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For the past few years keyboards have kind of stagnated with some (almost) pointless features being slapped on and calling it the day. This is arguably what Corsair has been doing for awhile, but I feel like we are reaching a point where some actually interesting innovation is happening. This is exactly what we have here with the new K100.
The main highlight of the K100 is the 4000Hz polling rate, because the maximum polling rate that we have had so far on keyboards and peripherals has always been 1000Hz. By the end of 2021 we will see 1000Hz displays, and right now 500Hz displays are being tested, so having 4000Hz polling on the keyboard isn’t all that crazy. In fact, I would argue that it’s good future-proofing.
Future-Proof Features, At A Price
Corsair isn’t the first one to do this by the way, Razer just announced a DeathAdder mouse with an 8000Hz polling rate, so peripherals are moving into this new high speed direction. I have not used a full-size keyboard in years, so this should be an interesting experience, and I do appreciate that Corsair’s brand redesign is cohesive across products. Some of the elements in terms of design, like the K100 logo, the Corsair text, and the yellow accents are shared by their new 4000 series cases.
Price-wise you are looking at $230 USD. Yes, that is going to be a turnoff for many, but let’s face it this is Corsair’s flagship keyboard so obviously it’s going to be pricey. I’m not a full-sized keyboard guy at all, but the K100 has piqued my interest. Obviously this thing is not going to be for everybody, because it is the highest-end keyboard that Corsair offers and it has the most RGB they have ever implemented on a keyboard. The big question is whether the main selling point – the 4000Hz polling rate – actually does anything for my gaming experience? Well let’s talk about that.
First, let’s discuss the design. Physically the keyboard looks very similar to the K95 Platinum with a large body, but not overly massive beyond the keycaps. Yes, it’s a full-sized keyboard with the additional keys on the left side for your macros and the Elgato Stream Deck integration. The aluminium frame is pretty low profile, and I do appreciate their slight redesign on the sides that enables that light illumination shine directly on the work surface. In terms of RGB this is the most Corsair have ever implemented on a keyboard, so we have 3 sides and 44 zones of RGB illumination that is fully adjustable and customizable. It is super vibrant, it is colour accurate to what you set in the software, and it does look pretty.
The new wrist rest has a magnetic clasp for easy installation, and the surface is textured to match the new angular ventilation pattern on their cases. That is one of those design cohesive elements that I mentioned earlier. It has leatherette material on top, memory foam on the inside, and it’s a very comfortable wrist rest in general. The media keys on the top right feel very familiar with an aluminium volume wheel that doesn’t have much resistance, but it is much better than what Logitech offers with their G15 TKL and full-sized keyboards. The cable is once again super thick and it has dual USB ports, one for keyboard power and one for the additional USB passthrough.
Keys & Switches
Of course they found a way to build in some tempered glass on the gaming keyboard, it’s right in the center covering a display that shows you the caps lock, different profiles, volume mute, and etc. All the key caps on the keyboard – except for the G keys on the left and the spare gaming key caps – are double-shot PBT, which is appreciated but expected for such a premium keyboard. The texture of the keys feels slightly smoother than what I’m used to from my other PBT sets, especially coming from Razer. I do appreciate their new font, which isn’t as bulky as their regular one. It’s sharp, it’s clean, it’s not as gamer-y as what I’m used to seeing from Corsair. All those aspects are going into the right direction.
Below the keycaps are new optical mechanical switches from Corsair called the OPX. The actuate at 1mm, total travel distance is 3.2mm, the actuation force is 45 grams, and they have a really impressive 150 million lifespan keystrokes. This is the fastest gaming keyboard on the market currently because of the 4000Hz polling rate and also probably the longest lasting too. If you are familiar with MX Speed switches, they kind of feel the same way in terms of having very short actuation points and not as much travel distance as your normal mechanical switches. However, they are also very light like a Razer’s red linear optical switches too, so they are kind of in-between and it’s a really good in between. They feel very smooth coming up and down with a pretty pleasant sound profile, not as clunky and metallic sounding as the Razer’s red linear optical switches.
iCUE Control Wheel
And the last physical addition on the K100 is what’s known as the iCUE Control Wheel. When I first heard about it I was very excited it has different macro controls and different built-in default functions that you can do all types of cool things with it. However, reality it’s a little bit janky. First of all, my wheel has a bit of wobble, which is unfortunate for a $230 keyboard. Luckily this doesn’t seem to be an issue with my replacement keyboard, so I must have just gotten a poor sample over here. It is an aluminum wheel, just like the volume wheel, so there is a bit of a cohesion in terms of materials, which is nice. The built-in illumination around the wheel is absolutely gorgeous, but in terms of functionality that is where I feel like it lacks a bit.
