Corsair K65 RGB Rapidfire Keyboard Review: The New MX Speed Switch

By Published June 15, 2016 at 9:37 am
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Corsair has expanded into a wider range of products than “just” RAM, now including cases, CPU coolers, power supplies, keyboards, mice, headsets, and more. In the mechanical gaming keyboard market especially, Corsair has built-up a relatively solid reputation for performant and discreet-looking keyboards compared to much of its flashier competition. Corsair’s latest addition to its mechanical keyboard lineup is the K RGB Rapidfire series. The K65 and K70 RGB Rapidfire – tenkeyless and full-sized, respectively – are the same as the K65 and K70 LUX RGB counterparts with the exception of the switch. The new K65 Rapidfire keyboard uses Cherry’s new MX Speed switch rather than MX Reds or Browns. The MX Speed switch is currently a Corsair exclusive, but will eventually open up to other vendors.

For those who don’t know, the LUX versions of Corsair’s keyboards are the same as the non-LUX versions, but they feature the larger font style found on the Strafe (reviewed), an updated RGB controller (allowing for 16.8 million colors without flickering), and USB passthrough.

Today, we look at the K65 RGB Rapidfire, Corsair’s new tenkeyless RGB gaming keyboard. Most notably, the K65 Rapidfire markets itself as having unique switches, sturdy build quality, and versatile RGB lighting. Reflecting that feature-set, the K65 RGB Rapidfire is somewhat expensive at $140 -- let’s see if it’s worth it.

Corsair K65 RGB Rapidfire Specs:

  • Cherry MX Speed switches

  • Customizable RGB backlighting

  • USB 2.0 passthrough

  • WASD textured key replacements

  • N-key rollover

  • Dedicated volume buttons

  • Function-media keys

  • 2 year warranty

Typing and Gaming with Cherry MX Speed Switches

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Cherry’s new switch variations seem to be more and more commonly available on Corsair keyboards before any other brands. Corsair has struck timed exclusivity agreements with Cherry in the past for its RGB and Silent switches. This is once again the case with the MX Speed switches. These switches are essentially MX Reds with the actuation point moved up from 2mm to 1.2mm. In our experience, the Cherry MX Speed switches feel nearly identical to MX Reds in both smoothness and weight, with the only difference being – as per its specs – the higher actuation point.

The MX Speed switches aren’t great for typing. Due to the higher actuation point, it’s much easier to accidentally actuate switches when typing. MX Speeds don’t need to be pressed down as far as MX Reds, so any accidental press is more likely to actuate the switch and result in more typos. The combination of low actuation force and high actuation point make it very easy to accidentally press switches as fingers move from one key to the next. This being said, after using the keyboard for a couple of weeks, we noticed that the typos and accidental actuations became less frequent. This, along with starting to use the included wrist rest (which has a soft texture, but is hard plastic) ended up bringing typing speed and accuracy in the range of what it normally is. Switch preference is a personal matter in many respects, but for those who find it easy to mistype on MX Reds, it’ll likely be even easier to mistype on MX Speeds.

On the other hand, gaming on MX Speed switches is pleasant. As somebody who finds the hysteresis of MX Blues and the general feel of MX Browns annoying when gaming, MX Reds work well since it is easy to hover over their actuation point and quickly double-tap the switch. MX Speed switches achieve this same feeling while moving the actuation point up. The higher actuation point is initially slightly jarring, but easy to get used to with some time.

The difference between the actuation point of 1.2mm vs. 2mm is fairly insubstantial in terms of actual reaction time: Assuming a finger speed of 300mm per second (what Logitech uses to rate their Romer-G switch speed), the time to actuate an MX Red switch (with an actuation point of 2mm) would be about 6.7ms, whereas the MX Speed switch (with an actuation point of 1.2mm) would be 4ms. Even with an amazing reaction time of 200ms (I normally score around 300ms), the 2.7ms saved by the switch difference is within reasonable variance of human input. This is even failing to account for other complex aspects of delay in gaming such as network delay. The possible 2.7ms gained from using a switch with a higher actuation point is likely to be undetected for the vast majority of users.

