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The Rapidfire K70 is a gaming keyboard that typists will love

Engadget Engadget 10/08/2016 Kris Naudus

Rapidfire K70

Rapidfire K70
© Provided by Engadget

Mechanical keyboards are favored by gamers and programmers for how precise and springy the buttons feel under their fingers. The latter is important not just for improving a player's reaction time in a heated match, but a shorter key depression is also way kinder to a typist's hands. So it seems that Corsair's new Rapidfire K70 RGB would be the ultimate step up thanks to its new "Cherry MX Speed" keys, which only need to be pushed down 1.2mm: the shortest actuation point on the market. I've been using it as my work keyboard for the past two months and it's been a sweet experience, though not without a few bumps.

Unlike other gaming keyboards that might pack in extra features like macro keys or a display screen, there aren't too many bells and whistles on the Rapidfire K70. In fact, there's not a whole lot to distinguish it from the standard K70, which was the top pick in our gaming keyboard roundup last year. It has a pretty basic key selection of 107 keys, though there are a few media buttons on the upper right along with a roll bar for adjusting the volume. The K95, also from Corsair, has a selection of 18 macro keys on the left side, but it's not a Rapidfire model, so you'll miss out on the benefits of MX Speed buttons.

I appreciated the simplicity of the layout, which made it ideal for mixed-use scenarios, in which you might want to use the same keyboard for gaming and work. Its compact size means its reach is far friendlier to my smaller hands, and the rubberized palm rest feels nice to the touch. I've had issues with rests before, as some plastics have a tendency to irritate my skin. I haven't had that problem with the K70, even after hammering away on a few 1,200-wordstories. I'm even typing this review on it, and loving it.

There are other nice touches here. The space bar is textured, and the K70 also came with some extra key caps if you prefer your WASD setup to feel a bit rough as well. It's extremely easy to remove the caps, too: Corsair thoughtfully packed in a tool to pull them out, though you can also just give the buttons a good yank with your bare hands and the tops will come right off. This makes the whole rig extremely easy to clean, as the keys are housed in an aluminum deck with no nooks and crannies to trap crumbs and dust. This is ideal as I'm a bit of slob; it's not uncommon for me to eat breakfast or lunch while I work. Indeed, I just noticed something stuck on the side of one of the number keys. It looks like jam? Probably best not to think about it. The important thing is that I was able to pull the key cap off, wipe it down and pop it back onto its switch with no evidence that anything was ever wrong.

The aluminum board also means the Rapidfire feels solid and is heavier than your average keyboard. In fact, It feels like something you'd keep around the office as a melee weapon in case you get caught at work during the zombie apocalypse. It's that sturdy.

The USB cords alone make it a bit unwieldy; their braided design means they don't tangle, but they also don't tuck away easily, so they're always this looming presence on your desk. It's especially annoying as one is a USB passthrough, which I don't need, so it just sits around like a paralyzed snake, making it harder to keep my cables in order.

In use, the Rapidfire K70 is mostly a pleasure. The buttons are smooth and responsive; a little smaller than I'm used to, but it hasn't been a problem. I love the sound of the keys, too. Mechanical keyboards have a well-earned reputation for being noisier than the membrane and scissor-switch peripherals that populate most offices, and the K70 is definitely louder than my standard decks. But the lighter touch needed to activate the Cherry MX keys means that it's possible to be whisper-quiet with enough practice.

What's become more apparent in my time with the Rapidfire K70 is how sloppy a typist I can be. The larger buttons on my usual Comfort Curve Keyboard mean that I don't need to have a good aim to hit the right one, and I often have to slam my finger to get the membrane keys to register. I don't need to be delicate or precise: It's a blunt instrument for typing.

One persistent problem I had with the K70 was that my palm sometimes brushed against the Alt key as I typed. It isn't an issue on a membrane keyboard or even other mechanical layouts because it's not enough to register as a deliberate key press. But thanks to the extremely short actuation point on the Rapidfire K70, I was activating hotkeys left and right. No, I don't need the edit menu right now, thank you very much. Stop that.

In contrast, a mechanical keyboard is more of a scalpel, and the Cherry MX Speed switches on the Rapidfire K70 make it even more so. They're a bit thin, so I have to be careful about hitting the center of the key cap. I barely have to touch them to register a press; it feels like I could breathe funny on the keyboard and end up typing gibberish. That won't actually happen, though. I hit the K70 with a can of compressed air and the keys jiggled but didn't depress enough to register as strokes.

My ham-handed typing aside, it feels and looks great -- I'd be remiss in not mentioning the backlit RGB keys, which are bright and bold and pretty distracting. Of course, Corsair provides its own utility engine, so you can tweak the lighting as well as programming macros. It's pretty robust but also a bit opaque, so if you want anything more complicated than simple keystroke shortcuts you need to put in a serious sit-down with the software to figure out how it works. But it's easy enough to mess with the default lighting schemes and find one that looks good without being too annoying. And if the lighting does ever become a problem, there's a button on the keyboard to just turn it off.

But I don't really want to. The candy-colored lighting makes me happy in a way my conscious brain can't explain. That visual treat combined with the crisp, light typing makes the Rapidfire K70 RGB a sensory delight that actually gets me excited about typing on it. It makes me want to work. When was the last time you could say that about a keyboard?

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