Corsair’s K70 RGB MK.2 keyboard reviewed

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.

Conclusions

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.

Comments closed
    • the_bobbinator
    • 1 year ago

    I like the Corsair products… (I have a K70 keyboard + M65 PRO mouse for my main rig & K68 keyboard and GLAIVE RGB mouse for our office computer) their build quality is very good… however, their management utility for their devices has always left a lot to desire. It’s gotten better with the latest release of “CUE”… but it’s still not great. If they only put the same amount of work in on their software as they do on their hardware… they could almost justify those $170 price tags.

    • drkskwlkr
    • 1 year ago

    A while ago I purchased a K95 Vengeance with Cherry MX Reds. It was an enjoyable experience for the first 6 months, then the white LEDs under the keys started to go one after the other. It was ugly because I used the ‘bard mainly in the evenings, but I could live with that.

    Fast forward a year or so, and I killed the K95 Vengeance with a firmware update that hung mid-flash not because of anything stupid I did but because the Corsair flash utility turned out to be incompatible with Windows 10 (which was not documented anywhere).

    As a result of the failed flash attempt most buttons stopped working and those who worked sent the wrong keystrokes.

    A ticket to Corsair support took 5 business days to get a response (they claim 2 business day response time) and they weren’t able to help (they said, try flashing on another machine that doesn’t have Windows 10). When I said this didn’t help and asked if I could send the ‘board back to the factory, they replied that ‘we do not have a repair process outside of warranty.’

    So I had to retire a $140 keyboard after less than 2 full years of service because it was destroyed by the manufacturer’s shoddy software.

    I will never again buy a Corsair keyboard — or any other sophisticated keyboard that needs firmware updates or somehow relies on complicated internal software for macro recording or other stuff. A company that does not care at all for its customers and can’t be bothered to help save an expensive product does not deserve to have my money.

    I now type and game on a SteelSeries G6v2 which cost me about 1/3 of what I paid for my K95 and has the same enjoyable Cherry MXs.

    When you consider splurging $170 or more on a shiny flashy Corsair keyboard, remember that next time it could be [b<]→you←[/b<] having to retire it prematurely because the manufacturer doesn't give a damn.

    • NovusBogus
    • 1 year ago

    It’s nice to see onboard processor/memory finally coming to keyboards. In the age of $5 Linux SBCs a high end mouse or keyboard shouldn’t need to run any additional software on the PC itself outside of configuration. If I hadn’t recently picked up a K70 I would be looking very closely at this one.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 1 year ago

    It strikes me in recent weeks that there is a glut of mechanical keyboards on the market (in no small part because TR has been cranking out tons of them lately…I know that means manufacturers want the attention, and it’s usually because they’re new). That’s a good thing, because they’re generally quite excellent, but it’s a bad thing for Corsair here. Mechanical keys + fancy lights with mandatory software + macros for $170. Definitely not my thing.

    I’ll stick with my non-backlit Cherry MX browns for half the price. I’m sure it’s worth it to people that will use it, but it’s not worth it at all for me.

      • just brew it!
      • 1 year ago

      TBH I still prefer non-backlit keys with high-contrast keycaps to backlit ones. At night I like to keep the room dim, but not pitch dark. An LED flashlight aimed at the ceiling for some low-level indirect illumination is just about perfect.

      I don’t care about media keys either. I just use global hotkeys for media player control (super-space for pause/play, super-up/super-down for back/forward track, etc.), and use the physical volume knobs on my speakers and headphone amp.

      Edit: “super” == “Windows key” in Linux-speak. Makes a great global hotkey modifier in Linux since it is less frequently used by native Linux apps, so hotkey conflicts are less likely.

      • NovusBogus
      • 1 year ago

      My PC is in a room with no normal light sources and I’m a stickler for orange backlighting, so I’m generally willing to pay extra for the RGB model. Not a fan of the keycap font that Corsair has switched to though. Getting a different set of caps has been on my list for a while, but it’s effort and most custom caps are not very backlight friendly. I briefly considered making my own, but that’s even more effort and I don’t have easy access to any of the additive technologies that might be capable of it. Plus all of them are going to have a very hard time with the little + feature that connects to the switch.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 1 year ago

      My keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches has bumps on the “F” and “J” keycaps so that I know that my index fingers are on the home row. Once you’ve got that, there’s no need for illumination at all. You should be looking at the display, not at your keyboard.

      Edit: Doh!

        • just brew it!
        • 1 year ago

        Most keyboards have that. (It’s ‘F’ and ‘J’, not ‘F’ and ‘H’ though, BTW.)

        TBH I never got good at orienting myself via the bumps because I never learned to touch-type the “right” way. I don’t look at the keyboard much, but do glance down occasionally (e.g. after using the mouse) to reset my hand position. Once in a while, I’ll accidentally start typing with one or both hands offset one key to the left or right; when that happens I’ll typically get several “words” out before my brain says “Hey wait, that’s gibberish, STOP!”