After switching between normal MX Reds and MX Speeds, I’ve noticed that I more often accidently press switches, but on the other hand, I bottom-out the keys less often in part due to the higher actuation point requiring less travel. Regardless, these differences are minor and subtle, and don’t really have a tangible impact on gameplay.

Media Control Keys and USB Passthrough

One of the main features that Corsair’s Strafe keyboards lack is dedicated media keys. Instead, as with other minimalist options on the market, they use function-based media keys which require the function button to be held and an F-key to be pressed in order to change volume, skip a song, etc. Corsair’s K-series Rapidfire keyboards come with dedicated media keys, but only to an extent. On the K65 RGB Rapidfire, Corsair includes a mute and volume up/down buttons. The controls to pause, skip, and manipulate media are still function-based. The volume controls fit into the style of the keyboard well and have their own controllable RGB backlight. There’s no real issue with the volume controls, but we’re disappointed to see that Corsair didn’t include a volume roller wheel like on the K70; Corsair instead opted for individual buttons, even though they both take up the same amount of space.

One feature we’ve consistently enjoyed in the Strafe RGB (one of our highly ranked keyboards) is the USB passthrough. That’s back on the K65 RGB Rapidfire. The USB passthrough is USB 2.0 -- you won’t get USB3.0 speeds here -- but it’ll allow RF receiver connections or slower USB2.0 device connections without using more distant system slots.

Keycaps

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Above: Underside of the 'ctrl' keycap.

The K65 Rapidfire uses the same keycaps as the Strafe keyboards. These keycaps, in comparison to the original K series’ keycaps, use a larger and more blocky/gamer-y font. We don’t mind the font change and the larger font allows more light from the RGB LEDs to shine through, so it’s all positive or neutral here. The downside to the K65 Rapidfire’s keycaps (and most keycaps) is that they are still thin ABS plastic that has the legend made from a lack of paint (which allows the LEDs to shine through). This can be remedied with custom keycaps if truly bothersome, but Corsair has once again chosen to use a non-standard bottom row despite this having no real benefit compared to following standard key sizes. The non-standard bottom row makes finding replacement keycaps feel unnecessarily challenging.

To its credit, Corsair does include textured WASD keycaps for gaming. There’s no real difference using them, but if the textured approach feels better, then they’re there for you. It’s all personal preference. I found no real difference, but my brother (after using the K65 Rapidfire) told me about how much he enjoyed gaming with the textured WASD keycaps. Different strokes for different folks, eh?

Lighting

corsair-k65-rgb-02

Extremely customizable lighting is one of the most unique and notable features for Corsair’s RGB keyboards. The K65 Rapidfire retains the same highly customizable 16.8 million color lighting that the Strafe RGB and the RGB K LUX series support via Corsair Utility Engine.

There is a decent number of RGB keyboards on the market, but many of them are limited in their animation options. This is often due to the fact that the RGB lighting is programmed into the keyboard rather than deferring to active software control on the PC. This allows RGB lighting to be carried over from one PC to another. Corsair’s mechanical RGB keyboards have the RGB lighting controlled by the Corsair Utility Engine on the host, which allows for some crazy animations to be made using the 16.8 million color options. These won’t carry over from computer-to-computer since it isn’t stored on the keyboard, but that’s easily done by exporting profiles, anyway.

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Above: One of the controllers.

Regardless, the lighting on the K65 Rapidfire is as well done as on the Strafe RGB. The RGB LEDs are bright -- although when the Texas sun shines through my window, they become a bit drowned out -- and the colors are blended together so the individual red, blue, and green LEDs aren’t noticeable. The clear housing used in Cherry’s MX RGB switches allows for the light from the RGB LEDs to also be dispersed and shine through the keycap legends well.

