Corsair’s K70 MK.2 Low Profile Rapidfire gaming keyboard reviewed

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.

 

Downsizing

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.

Cherry MX Low Profile Speed switches (source: Cherry)

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.

Software

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.

 

Conclusions

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.

Comments closed
    • wof
    • 11 months ago

    I have a Corsair Strafe keyboard and it’s great except for the fat cable.

    That cable is horrendous and I’m considering getting a new keyboard due to the cable alone. It’s really that bad, especially when I’ve used it with my Lenovo Yoga laptop as the stiff cable takes up way too much space between the keyboard and screen!

    • Ratchet
    • 1 year ago

    When did they switch the keycap font to that? My old K70 RGB has a normal fontface (albeit with the stupid Corsair trampstamp logo) so is this supposed to scream “XTREME!” at me, making the keyboard seem somehow cooler and better? If it is, it’s backfired. It looks immature and childish.

    Razer does the same thing. Give me a clear, readable font that’s not embarrassing, and it would do more to sway my purchase.

    • NovusBogus
    • 1 year ago

    Blinken-luddites should note that $170, while certainly expensive, is in line with what the established brands usually ask for RGB functionality. That said, I do agree that the market has improved considerably since the original K70 and this is a much tougher sell.

    At least it has onboard smarts. I’m generally satisfied with my Logitech and Corsair boards but paying $150+ and still needing to run their driver software all the time was a raw deal. It won’t run on Glorious People’s Linux and it doesn’t like KVM switches. Given that both of those requirements are a near certainty for what I expect to be running in [s<]2020[/s<] 2023* any keyboard I buy going forward had better be able to hold its pants up. Worth noting that, as much as I've bitched about them for the last few years, I'm happy to hear that Razer and Logitech are both Purportedly(tm) rejoining the 21st century with devices that have onboard memory. *apparently Microsoft recently extended Win7 Pro/Enterprise EOL to 2023, provided one pays for the security updates. And XP EOL was such a dud there may not even be a strong motivation to ditch it then, either.

      • moose17145
      • 1 year ago

      My understanding is that the driver software was mainly for configuring the board the way you want the lights to blink and all that, but once that is done, it saves it into the memory of the keyboard so that you can move it between computers without needing the configuration software while retaining your lighting config. At least that is how it is for my logitech mouse. Use the software to set the various senstivity levels and stuff, and then load it into memory and you are set to move the mouse between systems while retaining your settings or even uninstall the software if you like.

    • Johnny Rotten
    • 1 year ago

    I have a Corsair K70 and while the keyboard itself has been/is pretty good I cannot overstate how much I hate Hate HATE their thick cord. It is reeeeedickulous how thick and inflexible it is.

    I am in the market for a TKL keyboard and Corsair is completely off the list because of their ridiculous cords…. (waiting for Coolermasters SK630… [url<]https://i0.wp.com/pokde.net/assets/uploads/2018/06/CM-SK630-SK620.jpg?ssl=1)[/url<]

      • NovusBogus
      • 1 year ago

      I found that cord rather endearing right up until this weekend when I needed to plug the two USB connectors into opposite sides of a KVM switch. Now, not so much…

      • EzioAs
      • 1 year ago

      I concur. It’s pretty difficult to neaten things up when you have a half inch-thick, stiff cables to work with.

    • EzioAs
    • 1 year ago

    Nathan, how is the volume wheel different from the old (original) K70? I consider that to be smooth too or are you comparing it to a different (later) models that have a different wheel?

      • NovusBogus
      • 1 year ago

      I have a K70 LUX from about a year ago and it’s definitely got a smooth, non clicky volume wheel.

      • Gyromancer
      • 1 year ago

      I’m thinking of my K70 MK.1 Rapidfire. I remember it having at least a more solid scrolling action, but I don’t have it on hand at the moment to check. I’ll have access to it in a week, and I’ll report back then.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 1 year ago

    I’d like to request an article on the surprisingly deep world of keyboards. There’s so much to learn about with the switches and key caps that it would be nice to know what to look for when I go to buy another one.

    Also, the volume control may suck but at least it’s not an F-key + Fn key. I despise media controls that require two hands and me looking at the keyboard to operate.

    • thedosbox
    • 1 year ago

    Does iCUE need to be running if you don’t want the blinkenlights enabled?

      • Gyromancer
      • 1 year ago

      You can disable the lights using the brightness button without ever even installing iCUE.

    • tay
    • 1 year ago

    Hilarious price for ABS keycaps and Cherry switches. At least it doesn’t have cloud smarts i guess.

      • euricog
      • 1 year ago

      MK.3 will have cardboard caps for fabrication cost reduction, but they’ll add some cloud-enabled RGBs along the edges and sell it for $279.00

        • Srsly_Bro
        • 1 year ago

        I was actually going to ask if this is cloud connected. I’m good with my classic k70. I just need the key cap kit and I’ll be content, for now.

      • stdRaichu
      • 1 year ago

      Weird thing is that Corsair already make a relatively decent set of translucent PBT double-shots for their standard-profile keyboards so I’m not really sure why they didn’t commission a set here if they’re planning on these low profile keyboards being A Thing (not for me as I don’t like limited key travel if I can avoid it and my desk doesn’t have any height restrictions);

      [url=https://www.corsair.com/uk/en/Categories/Products/Accessories-|-Parts/pbt-config/p/CH-9000235-WW[/url]

      I recently picked up an iKBC MF108 (a surprisingly awesome keyboard also with PBT double-shots and no software at all) to complement the Tai-Hao (non-translucent) PBT double-shots I bought for my office keyboard, and I just can’t go back to ABS any more (subjective of course as some people don’t like the feel of PBT but a lot of people have banged on about it enough that PBT keycaps are now a thing again).

      Edit: seems to be a bug in the URL parser that doesn’t like pipes so copy ‘n’paste only it seems

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