It’s been awhile since I have had the opportunity to review a keyboard; with Christmas, the New Year and the birth of my son, it has been incredibly hectic (plus trying to keep the server alive, whilst Gav breaks it), so you can imagine the excitement I felt when Corsair’s newest flagship mechanical keyboard arrived at my office. However, before I delve into the review, it’s important that I briefly cover what makes a mechanical keyboard so great:
The biggest and most crucial different is the switch type: the most common – rubber dome, have a squishy rubber membrane that when it makes contact with the circuit board, it registers the keystroke, whereas a mechanical keyboard has individual switches, which contain durable moving parts that when pressed, create a contact between two points, thus registering the keystroke. These types of switches have different types of movement, some linear, some tactile, but all are incredibly durable and superior to type on (OK, that last part is subjective, but once you go mechanical, you’ll never go back!). Due to the design of mechanical switches, they allow for aftermarket key caps and even modifications (such as replacing the small springs in each switch for one that is less/more “springy”). As the internals are easily customisable, companies have been known to produce their own parts (or gain exclusivity from the manufacturers such as Cherry), which reduce the travel required for the actuation point, thus improving response time, or allow for RGB LEDs: in fact, both of these mentioned modifications Corsair have implemented in the keyboard I am actually looking at in this review.
Dubbed the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum, it is a premium performance keyboard, packed to the brim with features. Of course, it contains the latest Cherry RGB mechanical switches, of which are available in several flavours including the Corsair-exclusive MX Speed switches and standard MX Brown. The keyboard has so many features, it’s going to take quite a while going through them all, but you’ll be able to get the gist of them from checking out the full feature list and spec below:
- Aircraft-grade anodized brushed aluminum frame: Built to withstand a lifetime of gaming. Lightweight and rugged durability, necessary for a keyboard that’s going to see a lot of action.
- 8MB profile storage with hardware macro and lighting playback: Allow access up to three stored profiles on the go, independent of external software.
- Dynamic multi-color per-key backlighting with LightEdge: Adjust each key’s color and illumination level in addition to 19-zones on the top edge light bar for sophisticated and dramatic animations and effects.
- 100% CHERRY MX Speed RGB mechanical key switches: Unleash blistering speed with the 1.2mm actuation and durability of gold contact CHERRY MX mechanical key switches.
- 6 programmable G-keys keys for in-game macros: Assign single keystrokes or complex multi-key combos to any of the 6 dedicated macro keys.
- USB Pass-Through Port: Provides convenient access to an additional USB port for your mouse or headset.
- Detachable, dual-sided soft-touch wrist rest: The comfort to enhance your gameplay during marathon gaming sessions. Choose between two different surfaces for optimal comfort.
- Dedicated volume and multimedia controls: Control to adjust audio on-the-fly, without interrupting your game.
- 100% anti-ghosting with full key rollover: No matter how fast your in-game actions are, every keypress registers correctly.
- Fully programmable with CUE: Intuitive and powerful Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) enables sophisticated macro programming and fast, fluid dynamic multi-color illumination.
- Windows Key lock mode: Stay focused and prevent accidental Windows and Context Menu key presses.
- FPS and MOBA keycap sets: Textured and contoured keycaps provide maximum grip and enhanced feel.
- Key Switches:
- Cherry MX Speed RGB, mechanical, 45g actuation force, 1.2mm actuation distance.
- Cherry MX RGB Brown, mechanical, 45g actuation force, 2.0mm actuation distance.
- Guaranteed durability for >50M keystrokes, gold cross-point contacts
- Backlighting: Individually lit keys and per key programmable; 19-zone fully programmable LightEdge
- Chassis Color: Black (Worldwide) or Gunmetal (North America only at launch)
- LED Color: RGB
- USB Pass-through: Yes
- Macro Keys: Yes, 6
- Matrix: 100% anti-ghosting with full key rollover on USB
- Onboard Storage: Yes, 3 profiles, fully customizable with actions and dynamic lighting effects
- Media keys: Six dedicated multimedia keys, incl. Volume Up/Down roller
- Windows Lock: key Yes
- Wrist rest: Full length detachable, dual-sided, with soft touch finish
- CUE (Software): Enabled
- Cable: Braided Fiber
- Dimensions: 465(L) x 171(W) x 36(H) mm / 18.3”(L) x 6.7”(W) x 1.40”(H)
- Weight: 1.31 kg / 2.88 lbs.
- Warranty: Two years
- MSRP: $199.99 / £189.99
In the past, I have taken a look at several of Corsair’s performance keyboards: K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE, STRAFE RGB Silent and some of their predecessors, all of which have shared common aspects, such as the industrial design, switch types and software, so I again expect a lot of similarities, but I will also be keeping an eye out for anything new or different. The mechanical keyboard market is a saturated one at that, so innovation tends to be quite uncommon – although Corsair is known for their “firsts” such as RGB and performance switches.
