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.
The Dark Core RGB SE loses its tail
We’ve long enjoyed Corsair’s wired mice at TR, and just like with keyboards, Corsair has plenty of experience creating top-shelf gaming mice. The first fruit of the company’s wireless work in the mousing department, the Dark Core RGB, has a long pedigree behind it.
The basic Dark Core RGB design starts with a pleasant blend of matte and glossy plastic. The back half of the mouse’s body and the left-side thumb rest are both covered in a pebbly rubber for a sure grip, while the swappable right panel uses a smooth rubberized coating. Corsair includes two magnetized panels for the right side of the mouse: one with a pinky rest, the other without. Like the K63 Wireless, all of the Dark Core’s polymers feel top-notch. I couldn’t make the mouse flex or squeak by squeezing it or otherwise abusing it.
The major difference between the regular Dark Core RGB and its SE sibling is the SE’s built-in support for Qi wireless charging, meaning that one can top the SE up from any Qi wireless pad. Since the inclusion or exclusion of the Qi coil only merits a $10 difference between the two mice, it’s probably worth ponying up the SE version’s $80 asking price unless you’re 100% sure you’ll never have any Qi pads in your home. Just like the K63 Wireless, the Dark Core is aggressively-priced for a wireless mouse with a gaming-grade sensor. Wireless gaming mice with RGB LEDs are a rare breed for under $100.
Before I comment on the Dark Core’s in-hand feel, it’s worth noting that mice are deeply personal devices, and what doesn’t feel good in one gamer’s hand might be just right for another’s. After years of using rather long mice with rounded rumps, though, the Dark Core RGB SE just doesn’t have enough junk in the trunk for it to nestle into my hand comfortably. Its body is just a bit too low, short, and flat to really bolster the palm grip I prefer to use. I often found myself struggling to get as secure a grip on this mouse as I prefer. Claw grippers or fingertip grippers might find the Dark Core’s shape more to their liking.
Mice live and die on their moving parts, and the wheel on the Dark Core doesn’t make a great first impression. While its rubber surface is well-textured, it only has the softest of detents, and they tended to run together when I rotated the wheel with any real speed. Some might prefer this free-spinning feel, but I want much stronger notchiness from my mouse wheels. Without clear, well-spaced detents, it’s hard to perform precise wheel actions like weapons-switching in many titles. The main mouse buttons and the DPI up and down buttons on the left side of the Dark Core feel fine, however. They operate with deep enough and tactile enough clicks to prove plenty reassuring.
The stylized back-button, forward-button, and sniper-button cluster on the left side of the mouse seems to put form ahead of function, though. The sniper button actuates with a pleasing surety, but the back and forward buttons are part of a narrow ring of plastic that doesn’t offer much of a contact patch for either clicker. I found it quite hard to perform rapidly-alternating back and forward presses without an exaggerated rocking motion that couldn’t be performed quickly. My natural grip also put my thumb pad on the back button and sniper button, making the forward button a big reach to begin with. To be fair, it’s not often necessary to do this kind of alternating press in games, but mice with dedicated back and forward buttons in a straight-line arrangement make that motion easier than the Dark Core RGB SE.
Pixart’s PMW3367 serves as the eye of the Dark Core RGB SE. By any measure, this 16,000-max-DPI sensor is a truly gaming-grade unit. I’ve long enjoyed Pixart optical sensors in my daily-driver mice, and the PMW3367 tracks as reliably and transparently as any other such sensor. I never got the sense that my mouse movements were perceptibly laggier than controlling a cursor with a wired mouse while I was at my desk, either. At least in the living room and on the 2.4-GHz radio, the input lag from playing on a TV was far more perceptible to me than any delay the mouse itself might have been adding. The Dark Core RGB’s Bluetooth mode provides dongle-free operation at the cost of potentially higher latency.