    • deruberhanyok
    • 1 year ago

    I got a K70 mk.2 SE earlier this week.

    It’s going to take me a little while to figure out all the lighting and macro options, although I did get a nice blue/purple gradient going and saved to a hardware profile. iCUE is a little clunky (I’m comparing it to Steelseries Engine, which is, IMO, about as good as it gets for unintrusive manufacturer software) but it seems like I can do a lot with it.

    For design, I wanted the white one to go with a black/white system. I would have been happy with a static blue or white backlight but I was able to program it to closely match my white Steelseries Rival 300 and Arctis 5’s pattern, so this is kind of an added bonus I wasn’t intending to really have.

    As far as the actual feel of the thing in use, I don’t have anything else that compares. But I’m also coming off of Apple aluminum USB keyboards and a Logitech illuminated keyboard that I had for so long it was missing key presses regularly. I’ll just echo Nate and Jeff here – they are fantastic, and while some may question spending this much on a keyboard, well, I got 8-9 years of that old Logitech, and I expect this will make it even longer, through several system revisions, so I’m not too bothered by it.

    That said, though, I wanted to get a black one for a secondary system I have, but at this price, as much as I like it, I don’t see myself buying a second top-end model. I might look at one of the K70 LUX models. The local Microcenter has them for about half the price of this one, and I’d be okay with that for a secondary use system.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 1 year ago

    $170? Holy crap.

      • NovusBogus
      • 1 year ago

      It’s the same price as the old model. RGB always costs more.

      • Bauxite
      • 1 year ago

      Except how much of that will be put into quality? I’ve owned a few of their keyboards, from extra thin keycaps that break stems to buggy usb controllers, never again. FFS their first cherry didn’t even use the switch on every key, how cheap can you get?

      Meanwhile I’ve gotten some steals from sales that dropped nice cherry or clone with good caps under 50 bucks that are real tanks. If I want to burn in the 200 dollar range, I might as well get a topre or whatever group buy flavor of the month.

      • ptsant
      • 1 year ago

      If you actually take care of it, or any decent mechanical keyboard, you should be able to keep it a decade or more. Until the keycaps melt from use.

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 1 year ago

        Replacement keycaps are readily available.

          • just brew it!
          • 1 year ago

          ~7 years on, the keycaps on my RK-9000s have mostly lost their original matte finish (the frequently used keys are quite glossy now), and the white inlay lettering on the Shift, Ctrl, and arrow keys has faded to gray. Aside from those minor signs of wear, they’re all intact and fully functional.

          Sure, I could replace them with a nice set of double-shots, but I don’t really see the need to spend money to rectify what is basically a minor cosmetic issue.

        • just brew it!
        • 1 year ago

        My RK-9000s are both ~7 years old at this point, and the switches show no signs of wearing out. I killed the controller in one of them with a massive static zap several years back, but found a replacement controller module for less than half the cost of a new keyboard (the controller is on a daughter card that plugs into a socket, so it was easy to replace). I’ve also spilled drinks into them a few times, but a soak in warm soapy water followed by baking for several hours at ~140F to dry out the switches has brought them back every time. I see no reason why they shouldn’t make it past the decade mark.

    • RickyTick
    • 1 year ago

    I have the K70 Rapidfire. Great keyboard once you get used to the shortened keystroke.

    • ptsant
    • 1 year ago

    I used to compile the linux kernel on a machine with 4MB RAM and now I need 8MB of onboard storage for key macros? There should be enough storage for infinite macros on that amount of memory.

      • just brew it!
      • 1 year ago

      It uses only 0.1 MB for macros; the other 7.9 MB is there to ensure that it is Skynet-ready. When the time comes, the RGB LEDs will be revealed to in fact be lethal RGB lasers.

      • just brew it!
      • 1 year ago

      In a more serious vein than my previous reply, this should not come as a huge surprise given how technology advances. Consider that:

      – A modern “power user” desktop workstation has a comparable amount of RAM to the world’s fastest supercomputer from back when the Linux kernel was invented (early ’90s).

      – A modern smartphone has more computational horsepower than a typical desktop PC from 15 years ago, and orders of magnitude more than supercomputers from the ’70s (CDC Cyber and Cray 1 supercomputers).

      – A single high-capacity modern HDD (12TB) has capacity equivalent to a 17 mile high stack of 3.5″ floppy disks. A 256GB micro-SD card is the storage equivalent of a “mere” 1800 foot stack of floppies.

        • DavidC1
        • 1 year ago

        Just a minor correction:

        A modern Smartphone like the iPhone 8 has more computational power than a typical desktop PC from 8 years ago, not 15.

