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Pros: If you are wondering why people would spend almost $170 for a mechanical keyboard see Other Thoughts first.
This new iteration of the immensely successful K70 keyboard (which was already almost perfect) utilizes the brand-new Cherry MX Speed switch designed specifically for getting an edge when gaming. It may be a response to Logitech’s Romer-G switches. If you e-sport you should look at this product.
Corsair entered the keyboard market around 2011 with great hardware. (Their Cue software, though complex, is kept current and is not required to use the keyboard as a keyboard.) They used the legendary Cherry switches from the get-go and even got Cherry to make special switch lines for their keyboards. Corsair keyboards have been available using Cherry MX “Silent”, “Red”, “Brown”, or “Blue” switches. This keyboard is the first to use the brand-new Cherry “Speed” switches.
THE SWITCHES TILL NOW:
Cherry switches are usually referred to by color and can be: clicky/non-clicky on activation, provide a tactile feedback “bump” when pressed or not, and have differing actuation/rebound spring forces. The three most common are:
Red - light-weighted, low actuation force of 45cN, linear response.
Brown - tactile-bump, non-clicky switch with 45cN actuation force
Blue - clicky, tactile-bump switch with a 50cN weighting
All of these switches all make noise at: bottom-out, on rebound, and in addition- some of them have an audible click during activation (blue) which happens before bottom-out. Because of the noise, some people put rubber O rings under the keys till a couple years ago when Cherry made a new switch especially for Corsair:
the “Silent” - designed for Corsair - like red but quiet - presumably for spousal benefit.
Red or Silent were thought to be best for gaming. Blue is favored by typists. Brown is thought to be middle-of-the road good for both.
AND NOW AN EVEN NEWER CHERRY SWITCH
“Speed” - it looks silver to me and acts like the Red switch - but actuates in 1.2 mm of travel vs. 2.0 mm of travel using the same 45cN force. This might give the die-hard gamer a slight edge. The main competitor to this switch in the switch arms race is the Logitech Romer-G switch which has 1.5 mm of travel. BTW the total travel distance to bottom-out on the Speed is 3.4 mm vs Red at 4 mm.
USB pass through, individual key RGB backlighting with some amazing effects supported by downloadable profiles designed by the gaming community, same fantastic aluminum body as the previous K70, discrete media buttons and volume, “game mode” to disable certain keys like the Windows key, full rollover & anti-ghosting, FPS and MOBA keycap sets, detachable wrist rest with perfect texture, new bigger font on keys for more light passage, same nice sail logo (thanks Corsair), key removal tool, 2 year warranty.
Cons: I suggest trying out the various types of switches if you have not experienced them before. These Speed switches are fairly twitchy and activate with the lightest tap. They will give you an edge in some games but would not be my first choice if I spent most of the day typing instead of playing.
No headset pass-through. Big, thick cable - but that’s what you need for all the effects.
Software installation takes about 160 Mb but it works just fine if you choose not install it to your system SSD. During the install it gives you the option to install elsewhere than the system disk. Don’t need the software to use it just as a regular keyboard.
Other Thoughts: I have a large collection of mechanical keyboards to compare this one to. All the way from the original Apples to near-current Corsair STRAFE and its competitors using Blues, Reds, and Browns. The best mechanical keyboards often use Cherry switches. Cherry (the world’s oldest keyboard switch manufacturer) was a US company that moved to Germany around 1967.
This particular keyboard’s switch type definitely made a difference in my gameplay but it would not be my first choice for typing. Corsair is a great hardware company that got into gaming about 5 years ago. They listen to their boards and their customers.
Most keyboards are cheap, membrane-based boards with a rubber dome switch underneath each key. These are inexpensive, spill-resistant, and don’t give you much feedback as to when each key registers - you have to bottom out the key. Also, most can only detect a couple simultaneous keys at a time (called a “rollover” number). Rollover often includes only certain combinations of keys. This problem is also called “ghosting” when certain simultaneous keypresses can’t be distinguished by the keyboard. Right now, try typing “the quick brown fox jumps right over the lazy dog” while holding down both shift keys on your current non-mech keyboard. I’ll do this on my Microsoft keyboard at work now: HE QUIK BRON FO JUPS RIGH OER HE LA DOG.
