The Corsair Vengeance K60 and K90

We recently re-entered the world of peripheral reviews, specifically mechanical keyboards with our brief rundown of Rosewill's RK-9000 mechanical keyboard (complete with Cherry MX Blue switches). Rosewill's design was as basic as it gets, but the keyboard felt solid and for many of us there's just no substitute for a mechanical switch when it comes to having a comfortable typing experience. But our visit with Rosewill was just a warm up.

Today we have Corsair's Vengeance K60 and K90 gaming keyboards in house. Corsair opts to use Cherry MX Red switches in an effort to find a more suitable balance between typing and gaming needs, and they bring a little more style and class than we're used to seeing in gaming peripherals.

Out of the gate, Corsair is offering two different keyboards targeting two different types of user, but it's worth noting that these two keyboards are very, very similar. The "base model" K60 is targeted towards FPS players. Corsair starts with an aluminum backplate behind the keyboard, with all of the keys raised off of it--there's no tray for crumbs/hair/general-filth to get stuck in! Corsairs uses Cherry MX Red switches for the bulk of the keyboard (the document navigation and F1-F12 use traditional membrane-style switches), and there are dedicated media keys and a "Windows Lock" button above the number pad.

There's also a dedicated wrist rest just for your left hand, and the inside of it holds replacement keycaps for number keys 1-6 plus the WASD cluster along with a keycap remover. These replacement keycaps have rubberized surfaces and incline slightly towards the left hand, the theory being that this will be ideal for gaming use. Finally, the keyboard actually uses two USB ports: one for the keyboard proper, and one used as a dedicated passthrough for a USB port above the F12 key. Corsair offers the K60 for a recommended $109.

Meanwhile, the fancier K90 is geared towards RTS and MMO players. The K90 takes the aluminum base, switch layout, and connectivity of the K60 and adds individual LED backlighting behind each of the keys with four levels of illumination (off, low, medium, and high) toggled by a brightness button next to the Windows Lock button.

Beefing things up, Corsair adds eighteen configurable keys to the left of the keyboard as well as an in-hardware macro recording and playback function (configured and toggled by the four macro buttons above the Escape and F1-F3 keys). What I really like about the K90 as opposed to other gaming keyboards with configurable keys is that the G1-G18 cluster is actually substantially lower than the rest of the keyboard. While the keys of the keyboard proper are all raised off of the aluminum surface, the gaming keys are recessed, making it much harder to accidentally hit one when trying to hit the Tab, Shift, or Ctrl keys.

Finally, Corsair adds a full-length removable wrist rest (a convenience that's becoming increasingly rarefied these days) and dashboard software for configuring the keyboard downloadable from their website. Appropriate to the inclusion of fancier features, the K90 will set you back $129.

The Corsair Vengeance K60 and K90 in Action
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  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    When I first read about the Corsair Vengeance keyboards, I was pretty excited. Could this be a mechanical-switch keyboard that would replace my excellent but membrane keyed Logitech G15s?

    The answer is - no. The G keys, which I use extensively when playing World of Warcraft, are membrane switches, not mechanical. It's a big let-down, for me. The keyboard looks beautiful, but it's going to take one heck of a keyboard for me to give up the ones I have. Really, I have no reason to replace them other than getting more coolz toyz anyway, they are going strong and I expect they will last quite a long time. They are both 3 years old, and if they continue the way they have, I don't expect to actually need to replace them for another decade, or more.

    Why have any membrane keys on the board at all? Why the cheap finish on the keys? I can just see some accountant, or marketing, whining and crying about how expensive a keyboard is going to be if it has all mechanical switches and high-quality key caps, but to me, it's the height of ridiculousness to make an enthusiast-level keyboard and cut corners.

    If Corsair really wants me to give up my G15s (clearly the K90 is aimed right at the heart of the market here as it's extra key bank is identical to Logitech's, and they even call them by the same name) and buy one of theirs, or two since I have 2 gaming computers, they need to:

    1) Make ALL the keys mechanical

    2) Put key caps on that will look good for the decade or more my G15s are going to last; no cheap finishes or lettering! (I actually don't think I'd like that the G-keys are lower than the rest of the keyboard. When I play, I use the whole keyboard - the left side of it with my left hand, of course, which must go back and forth from the standard keys to the G-keys.)

