Corsair’s K70 and K70 RGB gaming keyboards are both long-running favorites at The Tech Report. The original K70 took home a TR Editor’s Choice award, and TR Editor-in-Chief Jeff Kampman still hammers out the majority of his writing on the same K70 RGB he reviewed almost two years ago. Corsair recently added a new member to the K70 family: the K70 RGB Rapidfire. This new board largely follows the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but it does hide one major update under its keycaps: Cherry’s MX RGB Speed switches. These new clickers register actuations in 1.2 mm of travel, down from two millimeters in regular Cherry MX switches—a move that purportedly makes this keyboard better for gaming than its predecessors.
For those who aren’t familiar with the K70, though, we’ll first look at the keyboard as a whole. On first brush, the entire package oozes quality. The top plate is formed out of brushed aluminum, while other parts are made of hard, durable plastic. The Rapidfire’s clean design does without any cosmetic add-ons or geegaws, and we’re OK with that.
The lack of a top plate makes it seem like the keys are floating above the keyboard, an iconic Corsair design that has since been copied by other manufacturers. The missing top plate also makes the keyboard easier to clean. Most dirt resting between the keys will simply slide right out, rather than getting stuck down inside the keyboard. This design also makes plenty of room for the light from the RGB LEDs to spill out around the keys.
The bottom edge of the keyboard extends out slightly further than other keyboards in order to accommodate the optional wrist rest. The rubberized finish of this pad is at once firm and slightly soft to the touch, providing ample support without discomfort. I personally wish it didn’t slope down so sharply near its edge, but it isn’t a big issue.
The Rapidfire carries over the dedicated media controls, backlight brightness button, and Windows-key lock button of its forebears. Corsair doesn’t skimp on the quality of these buttons, though they aren’t super-clicky like the actual keys. The volume roller is made of textured metal and has a nice, slightly heavy scrolling action. The media controls do a good job of remembering which program was playing music last, though they don’t support in-browser media players such as Soundcloud or YouTube.
Located on the back of the keyboard are a USB pass-through port and a report rate switch. In my time with the Rapidfire, I used the USB pass-through for my mouse. I didn’t notice any lag or latency from this port. The report rate switch has one-, two-, four-, and eight-millisecond settings, as well as a BIOS compatibility mode for really old motherboards that might not otherwise work with the keyboard. Corsair suggests most users should leave this switch in the one-millisecond mode.
In order to power the USB pass-through, the keyboard has a thick braided cable with two USB connectors, one for the keyboard itself and the other for the pass-through. Folks who don’t plan on using the USB pass-through don’t need to plug in the secondary USB connector.
The bottom of the keyboard houses both front and back flip-up stands to give the keyboard a slight slant or height adjustment. This feature is a rare and welcome one among the keyboards we’ve tested.
The final feature we’ll take a look at before covering the new switches is the software. In my experience, the Corsair Utility Engine, or CUE, is among the easiest-to-use gaming peripheral utilities out there, and it’s also one of the most powerful. Complex actions can be set for each individual key, including macros, shortcuts, timers, and media controls. The lighting tab allows users to change the color of each individual key, choose from a long list of lighting effects, or make their own lighting animations. A quick note about those LEDs: of all the RGB keyboards I have seen, the K70 has the smoothest LED animations.
All of these settings can be exported and shared with the world, and users who don’t want to mess with creating complicated profiles can download and import other folks’ creations. Corsair’s website has a section dedicated to custom lighting animations. Keyboard settings can also be saved onto the keyboard for use with other computers with the CUE software, but Corsair doesn’t incorporate any customization or macro-recording controls directly into the hardware like some of its competitors do. If you want to tweak the K70 Rapidfire across multiple computers, you’ll need the CUE software installed on each of your machines.
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.