After using a mechanical keyboard, anything else will feel wrong and mushy. Mechanical keyboards also are a bit loud, heavy, and last forever unless you spill your coffee on them. When Apple changed from ADB ports to USB there was a huge market in $50 ADB to USB adapters for people who loved their old keyboards. I bought a few. If you use mechanicals to type, with practice you will type a LOT faster and push more softly because you don’t have to bottom out the keys to get them to actuate. Just don’t spill coffee on them.
Pros: BOTTOM LINE
Sub-$100 AC two-stream dual-band device that is pretty much plug-it-in and it works. If you don’t need any more than that, this will be a fine router if the price is right.
Broadcom chip based: Broadcom BCM47081A0 CPU which includes the switch, 128 MB RAM, BCM43217 2.4 GHz radio, BCM4352 5GHz radio. Two antennas. One included blue cable. Software selectable LED. 4 Gigabit LAN and one Gigabit WAN port. One USB 3.0 port for printer/storage. Looks great. Much smaller than my Linksys ea6500 AC1750. Compact power adapter.
No CD required. Checks for new firmware on startup. Has option to use Linksys “SMART” features to manage network from mobile devices if you set up free account.
I had several other two-stream devices to test it against including a couple Archer C5’s (v1 & v2) and a Netgear. They all are pretty similar in performance even using different chipsets. The USB 3.0 didn’t make much difference in storage speeds vs the USB2 devices. WIRED: WAN->LAN 840 Mbps. LAN->WAN 770 Mbps. WIRELESS: 2.4 Ghz Up/Down 56/75 Mbps, 5 GHz 157/147 Mbps. USB STORAGE: in MBytes/s Fat32 r/w 13/27; NTFS r/w 12/27.
Good looks, appears to be very basic but is designed for easy setup and administration. Has DLNA server, optional FTP server, good storage options, pretty much sets itself up and is wirelessly secure when you turn it on. Don’t have to change any defaults and you can be just fine if you are like most consumers. The default wireless settings are configured for compatibility rather than speed. Setup password is initially admin so need to change if anyone has wired access to it. Gui is responsive. Boot time is fast.
Cons: Two-stream dual-band AC gen1 devices were cutting edge a couple years ago. Now they are probably considered entry level. Checking prices today (5/2016) it seems that this is one of the most expensive two-stream per band routers while performing at about the same level as the other less expensive ones. Within $10 or $15 bucks I can find several three-stream first gen AC devices from various vendors. So, you are probably paying extra for looks, the Linksys name, and the “Smart” features.
If you are a tinkerer or have something that’s a bit beyond the needs of a one-router consumer network, the firmware is a bit limiting. It has only two DDNS provider options. Trying to add the router as just a wireless access point has you digging through the options to find “bridge” mode, guest network is not secure, is only on 2.4 GHz, is on by default - protected by a password.
Gets a bit warm. No open-source options if you don’t like the firmware limitations.
Other Thoughts: PROTOCOL VOCABULARY AND PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS
If you don’t have 802.11ac, the next best thing is the 802.11n protocol. N protocol can run on either the 2.4GHz or the 5 GHz radio band. N gets you up to about 150 megabits per “spatial stream” which can be thought of as a 20 MHz radio channel. This router can “bond” up to two streams for 300Mbs on a 2.4 GHz band. Each stream needs its own radio antenna on both the access point and the client to get this speed. This assumes the router is set to n-only mode.If you set “mixed mode” and you have non-N devices on the network, the whole band throughput will slow down dramatically.
Realistic TCP throughput on pure two stream 2.4 GHz N will max out under 125 Mbs due to TCP/protocol overhead when Windows is showing a 300 Mbs connection.
The ac protocol can only happen on the 5 GHz band and provides about 433 Mbit/sec per spatial stream. Newer laptops and handsets since the iPhone 6, HTC M8, and Galaxy S4/S5 support the ac protocol on one band (it’s less battery power per byte). 5 GHz is less crowded, but usually drops off faster than 2.4 GHZ with distance. Even though two-band AC will show almost a 900 Mbs connection, real-life ideal TCP throughput might top out under 200 Mbs.
