Review: Corsair Gaming Keyboards and Mice Attack with a Vengeance
3/2/2012 by: Anshel Sag
Keyboards and mice are generally things that most people don't look to replace unless they've either broken or they find something vastly better. In our case, it has really been more of a case of the latter. We have been happily using our Logitech G5 mouse and G15 (first gen) keyboard since 2004.
There have been far too many keyboards that have either been downgrades from the original G15 (including subsequent revisions) or that have had a fatal flaw that made them inferior to the G15. We have used various keyboards from an array of manufacturers, but we often found ourselves coming back to the G15 because of its durability, design, functionality, and feel.
So, where does Logitech's G15 fit into all of this? Well, the original Logitech G15 and G5 were designed by a team in Europe. That team is now part of Corsair and has been heading up their Vengeance gaming division. They are responsible for the launch of Corsair's audio products as well as their gaming headphones, which we recently had the pleasure of reviewing.
Mr. Ruben Mookerjee, Vice President, Components Business Unit at Corsair Memory, was formerly the Director of WW Product Marketing, Gaming Business Unit after he had worked as managing director at Logitech. His long history of work with gaming peripherals and his involvement with the creation of the Logitech G series of gaming products made us excited about the potential of Corsair's Vengeance gaming keyboards and mice. A team led by Mr. Mookerjee composed of many former Logitech gaming division staff; there is potential for a rebirth of the brilliance of the older Logitech series.
Unfortunately for Logitech, they have relegated themselves to the position of the industry 'leader', one that no longer innovates but rather rebadges and re-labels their existing products. They have been doing this for a number of years, and as a result, the void they allowed to exist in the gaming peripherals market has allowed many newcomers to compete. Their complacency has resulted in market share going to new manufacturers with a variety of new products. Logitech once held a firm grip on the gaming peripheral market, but it is safe to say nowadays that it is an open playing field.
That brings us to today, reviewing the Corsair Vengeance line of keyboards and mice. In our review, we will detail both keyboards and both mice a about their features, design, capabilities, gaming ability, potential improvements, as well as our overall experience with them.
Specifications and Features
First up are the Vengeance K60 and M60 keyboard and mouse, which are primarily designed with FPS (First Person Shooters) in mind. These are followed by the K90 and M90 keyboard and mouse, which have more of a focus on MMO (massively multiplayer online) and RTS (real time strategy) games.
Corsair Vengeance Gaming Keyboards
The Corsair Vengeance keyboards come in two variants, the Vengeance K60 and the Vengeance K90. As stated earlier, the K60 has a focused on FPS gaming while the K90 is focused on MMO and RTS gaming. Here we will detail the features and pricing of each of them.
The Vengeance K60 is a mechanical keyboard (unlike Logitech’s G-series). This means that the keystrokes not only feel better but are also much more precise, which is why they are so sought after for gaming. In our review of the Thermaltake MEKA G1 we detailed the differences between the majority of mechanical switches, and the MEKA G1 used the more gaming-centric Cherry MX Black switches. Corsair chose to use mechanical switches as well, but wanted to provide the best experience for gamers possible. They opted to use the Cherry MX Red switches which had until recently been discontinued due to a lack of OEMs using them. The reason for the discontinuation is the same reason Corsair chose to use the Cherry MX Red switches. It is because they are the most sensitive and therefore not necessary for non-gaming applications, but provide excellent response for gaming and are still very suitable for general use. Mechanical switches have only recently begun to be widely used for gaming keyboards, and this renewed interest has brought unprecedented popularity to the Cherry MX Red switches.
Since this keyboard is mechanical, it allows for multiple key presses to occur simultaneously. With the K60, there is a 20-key roll over (via USB) which means that the user has the ability to strike 20 keys at the same time should they ever desire. However, for most practical purposes users should not have to worry beyond 10. The K60 also comes with a textured and colored WASD and 1-6 key set (something similar to what we saw on the MEKA G-UNIT). The keyboard has a variable polling rate ranging from 1ms to 8m with 2ms being the default setting. Corsair included a wrist rest to avoid wrist cramping when playing games for long stretches of time. The wrist rest also doubles as a storage unit for the red textured keys.
