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January 03, 2014

Corsair Vengeance Series Mechanical Keyboard Round Up


Corsair as one of the titan in the memory, PC chassis and Power Supply Unit took a big bet by joining the crowded gaming peripherals arena has previously released their Vengeance Series Gaming Mechanical Keyboards K60 and K90 as their gaming keyboard aces. Various feedback came from different group of end users, being a gamer/ typist/ enthusiast, consisting both positive and negative feedback for both K60 and K90. With all the feedback taken into account, thus born the new Vengeance Series K65, K70 and K95.

Our review this time is going to be a round up for all the K65, K70 and K95 - by taking both good side and short coming for each keyboard into account, we will see which is the weapon of choice you can pick.

* K65 priced at 320 Malaysian Ringgit, K70 priced at 449 Malaysian Ringgit and K95 priced at 499 Malaysian Ringgit.



At first glance, other than just being different in size, the packaging of each keyboard is pretty clean and straight forward. The surface of the keyboard image is smooth and glossy while the rest is just being matte and there's  a brief introduction on the keyboard specification is written at the front of the box.




Behind the packaging itself, is a brief details on the functional keys. media keys and some features of the keyboard.



While at the side, there's some cropped image of parts of the keyboard along with some brief introduction on the parts seen in the cropped image such as the type of mechanical switches, macro keys, invididually illuminated keys, etc.


The Vengeance K65 Overview



Unboxed and reveals the K65 sits in its packaging. The inner part was rather plain and there's isn't much of protection we can see from it.


What comes with the box, is the user's manual, warranty guide, warranty against defect and the K65 itself.


Similar in many ways of its predecessor - other than just being smaller in size, the K65 has the same brushed Aluminum plate as its top enclosure. Not like the mainstream mechanical keyboards we've seen, the brushed Aluminum plate plays the role of both top enclosure and metal plate to strengthen the PCB from being just flexed out. It feels very sturdy in terms of build quality, but there are cases where certain brand of mechanical keyboard that doesn't has a top enclosure is prone to snapping the stem of tits mechanical switch.
(Source: http://imgur.com/a/fyxIg)



The K65 we're reviewing is a Cherry MX Red version, which can be identified by the color of the switch stem. Came to our surprise, Corsair has gone for pad printing for the K65 key cap. Being the cheapest type of key cap printing, which wasn't something we we're expecting for a keyboard that cost 320 Malaysian Ringgit.

* The metal wire keycap remover doesn't comes with any of Corsair Vengeance Series keyboards!* 


The media keys on the K65 is a downgraded version compared to the higher end Vengeance Series, the media playback control soft keys is replaced with keyboard function keys which is activated with the combination of the 'FN' key and the scroll volume control is replaced with soft keys instead. Despite of the short comings, we personally think that the placement of these media keys is much easier to access compared to some.


Above the function keys (F1~F12) is the trademark of Corsair, engraved on the brushed Aluminum plate. This gives the appearance an additional point along with the brushed texture on the Aluminum plate.



There's a switch behind the K65, where the function is as below:
- 1, set the USB polling rate to 1 millisecond
- 2, set the USB polling rate to 2 millisecond
- 3, set the USB polling rate to 4 millisecond
- 4, set the USB polling rate to 8 millisecond
- BIOS, allow you to turn of certain advanced features in trade of compatibility with certain Motherboards

Switching to different mode will disable the keyboard for few seconds before it can be used again, while your operating system detects its driver.


Corsair uses high quality braided cables which is less prone to breaking like common rubber cables do and last but not least, a light blue colored USB connector which allow users to easily identify the connector. It works well especially when you're in a rush and there's no time for you to trace which device does a USB connector is connected to. 


Base of the K65, there's a pair of keyboard feet designed to be easily accessed from the side with the guiding curve to the keyboard feet itself, along with four pieces of rubber feet to keep the keyboard in place while on your desk. But of course, tilting your keyboard is pretty much optional, it all goes to your personal liking.


And yes, the cable can be detached. It's not something exclusive for Corsair but this features appears pretty often on keyboards such as Leopold, Keycool, Rosewill, etc. The connecting point on a normal keyboard often damaged due to mishandling during transport - especially if you carry your personal keyboard around very often. Detachable cables helps to minimize this problem as you can have it separated from the keyboard can reconnect it via the mini USB port on the keyboard, but do be extra careful not to lose it. 

The Vengeance K70 Overview



Unlike the K65, the K70 sits in a different box which is much thicker - and more secured if you'd ask.


