By: Jonathan Kwan
December 28, 2018
If there is a keyboard that almost perfectly fits the APH Networks keyboard design philosophy, it would be the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB. What is APH Networks' keyboard design philosophy? It must feature a clean, practically reference layout with OEM Cherry MX keyswitches, media buttons on the side, LED backlighting, and a detachable wrist rest. Simply put, the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB checked all the boxes and a few more. It should come at no surprise that model has been my main keyboard since I got my hands on it. But if there is a keyboard that followed almost none of the above and yet was one of my favorite keyboards of all time, it would be the Logitech diNovo Edge. It was my daily driver for many years, and it remains to be an integral part of my PC collection to this day. What made the Logitech diNovo Edge so desirable despite not having Cherry MX keyswitches, dedicated media buttons, numeric keypad, LED backlighting, or a detachable wrist rest? I have to admit it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason, but I would say it had a truly outstanding design and high quality feel that is yet to be met by anything that came across my desk here at APH Networks in the last ten years. Although it was not a mechanical keyboard, its precision micro-scissors mechanism that rivaled the best ThinkPad keyboards was truly one of its biggest highlights. But what if we combined the uniqueness of low profile laptop-style keys like the diNovo Edge into a product that fits the APH Networks design philosophy? Enter the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile: One that promises all of the above.
Our review unit of the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile came in an elongated brown corrugated cardboard box from Ryder Integrated Logistics in Ontario, California, USA. Even if you have never heard of Ryder Integrated Logistics, you have probably seen their rental trucks roaming the streets of our continent. Using UPS Standard, everything arrived in excellent condition to us here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for our review today.
As it was with the Corsair Gaming K68 I reviewed about a year ago, the retail box design for Corsair's K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile mechanical keyboard is immediately recognizable to anyone who has seen peripherals from the company at the local computer shop in the last little while. Although they have inverted the colors, the predominantly yellow color scheme is complemented by black strips on the side, contrasted by the white text on the darker shades and black text on the lighter shades. The keyboard itself at 3/4 angle occupies majority of the real estate in front. At the top, you will find Corsair's logo. The name of the keyboard is printed next to it. At the bottom, two stickers indicate our particular variant of the K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile has Cherry MX Red Low Profile switches and features the English keyboard layout. On the right is a Corsair iCUE logo. Further feature highlights and miscellaneous product information such as specifications and system requirements can be found on the remaining sides of the box.
Before we move on, let us take a look at the specifications of the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
Keyboard Warranty: Two Years
Keyboard Backlighting: RGB
Keyboard Layout: NA
HID Keyboard Report Rate: 1000Hz
Key Switches: Cherry® MX Low Profile Red
USB Pass-through: USB 2.0 Type-A
Matrix: 104 Keys
Keyboard Connectivity: Wired
Adjustable Height: Yes
Additional colored and textured keycaps: FPS/MOBA
Media Controls YN: Yes
Keyboard Type Size: K70
Keyboard Product Family: K70
Keyboard Rollover: Full Key (NKRO), 100% anti-ghosting
Size (Full/TKL): Full Size
Wired Connectivity: USB 2.0 Type-A
On-Board Memory: Yes
Number Onboard profiles: 3
WIN Lock: Yes
Media Keys: Dedicated Buttons (Stop, Previous, Play/Pause, Next)
Wrist Rest: Included, detachable, with soft touch finish
Keyboard CUE Software: Supported in CUE 2.x
Keyboard Cable Type: Braided
Out of the box, you will receive everything you need plus a few other things that are really nice to have. Securely placed inside the box is the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile keyboard itself contained in a clear plastic bag, while its detachable wrist rest is wrapped inside a separate plastic bag. A keycap puller and two sets of extra grey keycaps, including WASD for first person shooters and QWERDF for League of Legends players, are also included. In case you are wondering, yes, there are two extra "W" and "D" keys. On the product literature side, you will find a quick start guide.
Like many keyboards in Corsair's product portfolio, the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile is yet another keyboard that fits APH Networks' design philosophy. It carries a clean, practically reference layout -- meaning no crazy designs -- with OEM Cherry MX keyswitches, media buttons on the side, RGB LED backlighting, and a detachable wrist rest. The K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile checks all the boxes and adds Corsair-exclusive Cherry MX Red Low Profile switches. The RGB backlit Corsair logo can be found at the top, right in the middle of the elevated bar. Meanwhile, the exposed black colored brushed alumimum backplate is great to look at. It even hides fingerprints well. The sides and bottom are all made out of quality plastic. Overall, I am a big fan of the looks, and the aluminum backplate is rock solid. There is no perceivable flex in the keyboard and feels substantial in everyday use.
