Input Devices Guide
First Looks: Corsair Vengeance K90 Performance MMO Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
A Sturdy Keyboard Ideal for the Mainstream Gamer
Corsair Memory, widely recognized for producing computer hardware such as DRAM modules and power supply units, recently released a family of gaming gear under the Vengeance Gaming line, which consists of gaming mice, keyboards, headsets, and cases. In this article, we take a look at the K90 mechanical keyboard that's fitted with Cherry MX Red switches, and boasts 18 dedicated macro keys (Corsair calls them G-keys).
The K90 comes in a rugged aluminum finish with a detachable soft-touch wrist rest. At first glance, there is a clear distinction between the main laser-etched, backlit keys and the 18 dedicated G-keys, with the main keys being mounted higher. Also, the keyboard houses multimedia controls (including a volume adjuster), a Windows lock key, a button to toggle between four illumination levels (off, 66%, 75%, 100%), and a USB port at the rear which you can connect your gaming mouse or headset to.
A full-sized keyboard, the K90 strikes a good balance between gaming and regular typing. The Cherry MX Red key switch is a linear switch (non-tactile and non-clicky) that can be considered a lighter variation of the Cherry MX Black key switch. Comparatively, it requires lesser force (45g) to actuate, so accurate typists would favor this switch type as the keys would register at the slightest touch. In fact, the distance to actuation point is only 2mm from the starting position. But be warned: If you're new to this switch type, or if you're not a touch typist, you might find yourself making a lot of typos. On the other hand, gamers would love the Cherry MX Red as it makes quick repeated taps very effortless.
Hitting the G-keys
When plugged in to a system, we found that only the main keys are supported by the blue backlighting, which is a good thing since not all gamers would use their G-keys, much less customize them to record all the 54 programmable functions. Thankfully, they're also positioned out of the way on the left. Every gaming keyboard is expected to integrate some kind of anti-ghosting technology, and the K90 is no exception. On top of that, Corsair has also increased the typical six-key rollover on the USB port to an amazing 20-key rollover for the K90.
In our trials, it did take us more than the usual couple of days to get accustomed to the keyboard. Once accustomed, we practically blazed through general typing despite the occasional typographical mistakes (especially hitting "Caps Lock" instead of "a"). In fact, this reviewer's online typing test revealed an increase of 10 to 15 words per minute from usual typing speeds. In games however, more errors were picked up as we frequently mistook the "G18" key for the left "Control" key, as well as the "G1" key for the "Escape" key. Naturally, your mileage may vary.
The on-board volume adjuster proved to be especially useful, as you can save time from fiddling with the in-game volume controls, nor risk one hand away from the keyboard to grope for the volume control situated somewhere along the headset cable. Because the keys are so sensitive, we're grateful for the Windows lock button which prevented what could have been at least five game interruptions in a span of 90 minutes for one of our game test sessions.
The solid construction and the weighty built (about 1.3kg without the wrist rest) of the K90 worked well for us as it stayed rooted on the desk throughout the late-night gaming sessions. The full length wrist rest, while a nice touch, posed a problem due to its short width: In many instances, this reviewer's wrists landed outside the wrist rest area and on the table instead.
We would have much preferred if the area allocated for the G-keys were removable. This is to enable gamers (particularly FPS ones who rely heavily on their mice in-game) who do not have any use for them to have more space for mouse movement. Also, the wrist rest could have been made wider. It should also be made easier to attach and screw, or be made a permanent fixture to the keyboard. In addition, the layout of the keys could be improved to combat the repeated mishit of characters, notably while gaming. It's worth pointing out that not all the keys use the Cherry MX Red key switches - the G-keys, Esc, F1 to F12, and the cluster of six keys beside the number pad use membrane-type switches.
Having said that, the K90 does have many advantages one would like especially in-game, such as the Windows lock key, the volume adjuster, the 20-key rollover, and the physical sturdiness. Of course, we won't deny the usefulness of the G-keys for gamers who need them. You could even create up to 50 profiles, and share your macros with others using the software.
Priced at S$189, the K90 is within the same price range as the Tt eSPORTS Meka mechanical gaming keyboard, which employs the Cherry MX Black switches. However, the Meka isn't a backlit keyboard. The Ducky DK-9008 Shine is another one to consider if you need backlit keyboard options; it can be had for around S$169.