Unlike the K63 Wireless’ single-color backlight, Corsair put a full multi-zone RGB LED lighting array inside the Dark Core RGB SE. You’d expect the processing overhead from that setup to tank battery life, but within the context of Corsair’s wireless system, the Dark Core gets on OK. With its lights fully engaged, the mouse usually ran two or three days for me in regular use. Given that one’s hand covers most of the Dark Core’s RGB blinkenlights in use, I think it’s totally possible to stretch some further battery life from this mouse with little penalty to usability by turning off its illuminative effects entirely.
For the best battery life, Corsair still suggests that one turn off the Dark Core’s power switch when it’s not in use, too, just like the K63 Wireless. It’s not a big deal to do this, but it is a tiny extra bit of thinking that I’m not used to after working with other wireless mice, and it can be easy to forget this step after a long gaming session. At least it’s easy to charge the Dark Core RGB SE thanks to its built-in Qi coil, and Corsair has just the product to make that happen: the MM1000 mousing surface and its built-in Qi charger.
The MM1000 channels its Qi
Corsair makes plenty of mousing surfaces, ranging from simple soft mats to hard-surfaced models with RGB LEDs around their perimeters, but the MM1000 is the first of them to support wireless charging with the Qi standard.
Depending on your opinion of RGB LEDs, the MM1000’s omission of the feature may or may not disappoint you. This purely functional pad has a single green LED, and it indicates the charging status of any device coupled to its Qi coil. The pad also has a USB pass-through port that’s handy for plugging in the Dark Core RGB SE’s wireless receiver.
Although the Dark Core RGB SE may be the MM1000’s most natural pairing, Corsair includes a charging puck with the mat so that folks with Qi-free devices can take advantage of the mat’s coil. The charging puck has a USB Micro-B connector built in, and Corsair includes a pair of tips that let the puck charge Lightning-equipped Apple devices or anything with a USB Type-C connector.
I must admit that I don’t normally use a mousing surface of any kind, but the slightly rough-textured hard expanse of the MM1000 is pleasant to glide a mouse over, and it’s less grabby than the bare melamine surface of my Ikea desk. The pad is plenty large enough to allow for my iPhone 6S Plus to charge off the puck while I’m mousing normally, too. It would have been nice to have the charging spot in the lower-right corner of the pad so that devices charging off the included puck would rest with their screens in a natural, upward-facing position. As it stands, devices without built-in Qi support have to rest upside down, halfway off the pad, or at some other odd angle. Phones with built-in Qi coils won’t suffer from this awkwardness, but not every device is Qi-ready by a long shot.
In its primary role, though, the MM1000 just needs to juice up the Dark Core RGB SE when its user is done with the mouse for the day, and in that job the pad does just fine. Position the rounded rear of the mouse over the Qi spot, make sure the green LED on the pad is blinking, and you’ll come back to a topped-up mouse in the morning.
At $80, the MM1000 is expensive for a mouse mat, but Corsair seems to have put together a unique offering with this pad’s combination of features. Logitech’s Powerplay mouse pad is only compatible with the company’s own peripherals and won’t charge Qi devices, neat as its all-over charging ability may be.
The K63 Lapboard brings it all together
When it comes time to take the Dark Core RGB SE and K63 Wireless out of the office and into the living room, the K63 Wireless Gaming Lapboard brings them all together. For its second-generation gaming lapboard, Corsair made some wise tradeoffs. Since the K63 Lapboard doesn’t make any concession to full-size keyboards—or indeed, any keyboard but the K63 Wireless—it’s not nearly as wide or as deep as the first-generation Lapdog, nor is it as fiddly.
Since neither the K63 Wireless nor the Dark Core RGB SE have any cables, the company did away with the complicated cord cover, under-mousing-surface wiring cubby, and USB ports built into the Lapdog. The K63 Lapboard is an entirely passive device, and it’s basically a sturdy plastic shell with a generous cushion on its base. Thanks to Corsair’s cord-cutting and fat-trimming, it’s easy to store this lapboard when it’s not needed and to pull it out when it is.