What comes with the box is the user's manual, warranty guide, warranty against defect, a palm rest, interchangeable key caps for the FPS gaming cluster (WASD 123456), a ring type keycap puller and the K70 itself. There's two version of the K70 available which is silver and black.



The included key cap has a rougher surface with triangle monogram (?) pattern which has a anti-slip feature to help to keep your finger in place, higher precision and less tendency to perform any mistake action due to slip caused by sweaty fingers.



The interchangeable key caps comes with a unique curve specially designed for FPS gamers for quick and precise access to the frequent used keys such as moving directions, weapon switching.



From a different angle of view, we can see the special curve to keep your finger in the area of the crucial area for the frequent used keys for moving directions and weapon switching.



It is advised to use a metal wire type key cap remover to remove your key cap as from the picture shown above, the included ring type key cap remove holds only a small portion of the key cap bottom while the metal wire type key cap remover holds the key cap firmly from the bottom. There is a risk for scratching your beloved key cap with the ring type remover if not handled carefully.


In very much resemblance to the K60 which is silver in color and these familiar looking media control keys, the silver K70 we're reviewing is an improved version of its predecessor - now with individually illuminated LED on each keys and being fully mechanical.


Old but gold, the media controls keys and the windows key lock soft key from the K60 is retained. The added two soft keys is to control the illumination of the K70 and to access some extra bling-bling features which we will show it to you guys later on.


The K70 we're reviewing is also a Cherry MX Red Switch version and you can see that the LED is mounted on the switch itself.



Just like the other Vengeance series mechanical keyboard, there's a trademark of Corsair etched on the brushed Aluminum plate.


Behind the keyboard, there a USB port pass through where you can easily access your USB port for devices such as USB drive, USB sound cards, USB mouse etc. And of course, the switch to adjust polling rate as what we've mentioned earlier:
- 1, set the USB polling rate to 1 millisecond
- 2, set the USB polling rate to 2 millisecond
- 3, set the USB polling rate to 4 millisecond
- 4, set the USB polling rate to 8 millisecond
- BIOS, allow you to turn of certain advanced features in trade of compatibility with certain Motherboards

Switching modes will disable the keyboard for few seconds before it can be used again, while your operating system detects its driver.

To our surprise, it has only one USB port and no audio jacks. Not as what we have expected, this is somewhat rather disappointing.



Unlike the portable K65, the cables aren't detachable. You can see a thick braided cable coming out from the back of the keyboard.



Apart from that, there's a splitter splitting the cable for USB pass though and the keyboard itself.


Same as K65, the same USB connector is used on the K70 that allows you to easily identify the connector of your keyboard while rushing. 


Similar to the K65, the keyboard feet is designed to be easily accessed from the side. The main difference here is that there's an additional pair of keyboard feet right below where you can tilt your keyboard higher from the bottom instead but we find it isn't really comfortable typing this way.


The included palm rest is a full-sized palm rest and it's rubberized. Having a rubberized surface means that you will have to keep it dry as much as possible or else it'll get sticky overtime - the weather and moisture in the air at Malaysia will contribute to this, unless you're in a always-dry room / air conditioned room.


The palm rest is a clip on type palm rest where you can attach it to the K70 with the slots provided. Installing it and taking it apart is fairly easy and there's no screws involved - in short, tool free installation.


This is how the K70 looks like with the palm rest installed - clean and neat looking in our opinion.


The Vengeance K95 Overview



Being the top of the line product in the Corsair Vengeance Series Keyboard, the K95 looks stunning. The packaging is done well, much similar protection like what the K70 has compared to the K65.


What comes with the box is the user's manual, warranty guide, warranty against defect, a palm rest and the K95 itself. We were curious to know why the K95 doesn't comes with any interchangeable keycaps or a keycap remover - it's the highest end of the Corsair Vengeance Series keyboard. The K95 looks just like the K90, except for being fully mechanical - yes, the macro keys are now fully mechanical and the macro keys area is design to be lower than the height of standard keys to lower the probability of unwanted actuation by mistake.



The picture above is the comparison of the key cap for K95 macro key can a standard R4 row key cap. In order to achieve the lower height, Corsair choose to have the key cap halved in height of a standard R4 key cap for the macro keys.



As you can see, Corsair has indeed taken the user's feedback seriously. Previously there's some users who has complained that they have paid a fortune for the K90 which isn't a fully mechanical keyboard. Thank you Corsair.


Come to the dark side - The Corsair Vengeance K95 is in full black, accompanied by a brushed Aluminum
anodized to black in color. Simply stunning by just gazing upon it.


The easy access media control keys is retained as well at the K95. Life is made easier with these media control keys! The soft keys for illumination has some other features which you won't find in the user's manual,  which we will be showing it later.


