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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  • bigboxes - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Agree. How you can put together this keyboard and decide that a select set of keys should be membrane is beyond me. It's not just the reliability of mechanical keys that make them desirable. It's the ergonomics of that make them special. Less fatigue and more precise keystrokes are important properties when choosing a mechanical switch keyboard. Exactly how much did Corsair save by using membrane switches on 12 keys?
  • mongo lloyd - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    22 keys, actually.
  • Sttm - Saturday, February 18, 2012 - link

    The design is stupid because the 18 extra keys are useless when you cannot hit them quickly and comfortably while maintaining your left hand on top of WASD for proper movement. Removing your hand from the movement keys during the high level of play that would necessitate a $100+ keyboard is a big no no.

    Unless maybe you bind the movement keys over there, but then how do you gain anything from that? You'd have less keys in a more awkward placement; and a much harder time hitting the modifier keys.

    The designers should stop adding extra keys that cannot be hit without moving your hand far to the left and start adding extra keys where you can hit them, the area below the space bar comes to mind, put 4 keys down there, have them be able to be set up as modifiers, that then opens up another 40 or 50 key binds for in game; while maintaining proper hand placement. Or possibly making the F Keys thin, and a row of thin G keys below that, but angle them so they are easy to tell apart by feel.

    Every time I see that left hand side bulk placement of G Keys the only thing I can think is how stupid it is. C'mon manufacturers innovate!
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    I get what you are saying, but I don't have a problem with it. I use the G-keys extensively on my G15, and also use the WASD keys on occasion. That being said, I'm weaning myself off using them for movement, and more and more use the mouse. Certainly turning is best done with a mouse, and with programmable buttons on them, you can use them to go forward, backward, and strafe, as well.

    One thing I do that is different than a lot of people - I don't use keys that change the function of a key in a fight (shift, alt, ctrl). Every action that requires a key press is done with one stroke. Extra programmable keys work great for that - and I don't need to use 2 hands for an action (one to press the function key and one the action key). Basically, in a fight I have one hand free to perform any action, and one free to perform any movement. It takes re-training yourself, especially if you are a keyboard turner, but it makes for better play in the end. (No put-down to keyboard turners here, I was one for years, and those who know how to do it right can do pretty well.)

  • bunnyfubbles - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    whats with all these full size keyboards anymore, who really uses the numpad outside of some sort of accounting job?

    I can understand it on the K90 as MMOs can utilize a ton of keys, but still, I'd love to see at least another model, say the K30, that was tenkeyless or perhaps even smaller. That little bit of space saved is just so much more ergonomically comfortable
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    I use my computer for math. Excel, budgeting, etc. I use the hell out of the ten-key.

    One of the things Anand and Jarred have been breeding out of my as a writer is an assumption that my usage model represents everyone.
  • Omega215D - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Maybe a detachable option like what's available on the MS Sidewinder X6 would be nice. Attach when needed and detach and stow away when it's not. Since there are no mechanical keyboards like that then I would also have to get a full sized keyboard.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    I've got an X6, and I actually hate the detachable 10-key. It's a nice idea, but in practice you might as well just skip the 10-key entirely. Every time I move the keyboard around, it seems the 10-key gets left behind.
  • Omega215D - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    To be honest I just realized I stowed my num pad in the drawer for the past 4 months.

    It does become convenient when I need to use the calculator or typing lists that includes numbers but I just reach for my smartphone for calculator purposes.

    The X4 doesn't take up that much more space despite having a full layout. Yeah, even though I don't use it much, having the num pad is nice for those just in case moments.
  • hechacker1 - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Here's my question, as I'm coming from a basic membrane based keyboard, and looking to purchase a new Cherry MX based keyboard.

    What would you say is the best switch for FPS based games? Reds? Blacks? Browns?

    What about something like Starcraft 2, where you can get frantic with APM (hitting peaks of 200 actions per minute?)

    I was initially intrigued with the idea of MX brown because they provide feedback in the actuation. That would let me know for certain that I've clicked a certain key. I think that would be advantageous for typing and RTS type games.

    But for an FPS, I'm thinking I often smash buttons down and hold them, and the actuation may not be a good idea. Somebody in a forum called the browns "floaty" because of it.

    I'm just curious of what people would recommend. FPS would be my first concern. This K60 looks pretty good for that, but of course it seems all subjective.

    But coming from cheapo, spongy, membrane based keyboards, I'm betting anything will be better.

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