Speaking of the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile's wrist rest, it is fully detachable from the main unit. It is designed to be connected to the keyboard via two plastic clips. The tabs on the plastic clips appear to be of reasonably good quality. The entire wrist rest is made out of plastic, but most of it has a textured finish for improved grip. Its protrudes comfortably for my average sized hands. When placed on the table, the wrist rest does not move from side to side and has a limited slip rotation angle when lifted off the table.
The Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile measures in at 438mm width, 168mm depth, and 29mm height. Adding the wrist rest increases the depth to about 230mm by my measurements. This is slightly deeper than a standard QWERTY keyboard due to the top bar. To go along with its medium footprint and medium profile, the keyboard weighs about 1.08 kg according to the manufacturer. This is heavy but about average for a mechanical keyboard.
Once you turn off the lights and activate the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile's RGB backlit keys, the keyboard really shines -- no pun intended. The font is large and bold. The K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile features full independent key RGB backlighting. Backlight intensity can be adjusted on the fly by a dedicated button located in the top bar to cycle the brightness. The other two buttons cycle between one of three saved profiles on the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile's 8MB internal memory and toggles Win Lock on or off. Win Lock is an important feature in any gaming keyboard, because let us face it: How many times have you tried to duck in your favorite FPS while engaging an enemy, only to be killed instantly, because you missed the "Ctrl" key and your game was minimized?
The backlight can be turned off completely or activated in three different brightness levels. I am a big fan of fully backlit keyboards and I am happy Corsair designed the K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile with this feature. The Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile's key illumination distribution is reasonably even for the most part. The area between the keys are also backlit thanks to the reflection of the LEDs, and I like it. One thing to point out, for keys with more than one line of text label, you will notice the top half is significantly brighter than the bottom half. This is due to physical design limitations of Cherry MX stems, as you can see in our photo above.
The laser-etched acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic keycaps are of average quality. Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) keycaps such as the ones found on the Cooler Master MasterKeys L PBT are stiffer, harder, and has better color retention, but the ones found on the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile are smooth and feels nice on the fingers despite showing a bit of oily marks.
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 K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile. 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 full width Shift on the right and a half height Enter. Obviously, this is more or less personal preference, but having a half height Enter key makes a lot more sense to me.
Unique to the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile is its diamond plate textured space bar. It feels unique to touch and you will not mistake it for any other key. Above the number pad are four media keys, which includes stop, previous, play/pause, and next. A mute button is placed next to the metal volume scroll wheel located in the top bar. All media keys are RGB backlit. You can use the metal volume scroll wheel to adjust volume. I love having a volume scroll wheel and this one feels solid to touch with little play. Three indicator LEDs corresponding to Game Mode, Num Lock, and Caps Lock, respectively, can be found half way between the Corsair logo and the metal volume scroll wheel. They glow white when activated and its color cannot be changed.
If you do not know what a mechanical 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 such as the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile costs the most because each keyswitch is an independent part.
The K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile features Corsair-exclusive Cherry MX Red Low Profile switches. Corsair and Cherry collaborated on the design of this new switch. In turn, the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile is very quiet during operation even though it is has no dampening. It is even quieter than the SteelSeries Apex M500, HyperX Alloy Elite RGB, and Corsair Gaming K68. The K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile has a lower pitched tone when actuated compared to all of them too.
I really enjoy the feel of the Cherry MX Red Low Profile. Cherry MX Red Low Profile, like the regular MX Red, is marketed as a gaming type switch. The maximum key travel distance is 3.2mm with actuation at 1.2mm compared to the regular MX Red at 4mm total travel with 2mm pre-travel. With an actuation force of 45g in a completely linear fashion, it is about 15g lighter than the MX Black; generally speaking, the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile will feel very different than other non-mechanical keyboards. It will feel different than other mechanical keyboards as well. It is quite intriguing to use a keyboard that feels so familiar and different at the same time, considering I have been using Cherry MX Red switches exclusively since 2013. This keyswitch is desirable for gaming because you will be bottoming out all the keys anyway, but the lack of the "bump" of the Cherry MX Red Low Profile may not appeal to everyone. It is rated for fifty million operations like other Cherry MX switches. The base is rock solid as aforementioned, so you will not get any keyboard flex, which is excellent.
The Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile is a full NKRO keyboard. NKRO stands for N-key rollover. If you have used keyboards with limited NKRO capabilities, you may have experienced ghosting issues in the past -- where when too many keys are pressed at the same time, your system unable to register any more strokes. A full NKRO keyboard like the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile 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 mean in the event you have every other key on your keyboard depressed, it will still register the last stroke. While this is a highly unlikely scenario, since you have only ten fingers, this is as good as it can get.
