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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.
Gaming Keyboard photo
Solid, flashy, but not perfect
I spend most of my time doing one of two things: writing about games for you lovely lot, or playing games so I can then write about games for you lovely lot. Because of that, keyboards are important to me, and finding one tha...

PS4 PC-style controller photo
PS4 PC-style controller

PlayStation 4 is getting a keyboard/mouse controller


Courtesy of Hori
Jul 27
// Jordan Devore
With a name like Tactical Assault Commander 4, you know shit's about to get real. Hori is creating another PC-style wired controller for consoles following its hybrid keyboard/mouse controller for PlayStation 3. This new one,...
Giant computer  photo
Giant computer

This huge laptop is as much a 'laptop' as my German shepherd is a lapdog


Mechanical keyboard clad gaming laptop
Jan 05
// Steven Hansen
My dog Hook (see him here) isn't one of those big dogs who fancies himself a lapdop, for which my hairy-enough wardrobe is thankful. He is too heavy, and my lap, stomach, back, chest, shoulders are usually occupied by the cat...

Review: Logitech G910 Orion Spark

Nov 23 // Darren Nakamura
G910 Orion SparkManufacturer: LogitechMSRP: $179.99 Logitech has been making gaming keyboards for a while now, but the G910 Orion Spark is the first to use the specially engineered Romer-G mechanical switches for the keys. These are tactile switches -- they require a minimum applied force before they will begin to depress -- but the actuation distance is lower than that of its closest competitors, which theoretically improves actuation speed. A more obvious design element are the facets found on the keys. More angular than standard keys, the intent is to keep the user's fingers centered over the keys in order to decrease unintentional key presses. Almost all of the keys at least have inclines on the right and left sides, but each key within three spaces of WASD also has a lip on the top side. I could not detect a noticeable improvement in accuracy due to these facets, but they do feel like they can help keep fingers from sliding around unintentionally. Among the three-faceted keys on the G910 are the nine custom G keys: G1 through G5 run down the left side of the keyboard and G6 through G9 span across the top of the F1 through F4 keys. Fully programmable, these keys are meant to take the place of additional functions that are usually assigned to keys furthers from WASD, or to use as macros in place of multiple key presses. The keys along the left side took some getting used to, because I could typically hit the CTRL key without looking just by finding the bottom-leftmost key on the keyboard. With G5 in that place, I mistakenly hit it a few times when trying to quickly copy and paste outside of a game. It is not a huge deal, but it requires a bit of reprogramming, either of muscle memory or of the G5 key itself. [embed]284169:56422:0[/embed] The last design innovation of the Romer-G switch worth noting is that it is built to allow the most light through, allowing the LED underneath to really shine (so to speak). The G910 comes with four lighting modes, each boasting millions of colors. The first lighting mode is Freestyle, which simply allows the user to assign any color to any key at will. For regular use, I just go with this, with all of the keys set to a dark green. The Zones mode groups certain keys together and lights each group individually. WASD is its own group, lit up while the rest of the letter keys are dark, the G keys are a group, the F keys are a group, the number keys are a group, the arrow keys are a group, and the keys to the right and left of the space bar are a group. This could be used to quickly find important keys and re-center for those who look down and move all around the keyboard. The Commands mode seems more functional for learning a new game or keeping track of games that use a lot of key commands. Upon loading the Logitech software, common games are detected and their profiles loaded. When playing a particular game, only those keys that have a function are lit; useless keys are unlit. Some of the newer releases were not automatically added (for example, Civilization V was detected but Civilization: Beyond Earth was not), but profiles can be manually created for any new games. The last lighting mode, Effects, is simultaneously the silliest and the prettiest. Different visual effects can be applied, including a rainbow wave, a slow illumination and delumination, a random key twinkling, and lighting that shows up and slowly fades after a particular key has been pressed. They are neat to play around with, but they are far from functional. Another use for the lighting is to help visualize the heat map, which is probably the most useful feature for the average gamer. Before starting up a gaming session, the user can initiate key press recording. This part of the software keeps track of the play session, counting how many times each key is pressed. The reason this is useful is that it provides a visual for which keys are used and to what extent. For instance, if the Y key is used more frequently than the T key, it would make sense to switch the mapping in order to decrease the travel distance of the finger between WASD and the desired function. In extreme cases, it can help to move a game function from a key that requires the player to look at the keyboard to one that is easily touch-typed. The one major downside to the heat map is that the key recording seemed to take a significant chunk of my CPU process, slowing down the game I was playing while it was active. My rig is getting on in its years, so newer systems may not be affected like this. Along the top of the unit is a simple docking area for a phone or a tablet. This is not a true docking station with any sort of electronic connection, but it is meant to be used for games with second screen capability or along with the Logitech companion app ARX Control. This app can be used to quickly launch games, monitor vital system statistics, remotely control audio and video, and easily remap the G keys. The app's functionality is not necessary for the operation of the G910, but it is a cool free addition.  Overall, the G910 Orion Spark is a fine product. Though most non-competitive players will not notice a huge difference in performance, it is clear that a lot of work went into engineering it specifically for gaming. The keys have a nice tactile feel without being too clicky and loud. The lighting modes run the gamut between form and function. The key press heat map can help improve players of all skill levels. For those willing and able to plunk down the cash, the G910 Orion Spark is a great gaming keyboard. [This review is based on a retail unit of the keyboard provided by the manufacturer.]
Logitech G910 Orion Spark photo
Reaching for the stars
In high-level competition, every little advantage counts. It is why Olympic swimmers shave their bodies before a race, why pre-med students fight tooth-and-nail for every half point on every test, and why gaming keyboards exi...