There are also dedicated media keys and a Windows Key lock to prevent the user from accidentally pressing the Windows Key while gaming and minimizing the game. This key is a necessity on any keyboard marketed as a gaming keyboard. Corsair also chose to use a solid metal volume roller for adjusting volume on the fly. This feature is something we have seen on a couple of keyboards but we would like to see more widespread use. The solidness of the K60 is further reinforced by the fact that the entire top plate of the keyboard is solid aluminum which gives the keyboard a more solid feel and provides a great aesthetic.
The K90, in reality, is very similar to the K60 but it packs a slightly different set of features that will appeal to a different type of gamer. It has the same mechanical switches, 20-key rollover, polling rate and aluminum top plate, but it also adds some very desired features which could leave you wondering which keyboard you really want to get. The K90 is different in that it adds 17 macro keys to the side of the keyboard. This is extremely useful for anyone that plays an MMO or an RTS because it allows users to execute their commands in Starcraft 2 without panicking or cast the right spells in World of Warcraft.
There are also 3 sets of macros which results in having up to 54 different macros on one keyboard. The K90 also adds backlit keys which is something that we would like to see on more mechanical gaming keyboards. Backlit keys are not often a feature people care about until they don’t have it. Since this keyboard is a little longer and users will often find themselves gliding from side to side, Corsair included a full length wrist rest that goes from end to end to ensure maximum comfort.
The K60 is expected to retail for $99 while the K90 is expected to retail at a slightly higher $129. Considering the quality of the components in these keyboards and the overall design, the pricing is spot on.
After having taken a quick look at these keyboards, there is nothing to say other than we are having a lot of allusions to other gaming keyboards we’ve seen in the past. However, we would not say that Corsair is copying anything, but rather taking the best of features from other keyboards we have encountered putting them into their two keyboards.
Corsair Vengeance Gaming Mice
Corsair has also launched two gaming mice to match their gaming keyboards. These are the M60 and M90 mice. The Vengeance M60 will feature an ultra-high resolution Avago 5670 DPI laser sensor with on-the-fly resolution adjustments and an aluminum unibody design, adjustable center of gravity, programmable lift detection, high-mass scroll wheel and PTFE low resistance glide pads. It also has a 1ms or 1000Hz polling rate which is required of a good FPS mouse. The M60, since it is geared towards FPS features a Sniper button which allows the user to quickly toggle from high DPI resolution to a high precision (low DPI) mode for more accurate aiming. The mouse itself is designed to be as ergonomic as possible and for long gaming sessions. This mouse is just screaming Battlefield 3 and we are certain that everyone (including Corsair) knows it.
The Corsair M90 takes many of its cues from the M60, but once again it has an MMO/RTS focus to make it more attractive for users who play them. The M90 uses the same sensor and many of the previously mentioned features, but M90 adds 15 fully programmable buttons which are managed by Corsair’s Vengeance utility. The Vengeance utility allows users to control on-board profiles and sensor settings. The button placement for these 15 is quite ergonomic and makes them intuitive and easy to use. This allows for a very highly customized gaming experience that enables MMO, RPG, and RTS gamers to mold their gaming peripherals to their liking. Because of this, you will probably find many Diablo 3 and Skyrim users switching to this mouse.
Packaging and Accessories
When it comes to accessories, Corsair has gone ultra-light and has not put an emphasis on the packaging or accessories. After all, these peripherals are technically accessories themselves.
The keyboards come in large, fully recyclable boxes (partially made of recycled materials) with lots of information as well as the basics of the keyboards. In the case of the K60 this refers to the wrist rest, extra keys and the key removal tool. With the K90, it refers the full length wrist rest and the necessary attachment hardware for it. Both keyboards come with a very short manual and warranty pamphlet. All drivers are downloaded from Corsair's website and reduce unnecessary waste in the form of CDs. This move makes sense considering that drivers are always being updated and a disc will likely become outdated almost immediately.
The mice are similarly packaged with lots of information on the packaging and with minimal actual accessories. Both mice come with a quick start guide and warranty pamphlet. Both boxes are recyclable, so we are proud of Corsair's choice to be environmentally conscious with their packaging and their move towards a more Spartan packaging for accessories which should be emulated by other companies. The best packaging for today's gaming accessories tends to be less is more. Protect the product and minimize the impact on the environment, and possibly save some money in the process.
