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Corsair's Strafe RGB MK.2 gaming keyboard reviewed


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Last year, I reviewed Corsair's K95 RGB Platinum—the highest-end keyboard in Corsair's lineup. It debuted some features that are now making their way to other keyboards in Corsair's menagerie. The first keyboards to receive these updates are the K70 and Strafe. Corsair has slapped MK.2 on the end of these updated boards' names to denote the differences between the old and new generations. Both the K70 RGB MK.2 and Strafe RGB MK.2 launch today, and I have a Strafe RGB MK.2 on my desk to test. Let's dive into it. 

The Strafe is Corsair's option for those who don't want to pay the $20 premium for the full brushed aluminum top plate on the K70 RGB MK.2. Strafe buyers still get some of the brushed-aluminum goodness at the top of the keyboard, though. The rest of the chassis is made of lightly textured, matte-black plastic. The plastic will let out a soft creak if you apply a fair amount of force to it, but the construction is still solid overall. The first feature that has made its way from the K95 Platinum to the MK.2 is the RGB LED-illuminated Corsair logo up at the top of the board. As always, Corsair's RGB LEDs are vibrant and have buttery-smooth color transitions. The only other RGB LEDs I've seen that come close are Cooler Master's.

Like all Corsair keyboards, the Strafe MK.2 has a diamond-plate-textured space bar and a non-standard-width bottom row. I'm mostly ambivalent about both. I find the texture on the space bar pleasant and not overly pronounced, but I wouldn't mind if the spacebar wasn't textured, either.

I think the layout of the bottom row makes sense, though, especially for gamers. The shrunken Windows keys versus a standard layout reduce the risk of accidentally pulling up the Start menu during games. A lock button on the Strafe does prevent opening up the Windows menu in the middle of a game, too. That said, the non-standard layout can mess with muscle memory and is incompatible with standard keycaps. The Strafe's included keycaps aren't of the highest quality, so users looking to put on their own keycaps will need to procure custom keycaps for the bottom row. You'll have to weigh the positives and negatives for yourself. As always, I recommend trying out the Strafe MK.2 or another Corsair keyboard in person before buying. 

The Corsair logo used to live above the numpad on the original Strafe, but media buttons have taken over the real estate left behind by the moved logo. A mute button and volume roller have also moved in next door. The media controls have always been one of my favorite features of Corsair keyboards, so I thought that their absence on the Strafe was a raw deal for Strafe buyers. I'm happy to see them on the MK.2. The stop, skip, and pause-play buttons are revised versions of the design that debuted on the K95 Platinum. They're taller than past Corsair boards' media controls, making them a bit more easily accessible, and they feel weightier and sturdier than the old controls.

I was hoping that Corsair would go back to its older volume wheel design for this update, but that's sadly not the case with the Strafe MK.2. I have the same impression of the volume wheels in both the K95 Platinum and Strafe MK.2: they're too smooth. The K70 Rapidfire's volume wheel has tactile bumps in the scrolling action that correspond to each change in volume, making the scrolling action satisfying and giving the user an idea of how much the volume has changed. The Strafe MK.2's volume wheel, on the other hand, offers no feedback. That said, scrolling action feel comes down to personal preference. Perhaps some users would rather have a smooth volume wheel. 

The Strafe MK.2 also received updated brightness and Windows lock buttons, plus the addition of a profile button. The old buttons were rubbery and looked slightly out of place, but these new buttons look right at home and feel much better. The brightness button cycles through three brightness levels in addition to an off mode. 

Corsair keyboards are known for a "floating keys" design that exposes the sides of the switches. However, Corsair's boards that don't have the company's trademark metal top plate have subtle edges around the switch areas. Nevertheless, the "floating keys" look is still present. It is also worth noting that the surface upon which the switches sit is white. The white accentuates the glow of the LEDs nicely, but looks a little odd to me when the LEDs are off. 

As part of the MK.2 update, Corsair is using a new wrist rest design that feels less pleasant than the one that came with the company's older boards. The Strafe's wrist rest is made of thinner plastic than the K70 Rapidfire's and lacks the full-length soft rubber that covered that rest. Even so, the wrist rest still does its job quite well. The soft coating and texture make the wrist rest surprisingly comfortable for being made entirely of plastic. However, you might find your wrists slipping a little when sweaty. 

A USB pass-through port is nestled in the back of the Strafe MK.2 for convenience.

 

The USB pass-through port comes with the tradeoff of a thicker cable ending in two USB connectors. Fortunately, those who don't want to use the USB pass-through port don't need to plug in the second USB connector. The cable is 5.9 feet long and nicely braided, but a bit stiff. 

Two flip-up stands reside on the bottom of the keyboard, as usual. However, the stands don't have rubber bottoms. Many keyboards counteract the lack of rubber on their flip-up stands with large rubber pads at the front of the keyboard, but the Strafe MK.2's rubber pads are quite small. The keyboard can slide around a little too easily when pressure is applied. It would nice to see the K95 Platinum's large rubber pads and rubber-tipped flip-up stands on the Strafe MK.2. Users who really want an all-terrain grip will have to opt for the K95 Platinum or the just-released K70 RGB MK.2. The refreshed K70 appears to have the large, grippy feet of the K95.

Ten textured, rubber-topped keycaps come in the box, as well as a keycap puller. The textured keys are shaped so as to help keep gamers' fingers centered on the primary gaming keys.

The keycaps on the Strafe are made of single-shot ABS plastic, meaning they aren't the best-feeling under the fingers. Single-shot ABS plastic keycaps are the industry standard, but the $140 base price of the Strafe MK.2 makes it a somewhat tough sell for those who are familiar with double-shot ABS or PBT keycaps. ABS key caps can develop a slick or "slimy" feel over time, while PBT remains "dry" and grippy-feeling even after extended use. Corsair will happily sell you a set of PBT caps with its in-house font in black or white for an extra $50, but many similarly-priced boutique RGB LED keyboards include PBT caps by default.