M/KB on PS3 photo
M/KB on PS3

The Keymander lets you use a mouse and keyboard on PS3


It's plug and play, basically
Dec 02
// Chris Carter
When the PlayStation 3 was first released, keyboard and mouse functionality was one of the biggest draws for me as a PC gamer, especially with friends who refused to play on any platform other than consoles. But the dream was...
Hori  photo
Hori

New Hori keyboard is both metal and gosh-darn cute


No Metal Slimes were harmed in the making of this keyboard.
Mar 04
// Jason Cabral
I have been trying to get into the Dragon Quest series of games for a few years now, mostly from the positive response that RPG players have given the series. I also love finding regular everyday items that get an infusion of...

Review: Razer Orbweaver Gaming Keypad

Feb 07 // Chris Carter
Product: Razer Orbweaver Gaming KeypadManufacturer: RazerInput: USBMSRP: $129.99 Despite the overall complexity of the device on paper, once you actually open it up, the design is fairly simple. The Razer Orbweaver is a keypad with a wired USB connection, and 20 mechanical keys (including an eight directional, non-analog thumb-stick). It weighs about 10 ounces, and the keys require a minimal amount of pressure to activate (50g of force, technically). The non-braided cables are lower quality than what Razer has done in the past, but they don't feel super cheap, either. Out of the box, WASD is configured to buttons 8, 12, 13, and 14 respectively (the arrows are shown on the pad), which is a nice touch. The backlit keys help for late night gaming sessions, and although you can't customize the color outside of green, you can choose to turn the lights off, constant, or pulsing. The keys have a feature called "anti-ghosting" which allows for every key stroke to be recognized by the system, regardless of whether or not you hold down or press multiple keys at once. In terms of form factor, the Orbweaver is actually pretty comfortable, despite how awkward it may look. The palm rest is rubberized and didn't become grating after hours of gaming. It's also fairly compact with its one USB cord, which makes it really easy to carry with you if you're gaming on the go with a laptop. Both the thumb and the palm rest are adjustable to conform to your hand, should you need it. The improvements to the Nostromo are fairly small, seeing as it only has four more buttons, and a more ergonomic design. So if you already own a Nostromo, you probably don't need to upgrade. You also have the option of Logitech's G13, if the Orbweaver's price is too steep (although the G13 is not mechanical). As previously mentioned, it does work out of the box by mapping WASD and some standard gaming keys (like left shift and E) across the numpad, but you're going to want to take advantage of the full macro capabilities of the device through Razer's software. So while you don't necessarily need it, Razer’s Synapse 2.0 utility suite needs to be downloaded in order to enhance your experience with the device. The guide is also available online should you need assistance figuring out how to use the thing. Synapse 2.0 allows you to configure a near unlimited amount of profiles through the use of cloud technology, which means that you'll be able to pick up your scheme on multiple machines -- which again, is useful given the portable nature of the device.For those of you who may be turned off at the thought of more software, even if you opt to use both the keyboard and the Orbweaver without bothering with Synapse 2.0, it is doable. The vast majority of games have an alternate key setting that will allow you to utilize the secondary controls without screwing up your keyboard mapping. When you're setting up multiple profiles, a colored indicator on the side shows your current map profile selection, and you can dynamically change your profile to create more. The ideal situation