Corsair K68 Gaming Keyboard - You won't regret if it spills out this time!
Corsair is a brand name that needs no introduction, every PC gamer or enthusiast has come across the brand in one way or the other be it through their famous Hydro series CPU liquid coolers, Power Supply Units, Chassis or even the very reliable Memory kits.
Corsair has been constantly innovating and upgrading their keyboard lineup mainly courtesy to their partnership with Cherry, a global leader in manufacturing keyboard mechanical switches. Talking about innovation what do you do when you've done almost everything in the field of gaming keyboards by launching the likes of the K70 and even the uber premium K95 Platinum? Well it simple you make them spill and dust proof! Why? Because you can and most of the people these days need it especially who tend to use their gaming stations as their lunch stations aswell!
The Corsair K68 Gaming Keyboard aims to do just that and much more. Thanks to Corsair India I'm having one on my table right now for review.
The Corsair K68 is a standard sized gaming keybaord with standard features like a 1000Hz polling rate, 100% anti-ghosting, media keys and even mechanical keys, the CherryMX Red to be precise. For some it sadly has no RGB but a solid red color backlight. Its rated for IP32 protection to earn it that 'spill and dust proof' tag and we'll discuss it later on on how just that really is.
Its priced in at $99 or Rs 12,500 in India backed up by a solid 2 years Corsair domestic warranty.
What's in the Box?
Corsair brings the K68 in their now signature black and yellow packing. The new Corsair logo is at the top left corner followed by the product name and Cherry MX switch glimpse at the bottom right corner. A large glossy picture of the keyboard occupies most of the front side which is good move.
Flip the box and at the back you see that Corsair has clearly mentioned the spill and dust free function along with basic details about the keyboard and its layout via a marked diagram. Yes, its CherryMX Red we get that by now but yet again its mentioned all over again.
All in all the outer packing is brilliant and goes perfectly with the theme of the board.
Inside the box there is another thin black box that contains the contents in a tight and organized manner. The packing is neat and organized to avoid any damage while transit to this product which is a good move in my view.
Open the black box and you'll find the K68 keyboard, a detachable wrist rest, a user manual and warranty card. The accessories with this keybaord are bare minimum and even lack the Corsair signature contorted textured keys that come with most of their keyboards now. The only possible reason can be the cost cutting factor here but a few plastic caps wouldn't have hurt that much.
The K68 Keyboard!
Looking at the keybaord itself you realize immediately that its similar to the K series keyboards from Corsair and is quite boxy in terms of looks. The Corsair K68 clearly seems to bridge the gap between the K63 and the Corsair STRAFE with a bit more features and keys than the former but lesser number of colors than the latter.
An interesting thing I noticed about this keyboard is that that Windows keys are really slim in comparison to the CTRL or ALT keys. This is strategically done to ease the access of Space-bar and CTRL keys together minimizing the distance between the two to make it a more 'gamer friendly' design.
At the back nothing much is going on and we find five rubber feet to securely hold the keyboard in place once placed on a surface to avoid slipping and unnecessary budging. These feet do their job quite well for a keybaord of this size and weight plus you get two stand offs to tilt your keybaord a bit if you like to. So nothing much to discuss or complain about over here.
The wrist rest provided along with the K68 is made out of plastic and a very thin one to be precise with the top textured area being made out of plastic only and not rubber. Its a uni-body design so the wrist mat is fixed and no swap-able. But it gets the job done and only poses discomfort during gaming marathons or while typing long reviews such as this since the textured plastic is hard with no cushioning.
Corsair oddly opted to use a non braided silicon coated USB wire to connect and power the K68! A move which is totally unfathomable since its not a cheap keybaord both in terms of price and feature set so a braided cable is the least one would expect. Thankfully this silicon material isn't too hard and I didn't face any problems in straightening the cable out before use. The cable is a standard Corsair cable with a large plastic head at the end with no USB Pass Through wire.
The Corsair logo this time is non-backlit and is a plain silver Corsair sails logo which is definitely not a finger print magnet and compliments the color scheme and design of this product. Sadly this keybaord doesn't have a USB port on board like the other K series boards and even the STRAFE which is basically done to seal out any open areas for liquid to seep in from. Guess spill proof has its own price.
Very much like the other gaming keyboards the K68 even comes with on board multimedia buttons which are located to the top left corner. These feel nice upon pressing and have a nice feel to them but sadly the volume control is done by three buttons rather than a dial which I'd thought would become a standard for all the budget/upper budget keyboards from Corsair after they implemented it successfully in their K95 Platinum.
Turn your gaze a bit to the left of the media keys and we find two dedicated buttons for two specific functions namely as Light brightness control & Windows lock key. The brightness control buttons lets you switch between three levels of brightness and even switch off the lights completely while the Windows lock key simply locks both the Windows keys on the board to avoid irritating moments when you simply jump back to the desktop from the middle of a game by an accidental press of a button!