Now on the left side, there's 4 soft keys where:

- MR represents Macro Record, allow you to access to the macro keys recording function in the software
- M1 to M3 represents Macro 1 to 3, allow you to have separated macro keys for different purposes.



The K95 comes with an on board memory, which allows you to store your macro profiles at hardware level, bringing it around without having to go through all the trouble when it is plugged in to a different machine. There's 18 macro keys you can set for each macro (M1~M3), pretty much sufficient in our opinion.



And as usual, the Corsair trademark etched on the brushed Aluminum plate, just wonderful.



Behind the K95 is the USB port pass through to allow easy access to USB, but seriously... still one USB port even on the highest end product in the Corsair Vengeance Series keyboard? We're very sure it will not be sufficient for almost anyone who can afford the K95. As for the switch to adjust polling rate, it's the same as what we've mentioned earlier:

- 1, set the USB polling rate to 1 millisecond
- 2, set the USB polling rate to 2 millisecond
- 3, set the USB polling rate to 4 millisecond
- 4, set the USB polling rate to 8 millisecond
- BIOS, allow you to turn of certain advanced features in trade of compatibility with certain Motherboards

Switching in between each mode will disable the keyboard for few seconds before it can be used again, while your operating system detects its driver.


Just like the K70, the USB cable on the K95 stays undetachable. The good news is, you'll get high quality braided cables for your K95 USB cable. Braided cables gives additional strength to your cable, less prone to breaking due to excessive pulling force in accident.


The cables is split into two, divided by the splitter as seen above. You'll get two high quality braided USB connector.



And yes, this is the same blue colored USB connector used on the K65 and K70 for the ease of identifying your keyboard behind your PC chassis.



The palm rest for K95 (top) has the same rubberized surface as the K70 palm rest (bottom) except it for being longer in length to cater the addition length from the macro keys.



What's different is the bottom of it, where the palm rest for K95 (top) comes with thumb screws to be secured to the K95 while the K70 palm rest (bottom) consist only the clip on part.



Same as the others, the keyboard feet design is easily accessible from the side, but there's an empty gap at the macro keys section which feels a little odd to have that gap there as there's no other device USB nor audio jacks there - just a solid surface without anything.



Installing the palm rest is as easy as the the K70, except for the K95 palm rest comes with additional thumb screws to secure the palm rest to the keyboard.



Do You Know?



All three of the Corsair Vengeance Series keyboard - K65, K70 and K95 uses the Cherry stabilizer which is much easier to remove compared to the metal wire type stabilizer (also known as the Costar stabilizer) used on Mechanical keyboards from Filco, CM Storm, Rosewill, WASD, PLU. Other than Corsair, keyboards that uses the Cherry stabilizers including Cherry Corp, Steelseries, Leopold, etc.

So what's the difference? Cherry stabilizers allow you to easily swap key caps - everything can be done with less than 30 seconds even by first timers, but it feels less springier compared to the Costar stabilizers. On the other hand, Costar stabilizers is much harder to remove and requires some knowledge and skills to remove, it tends to feels more springier compared to the Cherry stabilizers.


Software Overview

The software will cover only for the K95 as among three keyboards we're reviewing, only K95 has macro keys. The software can be obtained from the download page in the Corsair Vengeance K95 download pageClick Here!

The installation requires the K95 to be plugged to your PC for detection, else the installer will prompt you to have it plugged to your PC before the installation can be proceeded.


Assigning action to Macro keys


At the main tab interface, there's 4 buttons on the top left corner that looks exactly like the one on the K95.
You can access these keys by pressing the buttons on the K95 or the ones on the software itself.  Basically, MR refers to macro record and the M1 to M3 buttons represents the macro profile to store your macro key settings.

To assign a macro, simply click on the MR button on the software / pressing the MR button on the K95 and select the key you wish to assign a macro to via the keys on the software or the K95 itself.

* The icon which resembles the sun allows you to control the brightness of LED in 3 level - 33%, 66% and 100%


As the key is selected, it will appeared in the right are of the "Assign Key" and you may now assign your macro at will. The actions will be listed in the box below, a details to show you what action as been entered into the macro list.



If you've found out that you've missed something or there's something else you wish to add, you may edit the macro actions by right clicking at the box. A dialog box will pop up and you may edit the macros to your liking.

Example of a simple macro:




There are other advanced option to allow you to set some preset function such as the commonly used ctrl + c, ctrl + v, ctrl + x and more. It can be assigned to your macro through the Basic command dropdown list in the Advanced Option.


