Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/8141/corsair-vengeance-k70-keyboard-review



Introduction

Mechanical keyboards are far from a new technology; they are decades old and some of the first mass produced personal computers came with mechanical keyboards back in the 1980's. However, due to their high production cost, they were soon replaced by keyboards other types of electronic switches that were considerably less expensive. Over the years however, the production cost of the mechanical key switches also came down, making them more and more affordable by the day. Today, PC users can find a good selection of mechanical keyboards from numerous manufacturers available at (generally) reasonable prices.

Today we will be having a look at the Vengeance K70 from Corsair, a full size keyboard designed for gaming. It is an upgrade of the popular Vengeance K60 and it is remains strikingly similar visually; however, aside from the various upgrades that we will discuss in this review, Corsair also offers the K70 in various color and switch combinations. In this review we will be looking at the black US layout version of the Vengeance K70, which features red backlighting and comes in three switch types (red, blue or brown), as well as in various layouts. Corsair recently launched the RGB LED backlit model at Computex, but that was not available when we started this review.

The Corsair Vengeance K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

The first upgrade over the Vengeance K60 can be found in the bundled items. With the Vengeance K70, Corsair supplies a set of ten textured red keys (1-6, W, A, S, D—the standard gaming keys for FPS games) and a full-size wrist rest, where the older K60 only came with a small 5" wide wrist rest for your left hand while gaming.

Corsair supplied us with the three black US layout versions they produce, each featuring a different Cherry MX switch. The three keyboards are aesthetically the same and no one will be able to tell the difference between them before a keycap is removed. Once a keycap is removed or an experienced user presses a key, the difference between the Blue, Brown and Red switches become apparent. Corsair, at least for the time being, does not offer the Vengeance K70 with Cherry MX Black, Green or other switches.

Visually, the Vengeance K70 stands out from the crowd by following the same design that made the Vengeance K60/K90 popular. The keyboard is built on a brushed aluminum chassis, with the keys levitating over it rather than being embedded into it. Aesthetics are a subjective matter and some people like this design while others hate it. From a practical point of view however, this design is extremely helpful to those that like to keep their keyboards clean, as a simple blow can remove all debris from the surface of the keyboard. A primary aesthetic flaw however is the black company logo at the middle top part of the chassis. Although the logo looks very good on a silver keyboard, I feel it was a poor choice to keep the same logo on the black version of the Vengeance K70. A less important flaw are the screws that keep the motherboard together; most of them are behind keys and invisible, but a few are at places that are somewhat noticeable, such as beneath the Esc key.

Corsair installed multimedia control buttons and a volume knob at the upper right side of the keyboard. There are four keys for playback control (Play/Pause, Stop, Forward and Back) and a volume mute key next to the metallic volume knob. Three smaller keys can be found towards the top center of the Vengeance K70; one that controls the lighting, one that switches the backlight into the "gaming" mode, and one that renders the Windows keys inactive. Between these and the multimedia keys, there are three tiny white LED lights serving as the three standard key lock indicators (Caps Lock, Num Lock, Scroll Lock).

Although the installation of the textured red keys gives the Vengeance K70 a nice, aggressive gaming appearance, we found that these keys are more than just useless to any user that will not play a game using these specific keys. The keys are contoured, which gives them a nice feeling while gaming, but they feel terrible when doing anything else, especially typing. Therefore, unless you are planning to use the keyboard exclusively for playing games that are making use of these exact keys, replacing them each time you want to play a game feels like too much of a hassle.

Corsair installed a single USB 2.0 port at the top back side of the Vengeance K70. Right next to the USB port there is a switch that allows the user to change the polling rate. This function is not needed for any modern system but it increases the keyboard's compatibility with older motherboards and cheap KVM switches, which cannot operate properly when the polling rate is too high. The default polling rate of the Vengeance K70 is 1 ms (or 1 kHz). Beneath the keyboard are four feet for height adjustment, two at the rear and two at the front of the keyboard. Although stands at the rear of the keyboard are quite common, very few designs have the ability to adjust the tilt at the front.