Corsair also dealt with most of our creature-comfort complaints from the Lapdog. The edge of the unit is now rounded off behind the keyboard, and some soft rubber pads directly behind the keyboard area provide a bit of comfort for typists who want to rest the heels of their hands on something while they game. As a stickler for ergonomic propriety, I should note that your hands shouldn’t be resting on anything as you type—they should be floating above the keyboard in a neutral posture.
For those who do prefer to rest their hands on a surface regardless, the K63 Lapboard should prove a much more pleasant companion than the Lapdog before it. For some reason, though, the area beneath the mousepad on the K63 Lapboard still has a sharp edge beneath it. My mousing posture on the couch didn’t allow my forearm to come into contact with this edge, but others might find it bothersome.
The K63 Gaming Lapboard is $60 all by its lonesome, and while that may sound like a lot for a passive plastic shell, it’s worth noting that there just aren’t that many options in this niche space. As we’ll soon discuss, the comfort, simplicity, and solidity of the K63 Lapboard make it well worth the price.
Unplug and play
The real test of Corsair’s wireless menagerie is when it comes time to move from room to room. The wireless receivers for the K63 Wireless and Dark Core RGB SE are identical, so it can be hard to tell what device you’re unplugging in the event that you want to move one peripheral or the other from computer to computer. It doesn’t seem possible to have multiple wireless receivers for these peripherals spread across multiple PCs so that one doesn’t have to move dongles around, either. In fairness to Corsair, other wireless gaming peripherals seem to use similar dedicated-receiver arrangements, so the K63 Wireless and Dark Core RGB SE aren’t unusual in this regard. Still, unplugging and re-plugging these dongles between PCs is perhaps the most annoying part of moving from room to room with Corsair’s wireless system.
One way around this issue would be to keep both the K63 Wireless and the Dark Core RGB SE wired up using their included USB cables while they’re parked at a desk (since they need to be charged anyway) while leaving their wireless receivers hooked up to one’s HTPC. One could also use both devices’ Bluetooth connection for work that’s not as latency-sensitive as gaming and click over to 2.4-GHz mode when it’s time to kick back on the couch. Making the move from room to room seamless may be a challenge for companies to address with future wireless gaming peripherals, but the Dark Core RGB SE and K63 Wireless offer enough ways to connect to multiple systems today that moving them around isn’t a huge inconvenience.
Getting in the game from the couch wasn’t as smooth as I might have liked. For one, our home’s wireless access point resides near our entertainment center, and it broadcasts on both the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands. Since my cobbled-together HTPC naturally ended up near this access point, my initial experience with the K63 Wireless and Dark Core RGB SE proved frustrating. While traversing the world of Far Cry 5, my character would often stop dead in his tracks even though I was holding the W key, for example. Mousing with the Dark Core RGB SE sometimes resulted in spurious input or major hitches that completely ruined fine movements like aiming. Those drops and hitches may have occurred thanks to my PC’s proximity to my wireless access point. I also had the receivers for the mouse and keyboard in adjacent USB ports on my test motherboard, and that arrangement might have also contributed to interference.
After scoping out Corsair’s blog post about achieving the best connectivity with this hardware, I tried moving the receivers to as distantly-opposed a pair of USB ports on my test motherboard as possible. I also disabled the 2.4-GHz band on my wireless router. With these measures in place, I was able to enjoy consistently responsive input from both the keyboard and mouse. I wouldn’t call this arrangement ideal, as not everyone will be able to ditch 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi (myself included). Folks in especially crowded 2.4-GHz airspace like apartments might not be able to control the amount of interference present at all. A congested 2.4-GHz band is a just a fact of life, of course, and there’s not much Corsair or any other company making wireless peripherals can do about it. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that interference might sour one’s connectivity with the K63 Wireless and Dark Core RGB SE.
