The Corsair Vengeance K60 and K90 in Action

Both of these Corsair keyboards use the same switch design and layout; the Vengeance K90 is basically an expansion on the K60 that adds features around the periphery (albeit losing the replacement keycaps for the WASD cluster and number keys). I used each keyboard for a few days, typing reviews and playing games on each, and I can say they do feel virtually identical.

That said, there are a couple of key (pun intended) differences. The full-length wrist rest for the K90 is far more comfortable than the rest for the K60. The K60's rest is just raised too high, and while you could argue it needs to be in order to be able to store the replacement keycaps and keycap remover, ultimately the ergonomics weren't comfortable to me or any of the friends I had try it out. Thankfully it's removable.

On the other hand, the key surfaces of the K60 do seem to be superior to the K90's. The replacement keycaps will be a matter of taste. I didn't care for them but I have a friend who really liked them, and you can easily swap between the two. The basic plastic caps also felt pretty durable. The backlit keys on the K90 are more attractive by a longshot, but I was able to very easily accidentally scratch some of the paint off of the W keycap when I used my own keycap remover to pry it off. The treatment used on these key surfaces picks up dust and salt very easily, and there even appears to be a tiny bubble in the paint on my 9 key. I'm honestly not sure which keycaps I'd expect to be the most durable in the long term, but then again, one of the benefits of a mechanical keyboard is that the keycaps are easily replaceable. I just hope Corsair is willing to stockpile replacements and make them available, because the two-year warranty seems on the short side.

In Gaming

Corsair's Vengeance keyboards (and their Cherry MX Red switches) are both noticeable improvements on the Rosewill RK-9000's Cherry MX Blue switches for gaming. Key travel depth is smaller, and tactile and auditory feedback are less pronounced. The keyboard layout is also bog standard and excellent, and while this may not seem worth remarking on now, you'll see in later keyboard reviews that it's a big deal.

I didn't feel like the K60's replacement keycaps noticeably improved my gaming experience, while the K90's wrist rest absolutely did. I'm not necessarily the type to use programmable keys or macros either, but the functionality in the K90 is appreciated. Corsair also smartly places the gaming cluster in a way that makes it easy to use if you want to use it, but easy to ignore if you don't. Meanwhile, I tried gaming with the K60's wrist rest in place for about five minutes before removing it.

Unfortunately, the K90's backlighting can also be problematic. Even at its lowest setting, it's still pretty bright, so you may want to turn it off if you're playing something like Dead Space 2 in a dark room like I was. I found the light from the keyboard was actually washing out the bottom of my screen when I was playing if I had the backlight enabled. You also can't disable the backlighting on the hardware macro buttons, and they're actually brighter when the rest of the keyboard's backlight is set to off than when it's set to the low setting. It's a minor grievance, but they were a little bit distracting. That said, in order to maintain the functionality Corsair needs to have the macro buttons backlit. It's a tradeoff.

Basic Typing

While the Vengeance keyboards and their red switches were a notable improvement in gaming on the RK-9000's blues, they do take a little bit of a backseat in typing. I'm writing this review on the Vengeance K90 and while it's definitely comfortable and still miles ahead of a membrane-based keyboard in my opinion, and it offers an  appreciable (and enjoyable) amount of tactile and auditory feedback, the blue switches are ultimately more fun to type on.

The replacement keycaps for the K60 incline inward a little bit to focus on the WASD cluster, but I found they actually didn't really affect my typing experience that much outside of gaming. They took a little bit of time to get used to, but eventually I was able to adjust without too much trouble. The same could even be said of the transition to the K90 from the RK-9000.

I can also see the difference between the blues and the reds being a matter of preference (we have a keyboard with Cherry MX Black switches in house right now, too, and will be receiving one with Cherry MX Brown switches at some point in the future). This is a situation that's just going to differ from person to person; while I can argue that the mechanical switches offer an overall superior typing experience to a standard membrane keyboard, arguing that the blues are better than the reds for typing (or at least more balanced) is much more difficult.

Corsair's Software

I've been generally impressed with each of Corsair's efforts out of the gate whenever they've entered a new market. Their cases started good and have only been getting better, their power supplies are generally stellar, and now their keyboards are actually excellent. That said, their software does leave room for improvement.

The software Corsair uses to manage the keyboard feels like it's a little more complex than it needs to be and definitely needs to go back to the drawing board. The three subscreens (Playback Options, Delay Options, and Advanced Options) could easily be condensed into a single screen, and they're not particularly intuitive. You can configure macros to play back on any of these keys as well, and Corsair includes delays that can be added to macros to keep games from detecting them. But there are plenty of questions.

Why is having a single assignment on the "Advanced Options" page? More than that, the options available to assign to the key are broken up into two very limited categories: "Basic Commands" and "Advanced Commands." The "Basic Commands" consist of the usual cut and paste options, while the "Advanced Commands" can be used to launch programs or open folders. There's also no way to assign any media control keys to any of the G keys, which may seem redundant but still would've been a nice feature to have.

I would argue that Logitech's SetPoint software is infinitely more bloated and needs some paring down of its own in terms of design and system footprint, but the software is also still cleaner and more functional. Corsair has a good starting point with their software here, but the interface needs to be condensed and made more intuitive, and the functionality has a lot of room for expansion and improvement.

