Cherry's MX Silent switches are making their debut on the Corsair Strafe RGB gaming mechanical keyboard. Corsair has the exclusive on the MX Silent for the first year, and in this review we are examining the quality and features of the Strafe RGB keyboard as well as the performance of the new switches.

Introduction

Mechanical keyboards are now etched into the minds of PC enthusiasts, making the requested upgrade list alongside a specific mouse or headset. However, there are those who are reluctant because of the two major disadvantages of mechanical switches - price and noise.

Price is something we'll come onto, but noise is a particular problem for those who want to use them in working environments or have their home PC inside a shared living space, such as the living room or bedroom. Some aftermarket solutions have appeared, in the form of silicon O-rings and pads, to dampen the noise that mechanical keys do when bottoming down. However, a very large portion of the noise actually does not come from the key bottoming down but from the spring that quickly resets the key up to its original position, meaning that even with O-rings or pads installed beneath the keycaps, a mechanical keyboard could not ever become really quiet.

The growing adoption rate and sales of mechanical keyboards have given the manufacturers incentive to research and develop new products. Cherry, the original creator and patent holder of the keyboard mechanical switch, has created and patented "silent" versions of the MX mechanical switch. For the time being, only MX Red and MX Black switches are available as "silent" variants, which makes sense considering that the MX Blue switch is inherently noisy ("clicky"). Hopefully, silent versions of the popular MX Brown switch may appear in the future as well.

Cherry currently holds a deal with Corsair, giving them exclusive use of the Silent product range for the first year after their launch. Corsair has thus released a new version of the Strafe, their middle-range mechanical keyboard, including RGB lighting and the new silent version of the MX Red switch. The new MX Silent switches increased the MSRP of the keyboard by $20 ($170 instead of the $150 for the version with MX Blue switches). The increase in price may be why the company decided not to use them for the time being on the more expensive K70 RGB and K95 RGB models. $20 should be more than an acceptable price difference for those seeking a silent mechanical keyboard (and would spend them on O-rings or pads anyway, with perhaps questionable results). It will be interesting to see if the Cherry MX Silent switch can truly deliver over the self-customization route, and we will find out in this review.

Corsair Strafe RGB Packaging and Bundle

The Strafe RGB comes in a well-designed, thick cardboard box. The artwork is based on a picture of the keyboard itself and has a black/yellow color theme, which is the "signature" livery of the Corsair Gaming brand. The use of Cherry's new MX Silent switches is very clearly noted on the front side of the box.

Alongside with the keyboard, Corsair supplies a very basic manual, a wrist rest, a keycap removal tool and two sets of gaming keycaps. The first set is supposed to be for FPS gamers and the second for MOBA gamers. Both sets are contoured and textured. Two keycaps, the W and the D, exist in both sets but have different contours as a result. The wrist rest was not included in the "vanilla" version of the Strafe that we reviewed last year, so it is a positive sign to see it included here.

The Corsair Strafe RGB Mechanical Keyboard
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  • skace - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    Have to disagree. My original experience with mechanical keyboards was when my dad brought home IBM Type-M keyboards from his work. They were not flashy but I greatly enjoyed the feedback of typing on the keyboard and my desire to become a touch typist quickly escalated from the use of that style keyboard. The weight was also an enjoyable aspect of keeping the keyboard in place. And the keyboard did not hold any value to me as I paid nothing for it. So if it didn't perform better, there was really no reason for me to continue using it.

    Most of my money put into keyboards is simply to reproduce that experience. And my own job perpetually forces me to use OEM brand keyboards that are easily worse at typing. It is very common to see myself typo words at work simply because the keyboard cannot keep up with me.

    I have absolutely 0 desire for something that glows or has a ridiculous look, shape or added functionality. But I will support any keyboard manufacturer that sees value in making a well functioning keyboard. I buy dasKeyboard, even though the price often feels overpriced, I love having access to a simplistic mechanical keyboard.

