Corsair is one of the companies responsible for the renaissance of mechanical keyboards among the enthusiast set, and its arsenal of Cherry MX-underpinned products has only grown as time goes on. I’ve been using the original K70 RGB as my daily driver since its introduction nearly four years ago. Aside from one major incident in which I had to reset that board’s firmware to get it working again, I’ve enjoyed nothing but typing bliss from the K70 nearly every day I’ve been putting glyphs into an editor. In fact, I have little doubt the K70 RGB will still be cycling through RGB LED rainbows years after 16-core processors are mainstream and we’re jacked into VR headsets all day. It’s undeniably a classic design that’s built to last.
The need for novelty from PC hardware springs eternal, though, and even classics need a little freshening-up now and again. Corsair has been doing just that of late with its brand-new K70 RGB MK.2 and Strafe RGB MK.2 keyboards. We’ve already reviewed the Strafe RGB MK.2 in depth, but we also have a K70 RGB MK.2 in the lab that’s fallen to me to test out—a burden I’ll gladly accept.
Compared to the all-plastic body and white keyswitch underlay offered by the Strafe RGB MK.2, the K70 RGB MK.2 uses a black-anodized brushed-aluminum top plate with the floating key cap design that’s a trademark of the K70 series. The dual-zone RGB LED Corsair logo at the top of the board is shared with the Strafe RGB MK.2 and K95 Platinum, and it’s a nice touch.
My particular board has Cherry MX Speed switches under its caps, a load-out that earns this particular K70 MK.2 Corsair’s Rapidfire badge. Although Speeds are primarily marketed to gamers that need the fastest response times possible from a Cherry MX key switch, my RSI-ravaged wrists appreciate the feather-light touch and high actuation point of these switches. Some might wish for stronger tactile feedback or extra resistance from their keys, of course, and Corsair has those folks covered with the K70 RGB MK.2’s menu of MX Brown, MX Blue, or MX Red switches.
Switch types aside, the typing experience from the K70 MK.2 is as impeccable as ever. Each key press is smooth and sure from top to bottom, and I never noticed any give or groaning from the K70’s chassis—just the gentle sound of keycaps bottoming out on aluminum. If you work in a shared space, the MX Speed switches shouldn’t invite comments about that one coworker with the noisy keyboard like Cherry Blues might.
The K70’s other big change over the Strafe can’t be as easily seen at first. Its bottom plate inherits the four beefy rubber feet and X-shaped cable channel of the K95 Platinum. I can’t say I noticed any problems with my other K70s scooting across a desk while I was pounding CPU benchmark analysis into our CMS, but the K70 MK.2’s baseplate design is as reassuring and solid as ever. It certainly prevents the keyboard from sliding around on my desk too much when a cat inserts herself between my keyboard and monitor base, an occurence that tends to scoot my K70s off the desk when they have their front feet raised.
Where the K95 Platinum’s chassis design giveth, it also taketh away. The K70 RGB MK.2 lacks the flip-out front feet of the original K70. Those fold-out supports raise the front edge of the keyboard deck and make the height of each key uniform under the fingers. That’s another boon to my wrists, since I don’t have to move my hands in more than one dimension (forward-back) to reach any given key in the main array of the K70’s clickers. Without those feet, the MK.2’s staggered key heights seemed to tire out my wrists much quicker than the flattened-out K70s in the TR labs. I doubt many used these feet, but I’ll miss them.
Corsair also includes a wrist rest with the K70 RGB MK.2. I don’t use wrist rests, as they’re not conducive to the best typing posture. Learn how to float your wrists over the keyboard, folks—minimize that flexion and extension! If you do insist on resting your hands on something as you type or just want a place to rest them between typing sessions, the K70 MK.2’s is solid enough. Since mine will be living in the box, I’m not worried about it.
The raised media control buttons on the K70 MK.2 are certainly easier to hit than on past Corsair boards, although I wish the company had gone even a step further and made the media buttons of equal height with the rest of the keys on the board. As Nathan pointed out in our Strafe review, the volume roller on this board no longer has any detents, unlike the one on K70s past. I’m not that bothered by this change, as I’m paying attention to the on-screen volume indicator in Windows rather than the knob itself. I found it easy to precisely control the volume of the connected PC even without detents. I don’t think one is losing either way between the K70 and the K70 MK.2 in this regard.
Like the Strafe RGB MK.2, the K70 RGB MK.2 includes a USB 2.0 pass-through port that relies on a separate plug to do its thing.
