Keyboards are one of the few areas in computing where technology appears to have receded rather than progressed. The first keyboards on computer systems used mechanical switches to detect the depression of the keys. As time passed, economics took over and cheaper alternatives to mechanical switches were found. The cheapest of these alternatives is the dome-switch; which took over as the mainstream technology. These dome-switches are by all accounts an inferior technology. Whilst not in the scope of this review, a full recounting of the benefits of mechanical switches is available: http://www.overclock...-keyboard-guide
Having researched thoroughly the available mechanical keyboards, and taking into account my bad track record with Razer products, I finally decided on Corsair's K90. Without further ado.
Courtesy of Corsair's product page
- Light, responsive Cherry MX Red mechanical switches for fast, efficient gaming action
45g actuation force
2mm to actuation and 4mm to bottom
Rated for 50 million operations
- Tuned silicon dome key switches: F1 through F12, Esc, PrtScn, Scroll Lock, Pause/Break, Insert, Home, Page Up Page Down, Delete, and End
- Three banks of eighteen G Macro Keys with Macro Record and Bank Select hot keys
- 36Kb of on-board memory for storing up to three sets of eighteen G keys for gaming on the go
- Laser-etched, backlit keys with four illumination levels (off, 66%, 75%, and full illumination) selectable from the keyboard
- Six multimedia keys — Stop, Previous, Play/Pause, Next, Mute, Volume Up/Down — with Solid metal, weighted volume “drum roller”
- Windows Lock key for uninterrupted game play
- Metal top plate for increased strength, durability and rigidity
- USB pass-through connector giving easy access to a USB port on the back of the keyboard
- 2m non-tangle cable Adjustable feet tilt for optimum personalisation and positioning
The K90 is sold as a premium product, and first impressions of the packaging bear this idea out. The box is solid and has enough weight to feel like a quality product. Inside, the packing holds the keyboard firmly in place with plenty of protection from accidental damage during shipping.
Included in the package are a warranty card, a quick start guide, the detachable wrist rest and of course, the keyboard itself. The quick start guide is woefully inadequate; consisting of a large picture showing a USB plug being inserted into a port and a picture of the keyboard. The quick start guide fails to inform the user that the Corsair software is required in order to configure the macro functionality on the keyboard.
First impressions of the keyboard are good. The keyboard feels sturdy and looks great. The cable provided connectivity is extremely sturdy and has two USB connectors to allow for a USB socket at the top of the keyboard. Also worth noting is the unique design of the keys on the board. They are positioned above the baseplate which gives the appearance that they are floating. Aesthetically this gives the keyboard a great look and in practicality should allow for much easier cleaning of the keyboard.
It's not until you plug in the keyboard and turn on your machine that the keyboard really begins to shine.. Quite literally. The blue back lighting provides a truly unique look. Each of the mechanical switches has a single blue LED shining up under the key providing a bright, solid blue back-light. Unfortunately, on keys that have multiple characters etched on them (i.e. 1 and !) the character at the top is strongly lit with the lower character lit up far more dimly. This small flaw, coupled with a similar lighting issue on the dome-switched keys, detracts from an outstanding aesthetic design.
On top of the standard keys, the K90 has a collection of media keys above the num pad. These media keys are attractive and well laid out, providing the basic functionality you would expect. There is a small metallic "drum roller" that allows for changing volume from the keyboard. The move from plastic media keys to metal drum is quite jarring at a touch, however the metal drum is a nice inclusion and the use of plastic media keys is not unexpected. The keyboard offers two more buttons for toggling the brightness of the back-lighting and a button to disable the start key button during gaming.
Finally, the K90 includes a collection of 18 macro buttons, with a toggle switch allowing for each button to have 3 macros bound to it for 54 macros in total. These buttons require the Corsair software in order to program, however once set these buttons remember the macros assigned to them and can be used on any computer without the software. Given the lack of Mac software, this means the macros can be configured on a Windows PC and used on a Mac.
I admit that coming into this review I was sceptical of the benefits of a mechanical keyboard as opposed to other keyboard technologies. It seemed unlikely that the simple change in switches would lead to a noteworthy change in usability or typing habits. I was wrong.
The mechanical keys are outstanding. My typing speed has increased dramatically. While I could not tell you why this is, I suspect it is due to the much faster rebound and the significantly lighter actions of the keys. Having typed the entire review above with this keyboard, I find myself wondering how I last so long with such a mediocre keyboard previously. The texture and feel of the keyboard is outstanding and the action of the keys makes you want to press them repeatedly just for the novelty of feeling their action.
Unfortunately, this brings me to the largest short falling of the keyboard. This keyboard is not entirely mechanical. As noted above in the technical specification, all of the escape, F (function), G (macro) and the key cluster above the direction arrows are in fact dome-switches.
This leads to a glaring and frankly disappointing difference when using these keys. Typing a word is brisk, snappy and feels great. Pressing the delete key to remove a wayward letter just feels.. Smooshy.. It seems such a silly area to try and save costs. The average user willing to spend the money for this kind of keyboard isn't going to object to the extra few dollars required to make the entire keyboard mechanical. Corsair provide a justification for these choices by saying that each of the keys that use dome-switches are keys that you want the full action to be used before the key activates (press it all the way down before the computer registers it). In practicality, it just feels cheap. As noted above, it also takes away from the aesthetics of the keyboard.
The K90 represents Corsair's first crack at a mechanical keyboard. It's a worthy first attempt and represents a great buy if you can get past the hybrid nature of the dome-switch/mechanical-switch key blend. It is worth noting that with the premium market this keyboard targets, corsair ask a premium price. At $160 Australian, the K90 is far and away the most expensive mechanical keyboard on the market. I would be inclined to say however, that it is well worth it with outstanding aesthetics and a great feel.
It is also worth mentioning the K60 keyboard offered by Corsair. The K60 is $30 cheaper and is the same mechanical keyboard as the K90. The K60 lacks the keyboard width wrist rest (replacing it with a WASD wrist rest), blue LEDs and the programmable macro keys. In all other regards it is the same keyboard. If you are looking to save some money or don't need these extra features, the K60 is well worth your time.
- Great aesthetics and build quality
- Outstanding touch and feel
- Strong blue back-lighting
- Programmable macro keys
- Comfortable (removable) wrist rest
- 2 year warranty
- Not entirely mechanical
- A noted issue with LED lights failing
24/03/2013 - Corrected the address discussing the pros/cons of the various switches.
Edited by articuno1au, 23 March 2013 - 20:25.