Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
The K55 Core is a classic Corsair keyboard with a clean, practically reference layout -- meaning no crazy designs -- with ten-zone RGB LED backlighting. Given this is an ultra-budget model, no wrist rest is included, although I wish one was. There is minimal branding present, with Corsair's logo printed between the navigation keys and the arrow keys. Meanwhile, the black colored, matte plastic high bezel case is understated and hides fingerprints well. The sides and bottom are plastic as well. Overall, the looks are pretty standard and as stiff as it can get for a keyboard that uses an all-plastic construction. It will flex when pressed down hard and it will bend when you twist it, but this is about what you can expect for something with a plastic backplate and plastic frame.
The Corsair K55 Core measures in at 451mm width, 141mm depth, and 35mm height. These are expected dimensions for a standard QWERTY keyboard. To go along with its medium footprint and medium profile, the keyboard weighs about 752g according to the manufacturer's supplied documentation. This is about what is expected for a membrane keyboard. It says it is 1.035 on the website at press time, but the units were not stated. I do not believe it is correct either in kg or lbs, because I weighed it myself and 752g seems correct.
Once you turn off the lights and activate the Corsair K55 Core's RGB backlit keys, the keyboard really shines -- no pun intended. The font is large and bold. The K55 Core features a ten-zone RGB LED backlighting for the keys. Backlight intensity can be adjusted on the fly by a dedicated button located on the left side of the indicator LEDs to cycle the brightness. The other button toggles Win Lock on or off. Both of them are clicky short-travel buttons. The backlight can be turned off completely or adjusted in five increments. I am a big fan of fully backlit keyboards, and it is expected in 2024. The Corsair K55 Core's key illumination distribution is even, including keys with more than one line of text label, since the stems are clear, and there are no opaque mechanical switches to get in the way. The area between the keys is also backlit thanks to the reflection of the LEDs and translucent backplate, and I like it.
Almost everything here is pretty standard in terms of layout with a few additions. I am a big fan of the single row Enter key layout as present on our US QWERTY Corsair K55 Core. Keyboards with a double row Enter key usually means the "\" button is moved to the left side of the right Shift key, reducing the size of the latter. I am more used to having a 3U Shift on the right and a half-height Enter. Obviously, this is more or less personal preference, but having a single row Enter key makes a lot more sense to me.
Above the numeric keypad are the brightness control and Win Lock keys as aforementioned as well as four media keys, which includes volume up, volume down, mute, and play/pause. They are all clicky short-travel buttons. None of these buttons have backlighting. In between are four indicator LEDs corresponding to Num Lock, Caps Lock, Scroll Lock, and Win Lock respectively. They all glow white when activated and their color cannot be changed. One thing to note is the Win Lock indicator LED does not work on my K55 Core. It is possible my particular unit is defective.
The low-profile acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, plastic keycaps are of average quality. Polybutylene terephthalate, or PBT, keycaps are stiffer, harder, and have better color retention, but this is an ultra-budget keyboard and ABS keycaps are expected. The keycaps are textured and feel decent on the fingers when in use.
If you do not know what a membrane keyboard is, there are three main types of keyboards in the market today. The cheapest is the membrane keyboard, which is the easiest to make, but also has poor typing feel and response due to squishy keys. A scissor switch keyboard has its own independent keyswitch mechanism for each key, which delivers improved tactile response and typing experience. Modern scissor switch keyboards can be very good for everyday office use. Mechanical keyboards cost the most because each keyswitch is an independent part.
The K55 Core features membrane, or rubber dome, switches. They are quiet and have a tactile bump right at the very start. They feel decent for what they are, but keep in mind this is not a mechanical keyboard. The base is made out of plastic as aforementioned, so there is some keyboard flex. I recorded a sound clip below to give you an idea of how it sounds in practice.