        The A11 Bionic chip in that phone has a single threaded performance on par with the 2600K chip, and not far away from its multi-threaded performance.

        This year’s A12, which is rumored to be an additional 20% faster should beat the 4770K. Actually due to lack of advancements on the desktop side, A12 ST performance may reach levels of Ryzen, or even Coffeelake. If the A12 Smartphone doesn’t, A12 Tablet definitely will.

        Apple’s CPU division compared to the rest isn’t like Conroe vs Athlon X2, its like Sandy Bridge vs Athlon X2.

          • just brew it!
          • 1 year ago

          A few minor nitpicks of your minor correction:

          – Even if it’s true that an iPhone 8 CPU is approximately as powerful as a typical 8 year old desktop CPU, that doesn’t make my statement [i<]untrue[/i<]; if it's more powerful than an 8 year old one, it's [i<]also[/i<] more powerful than a 15 year old one. - I actually referred to "computational horsepower", not "CPU". This was intentional, as it implies that the GPU is included. I'm not sure your statement still holds up if you include the respective GPUs. - I also referred to a "typical" desktop. It's a little unfair to compare a "typical" desktop to a bleeding edge smartphone... 😉

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 1 year ago

        Millenials think I’m crazy when I tell them that my smartphone is a more powerful computer than the VAX cluster on which my university ran hundreds of concurrent users.

          • just brew it!
          • 1 year ago

          A lot of millennials also seem to have a hard time with the idea that civilization existed before the internet. 😉

            • ludi
            • 1 year ago

            I’m in the nowhere land between Gen-X and Millennial (the Internet was just coming to be a thing in the mid-90s when I was in high school), but I’m already forgetting how the world functioned before Internet. I have recollections of things like “card catalogs” and “microfische” and “encyclopedias” but have neither seen nor touched any of them in many years.

            • just brew it!
            • 1 year ago

            Cusp of Boomer and Gen-X here.

            I was in the last graduating class at my university that took courses that were taught using punch cards.

            My first dial-up modem was an acoustic coupler. Dial the number you’re connecting to (on your rotary dial phone!), wait for the modem at the other end to start screaming, then shove the handset into a pair of rubber cups with transducers in them. Acoustic couplers were a holdover from the days where it was illegal to physically connect anything that wasn’t owned by the phone company to the phone line; hard-wired modems had just started to become widely available.

            • Cuhulin
            • 1 year ago

            Were we much better in contemplating civilization without telephones or televisions?

            • LostCat
            • 1 year ago

            It did? Holy crap people must’ve been bored.

            (I’m not a millenial either.)

          • DragonDaddyBear
          • 1 year ago

          VAX is still used today. The military isn’t great about updating technology. It’s amazing how stable those things are, and how advanced they were for their time.

            • just brew it!
            • 1 year ago

            IIRC the military also uses (or at least was using until recently) systems that have 8″ floppy disks as part of the nuclear missile launch systems.

            In a similar vein, integrating modern electronics onto legacy military aircraft can be “fun”. Older aircraft use something called MIL-STD-1553 for digital communication between onboard devices; it’s a 1 mbit/sec shared bus architecture which was developed in the 1970s.

            • ptsant
            • 1 year ago

            I once visited a hospital that still used a PDP-11 (!) to control an expensive piece of equipment. The equipment was a whole-body radioactivity scanner, rarely used in practice and therefore not upgraded. The main issue was getting floppy disks for it.

            I’m sure someone could reverse-engineer the protocol and replace it with a Raspberry Pi. Or make a mistake and break the thing.

            • Brainsan
            • 1 year ago

            Or kill someone.

            The engineering effort required in the medical device field is dwarfed by the amount of work required by certification and inspection.

            The reason XP or earlier computers are still being used is because of the time & money the recertification would take if the OS were changed.

            • excession
            • 1 year ago

            Hell yes… read THIS:

            [url<]https://hackaday.com/2015/10/26/killed-by-a-machine-the-therac-25/[/url<] PDP-11 powered.

        • Wirko
        • 1 year ago

        And:
        – Two 5MB IBM hard disks are enough to store macros for one Corsair keyboard.

    • Ryhadar
    • 1 year ago

    Good review.

    I wish Corsair would put the same level of effort into their tenkeyless lineup as they do their full sized keyboards. The K70 RGB is a very attractive looking keyboard, but the closest tenkeyless equivalent — the K65 RGB Compact — lacks the cool volume rocker (despite having dedicated volume buttons) and has fewer switch options (only red and gray are available), and there is no option for PBT keycaps on any of them. This has been the case for years now.

    In fact, tenkeyless is so much of an afterthought that on Corsair’s own website they can’t even spell it consistently: [url<]https://imgur.com/a/warleSB[/url<] Poking fun aside, can you please show tenkeyless a little more attention, Corsair? Please?

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