Corsair Utility Engine (CUE)

Drivers for gaming peripherals often – to put things lightly – leave much to be desired. In this aspect, Corsair does surprisingly well with the Corsair Utility Engine. The tool’s reasonably user-friendly (and what isn’t inate can be figured out with online tutorials from Corsair), almost bug-free, and is impressively powerful for creating complex lighting effects.

CUE also allows for keys to be reassigned and macros to be set that can allow for a large variety for functions including typing and opening programs. The lighting settings in standard mode allows for different preset modes to be set and modified in terms of color and speed. The advanced mode isn’t nearly as user friendly, but allows for a large degree of customization. Keys can be set to groups (which can overlap) and then assigned lighting functions.

The only annoyance we experienced with CUE while using the K65 Rapidfire was that we couldn’t use a lighting profile that was meant for a full-sized keyboard. Rather than an incompatibility error, it’d be better if the profile could be applied with a warning that some portions of the lighting will be cut off.

Build Quality & Aesthetics

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Above: An example of the soldering.

Corsair’s K-series keyboards are unique in that they are bezeless, which means that the switches are mounted to the top plate with no surrounding bezel. This, combined with a generally reserved, yet slightly edgy/gamer-esque style, gives Corsair’s K-series keyboards a unique aesthetic. The keyboard is impressively sturdy due to the metal plate the switches are mounted on and an inordinately thick, braided cable.

Internally though, we’re a bit dissatisfied. Corsair’s keyboards have generally had impressively solid build quality, but in this case, the K65 RGB Rapidfire has a couple sloppy and slightly worrying issues.

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For the most part, the soldering in the K65 Rapidfire is up to Corsair’s normal standards, but is sloppy in a few spots, close to potentially causing shorts with nearby components. More significantly, a surface mount diode isn’t in its proper place for one of the switches, and instead a thin wire is connecting it to its nearby trace. Neither of these sloppy touches have caused any problems and won’t necessarily be common in other K65 Rapidfire keyboards, but it's still a disappointment to see subpar internal build quality compared to what Corsair generally does.

We’re also let-down that Corsair has opted to only offer a 2-year warranty. Other keyboards, like Thermaltake’s Poseidon Z, have 5-year warranties, use Kailh switches, and are a lower price. Considering the fact that Corsair heavily emphasizes the high-quality of the Cherry switches in its keyboards and charges premium prices as a result, it'd only be appropriate for Corsair to also provide a 3- or more year warranty.

Conclusion

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The K65 Rapidfire is a good keyboard, but underwhelming. It is tenkeyless (which is somewhat unique), has customizable RGB lighting (which is reasonably common, but the extent of lighting customization is top-notch), and enough brushed aluminum to classify it as a deadly weapon in the event of a home invasion.

All these bulleted points make it a solid and unique keyboard, but on the other hand, the K65 RGB Rapidfire’s one distinguishing feature (the MX Speed switch) is largely inconsequential for most people and primarily ends up raising the cost. The jump is $10 (to $140) compared to the Corsair K65 LUX RGB at $130. Considering these keyboards are nearly identical, unless you are a competitive gamer in which every fraction of a millisecond counts, the MX Speeds are so similar to the MX Reds as to be largely indistinguishable. We’d consider just getting the K65 LUX RGB instead and saving the $10 for something more noticeable.

Editorial: Michael "The Bear" Kerns.

Last modified on June 16, 2016 at 9:37 am
Michael Kerns

Michael Kerns first found us when GN's Editor-in-Chief was tirelessly answering questions on reddit pertaining to a new product launch, likely after the Editor had stayed up all night writing the news post. Michael offered a tired Editor reprieve, taking over the role of questions-answerer-extraordinaire when it was most needed. These days, Michael can be found pulling his mechanical keyboard collection apart and building Frankenstein's Monster-like monsters of keyboards. Michael wrote the vast majority of our mechanical keyboard dictionary and is an expert in keyboards.

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