Design and Build Quality
When it comes to design and build quality, Corsair definitely went off the beaten path when it came to their keyboards and mice. They took a lot of cues from various competitors and included some of their own flair to the design while still maintaining excellent build quality of these devices.
The first thing one will notice when looking at these keyboards and mice is that they all feature quite a bit of aluminum. Normally we would not talk much about aluminum when it comes to gaming peripherals, as that is usually reserved for Apple products and other fancy accessories. But with Corsair, they have made no compromises and integrated aluminum heavily into the aesthetics of their design as well as the build quality and durability of their products.
The M90 and the M60 both feature an aluminum frame with an aluminum base. This not only gives the mice an extremely clean and expensive look, but it also makes them extremely durable and gives them a nice weight, which is necessary for gaming. The M90 has a seamless aluminum bottom pad with frictionless glide pads, while the M60 has a similar bottom aluminum pad, but it has three removable weights which are screwed in within the mouse itself, allowing for adjustable weight. Because of these different design decisions, one mouse may or may not fit your needs. Both mice have a similar scroll wheel with a rubberized grip. Beyond those two things and the tangle-free cord, these two mice are entirely different.
The M90 sets itself apart by having nine macro buttons located on the left-hand side of the mouse, as well as adjustable profile buttons. These buttons are relatively well placed and low profile. They are designed to conform to the mouse's shape and generally are easy to access. Personally, I only found 3-4 of those buttons actually useful as the rest simply were not as easy to access with my thumb alone.
The M60 really gets most of its design from its focus as an FPS mouse. The mouse also has programmable buttons, but there are only three total buttons. Two are intended to be the forward and back buttons while the third button is special purpose button. This button's purpose is to quickly and easily drop the DPI/sensitivity of the mouse when sniping or flying. Although this mouse is not officially an ambidextrous mouse, the M60 is much more lefty-friendly than the M90 which is exclusively right-handed by design. In addition, the design of the M60 actually allows for slightly more palm support and more breathing area beneath your palm as most of the palm rest is actually hollow, reducing palm sweat.
Both the M90 and M60 also feature faint blue LED lighting which can be turned on and off, which we find extremely useful. The fact that Corsair makes this very easy to change makes us happy. This is enabled through their software, which we will detail later in the review. They also both feature screws and rivets that keep the mice together rather than plastic and glue. This makes the mice more durable than any that have preceded them.
The design of both the K60 and K90 borrows aesthetic from previous keyboards we have seen, which we actually commend because some keyboards have good features and borrowing the best of everything can yield excellent results. The keyboards, as we have mentioned, have a full aluminum frame with a plastic underbody and plastic keys. The keyboards are not attached by cheap plastic and glue, but rather a series of metal screws which hold the keyboard together in place. This is a similar design to that of the mice. Based upon their durable design and construction, we would questions whether a user could break these keyboards with anything short of driving a car over them. Following this heavy-duty theme, both keyboards also have thick and sturdy USB cables designed to withstand any kind of abuse.
The K60 also features the removable WASD and 1 through 6 keys which can be replaced by raised and textured buttons. These buttons not only have gaming aesthetics, but also serve a specific purpose as they have edges raised on the sides that meet with regular keys to prevent a user’s fingers from drifting away from the important WASD and 1 through 6 keys. This design indicates to us that the designer of this keyboard is a likely a fan of Battlefield 3. It is interesting to note that the original G15 was also designed with a focus on the Battlefield series games. It is nice to know that DICE and EA are still fostering good accessory development.
The K60's crowning feature, which sets it apart from nearly every other keyboard we have seen, is the left wrist rest which also doubles as storage for the extra keys and key removal tool. It does significantly increase the depth of the keyboard, but even so, it still fits comfortably on a keyboard tray. The K60 also has a very nice set of media buttons which blend in nicely and feature a volume scroll wheel, which we have seen before on some more recent Logitech keyboards. Neither these buttons nor the F keys are actually mechanical, which is understandable as it is not necessary to have mechanical function keys. Because this keyboard is mechanical, you can remove the majority of the keys and clean behind them. This is also because the keys are not recessed into a housing, but rather rest on the red switches which are atop the aluminum frame.
