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Call me VSG
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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys, I figured this might interest people based on the messages received on my post containing pictures of the Cherry MX Speed (Silver) switches in another thread. Lots of pictures, GIFs and videos so I have put everything under spoilers to keep things contained.

Introduction
Corsair, known first for their memory kits, have since diversified into nearly everything needed for a PC tower now- cases, cooling, PSUs, memory, storage and even graphics cards as a result of a partnership with MSI. With CPUs and motherboards out of the picture (at least for now), they have sought to get their product line to cover peripherals as well with an offering of keyboards, mice, mouse pads and headsets/speakers as of today. They made history in 2014 with the introduction of RGB keyboards using genuine Cherry MX switches and have possibly the strongest partnership with Cherry compared to other customer companies- so much so that they get exclusives on new switches more than anyone else. First was the MX Silent (Red) in standard and RGB fashion that came with the Strafe RGB and now they have the Cherry MX Speed (Silver) in their new RAPIDFIRE sub-brand of keyboards. Thanks to Corsair, we get to take a look at the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE now.

Let's take a look at the specs from the product page:

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Adding to this, we have the force diagram for the new Cherry MX Speed (Silver) switches:

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Compare that to the same for the more standard Cherry MX Red switch (Excuse the larger size):

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There are two sets of specifications and features accordingly- one for the Corsair K70 RGB keyboards, and in particular those common to the new LUX and RAPIDFIRE, and another for the Cherry MX Speed (Silver switches). The former is an update on the original K70 RGB in that these feature stronger drivers enabling full 16.8 M color options without color flicker during transition, updated keycaps with a larger font legend to allow more light to pass through, and USB pass-through. The Cherry MX Speed (Silver) switches are linear switches with a much shorter actuation distance at 1.2 mm compared to 2 mm for their MX Red switches with the same ~45 cN of actuation force, and the travel distance and bottoming out force are also different at 3.4 mm, ~70 cN vs 4 mm, ~60 cN respectively. The reset position once bottomed out is also different and actually it takes longer for the MX Speed to reset from bottoming out than the MX Red switches. So while Corsair and Cherry can brag about this switch being the "fastest to actuate", it is a good thing that these take more force to bottom out since multiple press strokes on the same key will end up evening out or even worse for these. These switches came about as Cherry showing they can still innovate and go where the money and market is- with gamers. Logitech (Romer G with 1.5 mm actuation distance, 3 mm travel), Steelseries ( QG1 at 1.5 mm actuation, 3 mm travel) and Kailh (1.5 mm actuation, 3.5 mm travel) are the direct competition accordingly. The keyboard as a while has a 2 year warranty which I would like to see go up to 3 years at the very least, but the re-worked SMD LEDs on the RGB switches seem to be significantly more stable and longer lasting than before so I have less of an issue now than before. Let's now take a detailed look at the keyboard.

Unboxing and Overview

Corsair operates a web shop, however this came from another depot and so we begin with the product packaging directly.

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All their new peripherals come with a black and yellow "Corsair Gaming" color scheme on the packaging, which sports a plastic cover on top. It is fairly colorful, as I suppose it must in this case, and has the product and company name along with an illustration on the front with features and specifications in multiple languages adorning the other sides. There are two seals on the sides with flaps to keep the contents in check.

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Turns out that external packaging was just a sleeve, with an internal cardboard box housing the actual contents. Good packaging overall so far then, and opening it up we see the keyboard immediately which is also covered in a plastic sleeve below which are some of the accessories. In terms of paperwork, you get a product manual, warranty guide and the warranty addendum for Australia. The product manual itself is nothing to brag about, but to be fair the main feature that would benefit from a manual is the software program and a video makes more sense in this regard.

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Also included, in a vacuum sealed pouch, is a keycap puller (not a wire type, so this can potentially scrape the sides of keycaps) and a set of replacement keycaps for FPS and MOBA games each. These have a soft rubber textured finish on the top meaning the legends are harder to notice by themselves without any backlighting, but are easier on the fingers and help with identification of the switches by touch alone. These are ABS keycaps, as with those that come on the keyboard by default, and the legends are laser etched.

