Corsair, a well known premium PC hardware brand, are one of many who have a strong offering of keyboards and other gaming peripherals. We have taken a look at many of their products in the past, nearly all of which ended up with an award due to the decent performance and quality the item offered. Today I am taking a look at the STRAFE RGB Mechanical keyboard with the new Cherry silent switches, so I have high hopes that this lives up to the Corsair reputation – especially considering that I evaluated the Corsair STRAFE mechanical keyboard not too long ago, of which set the premise for the STRAFE RGB, so it would be great to see Corsair improving an already decent keyboard.
The Corsair STRAFE RGB Silent is the latest keyboard from Corsair that includes features from the incredibly beneficial partnership with Cherry, that grants them exclusivity to new hardware such as RGB mechanical switches and again with the new “Silent” RGB switches, which are present in the STRAFE RGB. Whilst the STRAFE RGB does have other versions with the more standard Cherry MX RGB switches (such as Brown, Red etc…), the silent version is the switch of choice with this review, so before I crack on, let’s just take a look at what makes the “silent” MX RGB switch different from the others: check out the video below.
As you can see the slight difference consists of a different material for the base of the switch which acts as a noise dampener. This silent switch is based on the MX red version, so retains a 45cN actuation force and linear motion.
The STRAFE RGB specs are as follows:
- Warranty: Two years
- Weight: 1KG
- Key Switches: Cherry® MX Silent Mechanical, MX Red, Brown, Blue
- Keyboard Backlighting: RGB LED
- Dimensions: 448mm x 170mm x 40mm
- Macro Keys: All Keys
- Report Rate: Selectable 8ms, 4ms, 2ms, 1ms and BIOS mode
- Matrix: 100% anti-ghosting and 104 Key Rollover
- Keyboard Size: Standard
- On-board Memory: Yes
- Media Keys: FN key multimedia keys
- CUE Software: Enabled
- Cable Type: Tangle free rubber
- WIN Lock: Yes
Let’s take a look at the STRAFE RGB
Packaging & Closer Look
Corsair have opted for a yellow and black colour scheme for their “Gaming” range so they have made good use of it on their packaging. The box is relatively simple with the usual feature highlights and graphic of the keyboard.
The Corsair STRAFE RGB is relatively simple in terms of design. It is made from a sturdy black plastic shell, with a groove running across the top row of keys. It features a ridged plastic USB cable, with two male USB connectors on the end. One of these supplies additional power if the keyboard cannot get enough for the LEDs. The other cable is to use the keyboard with the PC and must always be connected.
Along the top edge, you have the usual three LEDs to indicate the Numlock, Scroll lock and Caps lock status. To the right of these are two additional buttons to control the four brightness levels and a win lock key to stop you from accidentally pressing the Windows key when gaming. Just below these is the Corsair logotype – a little odd it’s not next to the sails logo, but it fills the blank space nicely.Along the top row of key caps are the additional function keys, which control volume and media playback. When pressed in conjunction with Fn key on the bottom row, they will operate. Unlike many other keyboards you can actually use these with one hand, although if the STRAFE had dedicated media keys that would have been even better.
As seen on other Corsair keyboards, the STRAFE RGB has a non-standard bottom row, making it slightly more difficult to find custom key caps for it (although not impossible). In the right in the image below, you can see the textured spacebar, which whilst it feels nice under the thumb, it may not be for everyone.
The underside is relatively plain, although it’s always good to see feet that open out sideways.Supplied with the STRAFE is a textured clip-in wrist rest for those who prefer having additional support.
The STRAFE RGB Silent features the latest Cherry MX Silent switches. These have a clear housing, coupled with a slightly pink stem, indicating they have a similar linear motion to MX reds. As mentioned previously, the bottom half of the housing is made from a noise reducing material to help dampen the bottoming out noise. The white plate is made from steel, providing the STRAFE with a solid and robust feel. The white colour helps with the RGB backlighting.Most of the latest Corsair peripherals tie in with the “Corsair Unity Engine (CUE)”, which provides a wealth of customisation – let’s take a look.
The Corsair Unity Engine (CUE) is a relatively new application that Corsair provide with their peripherals, that automatically supplies you with the latest firmware, programmable profiles, key assignments and a plethora of lighting options.
The Settings tab enables you to add media program support, check for the latest firmware and enable various advanced features.
The profiles tab is the probably the most important one, as this is the location where you can customise button assignments, the lighting and performance options. Profiles can also be imported and exported from this tab, making it ideal to share with your friends and others. Most of it is as simple as select key, then select assignment or colour. There are many built in lighting options such as rainbow spiral or wave. The performance tab is relatively simple compared to the others. It enables you to disable various functions such as Alt + Tab.
The actions tab is where all of your macros and button assignments are stored. These can be exported/imported allowing you to share with others.The lighting tab is very similar to the actions tab, allowing you to fine tune the lighting profile and import/export them. If you really want to customise the lighting patterns, this is the place to do it.
