Intro and Design
When Corsair does gaming they do not hold back, especially when it comes to making flashy gear that just looks so damn good together. Corsair's synchronizes their newest peripherals combining using the same software to run their latest offering of the RGB Strafe Keyboard, Scimitar Mouse, and Void Headset.
The inner nerd in me must've wept a little bit as I plugged everything in and prepared to get the full Corsair experience. We had a chance to review the Void headset last week so we were certainly excited to get our hands on Corsair's new RGB Strafe Mechanical Keyboard.
I'm sure at this point if you use computers to any extent at all you will have heard about how mechanical keyboards change your life and may make you feel like you are typing into the command console of a futuristic war machine. But in case you haven't, the Keyboard Company has an excellent breakdown of the differences between each mechanical key switch that you can check out.
The Corsair RGB Strafe that I'm reviewing uses the Cherry MX Red Switches but Corsair also has a configuration for Brown Switches.
Specs and Features
So some of you may wonder, what makes Corsair's mechanical keyboard oh so different then all the other mechanical keyboards out there? For starters, the Strafe offers full multi-color dynamic back lighting. This means this keyboard can be customized to 16.8 million colors. That sounds pretty sweet, but then Corsair ups the ante by allowing the colors to be dynamically changed based on key presses, timing variations, or just reacting to your music on your computer. Want to customize it to that new sweet Korean MMO that you're Alpha testing? You can change it. Want to see sweet light saber colors to show off your inner Jedi? Someone's already made the customization that you can download. Want to just be sporadic and have a Hello Kitty/Power Rangers mash up? Be free to customize my friend. Corsair's user interface made it simple to select each key and bedazzle it to my heart's content.
Next thing to note is that this is a full size standard keyboard, and while the movement to have a more minimized keyboard is still relatively niche, it is still something important to note for users that enjoy the US standard set up. The other feature that is noticeably missing from this keyboard as opposed to other gaming ones is that it does not have any dedicated keys for Macros. This can be argued to be a good or bad thing depending on the user. I personally prefer a keyboard with no macros but users who play MMO's or prefer the conveniences of macro keys may be slightly let down.
However, the Strafe does come with full media controls built in, which is one of those small things that you don't truly appreciate until it's gone. I own a customized WASD keyboard and my biggest regret is that I felt I overpaid on a keyboard that only allowed me to type, whereas the cost of the Strafe was cheaper and had significantly more features than my custom one. Another pretty awesome feature is if you own the RGB Scimitar Mouse you can set up Synchronized Lighting so your gaming station can look like a sweet explosion of colors.
The keyboard and the keys themselves have a nice matte finish that keeps the fingerprint smudges from pressing on them too much, and Corsair also packs in custom keycaps for MOBA and MMO gamers.
What I like
Before I begin, I want to emphasize that I spend a lot of time typing. In between my 9-5 job and my hours spent after work writing articles and playing games, I easily put in 40-60 hours of keyboard abuse. In other words I like my keyboards to be comfortable and reliable. I also own two other mechanical keyboards with Cherry Brown and Blue configurations. Given that fact, I absolutely fell in love with the Cherry Red switches. I had grown accustomed to feeling the bump in the middle of the both the Blues and Browns so switching to a smooth linear switch felt foreign at first. After spending 10 minutes on it I began to notice that I was floating across the keyboard as the Cherry Reds made everything effortless. The best part was my other keyboards consistently had noise complaints from my co-workers, and the Cherry Reds have a distinctive feature of being more silent on their own without any noise dampeners.
The build quality of the keyboard was excellent as well as there is a very sturdy base to house the keyboards electronics inside as well as the processor that controls the dynamic lighting. I was hacking away at night when I was gaming and not once did I feel like the keyboard wasn't able to handle my panicked button smashes. The 104 key rollover was also a nice feature as some MMO and MOBA players may know that pressing multiple keys at a time is a very common occurrence and having a keyboard that doesn't skip a beat can mean the difference between winning a fight or staring at the loser's screen.
But ultimately the thing that made me nerd out over was the lighting. I can't even explain how awesome the dynamic lighting is because right now I have multiple profiles for the all the games I play. But in reality do I need it? Hell no, but my god does it make all my friends and co-workers jealous of how badass my keyboard looks. The best part is that Corsair has a community already dedicated to uploading their own personal lighting mods and effects via RGB Share (http://gaming.corsair.com/en-us/rgbshare/hall-of-fame)
What I didn't like
................does this have to be included here?
Alright I guess so, but it's very difficult to find anything wrong with this keyboard. The build quality is excellent, the customized lighting is eye candy, and the feel of the Cherry Reds on your finger tips is very satisfying. So what are the things that keep someone from getting the most excellent Strafe?
Price. The Strafe RGB retails at $139.99 which is enough to make some PC gamers question if a keyboard that does the same thing as a $20.00 one worth it. But it's to remember that this is a premium product and the Strafe easily proves you get what you pay for. Even then though, you may need to decide how important it is to get a keyboard that's $20-$60 higher than your average mechanical keyboard is worth it for the lighting.
Another double edged sword is the software. While the keyboard lighting software is very intuitive and easy to use, it can be a bit difficult to figure out how to do the really fancy custom effects that includes changing the frequency of lighting pulses, color rotations, or just getting that right shade of color. There were a couple of times where I would want a darker or lighter red but as I selected the options it would never quite give me the dark hue I wanted. Eventually the color was corrected but I have no idea how I got there. While this may not be a huge issue, it can be frustrating if you're really trying to make your keyboard stand out for a LAN.
The Corsair Strafe RGB Mechanical keyboard easily wins my vote for one of my favorite mechanical keyboards of all time, and if you're in the market looking for new peripherals you will be far from disappointed when selecting the Strafe. If the price makes you question the purchase, my co-worker said it perfectly, "I work and I play on my keyboard, meaning my keyboard is the most important tool, so why hold back?"