High dynamic range, or HDR, content is one of the buzzier buzzwords of 2018. In short, HDR promises brighter whites and deeper blacks on compatible displays than standard-dynamic-range content, as well as a greater number of intermediate values between those blacks and whites. HDR content typically has a much wider color gamut than good old standard-dynamic-range content, too. As a result, games and movies mastered in HDR promise punchier, more vibrant images than ever.
Although HDR computer monitors have been trickling into the market at a measured pace, it's much more likely that the first HDR-capable screen in the home will also be the largest: the TV. It's only natural, then, that gamers might first experience HDR content in the living room rather than the confines of an office with a desk.
Bringing PC gaming into the living room is a nut that many companies have tried to crack with varying degrees of success. From entertainment-center-ready PCs to couch-ready peripherals, the pieces of the living-room PC puzzle have long been available to those who have wanted to put them together, but HTPCs have never quite unseated the console as the living-room content-delivery method of choice. HDR TVs may finally spur a wider circle of gamers to finally drag a PC into the living room and fire away, but there's just one problem: it's hard to use just any keyboard and mouse on the couch, and those peripherals are key to the PC gaming experience.
Corsair stands ready to serve that potentially burgeoning audience with a range of wireless peripherals designed to move seamlessly from desk to den. The company launched its first cable-free mechanical gaming keyboard, the K63 Wireless, and its first wireless mice, the Dark Core RGB and Dark Core RGB SE, earlier this year. To bring that keyboard and mouse together in the living room, the company simplified its Lapdog shell for the K63 Wireless and fittingly called the result the K63 Wireless Gaming Lapboard. Corsair also released its MM1000 mouse mat earlier this year to support the Dark Core RGB SE and its built-in Qi charging support.
I've been using all of these peripherals in my office and in the living room for some time now. You see, I've got an HDR-ready TV of my own—an LG OLED55B7A—and some of the first games with HDR support in my Steam and Uplay libraries. I've thoroughly put these peripherals to the test, and I'm ready to report on just what living-room gaming is like with all this gear.
The K63 Wireless makes cord-free mechanical keyboards attainable
For its first wireless keyboard, Corsair started with a proven design as its springboard. The K63 Wireless uses the same Cherry MX switches that have underpinned Corsair's gaming keyboards since day one, but it trades a hard-wired USB connection for Bluetooth or a low-latency 2.4-GHz RF interface.
Lack of wires aside, the K63 lives up to the high bar that Corsair has set with its years of past gaming keyboards. Although it's constructed entirely from plastic, all of the polymer in the K63 is top-notch. I couldn't elicit a single squeak or flex from the board while it was under my digits, and my fingertips never felt anything but typing bliss from the board's lightweight, linear Cherry MX Red switches.
Not only is the K63 built like a rock, it's versatile. One can connect it to PCs using Corsair's own 2.4-GHz wireless dongle for low-latency input or Bluetooth for dongle-free convenience (at the cost of potentially higher latencies). A press of Fn + F9 or Fn + F10 will switch between the radio types, and pressing either radio combo when it's active will shut off that radio entirely. That's handy when the K63 is connected to a PC with its included USB cable. Corsair protects the keypresses transmitted on the 2.4 GHz band with 128-bit AES encryption, too.
The K63 has some unique features that set it apart as a living-room-ready device. The F1 through F4 keys have shortcuts to control the Android TV shortcuts for home, app switching, search, and back. A dedicated sleep shortcut on F12 lets couch potatoes slumber their HTPCs without fiddling around with a mouse. The board also has Corsair's trademark media controls.
All of the K63's main keys, its LED brightness selector, and its Windows lock key are illuminated with single-color blue backlighting. (A special edition of the K63 Wireless gets a switchable "ice blue" backlight that's more of a cyan shade.) This backlight can do several simple animations, including "visor," "rain," "wave," "pulse," static, and per-key or "ripple" reactive effects that illuminate the board only when a key is pressed. A blue plastic plate beneath the key switches themselves enhances the effect of the backlight and offers a little touch of flair when the keyboard is off, too. Sadly, the media keys are not illuminated, making them a little hard to work in the dark.
All of those lighting settings are handled through Corsair's CUE software. I'm not going to go into depth on CUE in this review, but suffice it to say that it handles the usual lighting and macro customization work we expect from modern peripherals just fine. My one beef is that CUE needs to be running on a given machine for macro customizations to take effect. The K63 Wireless itself maintains lighting settings between machines, but it doesn't have any concept of profiles without its companion app, so customization-happy gamers will need to create profiles and keep them consistent across the multiple machines that naturally come with living-room gaming.
My one gripe about the K63 itself is that even with Corsair's brightness-limiting default settings, its backlight can suck down battery power like '70s American cars treated oil fields. Corsair claims 15 hours of run time with the maximum 66% brightness available out of the box, while using the 33% brightness setting extends that run time to 25 hours. Turning the LEDs off entirely extends battery life to a claimed 75 hours, but that's not how most people will want to use this board. Since the K63 perplexingly doesn't support per-key backlight settings, it's not possible to illuminate just the keys you need to see to save power, either.
As it stands, users will likely be topping up the K63 Wireless from its included USB cable at least a couple times per week. Folks used to getting months of run time from non-backlit, non-mechanical wireless keyboards will be in for a bit of a shock from the K63's appetite for power.
The K63 also seems to lack a capable enough power-management controller to truly hibernate the unit after long periods of inactivity. The backlight's LEDs will turn off after some time at idle, but leaving the board on and idle still seems to drain the battery fairly quickly. I often came back to the K63 blinking its red battery LED of woe after leaving it on for the stretches between gaming sessions. Remembering to switch off the unit at idle seems critical. For what it's worth, this is expected behavior: Corsair encourages users to manually switch off the unit when it's not in use to conserve power.
I ultimately found a balance between illumination and battery life by using the K63's minimum visible brightness setting throughout my time with it. This setting offers just enough light to distinguish each key without chewing through the battery at an eyebrow-raising rate. In that mode, I had to charge the K63 perhaps once every three days in regular use. In a way, it's best to think of the K63 as a wired keyboard that can convert to wireless when it's needed than as a primarily wireless device.
Wireless mechanical gaming keyboards are a rare breed outside of expensive boutique options, but Corsair's first effort only demands a $20 premium over its wired counterparts at Newegg right now at an even hundred bucks. Given the dearth of wireless mechanical keyboard options to begin with, Corsair has drawn an aggressive line in the sand with the K63 Wireless' price tag.