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Review: Corsair STRAFE RGB MX Silent gaming keyboard

Jan 16 // Joe Parlock
[embed]334733:61890:0[/embed] Product: Corsair STRAFE RGB MX Cherry Silent Gaming KeyboardManufacturer: CorsairInput: 2x USB 2.0, or 1x USB 3.0MSRP: $159.99/£159.99 On first impressions, the STRAFE certainly looks the part of a £160 keyboard. With metal side plates, each key being brightly lit by a changeable colour LED, and a stylish wrist rest, it’s difficult to deny it’s a pretty keyboard that would fit well in any dedicated gaming rig. The major appeal of the STRAFE is its aesthetics. Downloading the Corsair Utility Engine will give users access to tinker with the lighting on every single individual key, or set profiles which can have some damn cool visual effects. Right now, every time I press a key, a ripple effect will spill multi-coloured lights all the way across my keyboard, which looks just lovely. And if the stock effects aren’t to your liking, you can also download user-made presets via Corsair's website. There are also practical uses for the lighting control, too. For example, there are presets highlighting the keys most often used with games, such as a WASD-lit preset for first-person shooters, or a QWER preset for MOBAs. It’s not going to give you a major advantage, but for anyone that dislikes the included physical keycaps (which I feel interfere with the aesthetics of the keyboard), these can provide much-appreciated alternatives. [embed]334733:61891:0[/embed] The keys themselves are awesome. Underneath them are Cherry MX Silent switches, which only launched a few months ago. The good thing about them is their low actuation point, which means you don’t have to press the key as far before the input is registered. For gaming, it feels quicker and more responsive than other switches. Seriously, gaming on this thing feels nice.  For typing, it can admittedly feel a bit sloppy and can result in more typing errors, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off for the extra control in-game . I don’t hear a notable difference between the Silent switches in the STRAFE RGB and the standard Cherry MX Reds in my old Corsair K90. I do hammer quite hard at my keys, though, so for more delicate users there might be a bit more of a difference. While gaming on the STRAFE feels great, which is the major concern with a gaming keyboard, there are two major problems that make me question whether it’s worth the asking price. Firstly, the build quality is inconsistent. The bit of the keyboard you most regularly use is of fantastic quality.The area where the keys sit feels great: it’s heavy, and the back plate is solid and non-flexing. Even if I try to bend it with my hands, there’s absolutely no give. The raised keys make cleaning easy, and the lights are incredibly bright and vibrant, with key labels will likely never fade.  Unfortunately, the bits you may consider ‘extras’ betray the quality of the main board. The wrist rest feels flimsy, and it doesn’t sit flat on my desk, meaning there was quite a bit of flexing involved whenever I put weight on it. Eventually, I had to unclip it and use an old third-party wrist rest, which is chunkier, but provides more support. The cable is also a problem: it’s not visibly braided (which is fine by me, but some people swear by braided cables for aesthetic reasons), and the way the USB inputs are arranged is potentially problematic. You either need plug both the USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 heads into USB 2.0 ports, or you can just plug into a single 3.0 port, leaving the spare 2.0 head flapping around the back of your computer. For cable management nuts, this can be pretty annoying, as it takes up precious space, at least if your PC is in a tight space like mine. This had me resorting to plugging the STRAFE into an external USB hub that was out of the way just to make sure I could fit other cables around the back of my PC. While this may sound like a minor issue, and it is, the STRAFE sits at a top-end price point, where I expect a bit more thought to have gone into the less immediately obvious aspects of the design. The problem that is a bigger deal for me personally is the lack of extra features. My older Corsair K90 retails almost £40 cheaper than the STRAFE RGB, but comes with both dedicated macro and media keys, which the STRAFE lacks. Having to hold down function keys to change the volume (like you see with standard laptop keyboards) was irritating, and in my experience didn’t register with some games like my old physical scrolling wheel did. It’s not a world-ending deal breaker, but it did screw with my workflow quite a bit having to use both hands to change the volume in-game. Overall, the Corsair STRAFE RGB MX Cherry Silent is a mixed bag. For everyday use, it's difficult to justify the price. It lacks some of the features I would’ve expected, and the build quality in some areas could be a lot better. But purely as a game controller, or if money isn’t a concern, the STRAFE is simply fantastic. Durable, responsive and stylish, if you use your gaming PC solely for gaming, then I highly recommend it. The Cherry MX Silent switches feel smooth, easy to use, and have the lifespan to survive many years of intensive gaming. This is the second Corsair keyboard I’ve used, and my response to both has been the same: impressed, but