is to configure a game in windowed mode in tandem with Synapse 2.0, then link the program to the Razer dashboard so it keeps that profile forever. For the purposes of this review, I tested the following games: League of Legends, The Binding of Isaac, Diablo III, Call of Duty: World at War, Frozen Synapse, Torchlight II, Dungeonland, Guild Wars 2, From Dust, Wizardry Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. For MMOs and RTS titles that can utilize a near limitless amount of macros, I found the Orbweaver to be pretty invaluable. I was able to pretty much craft anything I could ask for control-wise within the confines of Synapse 2.0, which came in handy once I learned how to use it. The more complicated the game, the better the Orbweaver will serve you. One particular use I found is for pet classes in World of Warcraft. Being able to utilize multiple summoned minion abilities in swift succession completely trumped relying on a keyboard -- and I have to say, after playing with mechanical keys, their responsiveness makes it hard to go back. The D-pad is also a huge plus for many games, eliminating the need for WASD use in some cases. There's also nothing stopping you from using your keyboard in tandem with the Orbweaver, the latter of which can function as a separate macro-enabled numpad, to so speak. But for certain types of games, it may be too much. For instance, League of Legends (or other MOBA games for that matter) don't need a complex control scheme when you only need to micro-manage one unit (barring summoning classes), and a few skills. FPS games as a general rule also don't need complex control schemes, and the standard WASD setup with a few outliers will probably cut it without the need for the Orbweaver. Of course, there are exceptions, as some games in either genre happen to utilize more than a few keys. Despite the tough learning curve, after a few days of constant testing, I started to acclimate myself to using it for even menial tasks in my daily PC life outside of games -- specifically, image-editing. I found that using Synapse 2.0 made it fairly easy to program macros for Photoshop, and allow for quicker editing through the use of the directional thumb-pad. All in all, I don't see myself using the Orbweaver for absolutely every game I own, but I keep it hooked up to my PC all the same, next to my keyboard. I've found that for basic image editing required for my writing career, and my frequent MMO habits, it suits my needs fairly frequently. I've created a number of profiles for a few MMOs I play, and one for a few image touch-ups that I'll be using for the foreseeable future. If you don't play a lot of PC games I don't see a need for splurging here given the high price point, but for everyone else, it's a decent investment.
Razer Orbweaver photo
Fits like a glove
Do you really need multiple methods of control outside of a mouse and keyboard? Well, in today's PC climate with the vast amount of games available at a moment's notice for pennies, it's never be a bad thing. Between bluetoot...

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CES: Get mechanical with ROCCAT Ryos gaming keyboards


Fully programmable lighting
Jan 11
// Dale North
For some gamers, only mechanical keyboards will do. If you’re one of these gamers, ROCCAT is aiming squarely at you with their new Ryos series of keyboards. I had a chance to check them out here at CES this week. What&r...
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CES: SteelSeries Apex keyboards have a big ol' spacebar


And lots of colorful buttons
Jan 09
// Dale North
SteelSeries' newly announced Apex keyboards are an eyeful with their loads of macro buttons and backlit keys. Oh, and check out that spacebar -- it's huge! The idea was to make it more comfortable and functional.  Aside ...

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