For wider keys, Corsair opted to use Costar stabilizers. A stabilizer, as its name suggests, is to maintain the balance of wider keys. The other main stabilizer design is Cherry. The Costar stabilizer found in the K55 Core, as shown in the above photo, has a wire bar that spans nearly the entire width of the keycap and attached by a clip at the bottom of the keycap. Cherry stabilizers, on the other hand, use additional non-electrically activated switches without the spring on the sides for support. Costar stabilizers are rattlier, but are easier to maintain, while Cherry stabilizers feel mushier.
The Corsair K55 Core is a 12KRO keyboard that polls at 1000Hz. 12KRO stands for 12-key rollover. If you have used keyboards with limited key rollover capabilities, you may have experienced ghosting issues in the past. Your system will be unable to register any more strokes when too many keys are pressed at the same time. A full NKRO keyboard, on the other hand, overcomes this by independently polling each key, making all inputs detectable by the hardware regardless of how many other keys are activated at the same time. This means in the event you have every other key on your keyboard depressed, it will still register the last stroke. The K55 Core can support up to twelve simultaneous keypresses. It is not as good as a full NKRO keyboard, but since you have only ten fingers, twelve is a good figure.
At the back of the Corsair K55 Core is the USB cable lead out. It comes on the left and is not detachable, which is standard for a budget keyboard. This rubber cable is of average thickness and extends 1.8m in length to connect to your computer via one standard, non-gold-plated USB connector. When we bring about the question of whether gold plated connectors are actually useful or not, let us just say if it was the actual pins, then there is a possibility, since gold offers better conductivity than other metals. This theoretically establishes a better connection with your computer, but on a digital signal level, it is a discrete one or zero. If anyone tells you they can tell the difference, a double blinded test will easily debunk their claims. Additionally, if you are referring to the gold part of the connector you see on the plug, it is only used as ground. In other words, it is nice to have, and it is pretty to look at, but it is not anything significant on a practical level. The lack of a gold-plated USB connector will not have any performance impact on the Corsair K55 Core.
At the bottom are four rubber pads and strips to help the Corsair K55 Core stay in place during intense gaming sessions. The two rubber-lined flip-out risers at the front tilt the keyboard up for those who prefer it. The Corsair K55 Core is a reasonably weighted keyboard by itself, which should not move too much during intense gaming sessions.
There is no keyboard drain holes, but the non-mechanical design allows it to have a 300mL spill resistance rating, so having some Mountain Dew nearby will probably not kill your K55 Core even in the event of an accident.
The Corsair K55 Core works with the latest version of Intelligent Corsair Utility Engine, or iCUE, at press time, which is a 3.2MB download. This program unifies all compatible peripherals and components into one application, and will automatically download the necessary modules when a compatible device is detected. After selecting the device you want to configure from the main screen or top bar, the graphical user interface is basically separated into two sections. The left side allows you to select the configuration category, while the right side displays all options. All settings are stored locally on your PC. In our screenshot above, you can see there are two other products connected, which are the Corsair iCUE LT100 and iCUE Nexus.
The Key Assignments tab is where you can control the function of the buttons on your keyboard. These include key remaps like keystroke or mouse functions, regular assignments like media or macros, and voicemod like voice changer.
The Lighting Effects tab is where you can play around with the lighting effects of each of the Corsair K55 Core keys, as shown in our screenshot above. Not every key can be independently controlled. Instead, there are ten pre-defined lighting zones. Corsair's iCUE is designed to configure the backlight by layer, where each layer can have a different configuration. There are standard preset effects like Watercolor or Rainbow Wave and Static Color as a custom effect. Each effect has options for further customization. Hardware Lighting is similar to Lighting Effects, except they can be used even when iCUE is off. The available options are reduced.
Performance is where the Windows Lock options are configured. This includes disable Alt+Tab, Alt+F4, Shift+Tab, and Windows key if the Windows Lock is on. Lastly, Device Settings opens a new window for you to do stuff like update the firmware, adjust the polling rate, adjust backlight brightness, toggle tutorial tooltips on or off, and toggle PlayStation Mode.
Overall, I found iCUE5 to be powerful, straightforward, and reasonably easy to use. The latest version continued to improve the usability of this software, and the overall experience was very positive to me.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software