Now, the K90 is very similar to the K60 in terms of design, but Corsair has opted to add a few features to make it more MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game friendly. Personally, I am not one to play MMOs, but this keyboard is very similar to the K60 with a few additions. Namely, Corsair has opted for a full length wrist rest as opposed to just one for the left hand, which is more FPS centric. In addition, they have actually designed a very secure, yet flexible way of affixing the wrist rest to the keyboard, unlike any other we have encountered. This method is much more durable but still enables quite a bit of up and down free movement. In addition to the full length wrist wrest, the keyboard also features backlit keys. Unlike some of their competitors, Corsair has backlit every key on the keyboard. We like this approach and are of the opinion that keyboards are either entirely backlit, or not at all. The keyboard also has four variable brightness settings which can be adjusted by pressing the brightness key on the keyboard or manipulating it through the keyboard software.
The final feature that the K90 has over the K60 is the 18 slightly recessed G-Keys. Because of the three G-Key profile buttons, there are three full sets of 18 macros that a user can program into the keyboard. We really like that Corsair has opted to make them slightly recessed in order to help the user to easily differentiate between the G-Keys and the standard keys. Although, we wish they would have included mechanical keys on the G-Keys considering that for some MMO and RTS gamers, they may get quite a bit of use.
You'll also notice that unlike the G15, G19 or G510 the Corsair Vengeance K90 does not have a screen on the keyboard, normally you would think that since Logitech had originally implemented it that it would be an extremely sought after feature. Yet, almost no other keyboards have those screens and they all sell very well, mainly because after having owned a G15 for so long, you realize it really is a gimmick and that you will look at it maybe 1% of the time that you're actually using the keyboard. Don't get us wrong, we'd love to have a screen, but it sure as hell isn't necessary nor is it really practical in terms of durability and functionality.
If you take a look at the two USB ports, you'll notice one is clearly labeled as the keyboard USB port while the other is labeled as the pass-through port. This way you don't have to use up two USB ports on the back of your case, if you don't plan on using the built-in USB port on the keyboard.
Reviewer Experience and Recommendations
The reason we were so excited to test out these keyboards and mice had a lot to do with the people involved in the project as well as what we had seen back at IDF in September. Based upon these expectations, we were really hoping to finally replace our aging G15s with something much more modern and functional.
The first thing that we noticed when we opened up these keyboards was that they had a nice look to them due to the use of aluminum. Similarly, the mice really had the same feel as a result of their aluminum design and build, which we mentioned earlier.
When it came to setting up both keyboards and mice, we decided to pair up the K90 and M90 together as well as the K60 and M60 in another system. With these combinations, we decided that we would most likely experience Corsair's intended effect of having a full gaming experience.
When using the keyboards, we really found that the Cherry MX Red keys were really great for both gaming and typing. We typed this entire review on the K90. It was nice using the keyboard both during the day and night due to the fully backlit keys as well as the just right amount of feedback. Being a somewhat loud typer, though, this did somewhat increase the volume of my typing and for some people may not be a good fit in quieter settings.
In terms of comfort, the K90's full length wrist rest is really quite right and, in total, the keyboard actually takes up less space than my G15 did, giving me a better keyboard with equal or more functionality than my G15 in a smaller footprint, which is always nice. One must remember that we are comparing to the full-featured original G15 with 18 macro keys as opposed to Logitech’s current model which only has 6 macro keys. So, whenever the G15 is mentioned, we are referring to the original G15, because the current model is an inferior revision.
The K60 is quite nice as well, especially with the wrist wrest for long term FPS gaming. We found that swapping out the standard keys with the red textured and raised keys was really easy thanks to the included key removal tool which is included inside of the wrist rest. It would've been nice, though, if Corsair included one for the K90 as well for the neat freaks that want to remove all their keys easily and clean behind them. The raised/textured red keys, though can be a bit problematic for people who do a lot of typing as they do feel a bit awkward when typing a lot and take a bit of getting used to, but that seems to be more of a matter of preference above anything and you can always pick and choose which you swap out.
