- 6 Function Keys
All the extras, no main course 12/03/2013
This review is from: Corsair CH-9000043-NA Raptor K30 Red LED Backlit Keyboard
Corsair made a grand entrance into the high-end gaming keyboard market with the K70, K90, and K95. They are bold, capable, and very expensive. The K30 comes in as a lower cost alternative - it most closely compares to the K95 with keyboard backlighting. The K90 offers an aluminum chassis, mechanical key switches and 18 dedicated macro keys. The K30 substitutes plastic housing and rubber dome keys and only has 6 macro keys. A third the macro keys for a third the price. Also missing from the K30 is the ability to adjust the keyboard polling rate to compromise between performance and laptop battery life. Otherwise, the features are largely the same.
After a day of using the K30 for typing, including this review, and an extended late-night gaming session, I'm left with mixed feelings. To be honest, I didn't miss the extra macro keys. The K30 can store a total of 18 macros, but only 6 are available at a time. If you are in love with hot keys or play a MMO game where a huge number of commands are useful, this could be a concern.
Corsair's driver software is capable and efficient, but you don't need it to use the keyboard, Recording macros is as simple as pressing the macro record key, hammering out the command you want, then pressing the record key again to save it. The driver software offers a slick GUI, editing capability, and some advanced commands that are not available directly from the keyboard. Since the macros are stored in the keyboard, all your customizations are fully portable. Kudos to Corsair for this.
The Keyboard lighting behaves as it does on the more expensive K95. Off, dull red glow, medium, or full-on high tech bordello mode - whatever mood fits the occasion. The keys themselves are raised from the chassis surface. This both looks slick and, as I discovered by accident, makes cleaning spills easy.
I did not find any problems with dropping multiple key presses. Corsair's anti-ghosting circuits performed perfectly. As on the K95, the multi-media keys are perfectly placed for controlling your tunes without requiring a break from the action.
The K30 does not cut quite as extravagant a figure as the K95. No black aluminum housing, and only a hint backlight glow shining from under the keys instead of the keys floating in a sea of glimmering red. The K30 also drops the USB hub found in the K95; I can't say I found this a loss as I'm not a fan of extraneous junk hanging off a keyboard. YMMV, however. The K95 has three times the macro keys but, as noted above, it also costs three times as much.
That leaves us with the difference in key switch technology - mechanical vs. rubber dome. Which leads directly to the Achilles heel of the K30...
... the K30 does not function well as a keyboard. The mechanical Cherry MX Red switches on the K95 require a ridiculously low force to operate. Combined with Corsair's anti-ghosting, this makes the Cherry MX Reds ideal for the fastest of fast-twitch gaming. On the other hand, they can be difficult to use in normal work for some typists. The same fast response that heals in gaming can lead to mistakes in typing, as only a minimal touch is required to activate the keys.
My hope was that the K30's rubber dome keys would provide a workable compromise. Fast enough response for gaming, forgiving for general use. Unfortunately the reality is the K30 excels at neither. In gaming use, I felt as though I was moving in slow motion. I know the K95 is a better keyboard than I am a gamer. There has never been a time when I felt as though I was even close to pushing it to its limits. With the K30 I felt as though there was a layer of mush between my fingers and the actual keypress registering. The result was being a split-second behind in everything.
On the typing front, the K95 behaves like a high-strung sports car. Even the slightest error with your fingers results in garbled text on the page. In comparison, the K30 is a wallowing Buick from the 70's - unresponsive, uncomfortable, and generally unpleasant to use. With sufficient practice, the K95 can be your daily keyboard as well as a gaming specialty. The K30 proved aggravating in both tasks.
I can see Corsair's dilemma with the K30. Simply trading the brash looks of the K95 for a merely bold fashion statement and cutting the both the number of macro keys and price by a third would make a dynamite keyboard - as well as cannibalizing sales of their high-end models. Hence the substitution of rubber dome keys for mechanical switches.
There is much to praise about the K30. Macro functionality, key placement, and backlighting are all excellent as is the ability to process multiple keypresses. It allows disabling the Windows key to prevent inadvertent death at the wrong time during game action. The key contours are good, although with my extra-large mitts, I do prefer slightly larger key caps. Corsair's software is also quite good, and is even fully optional for most use. All good things.
Unfortunately I can't get past the overall mediocrity of the key switches. In part this probably was a cost-cutting maneuver on Corsair's part. If they also intended to compromise between gaming responsiveness and general usability, the K30 ends up satisfying neither. If you can live with a gaming keyboard that offers all the bells and whistles but is not particularly good as an actual keyboard, the K30 is worth considering.
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