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In a compartment below the primary one lies the wrist rest which also comes with a plastic wrap. This has a soft rubber finish on top with a ribbed texture providing decent grip, and not a grime magnet in general. It does catch dust, however, and will benefit from cleaning regularly depending on your environment. The wrist rest has rubber pads on the bottom to provide grip and not slip off your desk which is a nice touch, and clips in place which is one of the best mounting setups I have used as far as keyboard wrist rests go.

On to the keyboard now:

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The keyboard looks pretty good if I say so myself- a clean look with a brushed aluminum, all black plate helps here. It is a full size keyboard, and I have the ANSI layout here. This measures in at 436 x 165 x 38 mm by itself and weighs 1.2 Kg. The metal plate is a major contributor to the weight here compared to, say, the Corsair Strafe keyboards, but it gives a solid feeling and also affects the typing sound as well. Aside from the standard keys, we get a Win lock and LED brightness control key as well as dedicated media buttons and a volume scroll wheel which all are extremely useful in my opinion. After having become used to these, I find it hard to go without them now.

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Other features include floating keycaps, meaning there is no top cover and the keys are directly soldered on the aluminum plate that you see. This allows for easier removal and installation of the keycaps and there is a stronger lighting effect- even to the point where light bleeding is a thing. The space bar also has a ribbed finish (not rubber, just ABS plastic), and on the other side is a 2 m long non-detachable cable that terminates in two male USB Type A connectors. It would have been nice to have the cable detachable but I can understand why Corsair went this way- aftermarket 1:2 USB cables are not very reliable or common. A thinner cable would have been nice as well, but if the thickness is a result of cable gauge (I doubt it) then so be it. USB 2.0 will not suffice in terms of power provided, and you need both connected to USB 2.0 headers for the keyboard to function and power the LEDs, which also means the USB pass-through is lost. With USB 3.0 being more prevalent these days, powering the keyboard LEDs off a single connector will not be an issue. Use the second connector to make use of the USB pass-through on the keyboard which can be used to connect a mouse, headset or even a flash drive. Note that this is a direct pass-through, and not a USB hub. Next to the USB pass-through port (female Type A) is a polling rate switch. By default, the switch is on position 1 which corresponds to a polling rate of 1 ms (1000 Hz) and you can change it to 2/4/8 ms (500/250/125 Hz respectively) as well as a BIOS position which will help the keyboard being detected by a motherboard BIOS in those rare cases it polls too fast to be detected. In BIOS mode, the media buttons and the WIN lock + brightness control keys are also disabled for max compatibility. Most people would have no issues with the keyboard set at a polling rate of 1 ms. Note also that this time is different from the key stroke detection time, which is where technologies such as Cherry's RealKey comes into play.





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There are rubber pads on the underside of the keyboard for grip and there are also 2 sets of feet, as opposed to 1 set in most cases. The top set has a rubber finish on the feet as well, which is nice, but the bottom one does not. Having all 4 feet up helps raise the keyboard up, and having just one set up changes the angle of the keyboard so you have some options regarding typing ergonomics. The wrist rest also clips in place as mentioned before, providing another option.

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The provided keycap puller works great with the stock keycaps here, and removing them we get a better look at the Cherry MX Speed (Silver) RGB switches. The stem is a silver finish, and hence the moniker, inside a transparent housing similar to the rest of the Cherry MX RGB switch lineup. The RGB LED is below the housing but not visible or accessible without de-soldering the switch. The switches being PCB mounted, they can't be disassembled to access the spring for modding or lubing either. The provided replacement keycaps fit great, and other 3rd party Cherry MX compatible keycaps also fit- except on the bottom row (CTRL through CTRL) owing the size of the space bar and some of the other keys being different from the format adopted by most full keycap sets. Be aware of this, and realize this is an issue since the stock keycaps are not exactly what I would describe as very good. They are 1.04-1.08 mm thick (walls) and the top surface is fairly prone to finger oils and the legends beginning to fade over a few months. The font used is also somewhat divisive although I personally like it, and all this means you have little options when it comes to keycap replacement at this time which is a shame as the rest of the keyboard is built very well.

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The keycaps use a standard Cherry OEM profile with the curved profiles on the individual rows helping distinguish them for touch typists.

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The larger keys employ Cherry stabilizers to aid in the stability of the keycaps, so this helps remove/install them at the expense of a slightly mushy feeling- especially on the space bar. If you have not used costar style stabilizers I doubt you would be able to identify said mushy feeling however.