    People like me, who have enjoyed mechanical keyboards for many years but now have families who hate the sound of their keyboard are left in a bit of a bind. However, it creates the demand side of the scenario that silent switches are now creating the supply for. This is just a natural move forward from brown switches.
    Reply
  • Teknobug - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    I bought some o-rings and they make my mechanical keyboard significantly quieter. Reply
  • kaesden - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    yes, people do like these keyboards quite a lot actually. they actually speed up typing quite signifigantly if you know how to type properly. those basic rubber dome keyboards slow you down because you have to bottom out every key in order to get it to activate. Plus the mechanical keys just move much smoother. If you don't like them thats perfectly fine, no one is forcing you to use them and there's no shortage of cheap rubber dome keyboards for those who prefer that tech. Reply
  • Panther6834 - Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - link

    As some one who has owned a few different mechanical keyboards over the years (most recently a Razer BlackWidow...although, once I finish typing this, I'll be heading to Best Buy to pick up the Corsair Strafe RGB MX Silent I ordered a few days ago, if that tells you anything), I can tell you that, depending on the keyswitch type, mechanical keyboards not only can, they WILL improve your gaming and/or typing. While some hold the belief that MX Reds are best for gaming, and MX Blues are best for typing, such is not always the case.

    There was a columnist who, about a year ago, tested keyboards with Red, Blue, & Brown Cherry MX switches. He typed over long periods of time, typing the exact same information, & he discovered that he obtained the fastest typing speeds using the keyboard with the MX Red switches. While gamers tend, for the most part, to prefer sound level & lighter actuation pressure over actuation sound, typists tend to care mostly about actuation pressure & sound. Additionally, typists tend to listen for the "click" sound as an indicator of when to release. If you're typing minimal amounts of things, then, by all means, go with an MX Blue or MX Brown keyboard, as your fingers won't incur any discomfort due to the amount of typing being done. However, if you have to type for extensive periods of time, a "Blue" user might find a "Brown" to be a better choice, while a "brown" user might find a "Red" to be a better choice. Personally, having tested Blue, Brown, Red, & Black-switch keyboards, I've found the MX Red switches to be the best...for gaming, as well as for everyday typing. As for a comparison of the original Red vs the new Silent (Red), that I hope to determine before the end of the day.
    Reply
  • cobacel - Friday, March 18, 2016 - link

    @TEAMSWITCHER
    try 60% keyboards or 75% ones. They are smaller and more practical than these huge over expensive so called "gaming" gear toys with Christmas lights.
    Reply
  • psiclonehi - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    Key travel was an issue for me and was the main reason I returned this junk. Yet, the reason isn't what you think. The travel distance was very short, and so much so that I kept mistyping things. Reply
  • willis936 - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    This model is my first mechanical keyboard and I've been using it daily since I got it. I swapped out all but the first row with PBT doubleshot keycaps. I quite like the keyboard but the non standard first row is a pain in the ass. Also you mentioned the sound is comparable to a membrane keyboard and I'd be quick to disagree. I could never hear a membrane keyboard over VoIP unless the keyboard was getting slammed but I can hear light to moderate typing with this keyboard. Push to talk is very necessary. Reply
  • PPalmgren - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    How does the noise level compare to, say, MX Brown with dampers installed (for example, the Logitech G710+? I know its based on the user, but a standardized comparison point in your testing like the db reduction you mentioned to the K70 at least provides something to work off of when trying to make a purchase decision.

    One of the problems with purchasing a mechanical keyboard is the severe lack of retail presence. You can't go to a store to test out what feels and sounds nice for you. I like the mechanical responsiveness but hate the noise and struggle with typos due to deeper key depth. Best of both worlds for me would be a mechanical with a key depth similar to a membrane keyboard that's silent - I'd pay $200+ if someone could pull it off.
    Reply
  • casteve - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    Best Buy (US) carries this keyboard. Whether or not they display it is tbd. I'm going to wander over there and see. Reply
  • Teknobug - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - link

    It'll be a bit noiser, also if there's an NCIX near you they often have them out on display. Reply

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