So what’s it like to actually game from the couch with this stuff? Just like having a desktop PC in the living room, really. For folks used to picking up a game controller and fragging away on a console, the K63 Wireless, Dark Core RGB SE, and K63 Lapboard are easily the equivalent for an HTPC. I happily sank hours into Far Cry 5 with this gear, and it made my test rig feel like any other PC in my home— just one with a really big screen. Even after spending most of an afternoon with the K63 system on my lap, the light weight of the entire setup and the big cushion underneath meant that my legs were never uncomfortable or starved of blood. I’d long daydreamed about firing up HDR games on our TV for months, and the K63 system proved the linchpin I needed to make that dream come true.
Corsair’s K63 Wireless keyboard, Dark Core RGB SE gaming mouse, MM1000 mouse pad, and the K63 Lapboard promise to work together as a complete setup for the gamer who wants to bring the PC gaming experience out of the office and into the living room and back again. Just snap the K63 Wireless into the K63 Lapboard, plop the Dark Core RGB SE onto the lapboard’s roomy soft mat, and you’re primed for PC gaming action anywhere. Easy enough.
Unfortunately, not every hour I spent with the K63 setup was so rosy. Over the course of my testing, mousing with the Dark Core RGB SE RGB in my living room sometimes resulted in laggy or jerky inputs, while the K63 Wireless sometimes forgot that I was holding down crucial keys like “W” during intense firefights, causing my in-game characters to stop dead in their tracks and sometimes die in the grip of a frustrating paralysis.
Disabling the 2.4-GHz band on my wireless access point practically eliminated these lags and hitches, as did updating to the latest firmware for the Dark Core RGB SE and moving the wireless receivers for both peripherals to as non-adjacent a pair of USB 3.0 ports as was possible on my test motherboard. Not everybody will be able to control the congestion of the 2.4 GHz band in their homes, though, and some motherboards may not have enough distance between their USB ports to add the extra distance between receivers that I was able to.
On the plus side, I enjoyed the rock-solid build and Cherry MX switches of the K63 Wireless during my time with it, and its $100 price tag makes it one of the cheapest wireless mechanical keyboards with Cherry switches on the market. Even though the Dark Core RGB SE’s shape and softly-detented wheel didn’t agree 100% with my hand and fingers, I appreciate its grippy rubber surfaces, fine tracking performance, and pleasantly reserved RGB LED lighting.
Corsair Dark Core RGB SE
Corsair K63 Lapboard
The MM1000 mousing surface and its Qi charger proved a smooth and convenient companion for the Dark Core RGB SE at my desk. This high-quality hard pad isn’t cheap, though—its $80 price tag goes above and beyond the price of even Corsair’s own MM800 RGB LED mat plus a separate Qi charger. If you really want the MM1000’s integrated Qi spot and don’t mind its lack of RGB LEDs, the MM1000 is a fine surface on which to mouse, and I couldn’t find any other mousing surfaces quite like it from other peripheral makers.
All told, Corsair has undeniably built gaming-grade wireless gear with the K63 Wireless and the Dark Core RGB SE. When both of these peripherals were firing on all cylinders, I felt just as in the game in my living room as I usually do at my desk. The comfy K63 Lapboard seamlessly integrated the K63 Wireless and the Dark Core RGB SE into a fine control setup for 4K HDR gaming on my TV that felt just like gaming at my desk.
Presuming you’re OK with frequent charging for both the K63 and Dark Core, and that you can ensure a reasonably clear 2.4 GHz band in your gaming environment, the roughly $250 price tag for the whole K63 shebang I tested (or $330 with the optional MM1000) feels plenty reasonable for bringing a full-fat mechanical gaming keyboard and a fine optical gaming mouse to the couch without any wires. No other company can boast of such a complete setup, to my knowledge.
If Corsair continues to refine its wireless peripherals without raising their price tags, it’ll have real winners on its hands. For now, the K63 Wireless and Dark Core RGB SE are solid first forays, and folks who jump in clear-eyed about their potential rough spots will enjoy fine cord-free gaming both at the desk and on the couch. I’ll surely be using all of these peripherals often as I work my way through some of the first HDR gaming experiences available, and I’m happy to call the K63 Wireless, Dark Core RGB SE, MM1000, and K63 Lapboard TR Recommended.