A Closer Look

One major upgrade over the Vengeance K60 is the inclusion of backlighting. The silver version of the Vengeance K70 has blue LEDs installed, while the black versions come with red LEDs. Every typical key has one LED installed beneath it, illuminating both the major and minor character, with the sole exception being the Space Bar. In order to improve the uniformity of the backlighting, Corsair added two stand-alone LEDs beneath the Space Bar. This definitely helps aesthetically but the backlighting of the Vengeance K70 is perceptibly uneven, which is natural for a construct of multiple-point lighting and without a reflective background. This is a problem with all such keyboards but the "levitating" design of the Vengeance K70 enhances the effect. Furthermore, most manufacturers install highly reflective surfaces beneath the keys in order to reduce the problem and the black anodized aluminum body of the Vengeance K70 is not up to the task.

As expected, beneath every keycap is a Cherry MX mechanical switch, even under the longer keys. Cross type supports can be found under the five long keys (Space, Shift, Enter and Backspace), which prevent the keys from wobbling and give the Vengeance K70 a very robust feel. Red Cherry MX switches are very soft and linear, Brown are soft with a very light and noiseless tactile feeling, while Blue are similar to the Browns but have a strong and raucous tactile feedback instead.

There is a lot of marketing hype going around about which switch is better for gaming, typing, and overall use. We strongly believe that there is no single switch that is right for everyone—it simply is a matter of personal preference. For example, there are gamers that prefer the tactile Blue switches over the linear Red switches and typists that enjoy the comfort of the Red switch over the noisy Blue switch. There are even gamers that do not prefer mechanical switches and would rather use rubber dome switches.

Ultimately, the choice of switch should be based entirely on the personal preferences of each user. Unfortunately, that makes first time mechanical switch keyboard purchases a bit tricky. If you have no experience with mechanical keyboards and do not know which switch is right for you, you could acquire a tester board before your final selection. It won't really let you experience actual typing/gaming, and as such it would be better if you could get hands-on time with several keyboards with the different switches, but at least the tester board will let you feel/hear what the switches are like.

Quality-wise, the Vengeance K70 is one of the best made keyboards that we have ever seen. The aluminum chassis offers excellent mechanical strength and the plastics are of very high quality. Inside the keyboard, we discovered a very clean assembly accompanied by a textbook soldering job. A Freescale MC9S08JM32 Microcontroller and a Holtek HT1632C LED driver are the heart of the Vengeance K70.

Final Words

Performance is a qualitative factor when it comes to keyboards, almost exclusively depending on the keys used and the features that the user requires. Beyond that, few quantifiable figures can be used to measure the performance of a keyboard, with the key rollover being perhaps the only exception. The Corsair Vengeance K70 supports n-key (infinite key) rollover, meaning that you can press virtually any number of keys simultaneously and every single one of them will register.

While this is true, as the Vengeance K70 registered all 12 keys that we pressed simultaneously, given human beings are limited to ten fingers anything above this level is practically useless under in most circumstances—even if you were to play a split-screen game with two people using one keyboard, it is unlikely you'd need more than 10-15 keys (and getting that many fingers on a single keyboard is going to be very crowded). We also found no key combinations that would cause the keyboard to "ghost" (i.e. not register the keystrokes), something that gamers will be really glad about. In terms of feel and quality, the Corsair Vengeance K70 also scores very high, being one of the most robust and consistent keyboards that we have ever used.

Where the Vengeance K70 does not fare well at all is on versatility and software—there is none. There are no macro keys and no programming capabilities at all, leaving the Vengeance K70 without any advanced keyboard capabilities. With a price tag of $129.99 at the time of this review, the Vengeance K70 feels more like an overly glorified simple keyboard and less of a product designed for advanced users. If you simply enjoy simplicity and do not care about having programmable keys or macros, the Vengeance K70 is one of the highest quality products that money can buy, albeit for a hefty price tag. For those that merely need macro keys, Corsair retails the Vengeance K95, an extended version of the K70 with eighteen programmable keys on its left side, which however only comes with Cherry MX red switches and with an even heftier price tag of $179.99. If however you want/need something more advanced, you might want to wait a few months for the MX RGB versions of the Vengeance K70/K95, as they will include advanced features (at higher prices than the standard models reviewed here).

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