You can assign keystroke as well, especially for some keys which is faraway from your reach during intensive gaming session e.g item slots for DotA 2, League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth which uses the Numpad area.


Up next is the Advanced Commands, where it contains option which allow higher complexity actions  compared to the Basic Commands.



Our favorite option in the Advanced Command is the Launch Program option. It allows you to access a program easily with just a single click off the button e.g Compilers, Image processing software, emulators, etc.

Example of an advance macro to launch an application:



Delay Option

The delay option is pretty handy to suit different type of needs. The default delay is set to 50ms, which means there will be 50ms in between each action. By checking the ignore delay option, there will be no delay in between each action. As for the random delay time, there's a column where you can set the max delay in ms - each assigned action is given a random delay time in the range of the assigned ms.




Type of Action

There are four type of macro action, playback once, playback n times , repeat while pressed and play until stopped.



The first action is the playback once. By using this type of action, the macro assigned will be executed for only once after the macro key is pressed.



The second action the the playback n times. This execution is controlled by a multiplier 'N' which can be defined upon selection. The number of execution will be controlled by the defined value in 'N', in which the next action is executed on the previous action is done. The action will continue to be executed until the total action count reaches 'N'.


The third action type is the repeat while pressed. Unlike the playback n times, repeat while pressed will continue to repeat the action as long as the macro button is held down.



Lastly, the play until stopped action. This action allows you to repeat the macro as soon as the macro key is pressed, it's basically an endless loop. To stop the macro, simply press the macro key again and it will stop. This option can be disastrous if wrongly used, so please use it wisely - never use it to launch any application!



Profiles


There is an option where you can create profile for your assigned macro keys in the Manage Profiles tab.
The options available is listed as below:

- New, create a new profile
- Delete, delete the selected profile
- Import, import profile stored in other location
- Export, export current selected profile to a selected location
- Save to K95, save the selected profile to K95. The K95 is able to store up to 6 profiles.



There's a lock profile option which can be accessed by right clicking on the profile. It's an extremely useful function which only available under software playback mode. If the profile is set to associate to an application, the profile associated will be loaded when your focus is changed to the application. The application to associate can be assigned in the via the option list accessed from right click as well.

There is a short coming of locking a profile is that you can only have one profile locked at one time, meaning that you will not be able to switch to a different profile automatically once the lock profile is active.  To deactivate the lock profile, simply right click on the profile and select the Lock Profile option and it will be deactivated.




Bringing the daily usage test to the desk (Video)

Video of K95 media keys being tested:

The video above shows the media keys of K95 being tested in real life experience. All of the media keys are well placed in a concentrated area where it can be access easily.


Video on programming the LED for macro profiles of the K95:

The video above shows how to set customized LED illumination for each macro profiles M1, M2 and M3 for the K95.


Video on activating the reactive typing mode on the K95:

The video above shows how does the reactive typing mode on the K95 looks like and how to enable it.

Video of K70 with its media keys tested, along with programming the LED profile:

The video above shows the media keys of K70 being tested along with programming the LED illumination.


Video on activating the reactive typing mode on the K70:


The video above shows how does the reactive typing mode looks like on the K70 and how to enable it.


Video of K65 has its media key tested:

The video above shows the media key of the K65 being tested.



Key Rollover Test (KRO)

Corsair claimed that all the K65, K70 and K95 comes with full USB NKRO enabled. KRO is the abbreviation for 'Key Roll Over', which means the ability for a keyboard to handle multiple key being registered simultaneously. NKRO, also known as n-key rollover is a term used in which a keyboard is able to handle n-key (any amount of key registered) without any blocking (frequently known as ghosting) to occur.

In this section of our review, we will be using a tool known as the Aqua's Keytest, which can be obtained from This Link. This tool basically shows the current keys being registered in darkened grey, a frequently used tool to test the KRO capability of a keyboard.

The screenshots below is the test result of the KRO test where all keyboard is connected via USB port, each of the screenshot comes with a caption:

K65 Key Rollover Test Result

K70 Key Rollover Test Result 

K95 Key Rollover Test Result


From the result above, we can clearly see that all of the keyboard tested is truly capable for NKRO. Being one of the top tier mechanical keyboard, Filco's NKRO can only be achieved under PS/2 connector. The same goes to Steelseries, Leopold, Cherry, etc. This gives additional points to Corsair, as not many brand of mechanical keyboard is capable for NKRO under USB connector. 


Quick test of gaming


For the gaming test, there's not much games that is able to show the effect of quick response of a keyboard affecting its gameplay. In this section, we will be using the old school Street Fighter 2 to test. The reason for us to choose Street Fighter for this review is due to the fact that, a slow response keyboard will definitely compromise your chance to achieve victory in this game.




After going on for a few rounds with each of the keyboard, we're satisfied with the responsiveness of all the keyboard tested, all skills can be unleashed effectively without any delay. With either one of K65, K70 or K95 equipped, you are assured to have the fastest response for each key pressed - no compromised gaming experience.


Final thoughts

To sum it all up, each of the keyboard has its own unique features, being one of a kind in the Vengeance Series. There are benefits and short comings which we would like to point out for each of the keyboard:



K65
Pros: 
- Detachable USB cable for ease of storage
- Colored USB connector for ease of identifying your keyboard USB cable
- All media keys are located in the same area which can be accessed easily
- Windows key lock to prevent start menu from popping out, destroying pleasant gaming experience
- High quality braided USB cables
- Brushed Aluminum Plate as enclosure, additional point to appearance
- Easy to access keyboard feet
- Switch to change USB polling rate and mode for motherboard compatibility  
- Fast and responsive 
- Easy accessible media keys

Cons:
- No key cap remover included
- More prone to dust build up
- The rubber feet is somewhat too small, it'll wear out in a short time if not well taken care of
- Uses cheapest printing method for key cap, wasn't expecting this from Corsair
- Less protected design of the packaging makes us wonder...



The K65 is a pretty solid keyboard according to our test, but due to the fatal short coming especially on the key cap printing - being one of the essential part of a mechanical keyboard, the highest award we could give is the bronze award and recommended award. 









K70

Pros: 
- Attractive illuminated individual keys
- Programmable LED profile
- Colored USB connector for ease of identifying your keyboard USB cable
- All media keys are located in the same area which can be accessed easily
- Windows key lock to prevent start menu from popping out, destroying pleasant gaming experience
- High quality braided USB cables
- Brushed Aluminum Plate as enclosure, additional point to appearance
- Easy to access keyboard feet
- Switch to change USB polling rate and mode for motherboard compatibility  
- Fast and responsive 
- Included Palm rest to help reduce fatigue due to improper posture
- Additonal key caps for FPS gaming cluster is included, along with a ring type key puller
- Cool reactive typing mode featuring LED lighting up upon key down and goes of after few second
- Adjustable LED brightness, 3 level
- Much protection could be seen from the packaging, not much to worry about


Cons:
- More prone to dust build up
- The rubber feet is somewhat too small, it'll wear out in a short time if not well taken care of
- Only comes with 1 x USB pass through, won't be sufficient enough 
-  Ring type key puller is something which is best to avoid
- Rubberized surface on the palm rest will not last long due to our weather and air humidity at M'sia



The K70 offers much favorable features such as illuminated individual keys, high quality braided cables, additional accessories which you could expect for what you are paying for. Although there's short comings such as insufficient USB ports, dust build up issue and other which holds us back from going further, we're pleased to announce that the K70 deserves a silver award and recommended award for the rich features offered despite of the short comings. 






K95
Pros: 
- Macro keys for easy access to programs, actions

- Attractive illuminated individual keys
- Programmable LED profile
- Well designed software for macro key recording, profile loaded according to associated program
- Colored USB connector for ease of identifying your keyboard USB cable
- All media keys are located in the same area which can be accessed easily
- Windows key lock to prevent start menu from popping out, destroying pleasant gaming experience
- High quality braided USB cables
- Brushed Aluminum Plate as enclosure, additional point to appearance
- Easy to access keyboard feet
- Switch to change USB polling rate and mode for motherboard compatibility  
- Fast and responsive 
- On board memory to store up to 6 profiles of your choice
- Included Palm rest to help reduce fatigue due to improper posture
- Cool reactive typing mode featuring LED lighting up upon key down and goes of after few second
- Adjustable LED brightness, 3 level
- Much protection could be seen from the packaging, not much to worry about


Cons:
- More prone to dust build up
- The rubber feet is somewhat too small, it'll wear out in a short time if not well taken care of
- Only comes with 1 x USB pass through, won't be sufficient enough 
- No audio jacks... and this is the highest end Corsair Vengeance Series gaming keyboard
- No key cap remover and the interchangeable key cap included, while the K70 which cost less h
- Rubberized surface on the palm rest will not last long due to our weather and air humidity at M'sia





The K95 offers great macro key features which goes very well with the software from Corsair, individually illuminated LED, onboard memory and more, but being an expensive keyboard and the highest end of Corsair Vengeance Series gaming keyboard... no interchangeable key caps, not audio jacks, only 1 x USB pass through. The highest award we could give for the K95 will be a silver award and recommended award. 

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