with caveats. [This review is based on retail hardware provided by the manufacturer.] Manufacturer: CorsairInput: 2x USB 2.0, or 1x USB 3.0MSRP: $159.99/£159.99 On first impressions, the STRAFE certainly looks the part of a £160 keyboard. With metal side plates, each key being brightly lit by a changeable colour LED, and a stylish wrist wrest, it’s difficult to deny that it’s a very pretty keyboard that’d fit well in any dedicated gaming rig. The big appeal of the STRAFE is an aesthetic one. Downloading the Corsair Utility Engine will give you access to tinker with the lighting on every single individual key, or set profiles which can have some really damn cool visual effects. Right now, every time I press a key, a ripple effect will spill multi-coloured lights all the way across my keyboard, and it looks just lovely. If the stock effects aren’t to your liking, you can also download quite a few user-made presets on the Corsair website too. There are also practical uses for the lighting control, too. For example, there are presets that highlight the keys most often used for various games, such as a WASD-lit preset for FPS, and a QWER preset for MOBAs. It’s not going to give you any major advantage, but for those who aren’t a fan of the included physical keycaps (which I felt interfered with the aesthetics of the keyboard), it’s a much-appreciated alternative. The keys themselves are awesome. Underneath them are Cherry MX Silent switches, which were only launched a few months ago. The good thing about them is their low actuation point, which means you don’t have to press the key as far before the input is registered. For gaming, it feels quick and responsive compared to both other switches and your standard membrane input on cheaper keyboards. Seriously, gaming on this thing feels nice.  For typing, it can admittedly feel a bit sloppy and can result in more typing errors, but for the extra control in-game, I reckon it’s a worthwhile trade-off. I don’t hear a notable difference between the Silent switches in the STRAFE RGB and the standard Cherry MX Reds in my old Corsair K90. I do hammer quite hard at my keys, though, so for more delicate users there might be a bit more of a difference. While gaming on the STRAFE feels great, which for a gaming keyboard is probably the main thing, there are two fairly major problems that make me question whether it’s worth the asking price. Firstly, the build quality is pretty inconsistent. The bit the actual keys sit on feels great: it’s heavy, and the back plate is solid and non-flexing. Even if I try to bend it with my hands, there’s absolutely no give. The raised keys make cleaning it easy, and the lights are incredibly bright and vibrant, with key labels that will never fade. The bit of the keyboard you most regularly use is of fantastic quality. Unfortunately, the bits which may be considered ‘extras’ betray the quality of the main board. The wrist-rest feels fairly flimsy, and it doesn’t sit flatly on my desk, meaning there is quite a bit of flexing when I put weight on it. I eventually had to unclip it and use my old third-party wrist-rest, which is chunkier and provides more support anyway. The cable can also be a problem too: it’s not visibly braided (which is fine by me, but some people swear on having braided cables for aesthetic reasons), and the way the USB inputs are arranged can be a problem. You either need plug both the USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 heads into USB 2.0 ports, or you plug just the 3.0 into a single 3.0 port, leaving the spare 2.0 head flapping around the back of your computer. For cable management nuts that can be annoying, and it can take up precious space if your PC is in a tight space like mine. I had to resort to plugging it into an external USB hub that was out of the way just to make sure I could fit other cables around the back of my PC. These may sound like minor things, and they are, but as the STRAFE sits at a top-end price point, I would’ve expected a bit more design to have gone into the less immediately obvious parts of it. My second problem is a bigger one for me personally, and that is the lack of extra features. My older Corsair K90 RRPs at almost £40 less than the STRAFE RGB, yet it comes with both dedicated macro and media keys, both things the STRAFE lacks. Having to hold down function keys to change the volume like a standard laptop keyboard was irritating, and I found it didn’t register in some games like my old physical scrolling wheel did. It’s not a world-ending deal breaker, but it did screw with my workflow quite a bit having to use both hands to change the volume in-game. Overall, the Corsair STRAFE RGB MX Cherry Silent is a mixed bag. For everyday use, I’m struggling to justify the price. It lacks some of the features I would’ve expected, and the build quality in some areas could be better. But purely as a game controller, or for those where money isn’t much of a concern for them? It’s simply fantastic. Durable, responsive and stylish, if you use your gaming PC solely for gaming, then I highly recommend it.  The Cherry MX Silent switches feel smooth, easy to use and have the lifespan to put up with many years of intensive gaming. This is the second Corsair keyboard I’ve used, and my response to both has been the same: impressed, but with caveats.
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