Also I don't think that the media keys nor these two keys discussed above are spill proof and I was wary to test it out myself so if you buy this keybaord make sure you don't go berserk with liquids just for the sake of fun.
For those of you not aware of the fact, mechanical keyboards are a great performer but at the same time noisy due to that clicking spring under each key but Corsair overcame this problem to quite an extent by putting a damping material right inside the switch housing, this patent and exclusive to Corsair key is known as Cherry MX and is present in all the new fleet of Corsair keyboards including the K68. Simple yet effective move I'd say!
Also these are Cherry MX Red switches which have a actuation force of 45g and 2mm depth. These are almost identical to the Speed Switches with just a difference of 0.8mm on paper and are used in the K63 and STRAFE aswell.
Take off the key caps and you'll find yourself the conventional CherryMX Red switches at the heart of the K68 Gaming Keyboard. The only thing noticeable here is this red colored silicon like protective material which is quite soft and reminds me of something more intimate! It prevents the liquid spilled on the board from entering inside and damaging the electronics and PCB underneath and hence making it spill proof.
This mushy material doesn't distort the LEDs underneath but does damp the sound of the switches a bit to which I'll come later on.
One thing that is fairly noticeable here is that the LED lights are greatly defused in the K68 in contrast to the STRAFE which has light bleeding out at the corners. This has been achieved mainly by the lower cap height & the protective layer underneath which kind of contains the lights within allowing no bleed out.
Lower cap height also helps in tackling with dust accumulation in the long run so making it dust proof.
Nothing special just a bunch of photographs I managed to click with different lighting configurations and the same red color!
Corsair Utility Engine (CUE)
Corsair has brought out an entirely new software suite with the K68 Gaming keyboard. CUE as Corsair likes to call it is a suite to bind all the three gears, namely as the Void Headset, MM800 Mousepad and Scimitar Mouse, together as one taking a more holistic approach. CUE can be downloaded from the Corsair official website for free.
This new version of the CUE is quite well laid out and has all the comprehensive and complex options hidden deep within. The demo devices listed on the starting page are actually a bunch of emulators that users can use to get a feel of the lighting and various options available for the enlisted peripheral. The top has an advanced button for bringing down the more in depth options for the users & I personally advice that one uses the same as its required to reap the full potential of such a premium device!
Select the K68 and you'll find three tabs on the left labeled as Actions, Lighting Effects and Performance. We'll be discussing all these three one by one so let's discuss the first one first that is the Actions sections.
Once entered this section provides a plethora of serious options to the users. Its a section that means serious business and nothing else. The options are Macro, Text, Remap, Media, App Launch, Timer, Disable and Profile Switching.
Macros as the name suggests is the place where you can program all your macros you want to any key you like! Aside from the keystrokes and delays, the CUE software can also record the relative mouse movements, clicks and scrolling. I was amazed to see that you can even set a particular sound to be played when a macro key is pressed along with the ability to assign follow up actions and even repeat rates of the macros.
Text as the name suggests can be used to assign any text message to a key which when pressed will insert the programmed text into the message box or wherever required. Since it actually types the text and doesn't copy paste it the uses of this function is limitless including insertion of cheats at a single key press in classic games like GTA San Andreas or the classic DOOM 3.
Remap Key is simple and is used to remap any key to any other key including mouse clicks! Also you can program a key for the time its held down or for the number of times is pressed a nifty little feature to make your pistol fire like an assault rifle in CS:GO with a single key stroke!
Rest of the options are fairly simple with the App Launch option allowing the user to launch any application through a dedicated key on the keyboard for quick switching.
Lightning Effects is the place where you want to be for customizing the lights and patterns across the board. One can assign different brightness, patters etc to individual keys along with the media keys and mute key! The obvious part is that since its a non RGB red color only backlit keybaord so you won't be able to change the colors but you can choose from a pallet that has a variety of shades of red and believe me your girlfriend can't even name them all!
These effects and lights once saved would stay on the K95 RGB keyboard even when CUE is not installed on the system via the 8MB onboard memory.
Third section called the Performance section which has some straightforward basic settings including disabling of Windows key and combinations such as ALT+F4 which might be an issue during gameplay. If you feel you can clear the onboard memory aswell of the keyboard to start afresh or update the CUE version too. Not too feature rich section but basic stuff can be found here.
Going to the settings sections you can tune basic settings including polling rate, keyboard layout format and even brightness. Settings for the MM800 Polaris and VOID are even present to give you a taste of these devices aswell. Great marketing from Corsair I'd say!