Most people set their routers on the 2.4GHz to the most-compatible mixed mode setting and then use the 5 GHz in ac-only mode for big files/streaming video.
The router can only talk to one device at a time on each band so communication with multiple devices happens by round-robbin sharing of each band. Also remember that most clients like cell phones have only one radio per band so the typical max throughput I mentioned above would be lower by half with a one radio client.
Pros: If you haven’t tried Powerline Adapters in a few years, there has been a great improvement in speed and standardization (see other thoughts). I’ve recently moved from a fully wired house with at least one ethernet outlet in every room to one with no hardwired ethernet. Wireless just doesn’t cut it everywhere (like stuff in a media-center cabinet) and these powerline adapters will typically allow for streaming uncompressed 1080p Blue-ray with little or no buffering.
PHYSICAL APPEARANCE and SETUP
They are very compact, are two prong so can be put them into the outlet up or down, don’t block the other outlet, and are extremely inexpensive. They are a top seller on multiple online sites. They come with ethernet cables and a utility CD that you are unlikely to need. There is one Ethernet port per adapter. Setup consists of plugging them in and attaching the network cable. This pair will automatically recognize each other. Buying and adding more might require pushing the pair button.
GUTS and CLASS
Chipset is QCA AR7420/AR1540. Protocol class is AV500.
NUMBER OF DEVICES and SECURITY
You can buy them in a kit of two (this one) with the AES 128 encryption key preset between the two adapters. If you want to expand, they are also available as a kit of three or individually. If you set them all with the same encryption key, they can all talk together. Specs supposedly support up to 16 adapters on the same security key and possibly up to 64 adapters total - I haven’t tried that. In an apartment building you could use different keys and be secure if you think other powerline networks are in use on the same electrical circuit. If you use a lot of these together, then the QOS options might come in handy.
Unlike old powerline adapters, these can work across multiple phases and circuits in a house. They will not cross a service transformer. Speed decreases with wiring distance - but these should talk through a thousand feet of wire.
Cons: Cons are not too bad but there are a couple things to be aware of:
1) Over the last several years, there have been multiple powerline standards. Some are incompatible. The most common ones are various versions of “HomePlug”. There is also a standard called “G.hn”. “Homeplug” and G.hn can coexist on the same wires but don’t talk to each other. The old “Homeplug” adapters were quite slow. The new ones are great. If you have any old technology Homeplug adapters they will likely talk to each other but performance on the fast ones will degrade. At this price, get rid of the old one’s and buy the new faster ones.
2) The advertised link “Speed” has no real relation to real life data throughput. You may wonder why a 500 Mbps device has a 10/100 ethernet port. That’s because, after protocol overhead, the actual data up/down throughput I measured on these paired adapters ranged between 45 to 88 Mbps at various distances. Now, that’s not too different from the hyped-up wireless router marketing stuff. Remember, that uncompressed Blue-ray at 1080p rarely requires more than 50 Mbps and “HD” Netflix is a lot less than that (you should be able to do multiple simultaneous streams).
3) Transformers block the signal. These worked through most of my GFI’s, consumer UPS’s (Tripp Lite and APC), and power blocks, but they did not work through my Panamax Home Theater Rackmount Power Conditioner or my APC server rackmount SmartUPS.
Other Thoughts: Here are the approximate advertised vs maxed-out real-life throughput speeds in Mbps for some modern “Homeplug” type adapters. Anything older you should throw out and replace -- like things labeled “Homeplug 1.0” or “Homeplug 1.0 w/ Turbo”.
Name Usual Labeled Link Speed Typical Real Life Data Throughput
“HomePlug AV” 200 30 - 60
“HomePlug AV500” 500 40 - 90
“HomePlug AV2” 600 120 - 250
“HomePlug AV2MIMO" 1200 250 - 400
So, rule of thumb - just like wireless routers - take marketing number and divide by 4 to account for protocol overhead.
I find that this reviewed model, which is AV500, is more than enough for my uses (streaming video, youtube, netflix, security cams, x-box) and is quite cost-efficient. The next model up, is way faster, has a gigabit port, but is also a fair a bit more expensive.