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There is indeed NKRO on the motherboard (over USB) and no key chatter was detected over the testing period. Getting used to these switches took less time than usual owing to the linear switch experience, and the much faster increase in switch force as you depress it helps not bottom them out after a few hours of practice. In practice, I really could not tell the difference between the 1.2 mm actuation and 2 mm actuation on the Cherry MX Red/Silent switches when gaming and with keystrokes registering quite often. There are certain applications and games where this is handy, and there are also skill tier levels where the smallest things such as this will help distinguish players but for most others it will be more about the placebo effect than anything else. The switches were all extremely uniform when it came to actuation force and bottoming out, as well as travel distance so that is an attestment to Cherry's quality control.

As a quick reference, this is what typing on the keyboard (~100 WPM) sounded like from 6" away, with gain turned up +10 dB and compare that to the Cherry MX 6.0 with MX Red switches. Note that several factors influence keyboard typing noise: the switch type, the switch housing (opaque and transparent switch housing use different plastics), the switch plate/PCB mount, the plate material if plate mounted, keycap material and thickness. So it is not a straight up comparison, and that is why I compare across keyboards as a whole and not switches unless everything else is equal.

Let's now take a look inside.

Disassembly
Disassembly was done after all testing was completed, and I do not recommend doing this as you will lose warranty. You do need to take off some key caps in order to access the screws in the front:

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There are two hidden screws as well, one below the right side clip on the volume scroll wheel:

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and the other beneath the Corsair logo metal sticker in the top center:

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Once all the screws have been removed, simply pry open the few plastic tabs keeping the bottom panel and the plate together and they will come loose:

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The bottom panel is standard ABS plastic, and take care to not lose that plastic piece you see above. It is very important as we will see soon.

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There are essentially 3 PCBs in use here, and two are daughter PCBs used for the media buttons, the polling rate switch and the USB pass-through. Connecting these two to the primary PCB are some internal USB headers, ribbon cables and one such connection is made by contact only. This is where the plastic piece from the bottom panel comes into play- pressing them together to make contact.

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Here we get a better look at the two daughter boards, one of which is just for the scroll wheel. The scroll wheel incidentally is held in place by two notches and so you have to align it in place to put it back on.

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The primary PCB is also green in color, and multiple layers as with the daughter PCBs. Solder quality is very good, and in terms of components chosen to drive the LEDs and control the keyboard operation Corsair have done very well. They had to- the drivers used on the original K series RGB keyboards were simply not powerful enough and another error here would have been costly to their keyboard lineup. There are 3 separate ISSI IS31FL3732 FxLED drivers providing individual PWM control in 256 steps for lighting per R, G, B for a total of 16.8 M colors without any flickering or color shifts. The processor is an NXP LPC11U37F-501 32-bit ARM Cortex unit, and there is 128 kB of flash memory, 12 kB of SRAM data memory and 4 kB EEPROM on board. There is also a Texas Instruments TLV1117 adjustable low-dropout voltage regulator on board that can provide up to 0.8 A of output current to the board. Overall, a very similar component layout to what was used in the Corsair Strafe RGB series and works well. The difference is that the Strafe RGB has a white back plate and there are also side color plates that all help increase the lighting intensity perceived by users. Hard to do that here with the aluminum base plate, but the side color plates could have been implemented. In fact, they could have integrated these color plates all over but there's a thin line between good and gaudy here. There are stronger drivers available for sure, but no complaints here as the hardware is quite capable. So let's see if the software backs it up.

Software
Corsair has an entire team working on their software driver for their peripherals, which they call the Corsair Utility Engine (ECUE for short). The latest public release is CUE 2.5 which can be downloaded from the product page of any product that supports it. For instance, from the product page of the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE we can find the download link under the downloads tab. It's a ~100 MB installer and you will need ~250 MB for the installed product:



Once installed and opened for the first time, it immediately alerted me to a new firmware available to the keyboard which was connected the entire time (it runs fine as a standard keyboard and even has a default lighting scheme which we will get to soon):

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Firmware update took less than a minute and then it was all ready to go. Remember I mentioned the default lighting scheme that was happening even without CUE installed?

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Click on the GIF above to get it to play. The keyboard has onboard memory to store profiles including lighting schemes, and this rainbow effect is on by default. Here is how it looks on the keyboard:


Excuse the silly, but free, music. There will be more coming as a warning!