You click the iCUE button in the middle to cycle between different functionalities, all of which are colour coded. You can do basic things like change the illumination brightness, you can do track scrolling, you can record macros with it, switch applications, zoom, and vertical or horizontal scrolling. Functionally, it is a bit limited, and I don’t see myself using this very often. Not because it’s in an awkward position to reach either, in fact it’s easy to reach with your left hand after the WASD area. I just don’t like having to cycle between the different functionalities that are built-in. Also there is no way to tell which functionality is being used, aside from the colour coordination on the actual iCUE wheel. It would be fantastic if there was like a little onscreen popup that says that you are in the zoom mode, or the scrolling mode, or in switching applications mode, but instead at the moment you just have to remember what functions that you have enabled in the iCUE software. Lastly, the aluminum wheel isn’t exactly tactile for a good user experience. You don’t really have full precise control of how many scroll steps you are activating. It’s also a bit slippery and it would be great if the wheel was textured or rubberized for a bit more control.
4000Hz Polling Rate
In order to activate the 4000Hz polling rate you have to first go into the settings and enable it because by default they keyboard is running at the 1000Hz for better compatibility. Really the main highlight that Corsair briefed us on about this new Axon hyper-processing technology and the 4000Hz polling rate is that there are up to 200 profiles that can be saved on the keyboard – which is kind of crazy and totally unnecessary – and you can do up to 20 layers of hardware lighting. You can customize the keyboard to whatever you want and you don’t need iCUE running for those hardware lighting layers to take effect.
Overall, this gives Corsair the bragging rights from the marketing perspective of having the fastest gaming keyboard on the market. In reality, it will matter some day, but not today and not for 60Hz displays. Maybe 2 years from now when we are gaming on 500Hz or 1000Hz monitors, that is when the keyboard will need to be more consistent and your keystrokes will need to not land in between polling rates in order to have overall consistent gaming experience. As of now with my 200Hz display, I can’t really feel the difference between the 1000Hz and 4000Hz polling rate on the keyboard. However, I am using the 8000Hz polling rate with the new Razer DeathAdder mouse, and that is when things get a bit interesting because I feel like my overall peripherals are more responsive and I can trust them more to land my shots because of the actuations on the optical switches – on both the mouse and the keyboard – are not landing in between polling rates. For 1% e-sports elite gamers, yes the 4000Hz polling rate might make sense since they need the Best of the Best.
RGB LED Lighting
In terms of lighting customization, I appreciate that we have per-key lighting and that all the 44 zones are available to us. You can customize them however you want. It would be great if iCUE had different zone presets for illumination. It does obviously have all the rainbow effects and all types of customization in the effects panel, but all those zones are user defined and nothing through presets. In order for you to select the exterior zones, you have to literally hold control, drag, and carefully select those boxes for illumination and create that as a new layer. Also, iCUE almost needs to get the revamped for 2020, because the K100 is a fantastic premium keyboard but it feels like the software hasn’t quite kept up with the progress. It needs to be simplified and settings need to be easier to find and customize.
I feel like Corsair did a fantastic job with the new OPX optical mechanical switches that are going to be competing with things that are coming from Razer and from SteelSeries too. For full-size keyboard lovers, what do you think of the K100? Does it meet your expectations for a flagship $230 premium keyboards from Corsair in 2020? I would say yes because of the future-proof 4000Hz polling rate, the Axon hyper-processing that provides insane storage capacity, and also the remarkable RGB. Stay tuned for my comparison between the K100 and Razer’s new full-sized offering. I would still love to see a TKL version of the K100 from Corsair that brings all these features.
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