Performance and Testing
As with all of my keyboard reviews, I believe in thorough real world testing to really find the kinks and quirks with the product. This entails putting the keyboard through it’s paces through several different real world scenarios such as typing (like I am for this review), gaming and general internet browsing – the three most important areas 99% of us would use the keyboard for.
The Corsair STRAFE is no longer a plug and play keyboard – well it is, but if you want to use all of the features you must set it up first. To do this it is important to have both of the USB cables connected: The original K70 RGB keyboard had a switch that enabled you to flick between the BIOS mode and other polling rates, however this is no longer the case as the keyboard does work out of the box, but only with a built in lighting mode and no options to record macros etc on the fly. The CUE software must be downloaded which instantly checks for the latest firmware if it is available:
Whilst it might be quite time consuming to configure your key bindings and lighting options, once setup, you don’t need to worry. It can be as complicated as you want, but using the Corsair forums, you can easily find many ready-made lighting/button profiles. After a few minutes and playing around with the in built profiles, I had it looking like this:
Jumping head-first into gaming, I put the STRAFE RGB through its paces with both Star Wars: Battlefront and CS:GO, both require agility and quick reactions – both of which the STRAFE provided with it’s 1ms response time, NKRO and short actuation movement. The additional FPS key caps helped with quickly locating the WASD keys – ideal.
RTS was a similar to FPS, however I spent a bit more time configuring button assignments to really help speed up issuing commands (and taunts). Whilst I would prefer to have dedicated macro keys, that would also require a larger keyboard footprint, so I just assigned them to the numpad for quick access.
As with FPS and RTS, MMO/MOBA I found no different. I did find the wrist rest provide that little extra comfort for those longer raids/sessions and the additional macros also helped speed things up.
For day-to-day activities, such as web browsing, instant messaging etc, the STRAFE RGB Silent was incredibly nice to use, however the “dampened” switches did feel odd and make it slightly tiring to use when doing a lot of typing – however this could strictly be subjective as typically I am used to using MX brown switches. Media playback was easy, although requires a bit more effort as the Fn button has to be pressed in conjunction with the correct function key – dedicated would have been much better, although perhaps this is crossing into the Kxx series’s territory.
Keyboards are pretty much a fact of life when it comes to PCs: without one, you wouldn’t be able to play most games, easily message your friends or type reviews such as this. They have become very personal: you feel uncomfortable when you use someone else’s – it doesn’t feel quite right, it looks different and doesn’t deliver a nice typing experience. Consequently, many of us have heavily personalised our keyboards; whether it is to optimise gaming performance, adjust the visual appearance to suit your personal preference and/or to enhance you typing ability. Corsair are one of the first companies to let you change nearly all of the “soft” features, such as the individual backlit keys, button assignments and even a few of the keys caps.
Annoyingly, Corsair have stuck with a non-standard bottom row, which does mean finding the right third-party key caps difficult, albeit not impossible, however as a big fan of swapping out key caps, I was disappointed to see this still hasn’t been changed. That said, it is great to see Corsair including additional sculpted key caps to aid in FPS and MOBA games and the textured space bar is a nice touch, although an additional blank one would have been an added bonus.
The STRAFE RGB is a great improvement over the basic STRAFE we took a look at several months ago. Whilst not much has changed in terms of looks, it does now have much quieter key presses, ideal for those living/working/gaming in close proximity of others. The RGB backlighting could be considered by many as a gimmick, but it does look great and allows an additional level of customisability – ideal for making the keyboard “yours” and the fact you can create and share lighting/key assignments with others is a fantastic feature. In fact the whole CUE software is a powerful means to customising the keyboard and other peripherals – so much so you can actually combine lighting effects with Corsair mice/headsets. To add a cherry on top, the profiles can be stored in the keyboard, meaning you don’t have to install the software on each machine used and import your profiles.
At a low of £130 (£150 for MX blue switches most likely due to high demand), the STRAFE RGB is positioned as direct competition to many of the top end keyboards such as the Ducky Shine range and CM Storm keyboards, however it is a first to feature the MX Silent switches AND RGB backlighting making it truly desirable to many. Combined with sleek looks and powerful software the STRAFE RGB really does stand out from the competition making it ideal not just for gamers, of which it is aimed, but also those who care about aesthetics and customisability. I’m finding it difficult to really fault the keyboard as whilst it does have it’s little niggles, it does tick pretty much every box and for those it doesn’t, you can spend a little extra time customising the software so that it does. Sure £130+ is a little steep for some, but if you want a top of the line keyboard, with looks to match, then you would be silly to not consider the STRAFE RGB. Watch out Ducky, CM Storm and others!
The original STRAFE was fairly average in terms of looks and features and was very similar to many other keyboards that had been out longer, but with the STRAFE RGB Silent, Corsair have taken in feedback and have really created an admirable keyboard that would look at home on anyone’s desk. So, for all of these reasons, I am incredibly happy to award the Corsair STRAFE RGB Silent with our most prestigious awards:
- Highly customisable
- Individual backlighting
- Relatively quiet switch actuation
- Feature rich
- Powerful software
- Great design
- Good build quality
- Non-standard bottom row
- No dedicated media keys
- Relatively expensive
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