CUE 2 is a massive improvement in almost all regards compared to CUE 1, with the user experience being much improved. For instance, there are tool tips available when hovering over the various action items:

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Once again, click on the GIFs above to get them to play as they are too large to upload and embedding a GIF doesn't seem to work. There are 3 option sets for the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE: Actions, Lighting Effects and Performance. There is also a tab next to the devices list to choose between "Basic" and "Advanced" modes which is primarily for lighting. All these are also available for each different profile created or imported, as we see all this is happening under the default profile. In fact, you can change the background for CUE as well:

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Under Actions, you have the options to record macro actions, have keystrokes display a saved text, remap a key, assign the media keys to do something else, display a timer or disable switches. Profile selection is also an option here if you have multiple profiles saved, say for different applications or games, as seen below:


So while there are no dedicated macro keys, CUE helps make the keyboard very flexible here. I tested some macros in Adobe Lightroom, and also some games such as Mortal Kombat and they worked fine.

Under Performance, you have a few set options only that are mostly related to the enabling and disabling of some keys. Most of the user experience will be in Actions as seen above or in Lighting. Let's take a look at the Basic Mode:


The default lighting scheme can be edited without any issues as seen above. There are toggle switches to enable or disable the effects which comes into play when you have multiple such effects. These layers of effects is where it gets easy to play with and create/edit lighting profiles. Here, I changed the default profile to a counter clockwise direction with a slow speed and changed the name of the effect. Here is the keyboard in this customized lighting scheme:


Here's a look at the various lighting schemes in the Basic mode:


These are what people generally expect from RGB keyboards- preset animations to choose and show off their peripherals, which also makes for good demo modes at trade events. I created a few layers of static color on some keys to test for light bleeding and also color accuracy:

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You can see here how much light are transmitted through those keycaps as a result of the larger legends. The lighting is mostly uniform and accurate, although the white is still a light blue hue. The LEDs under the translucent housing are diffused, which helps spread and give a more uniform light but this affects some colors more than others. There is light bleed between keycaps under keys of different colors, and this is exaggerated as a result of the floating keys design. A smoother transition of colors makes it hard to detect though!

Note that all this was in Basic mode. Toggle the switch at the top and you activate Advanced mode where the lighting schemes are different:


Layers and more direct changes are the name of the game here, as shown in the gradient demo shown above. This is how the keyboard looks with that exact gradient lighting scheme used:


Note those flickers? I did too but only when I checked the video. I didn't detect it on the keyboard itself when recording, but when I noticed it I tried again and it happened maybe 2/10 times. Corsair tells me it is a firmware issue and a new firmware update is going to be out soon. It could be that the firmware update I did was the cause as a result of a faulty update as my previous usage with CUE and this very keyboard had no such issues. I did not notice this with any of the preset Basic mode options for what that counts, and only this multi-step gradient showed it. I will update this section as and when things change or not.

If all this seems too much for you, then consider Corsair's RGB Share where people can upload and download custom lighting profiles, which can be exported/imported from CUE accordingly. For example, I downloaded Blue Embers and imported it in CUE:


You can fully customize the profile as it is a layer of effects again, all in basic mode here. Note that some profiles may be for Basic mode and others for Advanced mode but both are put in together which is not necessarily how I want it. Also, I want to see this integrated in CUE itself rather than have users go to a separate website and download profiles that may or may not work to their desire.

So here I was complaining about that very thing to Corsair, and they slipped me a pre-public release of CUE 2.6 which has integrated RGB share! It should be out for public release shortly, but in the meantime here's a small exclusive look:


Note that I am using the demo devices feature here as the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE was being disassembled at the time, but it worked fine even when it was connected as tested later. RGB share is accessed as an option under the profiles now, and you can search and sort through the various uploaded profiles for the various devices supported as you would on the website which is neat. You can preview the profiles right then and there and then select what you want, import and then use it. Here's the problem- remember when I said that some profiles have lighting schemes from Basic mode and some others from Advanced mode? You need to be in those modes yourself to preview and use those profiles. That is why in the video above the second profile seemingly did nothing. Seeing as how this is not yet a public release, I can't fault the software yet but hopefully they will incorporate a way to make this more intuitive.

