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Corsair K95 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (2015)
Gadget Reviews

Corsair K95 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (2015)

Offers a dazzling light show and sublime mechanical typing experience – as long as you learn the software.

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Those seeking to upgrade from the standard keyboard (i.e. membrane) experience to that of a more luxurious, noisier mechanical option often find their enthusiasm dulled where it hurts the most: the price. Because of this, manufacturers are free to add as many bells and whistles as possible, as price and affordability aren’t exactly priorities. Among the most evocative features is backlighting, naturally, but with price-tags approaching two-hundred bucks, not just any lighting will cut it. For that, only true RGB will do.

Corsair’s K95 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (not to be confused with the Vengeance K95 Gaming Keyboard) takes full advantage of not just the current RGB color craze, but does a great job of packing a solid number of features, frills, and thrills into one high-quality, heavy, and wallet-busting enthusiast typing experience.

Since this is a review and not an instruction manual, I’m not going to go over every single one of the K95’s additional functions and bonus goodies; that would require its own F.A.Q. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the more pressing (get it?) features curious keyboard samurai might be looking for if they’re just joining the mechanical keyboard revolution or upgrading.

The K95 RGB Keyboard packs a full set of 102 authentic Cherry MX mechanical keys (available in Red, Blue, and Brown switches) with 100% rollerover and anti-ghosting. Plus, the RGB lights are gorgeous, with smooth transitions between keystrokes.

Design

Let’s talk about that build quality, which is an incredible stiff black matte finish that won’t easily bend, and just exudes high-quality engineering (for the price, it better). Corsair calls this wonderful material “aircraft-grade black anodized brushed aluminum finish”, which is handy as now I want everything I own made from it. Seriously, this metal on this keyboard is better than the stuff on my car.

It’s actually the exact same design as the Corsair K70, only with three rows of additional 18 G keys grafted on (G for grafted!). Naturally, this adds a few inches to its waistline, but if you’re in the need for easily accessible macros (at least, easily accessible on the left-hand side) the added bulk could be worth it.

This means you’ll get a full-sized QWERTY keyboard with raised keys available for your fingers to blaze over, complete with full-sized Shift, Backspace, and dual Alt/Ctrl for those users who incline towards southpaw. A row of vanilla Function keys are available, meaning none have secondary uses (i.e. media, brightness, audio) imposed on them. For that, a dedicated row of media keys (Stop, Back/Forward, Play/Pause) sits just above the numberpad, while a dedicated Mute key and generously big volume roller nestle just above these. A brightness adjust key and Windows-button lock/unlock key are there for even further functions on tap.

Because the K95 has built-in storage, you’ll be able to store several profiles of your customized preferences. Three M keys sit near the top-left (M1, M2, M3), as well as a macro-on-the fly key (MR) to help instantly map your favorite combo to the G keys on the left.

Also, remember that when companies put “gaming” in the name, that doesn’t necessarily mean all those goodies are intended only for gamers. OK, maybe “spill resistance” is gamer-centric, but having so many macro combinations present can be a godsend to hardcore users hoping to save time from punching repetitive key-combinations or actions again and again.

The K95 is larger than most keyboards, and for good reason: Corsair has packed it to the gills with nearly every option and combo keys most will ever need. With dimensions of 21.5 x 9.6 x 2.9 inches and 4.5 lbs, it’s a hefty accessory that isn’t designed to easily move around your desk (don’t even think of using this beast on your lap, unless you’re Shaq). Two plastic legs extend to raise your typing angles, and a comfortable wrist rest is included, and attaches/detaches easily with a few screw twists. Best to find your ‘sweet spot’ quickly as trying to reposition the keyboard once everything is extended feels like swimming against the tide; it’s so bottom-heavy that trying to slide it around feels like it’ll scratch your desk (no joke).

As you’d imagine, nay, demand, from a mechanical keyboard costing nearly two Benjamins, the USB connecting cable is thickly braided and extremely durable. Likewise, it’s got two USB plugs jutting out to power those fancy lights and the actual keyboard functions. Note: if you’re using a single USB 3.0 port then you don’t need to plug in both, just the one with the “keyboard” marker.

Sadly, there’s no USB passthrough for additional accessories (like a mouse), or a way to route that thick USB cable to the side. Also, located near the top undercarriage is a switch letting you select BIOS modes between 8ms, 4ms, 2ms, and 1ms. If that sounds like overkill for a keyboard, it’s probably best if you do some research to see if there are potential compatibility issues with your setup.

Software: Complexity Redefined

There’s a reason Corsair put “RGB” in the K95’s name, because using it as intended means turning your desktop into its own rave factory. In strictly bullet-point, nerdspeak, that means Corsair uses a Panasonic display controller to help project those 16.8 million colors right into your eyeballs.

From static colors (my personal favorite) to pulsating, throbbing cascades and lightshows, there’s no end to the combination of color profiles to liven up the typing experience. Hey, crank up the EDM tunes and who needs Tomorrowland?

Unfortunately, little of that hallucinogenic magic is available out of the box; to get the most out of its seizure-inducing potential you’ll need to install the Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software. You may have heard that Corsair’s program is ‘comprehensive’ and difficult to use, and I won’t lie; it’s not the most intuitive interface out there, with an extremely complex and convoluted learning curve that might deter all but the most ardent seekers of the perfect pulsating light show.

Still, those with patience will find much to tinker with and customize inside those obtuse menus. It’s actually fairly easy to create multiple profiles and adjust pre-set lighting effects, establish and record new macros, and more. If patterns and presets aren’t enough, users can also customize every individual key’s color to their heart’s content, so have at it!

This is the section where I’d normally obsess over what typing on the keyboard is actually like, but I won’t be doing that here. Let me explain: with cheaper keyboards, it’s usually hit-or-miss when it comes to keystroke quality and the like, especially when taking into account things like plastic type, membranes, and keyboard type (chiclet-style keys are best should you decide to go non-mechanical).

Granted, you should probably expect a learning curve at first, especially as your psychomotor skills adjust to the varying weight and press sensitivity (i.e. actuation points) a mechanical keyboard provides. Also, better prep your (and in-range roommates, spouses, and beloved pets) that things are about to get a whole lot louder. These things can be, and often are, pretty noisy.

The K95 RGB being a mechanical keyboard, and a mighty expensive one at that, rest assured Corsair has done everything they can to make sure the actual typing is sublime. Depending on your preference for Cherry MX switch colors, the K95 is going to provide you exactly the kind of typing experience you expect, which means silky-smooth and noisy.

Preferred by typing enthusiasts and gaming snobs the world over. If you’re coming from typical membrane-style keyboards then chances are good your response times, speed benchmarks, and input issues will see improvements, and your poor wrist pains will find some relief.

Conclusion

Corsair’s K95 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard does almost everything you’d expect from such a pricey mechanical keyboard, especially for backlighting fans. Being able to customize all those beautiful keys makes it possible to turn your desktop into a private rave, though having to constantly fight the overly complex software can be a real buzzkill. Curiously for a “gaming” keyboard there’s no USB passthrough or routing, but these omissions are hardly deal-breakers. Still, the actual typing experience is sublime, and having so many available macro keys is highly enticing. If money isn’t an issue, go wild.

About the Author: Trent McGee