    3) Provide a variety of Cherry switches to choose from

    4) Do something about the lighting issue. The G15 keys are a bit dim for my tastes at their highest setting, but bright enough I can see them fairly easily. I'm not keen on the idea of a light that doesn't shine through the keys, either, though I haven't used a keyboard with the kind of back-lighting the K90 has. It seems to me though that lighting the spaces around the keys would actually make seeing the faces of the keys harder. Being that I still need to orient myself by sight - I know, learn to type! - seeing the face of the keys is rather important to me.

    5) Clean up the software interface

    I'm sure there are plenty who would squeal at having to pay $150 or more for such a keyboard, but considering how long a good one lasts (or even a cheap one), the cost over time is reasonable enough to me. That being said, I'd like to see a warranty that reflects the lifetime a mechanical keyboard should have. The one provided for the Vengeance series is twice that Logitech provides for the G15, and I get that warranties have to consider idiots that abuse their devices, but I'd really like to see Corsair show high confidence in their high-end keyboards by providing a long warranty. 2 years certainly isn't a deal-breaker for me - but, as I said, I need some serious reasons to stop using my G15s in preference for another keyboard.

    As it stands, I'm still hoping Logitech will start building mechanical versions of the gaming devices I've come to enjoy so much (the G15 and G13).

  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Ah I see now the light does shine through the keys, it just also lights up around them, too. Not the best thing in my opinion, but not as bad as I thought. Looks like they mostly need to tone it down. I'd prefer the light only came through the characters though.
  • mbraun - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    I really appreciate that mechanical keyboards do get some attention lately. Everyone who's a serious computer user should think about getting one, i bet the vast majority won't ever buy some 10$'ish excuse for a keyboard again.

    However, i doubt that professional users (sysadmins, programmers, writers...) would/should consider a Corsair oder Razer branded keyboard. They may look fancy and have a ton of worthless features like a bazillion extra keys, displays, multicolor illumination etc. but they are still cheap consumer products with low quality keycaps and overall construction that may only last a few months at hardcore usage. $100 is the entry-point for mechanical keyboards, low-end so to speak. It's even more money when thinking about the average lifespan of such consumer products. What about reviewing some serious keyboards like a Realforce?
  • Kiste - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Why are these things named "Vengeance"? I don't get it. It's a keyboard, just a damn keyboard.

    This is a pretty moronic product name, though the Powercolor "Evil Sniper" videocard from way back still takes the cake.
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Hey, cut them some slack, will ya?

    Not everyone can come up with a super-cool name like "Kiste".
  • Kiste - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    That's kind of the point:
    Why does a keyboard need a "super-cool" name. I'm getting sick an tired of gaming hardware with product names and package designs specifically targeted at 15-year old boys.

    The average age of the PC gamer is probably 30-something and some companies like Logitech get it. Razer is sort of unoffensive. Garish nonsense like "Vengeance" keyboards and "Fatal1ty" soundcards and "Killer" NICs on the other hand I find bordline insulting and I would never buy it, even if it was the proverbial Jesus of it's respective product category.
  • Sabresiberian - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Put that way, I tend to agree with you. Corsair started the "Vengeance" name with their memory sticks. We have "HyperX, "Ripjaw", "Xtreme" from other RAM companies - it's all rather silly, I mean, we aren't talking spaceship drives or chainsaws, we're talking RAM.

    I guess the best thing to do is laugh at it. Or with it, maybe it's a big joke to the marketing people at Corsair, too.

  • eXces - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    What about ghosting? How many simultaneous key press will the keyboard register?
  • mrbean1500 - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    20 key rollover
  • DanNeely - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Are they using a custom driver; I thought 6key was a limit of the standard cross platform spec? If so, do they have mac/linux drivers as well, or does the keyboard fall back on a default 6 key mode?

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