If you click on the Corsair sails logo on top you'll be greeted with the various profiles that you've created for the keybaord to select from. Its noticeable that you can link a created profile to a certain application on your system aswell so that the keyboard performs accordingly, for example you can make a custom profile for a particular game and link it to that so that the profile loads up when you launch that game or link it to Photoshop or any other content production application to use the created macros for that particular applications on the go without any hassle. This feature somewhat compensates for the absence of the profile switch button on the keyboard.
Performance - Time to put those keys to test!
Whenever I review a keybaord or mouse I like to use the device for atleast a week putting it through my daily usage varying across the week. My usage is obviously more inclined towards typing and I mean lot of typing with various keyboard shortcuts combinations, followed by casual gaming mainly racing, open world or FPS. So lets classify the K68 Gaming Keyboard performance across two broad categories of daily use and gaming.
Daily AffairsCorsair K68 is a very competent keyboard when it comes to typing paragraphs swiftly and smoothly. The CherryMX Red switches due to their quick response & lower actuation makes it really easy to type long paragraphs with great speed without hurting your fingertips. Though it does need a little getting used to since the keys are quick but with a few minutes into training your fingers you'll find yourself using it with no problem. Since my fingers are thick I did accidentally push the Caps Lock key at times since the key is quite big and at almost no separation from the main alphabetical keys, people with slimmer fingers might not come across this issue.
I didn't feel much difference between these and the CherryMX Speed switches when it came to typing or anything else & so won't most of the people since the difference is extremely minute. The keys are not slippery and the slim design makes them a good landing pad for the fingers imparting good enough grip. Overall I loved how the keybaord performs in my daily use.
Game On!Gaming is the area where this keybaord really shined for me since I personally prefer the CherryMX Red switches for gaming purposes. The keys are just perfect and due to logical actuation force and distance its neither too sensitive nor too hard. I generally find CherryMX Speed switches a bit too quick and can't be used without some practice but these I'd say are a buy and go for most of the buyers out there. Still sometimes I found pressing a key accidentally as my finger was resting over it & managed to press it down just by a little namely the spacebar.
Rapid key strokes is where the keyboard shines as they keys offer low resistance with distance and hence reset quickly so rapid strokes are easy and swift making it easy in game like Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The keystrokes produce a good clicky sound but it is somewhat damped by the silicon mesh underneath but that's not a deal breaker in fact it creates a unique sound which I did like as I don't like a noisy cricket for a keybaord on my desk.
Let it Spill out!
Since the Corsair K68 is marketed as a 'spill proof and dust proof' keyboard I didn't hesitate to spill some water, ice and even coffee over this keybaord and it passed all these testes with flying colors be it while it was powered on or switched off. I was a bit apprehensive so as not to get electrocuted but the K68 didn't pose any such danger due to its well sealed body and all plastic body frame.
Overall the keyboard is rated for IP32 protection and while water level 2 is pretty typical for spill resistant devices, dust level 3 is perhaps a bit more debatable. Dust level 3 means it is protected against objects larger than 2.5mm, which is actually quite large by dust standards. Practically speaking, it might be better to call the K68 crumb resistant, as dust will still be able to make it in tight spaces over time. So in short the Corsair K68 is a snack proof gaming keybaord!
My VerdictCorsair did a splendid job with the K68 gaming keybaord in almost every way possible. Its a robust and well build keyboard that oozes quality from every inch of it.
CUE software is more comprehensive and intuitive as ever before and the people at Corsair did a wonderful job at designing this utility keeping every needed feature right where one would like them to be. Thanks to this the K68 even though being a non RGB keybaord gets a plethora of features embedded into it adding some brownie points to it.
Build quality is surprisingly very good for a plastic keybaord which is mainly due to the fact that its all tight and seep proof to keep that IP32 tag intact. I do miss the volume knob and the USB pass through port on this keybaord, a price that one has to pay for a spill proof design. But the absence of a braided cable is something I didn't like at all. LED lights diffuse nicely and don't hurt the eyes or distract one even when brightness is at its fullest.
Keystrokes are swift and feel good under the fingers once got perfectly used to. Gaming or typing a letter to your mom *wink* on the board is a delight making it a versatile keybaord without any restrictions. The silicon material underneath the caps keep them quite and add a nice sound to them when typing.
Coming in at $99 the K68 finds itself in a land full of competitors including Corsair's own STRAFE which offers USB Pass Through and RGB functions at the same price but is not IP32 rated. This creates a drift among the potential buyers due to obvious reasons based on ones own preferences and usage.
I recommend the Corsair K68 to everyone who uses their PC Table as their make shift dining table aswell since the keybaord offers unmatched spill, oops I mean snack proofing! It does exactly what the brand promises and ticks nearly every right box. But if you aren't someone who likes to munch around your PC and love RGB and need that USB Pass Through function then probably you'll be better off looking at the Corsair STRAFE otherwise the K68 is the thing to go for.
I give it 7/10 earning our Gold Award
This post first appeared on Computers And More, please read the originial post: here