Also as with the Strafe RGB MK.2, Corsair includes two sets of contoured key caps that provide a tactile idea of whether one’s fingers are on the right keys in rapid-fire situations where looking down to re-orient one’s hand would be the difference between life and death. If you need strong tactile reassurance that your hands are on the WASD or QWERDF keys, the K70 MK.2 is ready to serve.
Pack up and go
One of the headlining features of the K70 MK.2 is its ability to store lighting effects and macro customizations in hardware. As modern gaming keyboards go, this feature is actually a bit unusual. Razer boards appear to require the Synapse software installed to take advantage of profiles, and Logitech keyboards without the company’s dedicated G-key macro keys don’t seem capable of arbitrary macro recording at all, much less profile customization. Even Logitech boards with G-keys don’t appear to be able to save the complete keyboard state, just macros on those dedicated keys.
Profile button on the left
Even with hardware profiles, the K70 MK.2 has “just” 8 MB of onboard storage for customizations, and that’s pre-partitioned into three smaller chunks. As a result, the board seems to have plenty of room for macro storage per profile, but its memory for lighting is quite stingy.
For example, I’ve created a custom rainbow wave effect with colors cascading in from both edges of the keyboard to the center using Corsair’s iCUE software, but it’s not possible to apply more than one of Corsair’s pre-baked effects or five “custom” effects to any given hardware profile. Since my custom effect relies on a pair of pre-baked profiles applied to different parts of the keyboard, Corsair doesn’t let me store it to the K70 MK.2’s onboard memory.
Worse, using any pre-baked lighting effect anywhere on the K70 MK.2 in one of its hardware profiles means that you’ll have to use that effect and that effect only to delineate special keys. It’s not possible to blend custom effects and pre-baked effects in the same profile at all.
I feel like Corsair could have allowed for more flexibility here—maybe a user wants one really elaborate lighting profile to go with their macros instead of three rather limited ones. Either way, I feel like an “up to three” option that lets me would have been more useful than the K70 MK.2’s implementation today. Even with a sophisticated microcontroller running the show, it’s possible the board is limited by the amount of RAM on board or some other constraint.
All told, the K70 MK.2’s hardware profiles are a bit of a mixed bag. Folks with exceptionally elaborate lighting setups for MOBAs and the like will still need to export their profiles and import them on all the machines they intend to hook up to the K70 MK.2, even if heavy macro users will likely find the board’s hardware profile capabilities perfectly acceptable. Perhaps the K70 MK.3 can include total state saving and recall in its hardware profiles—that feature would be a real advance in customize-once, run-anywhere keyboard tuning.
Sometimes the best way to ensure success is not to mess with what works. After using the K70 RGB MK.2 for a short while, I’ll echo our own Nathan Wasson’s impressions of the Strafe MK.2. I think Corsair’s changes to the K70 MK.2 are mostly upside—except for those missing front feet, an absence that means I’m going to carefully hoard my first-generation K70s until they die. If you want those front feet or a notchy volume roller instead of a free-spinning cylinder, it’s time to stock up on older K70s before they disappear for good.
I do think that Corsair ought to just use PBT keycaps on these pricey boards by default (or at least offer them as a bundled option with a discount), given that it’s selling the razor-sharp K70 RGB MK.2 SE for just $10 more than the Rapidfire model I tested with those caps on board. Having used Corsair’s PBT caps on a separate K70 for several months, I’m now a believer in their crisp, dry feel under the fingers versus the slightly greasy-feeling ABS deals on the K70 MK.2. That said, few mainstream keyboard makers are using PBT caps by default, and if you’ve never had them under your fingers, you won’t notice anything amiss from the normal K70 set.
At $169.99 for the Cherry MX Speed version I tested, the K70 RGB MK.2 Rapidfire feels fairly priced in today’s red-hot mechanical keyboard marketplace. A K70 MK.2 with standard MX Red, MX Brown, or MX Blue switches is just $159.99, and that price is in line with the sticker on other companies’ flagship gaming keyboards. The standout feature for Corsair in this incredibly crowded market seems to be the K70 MK.2’s built-in profile storage, although that onboard space is better for macros than it is for lighting effects, in my experience. Still, that onboard storage is more than the jack and squat you seem to get in some other high-end mechanical keyboards.
All told, the K70 MK.2 continues the legacy of Corsair’s classic keyboard design, and it remains a solid choice even as hundreds of pretenders to the mechanical-keyboard throne have arisen in the past couple of years. If you want a high-quality gaming keyboard with rich customization options and the capability to take complex macros on the go in a pinch, the K70 RGB MK.2 deserves serious consideration. It’s easy to call TR Recommended.