Corsair's Vengeance K60
The K60 is the cheaper of Corsair's two Vengeance keyboards. You can nab it at Newegg for $109.99, although it seems to collect discounts and rebates on a regular basis. Right now, for example, Newegg offers a 20%-off promo code and a $20 mail-in rebate. Even if you account for the $8.50 shipping fee, you may be in for a substantial discount. Those lucky enough to take advantage of both offers before they expire may only end up shelling out $76.49 for the device.
That's a steal considering the K60's rather impressive build quality. All of its key-switches hover over a thick, brushed-aluminum frame, with gaps of about 6 mm between the frame and the bottom of each key cap. The appeal of that design should be obvious. Cleaning dust bunnies, hair, and crumbs out of a regular keyboard usually involves popping off the key caps one by one, but with the K60, a few well-placed jets of compressed should do the trick. Heck, you might be able to get away with just tilting the keyboard on its side and letting debris slide free.
Wrapped around the metal frame is a plastic base, which has little flaps at the front and back for height adjustment. You'll find a USB port at the rear, too. Part of me wishes Corsair had put the port on the side to make it easier to reach. However, the company had the wisdom to put the port on an embossed piece of plastic that's very easy to locate by touch alone. No need to turn the keyboard around to find it.
A few inches to the side is the K60's thick, braided USB cord, which is hard-wired into the base and splits off at the end into two plugs: one for the keyboard itself and one for the extra port. The cable is about 6.5 feet long—kind of a lot, especially considering how rigid the cord is. When it comes to keyboards, though, too much cable length is undoubtedly better than too little.
Surprisingly, not all of the K60's key-switches are MX reds. Well, almost all of them are, but the top row (from Esc to Pause/Break) and the paging block all have the same kind of rubber-dome switches found on el-cheapo Dell keyboards and the like. You might not notice when gaming or typing, but it can be unsettling in some situations, like when you're writing a message and happen to hit the Del key. Your finger expects precise mechanical feedback but encounters mushy rubberiness instead. Yuck.
Speaking of mechanical feedback, how does typing on the K60's Cherry MX reds feel?
I think "satisfying" is the most accurate adjective. The red switches feel great, with a very light touch and great accuracy. I still believe the lack of tactile and acoustic feedback is unfortunate—compared to the venerable Model M, the linear response gives keys a sort of bouncy feel, since the actuation point is hidden somewhere in the feedback curve instead of being clearly delineated by a click and a tactile jolt. Still, the Cherry MX reds feel less bouncy than the tactile, non-clicky Alps replica switches on the ABS M1, so they're not the worst in that respect.
Corsair's decision to lay the key-switches bare on an aluminum base has some merits, too, because it seems to reduce noise and resonance. The click-clacking of keys is much sharper and less hollow than on other mechanical designs I've played with, and I can detect none of the faint ringing that follows rapid rattling sessions on both the ABS M1 and (to a much greater extent) the Das Keyboard. Compared to those offerings, typing on the K60 has an almost surgical feel. The metal base also makes the keyboard seem and harder to shift accidentally, even though the device is technically lighter than the ABS M1 by a few ounces.
I tried the K60 in games, as well, and the Cherry MX reds definitely have some merit there. I'm not the twitchiest kind of gamer in first-person shooters, but in TrackMania 2, a racing game designed to be played with the arrow keys, the difference is palpable. It's just much easier to make minute corrections, since there's no increase in resistance or very much travel in the way of each actuation. The K60 feels even more precise in that game than my Apple aluminum keyboard, which has a shorter key travel distance.
Unlike some of the more bare-bones mechanical keyboards out there, like the Model M and Filco-derived offerings, the Vengeance K60 provides the comfort of media buttons. Corsair has gone the extra mile there, offering not only the usual assortment of stop, back, play/pause, and forward buttons, but also a mute button and a completely awesome little volume scroll wheel. The wheel is made of textured aluminum and feels very precise, a bit like the volume knob on an expensive stereo.
For someone like me who games with headphones plugged right into a sound card, the volume control wheel is a godsend. I can't tell you how many times I've had to Alt-Tab out of a game to raise or lower the volume. Yes, I know I could probably set up some keyboard shortcut application to take care of that. I could even buy a headphone amp. But having a dedicated control on the keyboard is a lovely, hassle-free alternative.
Another nice addition is that little round button you see above the Scroll Lock key. Pressing it will disable the keyboard's Windows keys, so you can game away without worrying that an accidental keystroke might toss you back to the Windows desktop. A little blue LED lights up behind the button when the lock feature is enabled.
The K60 has even more goodies in its bag of tricks. Oh, yes. Corsair ships it with a little palm rest that snaps in right under the WASD keys. Inside the palm rest are red key caps with sloped and textured tops designed specifically for gaming. As you can see in the image above, the W key cap is sloped downward, while the A and D key caps slope to the right and to the left, respectively. The 1 and 6 keys are also sloped. Corsair includes a key puller to make key cap substitution relatively painless.
Now, I hate to be a killjoy, but those add-ons just seem unnecessary. The slope of the WASD caps doesn't really match the way I position my fingers, so the A key feels higher up than the rest, which is a little awkward. To make matters worse, the palm rest isn't completely steady, so it makes the keyboard feel less precise when gaming. After trying both setups, I found that the standard black keycaps simply felt better and more comfortable in games. Sorry, Corsair. Maybe some users will love the red key caps, but I think they're just inconvenient—especially when you're trying to type and they get in the way. The same goes for the mini-palm rest.