The M90 is extremely comfortable and has a nice texture to it that is that ruggedized type of plastic that you can't really put fingerprints on and always feels smooth to the touch. I didn't really find myself using the various profiles as much, so the profile switcher was a bit unnecessary, but for someone who uses mouse macros a lot, this could be extremely useful as you can switch between six different mouse profiles all of which can have different macros and DPi settings from 100 all the way up to 5700. The mouse also allows you to test the surface that you're using it on in order for it to accurately read the surface and give you more accurate and smooth movement. You can also adjust the lift height, which is really intended for people who like to play on really low DPI and use a gigantic mousepad and generally have to lift their mouse for movement. By adjusting the lift height, you can change how far away the mouse will start to sense the mouse surface. You have to be careful, though, because if you set it too low you can lose sensitivity on software cushier mouse pads instead of a hard flat desk or mouse pad.
From left to right: Corsair M60, Razer Deathadder, Corsair M90, Logitech G500
Corsair Vengeance M90
The M60, is admittedly, much less complicated. The M60 has most of the similar features as the M90 does, but with many fewer macro buttons. Admittedly, the software still allows you to essentially macro any button to your liking, but the amount of buttons available that aren't already assigned a predefined function are relatively low. The M60 also has DPI selection, but there are dedicated buttons that you can actually associate with a certain light on the mouse that tells you which DPI it is operating at. Similarly, you can adjust the lift height and surface quality and also program any macros into the mouse and save them to the mouse like the M90 and K90. The M60, as we stated before has a much more neutral design and could easily be used by someone who is left handed and it felt a bit more supportive to our hand than the M90 did. Also because of the design, we found that we got slightly less sweaty palms over longer gaming sessions. But the overall comfort level isn't quite as comfortable on the whole hand as much as the M90 because of this design. So, each mouse is slightly more friendly to different grip styles and preferences.
There are, though, a few recommendations that we would've preferred Corsair include in these keyboards that we hope that they'll implement in their future versions. First of all, the USB pass-through port is a great addition, meaning you get full USB power and functionality out of the keyboard, but its misleadingly blue even though it's still USB 2.0. Considering the year that USB 3.0 is going to have, there's really no reason it should be USB 2.0. Also pertaining to the USB port as well, we would've liked Corsair to somehow acknowledge where the USB port is to the user without having to look over the keyboard and find it. A simple little USB logo or even a simple blue dot would have sufficed. If Corsair wanted to be fancy, they could've added a little light to further make it visible at night as well as during the day.
What happens when you have a corsair keyboard and mouse
With the M60 mouse, we would've preferred to have in-mouse DPi switching that is easy to adjust without having to remove one's index finger from the left mouse click button. Admittedly, Corsair's sniper button does enable you to switch between one DPi and another, but it would be nice to have more flexibility in the future. Currently, the DPI switching is enabled by an up and down button directly centered in the middle of the mouse.
With both mice, we would've liked to have a similar scroll wheel to what we've seen on the Logitech G500, which has a frictionless option to the scroll wheel which allows for a lot of very fast scrolling with little effort. While we aren't sure whether or not Logitech has patented this, we'd still like to see it in Corsair's future mice.
When we plugged all of the peripherals in, they all worked immediately from the get-go. No problems at all. Most of the features for them worked without even needing any software, which is really nice. In addition to that, since the USB ports are simply pass-through they don't require any drivers either, so in many instances these keyboards and mice operate nearly flawlessly without any software at all.
Now, we strongly advise that you do actually install the latest drivers for the keyboards and mice as the software really unlocks their full potential and gaming ability. The nice thing about the software is that it essentially allows you to manage all of the functions of the keyboards and mice inside of the software, with more precise settings.
The M90 and K90 are really the best examples of why Corsair's software is so powerful and really the most necessary. We didn't really find that Corsair's software was as necessary with the K60 and M60 combo as the only real programmable parts were three buttons on the mouse, and two of them are already pre-programmed into the mouse. With both the K90 and M90, you can fully control all of the aspects of the keyboard and mouse.
The first thing that comes to our attention is that you can easily switch between the mouse and keyboard in the same program without having to open up an entirely different window or program. This level of simplicity is generally missing in many gaming companies' software. Furthermore, the level of customization that is enabled is purely astonishing and quite easy to use. You can adjust the level of the K60's brightness through 4 different levels in software as well as all of the macro keys.