Note that this is not meant to be a guide to CUE 2, and please find online guides for that purpose. On my end, and thanks to help from a user experience researcher I know, I am examining CUE and it's still not perfect by any means for the power user. Most novice users will find this more intuitive than before so Corsair is improving and getting close to possibly the most comprehensive peripheral driver at this point.

(Edit: Oct 11, 2016: You will need to have CUE running in order for the dynamic lighting or actions based profiles to be active. The default lighting, any static lighting and performance changes can be saved to the device and be operated irrespective of CUE running or not.)

Conclusion
The Corsair K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE costs $169.99 from the Corsair web shop in the USA as of the date of this article. Retail pricing is slightly lower at $165 in the USA and £159.95 (inc. VAT) in the UK. If you want the same features but different Cherry switches then consider the Corsair RGB LUX series that comes in at $10 less with options of Cherry MX Red, Brown and Blue switches. If you like the RAPIDFIRE line with the Cherry MX Speed (Silver) switches, then a red only backlit option is available as the K70 RAPIDFIRE (there is also a TKL version) for $119.99. In terms of pricing, the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE is Corsair's most expensive full size keyboard at this time with only the larger K95 RGB (which comes with dedicated macro keys) costing more. This is also one of the more expensive mainstream RGB keyboards with competitors from Razer and Logitech costing similar or less for the same features but they come with non Cherry switches and their software support is less comprehensive at this time. Ducky has a Shine 5 RGB at this price point which comes with ABS doubleshot keycaps, has no software driver with macros and lighting controlled on board and has a plastic base plate. The Tesoro Gram Spectrum we saw before is the other direct competitor with floating keys, full RGB, software control and the Kailh clone version of the MX Speed which costs less but the software is limited and the switches were irregular in terms of actuation force on my sample.

Corsair will continue to sell a lot of these keyboards irrespective of any review, their marketing is great and their presence in the emerging social media of sub reddits also help make people aware of their products. I like a lot about this keyboard as well, although $170 is always going to be a lot of justify to most people. RGB for me is being able to color coordinate across components and in that regard this does a great job, and the hardware and software drivers are overkill for my application. But then I look at all those people who take hours to color coordinate the smallest detail and make complicated profiles for others to use for free and I am reminded that I am just one part of the market here.

That doesn't mean things can't be improved upon. The keycaps are my biggest complaint- given the lack of options for replacement keycaps (there are a couple from Max Keyboards including a fully translucent option) the stock keycaps need to be long lasting and good to use. I can't say that is the case for either here. As I understand, Corsair is working on double shot keycaps but I imagine that will be an optional purchase when ready. CUE also is not yet intuitive to the point where an average customers can download, install and use the features he/she expects without referring to online guides. The other things that people will bring up are subjective- the font used on the legends, the choice of Cherry stabilizers, the lack of dedicated macro keys. As it is, I think the LUX (RGB or otherwise) series merits a stronger consideration than the RAPIDFIRE for most if you must have a Corsair keyboard.
 

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I have the K95 RGB Cherry red
and in that keyboard, Lighting effects are not stored in the keyboard's on-board memory, as well as macros.
To use macros and lighting you must have the software running.
So, my question is.
Can i store everything (including dynamic lighting effects and macros) in the keyboard's (Corsair K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE) on-board memory?
 

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Call me VSG
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Discussion Starter #3
All the keyboard lighting videos are from profiles saved on-board. I am surprised that your K95 RGB didn't allow you to save them, I thought it had on-board memory also.

I will double check that the lighting and macro profiles saved still work without CUE running, but the default lighting working without the program installed suggests it does.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by geggeg View Post

All the keyboard lighting videos are from profiles saved on-board. I am surprised that your K95 RGB didn't allow you to save them, I thought it had on-board memory also.

I will double check that the lighting and macro profiles saved still work without CUE running, but the default lighting working without the program installed suggests it does.
Default lighting profile works, but custom profiles with dynamic lighting effect don't, same goes for macros.
Double check and get back to us
smile.gif
 

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Call me VSG
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Discussion Starter #5
Double checked and you are right, default and static lighting along with any performance changes are saved on the device whereas dynamic lighting effects or customized/imported profiles need CUE to work. Oh well, time to mention this in the review.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by geggeg View Post

Double checked and you are right, default and static lighting along with any performance changes are saved on the device whereas dynamic lighting effects or customized/imported profiles need CUE to work. Oh well, time to mention this in the review.
Thanks for the update.
 
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