Finally, Corsair does include a very useful feature depending on your perspective: "Hardware playback" lets you program all of your assignments directly into the keyboard's memory. This allows you to both store your configuration inside the keyboard (and thus carry it to another computer if you so desire), but also get around any macro-detection algorithms in the games you play.

If you're the type of user that likes to program and use keyboard macros, the Corsair software may not be the best of breed but it provides most of the expected features. The macro functionality can also be used within Windows, of course, though there are plenty of free utilities that offer such features. It's not something that I personally use a lot, but it can prove useful at times.

The Corsair Vengeance K60 and K90 Conclusion: Strong Out of the Gate


View All Comments

  • bigboxes - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Agree. How you can put together this keyboard and decide that a select set of keys should be membrane is beyond me. It's not just the reliability of mechanical keys that make them desirable. It's the ergonomics of that make them special. Less fatigue and more precise keystrokes are important properties when choosing a mechanical switch keyboard. Exactly how much did Corsair save by using membrane switches on 12 keys? Reply
  • mongo lloyd - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    22 keys, actually. Reply
  • Sttm - Saturday, February 18, 2012 - link

    The design is stupid because the 18 extra keys are useless when you cannot hit them quickly and comfortably while maintaining your left hand on top of WASD for proper movement. Removing your hand from the movement keys during the high level of play that would necessitate a $100+ keyboard is a big no no.

    Unless maybe you bind the movement keys over there, but then how do you gain anything from that? You'd have less keys in a more awkward placement; and a much harder time hitting the modifier keys.

    The designers should stop adding extra keys that cannot be hit without moving your hand far to the left and start adding extra keys where you can hit them, the area below the space bar comes to mind, put 4 keys down there, have them be able to be set up as modifiers, that then opens up another 40 or 50 key binds for in game; while maintaining proper hand placement. Or possibly making the F Keys thin, and a row of thin G keys below that, but angle them so they are easy to tell apart by feel.

    Every time I see that left hand side bulk placement of G Keys the only thing I can think is how stupid it is. C'mon manufacturers innovate!
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    I get what you are saying, but I don't have a problem with it. I use the G-keys extensively on my G15, and also use the WASD keys on occasion. That being said, I'm weaning myself off using them for movement, and more and more use the mouse. Certainly turning is best done with a mouse, and with programmable buttons on them, you can use them to go forward, backward, and strafe, as well.

    One thing I do that is different than a lot of people - I don't use keys that change the function of a key in a fight (shift, alt, ctrl). Every action that requires a key press is done with one stroke. Extra programmable keys work great for that - and I don't need to use 2 hands for an action (one to press the function key and one the action key). Basically, in a fight I have one hand free to perform any action, and one free to perform any movement. It takes re-training yourself, especially if you are a keyboard turner, but it makes for better play in the end. (No put-down to keyboard turners here, I was one for years, and those who know how to do it right can do pretty well.)

  • bunnyfubbles - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    whats with all these full size keyboards anymore, who really uses the numpad outside of some sort of accounting job?

    I can understand it on the K90 as MMOs can utilize a ton of keys, but still, I'd love to see at least another model, say the K30, that was tenkeyless or perhaps even smaller. That little bit of space saved is just so much more ergonomically comfortable
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    I use my computer for math. Excel, budgeting, etc. I use the hell out of the ten-key.

    One of the things Anand and Jarred have been breeding out of my as a writer is an assumption that my usage model represents everyone.
  • Omega215D - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Maybe a detachable option like what's available on the MS Sidewinder X6 would be nice. Attach when needed and detach and stow away when it's not. Since there are no mechanical keyboards like that then I would also have to get a full sized keyboard. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    I've got an X6, and I actually hate the detachable 10-key. It's a nice idea, but in practice you might as well just skip the 10-key entirely. Every time I move the keyboard around, it seems the 10-key gets left behind. Reply
  • Omega215D - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    To be honest I just realized I stowed my num pad in the drawer for the past 4 months.

    It does become convenient when I need to use the calculator or typing lists that includes numbers but I just reach for my smartphone for calculator purposes.

    The X4 doesn't take up that much more space despite having a full layout. Yeah, even though I don't use it much, having the num pad is nice for those just in case moments.
  • hechacker1 - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Here's my question, as I'm coming from a basic membrane based keyboard, and looking to purchase a new Cherry MX based keyboard.

    What would you say is the best switch for FPS based games? Reds? Blacks? Browns?

    What about something like Starcraft 2, where you can get frantic with APM (hitting peaks of 200 actions per minute?)

    I was initially intrigued with the idea of MX brown because they provide feedback in the actuation. That would let me know for certain that I've clicked a certain key. I think that would be advantageous for typing and RTS type games.

    But for an FPS, I'm thinking I often smash buttons down and hold them, and the actuation may not be a good idea. Somebody in a forum called the browns "floaty" because of it.

    I'm just curious of what people would recommend. FPS would be my first concern. This K60 looks pretty good for that, but of course it seems all subjective.

    But coming from cheapo, spongy, membrane based keyboards, I'm betting anything will be better.

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