When we tried using the macro keys, we found that they were very well programmed, in other keyboards we've found that the macros sometimes interfered with each other when fired off in rapid succession. With the K90, we've found that the keyboard macros executed in a queued manner in order not to interrupt each other. We used the keyboard to enter these macros it automatically built the delays into the key presses, which can also be manually entered inside of the software. This is awesome when you realize that you can do this with things like Battlefield 3 and even for this review, Photoshop. The Battlefield 3 example can be demonstrated on either the M90 mouse or the K90 keyboard, and can enable you to quickly deploy all of your C4's and then explode them after an exact amount of time. Similarly, one can also implement this when firing off tank shells, as there is a reload delay. You can fire off a tank shell and then the mouse will automatically switch you to secondary fire as you are reloading and then immediately switch back again and fire the main shell.
In Photoshop, in preparation for this review, we were able to execute a resize macro, followed by a save as macro, followed by a next image macro. We were able to fire off all three macros in rapid succession on approximately 150 photos without any issues, this was not the case when we were using the G15, where the 2nd or 3rd macro would interfere with the 1st or 2nd and completely break the macro process and waste our time. The queued process and properly implemented delays are really quite awesome and the best thing about them is that they can all be programmed into the keyboard and used without any of the Corsair software. You can simply program all of the macros into the keyboard or mouse and save them to the device and unplug and go. This feature has been seen before on other devices, but once again... those devices lacked certain functionalities that the M90 and K90 do have, namely macro buttons and mechanical switches.
When it comes to value, we like to consider multiple aspects of the product that can provide an extra value beyond simply having the product in hand. Even though Corsair doesn't really go above and beyond with accessories, they don't really under do it either. We believe that Corsair includes the right amount of accessories for their products and keeps packaging to a minimum.
In addition to that, they went with a two year warranty on all of their products. For those unfamiliar with the standard in the industry, it is generally only one one year, which we've always found a bit ridiculous, so we're happy to see Corsair going the extra mile and offering two years instead of one year. Admittedly, companies like Razer are also offering 2 year warranties now, which is good, but others like Logitech and Steelseries are still only offering one year. In addition to that, the software really gives these keyboards and mice so much versatility that it adds value to the product without having to pay anything extra.
In terms of pricing and competition, the K90 goes for $129.99 on Amazon.com, while the K60 goes for $97.24. The M90 goes for $70 and M60 for $54. When you take these prices into consideration, you will notice that their K90 is pretty evenly priced when compared to other backlit mechanical keyboards, although many of them don't have the same design, software, or macro buttons. The K60's price may be a bit high considering the lack of macro buttons or backlighting, but considering the quality of materials and the fact that it is still a mechanical keyboard it seems somewhat fairly priced. Looking at both the M90 and M60, they are both very well priced compared to the competition. The M90 is pretty competitively priced against most of its macro enabled competitors like the Razer Naga, except the design and build quality are much better. The M90 is actually cheaper than the Naga and has an aluminum frame and much more ergonomically placed macro buttons. The same goes for the M60, which is pretty competitively priced against the competition not even taking into consideration the M60's build quality and materials as well as software customization possibilities.
We've got to be pretty honest with you, we haven't been this excited about a gaming keyboard and mouse lineup for quite some time. We were afraid that we would be disappointed considering all of our expectations, but Corsair not only delivered but actually surpassed our expectations.
The build quality, design, and performance of the Corsair Vengeance Gaming line of keyboards and mice is quite literally unparalleled by anyone in the industry. When you take into account the fact that Corsair has built these beautiful keyboards and mice with all of the newest technologies and design, there is no doubt that they have hit the nail on the head. We did have some recommendations for future versions, but the majority of them are personal preferences or very slight nitpicks here and there. When you combine the infallible design of the software and hardware with a strong 2 year warranty, Corsair's Vengeance Gaming keyboards and mice are quite simply the best in the world, ever. We officially (and happily) retire our G15 keyboards and G500 mouse for them and slap the entire Corsair Vengeance Gaming line of keyboards and mice with our Editor's Choice award for simply being awesome in every way possible.
Corsair, Gaming, Vengeance, Keyboard, Mouse, Mechanical, Cherry Red, Switch, K90, K60, M90, M60, Razer, Logitech, G15, G510, G500, Naga, MMO, FPS, Battlefield 3, CS:GO, Diablo III
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