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Hands-on: Corsair Gaming's new K70 is the first RGB-backlit Cherry MX keyboard

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 23, 2014
Hot on the heels of Logitech's G910 Orion Spark keyboard announcement last week, Corsair's rebranding its entire peripheral depart to "Corsair Gaming" and releasing its own RGB-enabled keyboard: the K70 RGB. The difference? Corsair gets to keep those sweet, sweet Cherry MX switches. It's a backlit mechanical keyboard arms race, and I'm all too happy to watch it play out.

Hot on the heels of Logitech's G910 Orion Spark keyboard announcement last week, Corsair's rebranding its entire peripheral depart to "Corsair Gaming" and releasing its own RGB-enabled keyboard: the K70 RGB. The difference? Corsair gets to keep those sweet, sweet Cherry MX switches. It's a backlit mechanical keyboard arms race, and I'm all too happy to watch it play out.

See, Logitech's Orion Spark uses exclusive Romer-G switches. You can read a bit more about them here, but basically it's a mod to the no-longer-under-patent Cherry MX design. Instead of the iconic Cherry MX stem, the center of the key is hollow allowing for smooth and even backlighting. The cost? At least to my fingers, the Romer-G switches feel a bit more rubber dome-esque than I prefer.

But there's a reason for Logitech's exodus — up until recently there was no RGB Cherry switch, and not due to lack of demand. According to Corsair, "Due to the current design of the Cherry MX switch, there is only room for a single 3mm LED that could mount directly onto the key switch." An RGB LED requires five millimeters of space, by contrast.

Corsair really wanted RGB backlighting though, so it worked with Cherry to solve the problem. The pair found that if they mounted the LEDs directly to the circuit board and used a lens to refract light, they could keep the iconic stem design and feel of the Cherry MX switches while still enabling full RGB backlighting.

Hands-on with Corsair's K70 RGB keyboard

It worked, as far as I can tell. I've got a Cherry Red K70 hooked up to my desktop rig right this moment, and I couldn't tell the difference between it and another Cherry Red board I had lying around. They feel identical, and pulling the keycaps off does indeed reveal that same Red stem.

As for the lighting on the K70, it's impressive though not without some weird design choices. Instead of recessing the keys into the casing, the K70's keys all jut out from the base. In other words, you can see underneath all the keys. You know — where all the light comes from in this new switch design. This results in a lot of light bleed from the sides of each key, which can be distracting. Also, due to the nature of RGB LEDs any keys that are set to White will bleed a bit of green out the top edge, which is unpleasant.

And for whatever reason, the K70 doesn't actually switch off when I put my computer to sleep. I don't know if that's intended or not, but I have to manually kill the backlighting in order to stop the thing from shining all night.

 

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