Corsair refreshed its K70 and Strafe keyboards this year by porting over a number of features from the K95 Platinum and adding the MK.2 designation to, well, mark the change. We’ve already reviewed those updated boards, but Corsair has recently teamed up with Cherry to produce a K70 MK.2 with the key switch maker’s new Low Profile clickers. That change results in a shorter keyboard that looks more like a laptop-style deck than the full-height boards that every gaming keyboard company is turning out in droves these days. I’m always interested in new switch types, so I was enthused to see what the Low Profile design could do.
None of Corsair’s core design elements have been overhauled with the addition of these new switches. The plastic chassis is still topped by the company’s signature brushed aluminum plate. This plate is illuminated by the underglow from RGB LEDs built into the switch housings. Corsair has some of the smoothest LED effects in the business.
Those effects can be controlled by the profile and brightness buttons at the top of the keyboard. The profile button cycles through collections of settings that can be configured in Corsair’s iCUE software. Each profile can be set to have its own lighting effect. You can use the brightness button to choose between three different brightness levels or turn off the blinkenlights altogether. These two buttons are accompanied by a third button that locks out the Windows key, a handy feature for gaming.
The top right of the keyboard remains home to a suite of dedicated media controls. All the buttons in this suite, except the mute button, are sufficiently punchy. However, I’m not a fan of the new volume wheel. Older Corsair boards have volume wheels with notches that correspond to individual changes in volume level. Corsair has since traded this volume wheel out for one with a completely smooth scrolling action. The smooth action makes it difficult to precisely adjust my PC’s volume levels.
The wrist rests on Corsair keyboards have been getting progressively thinner over time. The cushioned rubber layer of past keyboards has been completely removed at this point, leaving only a top layer of soft-touch plastic supported by a few chintzy plastic strips underneath. The new wrist rest still feels alright to use, but it’s sad to see Corsair discard its prior, superior design here.
Thankfully, Corsair didn’t cheap out on the rubber pads on the bottom of the keyboard. It’d be nice to see rubber strips on the two flip-up stands, but the large rubber pads near the front are able to hold the keyboard in place quite well when the back is propped up by the stands. The stands themselves are stable and snap solidly into place.
The back of the keyboard features a USB pass-through port, a nice convenience feature, though it requires the board’s main cable to be thicker than it would be otherwise. The main cable is non-removable, making the keyboard somewhat unwieldy when I picked it up.
The braided cable is also quite stiff, which is not good for cable management. The cable ends in two USB connectors: one to power the main keyboard functions and LEDs, and the other to power the pass-through port.
A keycap puller and ten extra keycaps come in the box. The extra keycaps have textured tops that match the textured top of the space bar. You can switch these keycaps in to act as tactile indicators that your fingers are positioned on the intended gaming keys.
The K70 MK.2 Low Profile retains Corsair’s signature “floating keys” look, but the keycaps have been significantly slimmed down. The Low Profile switches wouldn’t be able to operate properly with full-size Cherry keycaps secured onto the switch stems. Besides the lowered height, the keycaps are identical to standard Cherry profile switches. The tops are shaped the same, and they are compatible with Cherry MX stems, unlike Cherry’s previous low profile switches. As usual, the keycaps are made of thin ABS plastic. I’d like to see Corsair take the lead here and help move the industry standard to double-shot ABS or PBT keycaps.
Cherry MX Low Profile switches, or LP switches for short, have a total travel distance of 3.2 mm rather than the usual 4 mm. The actuation distance is also shortened. LP Reds have an actuation distance of 1.2 mm, as opposed to the 2-mm actuation distance of standard MX Red switches. However, Cherry has made special LP switches exclusively for Corsair called Low Profile Speed switches. LP Speeds have to travel only 1 mm to actuate, although they retain the overall 3.2-mm actuation distance of LP Reds.
Corsair uses the Rapidfire name to denote keyboards outfitted with Speed switches, and this particular K70 MK.2 happens to be sporting that fancy title. I was really looking forward to trying out LP Speeds because I’m a fan of the Speed Silvers in Corsair’s standard Rapidfire keyboards. Speed Silvers fixed my primary problem with Reds: a sensation that my fingers are wading through a swamp while typing. The shorter travel distance and crisp bottoming-out of Speed Silvers make them feel snappy rather than sloppy.