Corsair has one single piece of software that enables configuration and firmware updates across nearly all of their peripherals. Adequately name Corsair Utility Engine, it is by far the most comprehensive program when it comes to features and customisation options. Having experienced it numerous times in the past, again it will be interesting to see how it integrates and what features it will enable with the K95 RGB Platinum. Before I go into too much detail however, let’s have a look at the keyboard in today’s spotlight.
As with most of the Corsair keyboards I have taken a look at, the K95 Platinum comes in a sleek black and yellow box, with a UV spot (glossy) graphic of the keyboard on the front. The rear has a highlight of the different features in various translations. I’m not a fan of unboxings, so let’s jump straight to the contents.
Taking a first look a the keyboard, you can see it is quite large – it has a total of 119 keys (including media and macro), so not only is the keyboard wider, but also taller to accommodate the lighting controls and volume wheel – as per most of the Kxx series keyboards. Overall, it’s not massively different visually to the other keyboards, although it does have a refined feel compared to the other Corsair keyboards I’ve seen in the past. It is a shame however, to see that Corsair has still kept the non-standard bottom row, meaning it’s more difficult to find 3rd party key caps to fit.
One of the main features of what makes the K95 Platinum so special, is the inclusion of six additional programmable keys along the left edge. Using the Corsair Utility Engine these can be customised to pretty much whatever you want.
Along the top edge, you have the familiar lighting controls and volume wheel – which has the media controls just below. Interestingly, these are now proper clicky buttons, although not mechanical. They have their own profile and feel, placing them discretely out of the way of the main keyboard operation, but still easy to locate and of course, one press only. I’m not a fan of having to press multiple keys together to control media playback.
Flipping the keyboard over, Corsair has the typical standoffs on each side along the back, but also have decided to include an oddly designed channel to aid cable management. I’m not quite sure how useful this would be, as the exits to the channels are in odd locations.
The keyboard requires two USB 2.0 plugs to power the LEDs and for general connectivity. You can get away with just using one if you plug the main one into a USB 3.0 port. The cable itself is braided but quite rigid and thick to account for the additional cable running through it.
Another feature that could be quite appealing to gamers and those wanting faster key press actuation is the inclusion of Corsair’s exclusive “silver” switches, which have a much smaller actuation point of just 1.2mm instead of the most common 2mm. Whilst this doesn’t seem like a lot, it could be crucial for gamers who play competitively.
As observed in the photo above, the keyboard also contains a full complement of RGB backlighting on a per-key basis, which can be customised across the board – even the media and lighting control keys. The keyboard also has a lighting strip across the top edge, which throws the lighting against anything it is up against.
Whilst the keyboard does have a few built-in lighting modes and brightness controls, to get the most out of the keyboard you need to use the Corsair Utility Engine program. This is downloadable from Corsair’s support section of their website. Once installed, it enables you to change a wide range of settings across any of your CUE enabled Corsair peripherals – mice, headsets and even a mouse pad!
When you first run the CUE software, it may ask for an update. It will also notify you of any firmware updates for your peripherals, which are listed across the top. The first tab along the left enables you to customise any key on the keyboard – most importantly those currently unused macro keys. I often assign a button to my email address at work, as I’m forever having to type it out and it makes life so much easier! There is a wide range of options available – too much to cover in this review.
The next tab is where you can customise the lighting of the K95 Platinum keyboard. You can choose from a range of effects or create your own – the possibilities are endless! Corsair even has a feature to link all of your Corsair peripherals so your lighting scheme can flow across all of the devices. I went quite boring and created a purple to pink pulse to match my desktop wallpaper.
You can assign any settings to a number of profiles, which can all be stored on your keyboard’s memory – ideal if you want to take them to LANs and show off your lighting effects. As far as peripheral software goes, CUE is by far the most comprehensive and feature rich – it totally opens up possibilities with your keyboard.
Performance and Testing
As with all the mechanical keyboards that come my way, it is important to test them in real world settings, such as general use (word processing, browsing the internet) and gaming – particularly if the keyboard is gamer-orientated. I could get all empirical with the testing as the harder-core keyboard enthusiasts want numbers, but at the end of the day, it’s all about how it performs in the real world. So jumping into the testing, gaming is up first. For this setting, it’s important to play a number of different genre games, to see where the keyboard finds its place and where it falls over. As this is Corsair’s flagship keyboard, I’m going in with high expectations.