At the back of the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile is the USB cable lead out. It comes out in the center and is not detachable. This braided rubber cable is very thick and extends 1.8m in length to connect to your computer via two standard, non-gold-plated USB connectors. There are two USB connectors to supply extra power to the keyboard as well as supporting a USB 2.0 port located at the back. 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 possibly -- since gold offers better conductivity than other metals. This theoretically establishes a better connection with your computer, but on a digital signal level, we must understand it is a discrete one or zero; if anyone tells you they can tell the difference, you can definitely defeat their theory with a double blinded test. Additionally, if you are referring to the gold part of the connector you see on the plug, I would like to point out it actually does not make any physical contact electrically with your computer. 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 K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile.
At the bottom are four large rubber pads to help the K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile stay in place during intense gaming sessions. The two non-rubber lined flip-out risers at the front tilts the keyboard up for those who prefer it. Once flipped out, you will lose the rubber contact with your desk, which will make you lose some grip. Thankfully, the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile is a pretty heavy keyboard by itself, which is great to keep it in its place during intense gaming sessions. There are no keyboard drain holes, so it is advisable to keep your Mountain Dew at a distance.
The Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile works along with the latest version of the Intelligent Corsair Utility Engine (iCUE), which is a 296MB download from Corsair's website at press time. This program unifies all your Corsair peripherals and components into one application. After selecting the Corsair peripheral 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 on the keyboard's 8MB internal memory for up to three profiles.
The Actions tab is where you can control the function of the buttons on your keyboard. Options include macro, text, media, launch application, timer, disable, or profile switching for each button on the K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile. The macro recording system in Corsair iCUE is one of the most comprehensive I have ever seen, while timer will activate a countdown timer that plays a sound, enable an action, and/or initiate a lighting pattern upon completion. You can also remap the keys into other keys from A to Z, number or symbol keys, function keys, enhanced keys, numeric keypad, modifiers and lock keys, language key, mouse button, or keystroke.
The Lighting Effects tab is where you can play around with the lighting effects of each of the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile keys, as shown in our screenshot above. If you have multiple Corsair products, it now supports synchronized lighting effects across your devices. Every key can be independently controlled as well. Corsair's iCUE is designed to configure the backlight by layer, where each layer can have a different configuration. With regards to the lighting effects, there are ten pre-defined effects, including Spiral Rainbow, Rainbow Wave, Color Shift, Color Pulse, Color Wave, Visor, Rain, Type Lighting, and Void Visualizer. For custom effects, we have five options. This includes static, solid, gradient, ripple, and wave. Although all of these options should be self-explanatory; the difference between static and solid is that static is just a constant illumination, whereas solid is like gradient without the fading effects. You can individually configure the timing and intensity of the LEDs in everything other than static color. If you do not want to bother with all the advanced options, "Instant Lighting" at the top takes all the complexity out. "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. The lock, brightness, and profile indicator colors are all RGB and can be configured here as well.
Overall, I found iCUE to be powerful, straightforward, and reasonably easy to use. Significant improvements were made to the usability of this software in the last few years, and the overall experience was very positive to me.
Here we have it, my fellow readers: If we combine the uniqueness of low profile laptop-style keys into a keyboard that fits the APH Networks design philosophy, out comes the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile. Impressively, it does not only promise all of the above, it also delivers on everything well and more. The Corsair-exclusive Cherry MX Red Low Profile switches are unique in the market, quiet for a mechanical keyboard, and a real pleasure to type on. The solid aluminum backplate has a slick brushed finish for great flex and fingerprint resistance. I love the detachable wrist rest as it gives great support and grip. The dedicated media buttons and metal volume control wheel will satisfy the media buffs among us. Along with the dedicated profile toggle, brightness cycle, and Win Lock buttons -- everything RGB too, should I mention -- the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile is a real gem in today's saturated mechanical keyboard market. Corsair's iCUE software has also been significantly improved since the last time I have used it, and it even stores up to three profiles on the keyboard's 8MB onboard memory. There are a couple of minor improvements that would make the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile even better. First, I recommend the use of PBT rather than ABS keycaps. Second, it would be nice if the lighting on each key is more even, but this is an inherent problem with all opaque Cherry MX stems. But if these are my only complaints, what does this all mean? For about $170 at press time, the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile is quite reasonably priced for arguably one of the best keyboards on the market today.
Corsair provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Recommended Award | APH Review Focus Summary:
9/10 means Excellent product with very minor drawbacks that do not affect the overall product.
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that are not likely going to matter to the end user.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 8.1/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile wraps up the year to be one of the best mechanical keyboard released in 2018.
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