch/dksus.dll?Detail&name=CH197-ND[/url<] and 104 keys on a US board? That is a cheapy one, if you want a military grade mech keyboard they are closer to $170 [url<]http://www.deckkeyboards.com/product_info.php?products_id=96[/url<]

        • Bauxite
        • 8 years ago

        But but but, I got a “free” keyboard with my computer, whats wrong with that?

      • ronch
      • 8 years ago

      They’re expensive, alright. I just think that they have to price high because they know that few people will care about these things and they can’t recoup their equipment/tooling costs if they price low. High margin, low volume.

      Also, they may not be willing to mass produce these in greater quantities because they don’t want to risk more on equipment/tooling costs on a niche product, and even if they do, they still won’t match the economies of scale of ordinary keyboards, which also compete with these fancy ones.

      Just to add – these fancy keyboards are like sound cards. Integrated audio is good enough, and although some will argue that X-Fi is absolutely terrific, most folks just don’t bother buying them. Same with these. Nobody needs to buy an expensive keyboard to type comfortably but some people are simply ok with spending this much on something that doesn’t need to be expensive.

      • just brew it!
      • 8 years ago

      It’s “just $99” for a quality keyboard with Cherry switches. Most Cherry mechanicals (e.g. Das Keyboard) are well over $100.

      • KoolAidMan
      • 8 years ago

      $99 is a very good price for a good mechanical keyboard.

      People don’t blink at spending a bunch on other components, even membrane keyboards with LCDs and LEDs and macros and everything, but they freak out when it comes to buying an actual well made keyboard.

    • Cyco-Dude
    • 8 years ago

    ugh, why cherry reds? there’s a reason most mechs don’t use them any more (too light actuation). much rather see blacks or browns.

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      Better for gaming.

        • indeego
        • 8 years ago

        Better in low light also.

      • KikassAssassin
      • 8 years ago

      Everyone I’ve heard from who’s used a Cherry red keyboard loves them. The reds aren’t really any lighter than the browns, they just don’t have a tactile bump.

        • APWNH
        • 8 years ago

        The tactile response (that coincides with the key signal) is the only part that makes them worth it, IMO.

    • ApockofFork
    • 8 years ago

    Does anyone have any opinion as to how these are for regular typing? As much as I enjoy gaming I do a lot more typing and I don’t want to have two different keyboards…

      • [+Duracell-]
      • 8 years ago

      According to what Geoff said, the Red switches are non-tactile, non-clicky, and has the lowest actuation force of the Cherry switches. So they will be very soft and don’t provide a whole lot of feedback, but they are super-sensitive.

      According to the AT article, they have 4mm of total travel, so it will act like a laptop keyboard (I want to say similar to the Dell Latitude line), but less noise and feedback.

      It would probably be way too soft for any extended typing.

      • Ryu Connor
      • 8 years ago

      I like my Black Cherry MX switches, but after having used rubber domes for so many years I do not forsee learning how to be a good touch typist.

      Even when I sit there and actively think not to bottom out the key I generally manage to do so any way. The muscle memory of my fingers are just inherently used to jamming the key down. So I’m not really reaping the full benefit of this design of mechanical keyboard.

      I can’t imagine using Cherry MX Red Keys. Blacks are too light already (IMO) and IIRC Reds reduce the necessary force by nearly half. I suspect I could give a Red switch the evil eye and it would actuate.

      That being said, I don’t regret the purchase. The keyboard does have a very different feel to rubber dome and the pushback of the spring is actually rather nice when gaming.

      If I had it to do all over again, I think I’d look at a Torpe though.

        • KoolAidMan
        • 8 years ago

        I owned a Filco with Chery browns for a while, and I ended up replacing it with a Steelseries using Charry blacks. Switch preference is highly subjective, and for me the browns were way too sensitive. Reds must be so light you can actuate them just by sneezing on them

      • CasbahBoy
      • 8 years ago

      Comprehensive overview: [url<]http://www.overclock.net/keyboards/491752-mechanical-keyboard-guide.html[/url<] Reds are low actuation force with little to no tactile feedback on keypress. To link the force diagrams from the link above... Buckling Spring: [url<]http://www.overclock.net/picture.php?albumid=3859&pictureid=22306[/url<] Cherry MX Red: [url<]http://www.overclock.net/picture.php?albumid=3859&pictureid=22309[/url<] On second thought the lack of tactile feedback would count as a negative to me. I'd still like to try one.

