Corsair’s RAPIDFIRE keyboard certainly lives up to its name.
Editor’s note: IGN is ramping tech and hardware reviews back up, one product category at a time. We’re kicking off with deep dives into some of the best-of-the best headsets, GPUs, Mice, Monitors, and keyboards from the last few years.
The Corsair K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE (See it on Amazon) is a new(ish) version of the widely-acclaimed K70 with all-new “rapid” switches designed for gaming. The new switches have a shorter actuation distance than the Cherry MX switches used in the Lux version, thus making it easier to activate the keys; a theoretical boon to gamers who need to tap a key a few thousand times a night since actuation is quicker and requires less effort. If rainbow colored light shows aren’t your thing, there’s a non-RGB version with a red backlight that costs $50 less.
Design and Features
The Corsair K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE mechanical gaming keyboard is comprised of an anodized brushed aluminum chassis with the keys mounted on the surface without a top cover so the key switches are exposed. This is a double-edged sword that makes the keyboard easier to clean, yet also allows dust to collect underneath the keys. The keyboard makes use of Cherry’s new “RAPIDFIRE” mechanical key switch, designed for gaming by combining a shorter actuation distance with a lighter actuation force. Whereas the regular Cherry MX switches require 2mm of travel to actuate, the RAPIDFIRE switches need just 1.2mm, which isn’t much. The keyboard connects to your computer with a thick and braided two-headed USB cable providing power to the board as well as juice for the USB port on the front surface of the keyboard. Next to the USB port is a switch to set the polling rate when using the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE on older systems. T
he K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE includes the standard 104 keys that you’d expect, although the bottom row of keys includes a slightly wider spacebar and slightly narrower ALT and CTRL keys. The keys are made from smooth ABS plastic while the spacebar is pleasantly textured. The keyboard comes with an additional set of textured keys that can replace the commonly used gaming keys (W, A, S, D, etc). The textured keys are slightly beveled also, which is great for gaming but makes touch typing more difficult. Luckily, it’s quite easy to swap back and forth between textured and untextured keys using the included tool in order to move between gaming and writing.
In addition to the usual 104 keys, the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE has seven extra media keys and a volume control knob. There are four media control keys (stop, back, play/pause, and forward) above the number keypad. Above those are a volume knob and a mute button. The volume knob is my favorite feature of this keyboard as it provides an easy and precise way to control audio volume. To the left of the mute button are three tiny white LED indicators for caps lock, num lock, and scroll lock. To the left of those is the Windows lock button which turns off Windows specific keys and a brightness button which you tap to move through three brightness settings, with the final tap turning the backlighting off completely. All the controls are easy to reach, work as expected, and are simple and effective.
Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) Software
After plugging the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE in I downloaded the most recent version of the Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software from the Corsair website. CUE has four main settings: Profiles, actions, lighting, and settings. The profile section binds settings to specific applications and can be used to set game specific backlighting options. It’s possible to remap keys, program macros, and set backlighting and save it all as a profile. Macros can only be programmed within the CUE software. Macro programming can be very detailed, yet there is no recording on the fly. This makes it virtually impossible to set up macros that require precise timing because you have to recreate them in the recording interface, test them in the game, tweak them in the interface, retest them in the game, etc.
I did like the ability to enter a bunch of text and bind that text to a key. This was useful for the quick insertion of common chat messages or other text that I frequently type. The lighting section of CUE lets you configure the keyboard’s lighting as thoroughly as anyone might ever want to. For me, backlighting is helpful to highlight the subset of keys used in a particular game, but I have no appreciation for anything beyond that. Those gamers who hold such appreciation can use CUE to program any key to one of 16.8 million colors and set timings (in 100ms increments) and patterns. There are four main effects: solid, gradient, ripple, and wave. These effects can be enabled and color and intensity can be adjusted. There are also a number of presets you can choose from such as spiral rainbow, color wave, and rain, and you can also install fan-made patterns too.
Unfortunately, the CUE software is so poorly designed that I was pretty sure the “C” stood for “crappy” and not for “Corsair”. This is due to the use of tiny cryptic icons and lack of any meaningful descriptions or help. The CUE software is also pretty buggy. Many times the lighting settings that I selected did not become active. I could select the setting, not see a change, deselect it, then reselect it to see the change. Not cool.
In my time with the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE I developed a severe dislike for the Cherry MX RAPIDFIRE switch. As I wrote above, the MX RAPIDFIRE switch uses a shorter travel distance than other Cherry switches (1.2mm vs the usual 2mm), and the actuation force seems to have been decreased slightly too. This gives the keys a very stiff feel while at the same time a key actuates with the lightest tap. The result, at least for me, was multitudes of errors in my typing either as duplicates of the key I was trying to type or adjacent keys that I barely slid my finger across. This made the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE not an acceptable keyboard for touch typing.
My gaming experience was much better. I’m an FPS enthusiast and I really enjoyed playing Overwatch and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The fast key actuation that filled my documents with errors was a pleasure during twitch gaming. I also enjoyed playing the more deliberate The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I really missed being able to program macros on the fly though. Having to leave my game to program macros in the CUE software is far too disruptive of a process for me. I also have a real problem with Corsair’s use of thin pieces of plastic for ergonomic adjustment on the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE.
There are four extendable feet on the bottom of the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE to adjust the height and angle of the typing surface. These feet are made of thin plastic that felt like it would break just from extending and collapsing the feet on a regular basis. The K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE also comes with a detachable wrist rest that attaches to the keyboard base via thin and brittle plastic connectors, and the first time I connected the wrist rest to the keyboard I accidentally broke one of them. Though I certainly share some of the blame, they are tiny, thin, and easy to break. This lack of durability is unacceptable in a gaming accessory, especially one that costs north of $150.
The Corsair Gaming K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE Gaming keyboard has an MSRP of $169.99, but like a lot of tech, it can often be nabbed at a discount. Right now, it’s around $140 on Amazon: