Apr 18, 2012
We’ve already reviewed Corsair’s smaller Cherry MX Red mechanical switch keyboard, the Vengeance K60, receiving our seal of recommendation. The big question about the K90 prior to us getting our hands on it was quite simply: could it be better? Before we answer that, if you’re after an explanation of how a mechanical keyboard differs from a rubber dome keyboard, read our “mechanical vs rubber dome” article.
The Corsair Vengeance K90 measures up at a lengthy 50cm in width to make room for its “G-keys”, compared to the 43 approximate centimeters width of many other keyboards, the K60 inclusive. I mention this because I imagine that laying down half a metre of aluminum may impose on your gaming space, although I didn’t personally encounter any inconvenience with my arrangement here.
Because of the extra width and additional buttons it’s also heavier the K60, in fact it begins to encroach on the hefty territory of the Mionix Zibal 60 and Tt eSPORTS MEKA G1 we have also reviewed. While not quite as heavy as those, it’s undoubtedly a sturdy board that sits tight on my desk. For firmness of placement reasons alone, I would say that the extra weight is a positive characteristic rather than negative one.
The aluminium plate covering the top of the chassis and accompanying trayless design is no less attractive than as seen on the K90′s little brother, making for particularly easily cleaning. If you like making an impression with your hardware and peripherals, this will certainly do the trick.
If that brushed metal look wasn’t impressive enough, unlike it’s little brother these keys are back-lit. You can’t change the colour from the radiant blue seen in the gallery photos, but you can change the strength through three levels of brightness. Having illuminated keys is a big plus for me, not only because it looks good, but because I’m often playing in low light situations.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the responsiveness of Cherry MX Red switches.”
Another difference separating the K90 from the K60 is the soft-touch black key caps, as opposed to a typical plastic finish. There may be people out there that don’t like this soft-touch feel, but I certainly haven’t met any yet.
The K90 is technically an “MMO” focused product, where as the K60 was “FPS” focused, but even knowing this I was disheartened to find a lack of WASD key cap replacements in the box. Despite their gimmicky appearance, the red textured WASD caps that came along with the K60 were something that surprised me as something I really quite liked.
Onto the the very soul of this board, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the responsiveness of Cherry MX Red switches. The super-light 45g of actuation force takes some getting used to however, especially moving from Cherry MX Black switches at 60g or rubber domes which require even more force.
After a period of adapting to the sensitivity I’ve found myself typing faster than ever before and cherishing the ease of keystroke. Comparing these to black switches, it’s as if I can simply touch a key to register a press rather than feel as though I have to hold it down. The linear press path means there’s no “break-through” point during keystroke either, which is a characteristic I also like. Weight and press path preference is is ultimately a personal one, but the more I use Cherry MX Red switches, the more I become sure that they are indeed my preference.
Unfortunately, not all of the keys feel the same as each other, nor as good as each other. While most of the important keys are a dream to use, the function key and G-keys are all rubber dome. This didn’t impede my use of the board given I use those keys so infrequently, but on a matter of principle I wish Corsair had ensured consistency across the entire keyboard.
Unlike the K60 though, the matter does go beyond principle in this case. Once I was used to pressing a key with a certain amount of force for activation, I then found myself pressing a G-key only to have nothing happen – I hadn’t pressed it hard enough. Due to the pronounced difference in pressure requirements, if hitting a G-key is a matter of of life and death in your game of choice, this pressure difference has the potential to cause some grief.
On the topic of key presses and of particular use to gamers, MMO player more so, is the 20 key roll-over feature, otherwise known as 20KRO. It’s a common misconception that pressing more than 6 keys at once on a USB keyboard is the maximum possible due to bus technology, however Corsair makes use of the full USB specification report length, meaning it’s now possible to press up to 20 simultaneously and have them all register.
Like the K60 this board features dedicated media controls. Top right is a volume scroller and near by are buttons to stop, pause and skip through your media. The beauty here is that because they’re dedicated, whether you use them or not, your left Windows key remains intact and has not been replaced with a key to toggle F1-F7 like many others. If however you didn’t want that Windows key anyway, you can disable it using the Corsair Vengeance K90′s physical button to lock it, which the Corsair K60 also featured.
The G-keys previously mentioned are supported by software to easily manage the 54 programmable functions across 3 banks. These 3 banks have 3 physical keys: M1, M2 and M3, which toggle the programmed function of all 18 G-keys. A fantastic value add is the K90′s 36kb of memory for your macros, so you can take the board anywhere and plug it into any machine with the assurance they’ll still all work without drivers or software.
Because I have no intention of actually using these keys however, one feature stood out above all others: they’re set in place lower than the rest of the keyboard keys. This means unlike competitor products such as Logitech’s range of gamer keyboards, accidentally hitting them is far less likely. So unlikely that I’m yet to do it. From my perspective it’s a very clever design decision, although I do wonder if their placement will actually make it harder for someone who intends on using them regularly to do so.
So, have we answered our question of whether the K90 is Corsair’s superior keyboard offering? Without a doubt. Despite the larger size, the backlit soft-touch keys are enough of a benefit over the already excellent K90 to demand Pantheon’s Editor’s Choice award. Beyond that are the addition of 18 sunken G-keys which should close to eliminate miss-strikes of them.
My only real criticism is that Corsair could have easily crafted one board to rule them all, instead of these two separate FPS and MMO targetted products. If the K90 had all mechanical keys, the option to physically unmount the G-keys and came with textured key cap replacements for WASD, there would be no reason for the K60 at all. I dare say that this imaginary keyboard would have received our allusive “Flawless” award. Until then, a gamer can dream…
Supplied by: Mwave.com.au