        • hansmuff
        • 8 years ago

        I’ve tried the Cherry Blacks and I was really underwhelmed. When you are used to tactile feedback, the Black and Red switches will leave you cold.

        Even when I’m playing games, I like having the feedback. It isn’t as if that somehow slows my game down, but my brain likes to register that it felt the feedback from the keys. Without it I get annoyed quickly.

          • bhtooefr
          • 8 years ago

          Yeah, I game with an IBM Model F.

          122 keys (mine is a terminal keyboard) of very clicky, highly tactile, deliciously light feeling, N-key rollover, old-school IBM goodness.

      • hansmuff
      • 8 years ago

      Cherry Reds are just not great for typing. Of course they work fine, but the lack of feedback forces you to bottom out every keystroke.

      If you aren’t a really good touch typist, however, I doubt your accuracy or speed will suffer much at all.

      The part I am really not sure about is why FPS gamers supposedly don’t like tactile switches. The MX Browns are tactile, but they aren’t really hard to push or anything, and they aren’t particularly loud either. To me, the browns are an excellent compromise if you want to both game and type.

    • fredsnotdead
    • 8 years ago

    Wish they would do something similar in an ergonomic or split keyboard.

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 8 years ago

      I really don’t care for ergo keyboards, visually they do nothing for me and same goes for typing. My roommate loves em though so they must do something right.

        • mnecaise
        • 8 years ago

        Been programming for, well, a couple of decades. When you put in strings of 10 hour sessions in front of a workstation, after a while you learn to appreciate ergo keyboards.

      • hans
      • 8 years ago

      Ditto. I type more than I game. My ultimate keyboard would be the MS Natural 4000 with backlighting. Maybe a slightly firmer key feel.

      • Chrispy_
      • 8 years ago

      I’d buy that in a heartbeat.

      I use Microsoft’s NEK-4000 which is beautifully comfortable and quite stylish but fairly cheap in terms of build-quality and key action.

      I really like the lack of a top plate too, they’re pointless and make cleaning under the keys impossible.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    Flip. Might have to sell my razor black widow ultimate.

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 8 years ago

      I expect a TR review of their two keyboards post haste so I can discern weather or not I have the right keyboard! 😛

        • KeillRandor
        • 8 years ago

        Aye, we need a good examination to see what they’re like when we grab the rains and give them a thorough wash-down…

        😉

          • kamikaziechameleon
          • 8 years ago

          I kinda love the tactile feed back of my keyboard and I have a hard time imagining forgoing that but if I got my hands on with them and they felt right to me I might just fold. The Industrial design looks so perdy.

    • CasbahBoy
    • 8 years ago

    Holy crap. So it is a lot like one of my Model Ms (I use a somewhat rare 84-key space saver variant) without its top plastic cover…made with aluminum, and with keyswitches instead of buckling springs. This is an extremely cool design, and most of the weirder features listed sound worthwhile and not completely useless.

      • LoneWolf15
      • 8 years ago

      However your Model-M has more tactile feedback, and a noticeable click.

      The only keyboard I’d give up my Model M for is a Unicomp Customizer, 104, which is really just a Model M with Windows keys, with the option of USB instead of PS2, and which can be ordered in black.

        • bthylafh
        • 8 years ago

        I really like my Customizer 104, but its build quality isn’t quite the same. Mainly it feels a bit lighter and the keys a little different vs. my 1988 Model M.

        • edh
        • 8 years ago

        Probably the Cherry blues are most like the old IBM Model M — not the exactly same, as the buckling spring has its own distinct feel and sound; however, having used both, there is a great degree of similarity in their feel and sound. However, I prefer the quieter Cherry browns — same feel, less noise (I seldom bottom the keys when typing rapidly).

          • WolfRayet
          • 8 years ago

          If you want to get rid of bottoming noise, they sell little O-Rings for that.

    • [+Duracell-]
    • 8 years ago

    I really want the K60. None of the gaming keyboards I saw while shopping around at Microcenter had quirks (lack of dedicated media keys, size is too big, not mechanical, and such). I settled for a cheapo MS keyboard that had media keys, but the K60 looks to be perfect for me.

    Although the Anandtech article had a different palm rest for the K60 than what is shown in this gallery. Corsair is also coming out with mice that complement the K60. The M60 features a dedicated DPI switching button that switches between low and high DPI, and conveniently placed near my thumb. I constantly switch between my high and low DPI setting for sniping in TF2, and the DPI rocker on the Logitech G9 is not very well placed for that.

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