First up, my favourite genre, FPS. For this I opted to play Battlefield 1 and the popular CS: GO – a more competitive setting. As with the Corsair K70 RAPIDFIRE, the keypresses were smooth (due to the linear movement) and I’ll have to admit, faster. Normally such a small change in travel distance to the actuation point is negligible, but everything felt quicker and more responsive, especially in CS: GO, where rapid reactions are crucial. After a dozen matches, I definitely felt like the keyboard was performing as promised. Not much use for the macro keys here, however, it was fun to bind various taunts to them, so I could spam my opponents. When mashing a lot of keys together you can often experience ghosting – some keys don’t register fully: not with this keyboard, full NKRO means you will not experience any issues, no matter how many keys are pressed.
Real Time Strategy is where the keyboard should come into its own. Macro keys are well suited for this genre, as often keyboard commands can be complex – such as creating build queues or selecting various unit groups. A favourite choice of mine is Supreme Commander 2 as this can be incredibly competitive and actually very difficult to manage on a large scale across numerous planets. Binding a few keys to build certain units and issue commands came in handy and did reduce the amount of effort required.
MOBA is a popular genre and one of my favourite time-sinks. Weapon of choice is DOTA2 in this review: as you can imagine, being able to build items and have them delivered via courier was a doddle with the macro keys enabling me to quickly complete my favourite build. I could also issue orders and warnings at a quick press of the macro button (plus the taunts of course). I didn’t notice as much of an increase in reaction times in this genre, but the extra keys were a great addition.
Typing, whether you are writing up a piece of homework, chatting with your online friends or searching for something on the web, is something that must effortless and comfortable. If there is anything else that can make your life easier, then this is a bonus. Writing reviews, such as this, it is important that the keyboard is easy to use and nice to type on. Some mechanical switches make this easier, some less so. As the MX speed switches are based on the linear red kind, the force required is just 45g, making typing less straining. Of course, this is subjective, some people may have heavier hands and want the increased force required. I must say I personally prefer the tactile click found on MX blues or browns, but regardless, typing on the MX speed switches is pleasant. It took a little while to get used to the additional keys on the left edge, as by default I position my pinky finger on the Ctrl, or in this case the G6 macro key, meaning my alignment was off. Once I got past that, typing was a breeze and made writing this review a pleasant experience. The additional of dedicated media keys was also pleasing and the volume wheel is a joy to use: not too loose, not too stiff.
The macro keys were useful for opening various programs and of course, the best time saver – one press email addresses, Ideal! I also bound a few to open popular programs I use.
I’m often hearing people say “you need the right tool for the job” and when it comes to gaming and typing, I wholeheartedly agree. A keyboard is our way of communicating with the virtual world and playing games so it’s crucial that you have the best keyboard for you. Whilst they can be highly subjective, I’ve always been of the opinions “Once you clack, you’ll never go back” and I haven’t!
As with the K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE keyboard I reviewed in the past, the K95 Platinum performed admirably across the board in both gaming and general use. Whilst subtle, the difference in the actuation points is noticeable, especially if you switch from MX Red to MX Speed. The Corsair Utility Engine is a powerful piece of software, which enables you to do pretty much anything in terms of button mapping and macros – saving both time and effort when gaming or typing. The additional keys when mapped, were a great addition, although getting used to them being placed down the left edge takes a little getting used to!
Some say that the Corsair design is like marmite: you either love it or hate it, however I’m quite partial to the almost industrial design and sleek brushed metal body. Sure it is plastered with LEDs, which could be a little excessive, it does allow that extra level of customisablility. The dedicated media keys is always a plus and the macro keys are perfect if you are looking to extend the functionality and possibilities of your keyboard. My only major gripe with the design is that Corsair has still not changed the design of the bottom row! This means that it is harder to get custom key caps to fit. The cable routing channels on the base are a little odd in terms of placement, however the adjustable wrist rest is a nice touch – particularly for those who game for many hours to slog away typing up reviews.
Well… I think we all know what is coming: at £199 (At the time of review), the K95 Platinum is not cheap, although it’s not the most expensive I’ve come across. For the money, you are getting a lot of keyboard – extra keys, full individual key backlighting that can be customised, performance MX switches and of course, the powerful CUE software. Mechanical keyboards are known for being on the more pricey side of the peripheral market, however in this case, I believe the price to be pretty reasonable considering you are getting one of the most feature rich keyboards going!
Throughout this review I’ve really enjoyed using the Corsair K95 RGBPlatinum mechanical keyboard. For its flagship status, you really are getting a beast of a keyboard, which is highly customisable and incredibly rich in features. Sure it may cost big pounds, but it will be one keyboard that will not only put you on the leading edge but will also fare through the many years of abuse it’ll no doubt get. Not quite a platinum award for the K95 RGB Platinum keyboard, but close enough!
As always, shout out to Corsair for sending this one in.
- Feature rich
- Contemporary design
- Full RGB backlighting
- Adjustable wristrest
- Powerful software
- Additional macro keys
- Dedicated media keys
- Little pricey
- Still has a non-standard bottom row
- Cable is very thick and rigid