Unfortunately, I was let down by LP Speeds. The shorter actuation distance and total travel distance make them feel less swampy than standard Reds, but the sloshy feeling remains. LP Speeds have cushioned bottoms, similar to Reds, whereas Speed Silvers let the key-cap-and-switch assembly clack as they bottom out. You can distinctly hear the difference in the sound clips below. The harsh clack of Speed Silvers provides the satisfactory tactile feedback that most linear switches lack.
Consequently, my typing speed and accuracy has been worse than usual while typing on these LP Speeds. Writing this review on these switches has been something of a slog. I’ve mostly grown used to LP Speeds for gaming, but I’d still rather be using Speed Silvers.
Even still, LP Speeds do have a couple benefits. The reduced travel and actuation distance is definitely a plus for quick key presses. Other switch manufacturers have been moving to lower-profile switches, and it’s good to see Cherry produce some of its own in an age where the laptop keyboard reigns supreme. LP switches are also much more stable in comparison to standard Cherry MX switches. Most full-height Cherry switches wobble, in my experience, but LP switches are more resistant to jiggling around at rest than even some of the high-quality low-profile competition.
If you’re already a fan of standard Reds, I see no reason not to switch to LP Speeds or Reds if you want a shorter key height for a trimmer-looking keyboard. However, if you like Speed Silvers, LP Speeds are not a better or even comparable alternative. Speed Silvers already have a a total travel distance of 3.4 mm and an actuation distance of 1.2 mm, so the LP Speeds don’t go perceptibly faster even as they lose some height. I will maintain my position that Speed Silvers are the best Cherry switches for gaming. As always, I highly suggest trying out a given switch in person before buying a keyboard loaded with them.
AquaKeyTest indicates that the K70 MK.2 has N-key rollover, so gamers won’t have to worry about conflicting inputs when pressing multiple keys at once.
Corsair’s peripheral software, now going under the name iCUE, has evolved over time, and while the changes have occasionally been a mixed bag, I think iCUE is pretty good in its current form. As I mentioned in my review of the Strafe MK.2, iCUE is overly cluttered upon start up, but once you select the device you’d like to configure, most of that clutter goes away. I would like to see the configurable options for each device collapsed into just a few less tabs and sub-menus, but the overall aesthetic of the software has improved significantly. It is considerably easier on the eyes than in the past and doesn’t hamper usability. Aesthetics and usability aside, iCUE is quite powerful for configuring profiles, macros, and lighting effects.
The mechanical keyboard market is swiftly shifting right now with the rise of new switch manufacturers and the rapid growth of the hobbyist crowd. Corsair is trying to stay up to date with its MK.2 refreshes, but not all the changes are positive. It’s a bit of a letdown to see Corsair lower the quality of its wrist rest, and this board’s smooth-scrolling volume roller still vexes me when I try to precisely adjust sound-pressure levels. I’d like to see these to components returned to their former glory. Another easy improvement Corsair could make on its boards would be to make the main cable detachable. If Corsair would really like to push ahead, it could move to double-shot ABS or PBT keycaps on its premium keyboards as a default option. This move would drastically improve the typing feel and durability of Corsair’s key caps.
That said, the K70 MK.2 is still a pretty solid player in the gaming keyboard market. The chassis is quite sturdy, the aluminum base plate is superior to common plastic coverings, the LED effects are still some of the smoothest out there, and the dedicated media controls are great for music lovers. The K70 MK.2’s Low Profile switches seem to be more about making a slimmer, trimmer-looking keyboard than a faster-acting one, but if you’re a fan of the feel of Cherry MX Reds and want a more modern-looking keyboard on your desk, I think it’s worth trying the K70 MK.2 Low Profile Rapidfire for its LP Speeds. You’ll have to shell out $170 to get ahold of one, though, and whether that lofty price tag is worth it will ultimately be down to what your wallet and tastes can stomach.