The Corsair Vengeance K95 gaming keyboard promises to be a top performer, and with an MSRP of $149.99, it needs to be perfect. The K95 features a full QWERTY layout with a number pad and 18 programmable “G keys,” all using Cherry MX “Red” mechanical switches and independently backlit with bright white LEDs. The K70, at an easier to swallow yet still steep $129 MSRP, is essentially the same without the G keys. Let’s see if the K95 is as good as Corsair’s advertising would leave us to believe.
The K95 arrives with little fanfare. The box has the typical graphics on the outside, but is opened to reveal plain cardboard and little fluff on the inside. The keyboard itself, machined from aluminum, has a nice weight to it and feels nicely crafted like a precision military weapon. Plug it in and the backlight springs to action, illuminating the key caps in a brilliant white. On the back of the keyboard is a multi position switch and a lone USB port for external accessories. The cord is nicely sleeved, continuing the premium feel. The K95 requires two USB ports, one of which must be a high power (500+ mA) USB 2.0 port; the USB port on the keyboard is simply a pass through port and not a hub, which is somewhat of a disappointment. Finally, a very nice, if generic, palmrest is included (not pictured). Overall, the K95 and K70 look like fairly standard keyboard that will largely go unnoticed until given a close look. I value the traditional look and it’s something I wish Logitech and others would return to.
Typing on the K95 is a treat. Equipped with Cherry MX “red” switches, actuation is smooth, light, and precise. The reds are great for gaming and even typing once you’re used to the keyboard; initially it is very easy to press the wrong key, resulting in many typos until you adapt. Compared to my usual Logitech G110 membrane keyboard – a nice membrane keyboard – the K95 offers indescribably better feel. Where the G110 is mushy and firm, the K95 is precise and light. Key actuation is perfectly linear no matter how slowly the keys are pressed. There are times, such as in Payday 2, where it is necessary to hold keys for a long period of time to perform operations in the game such as picking a lock or placing explosives. This can be an exhausting exercise on a membrane keyboard, but not on the K95 which only requires light pressure to hold the keys down. For those who have not used a mechanical keyboard before, even the red switches are a great deal louder than membrane keyboards, mostly due to bottoming out the keys (I suppose this could be avoided with careful typing). Cherry MX switches are rated at 50 million actuations per Cherry.
The K95 and K70 are built on an anodized black aluminum chassis, giving the keyboards a solid, premium feel. Fit and finish are excellent overall and even the media keys are nice – the knurled volume roller is a nice touch. All the keys except the media keys and backlight settings are mechanical. One let down is the K95’s 18 macro keys which look like an afterthought; while the alphanumeric portion of the keyboard is on an aluminum chassis, the macro keys are on a plastic “side car” that is screwed to the side of the aluminum chassis. I expect better on a $150 keyboard.
The K95 includes 18 programmable “G keys.” Each of these keys is indepently programmable and linked to each of the three onboard profiles, for a total of 54 unique macros (no software is required once they are programmed). These macros can be used to improve office productivity, or more likely to improve your gaming. Unfortunately, I’m not able to shed too much light on the macros because I fail to take advantage of them. They do make the keyboard look very impressive though!
Speaking of impressive looks, the K95 also stores unique lighting patterns with the profiles that can be rapidly switched at the touch of a button. This means that a profile can be specified for FPSs that illuminates WASD along with other critical keys, another profile can be used for reactive lighting, and third can be used for office productivity that illuminates the whole keyboard. Once again, all of this information is stored onboard in the keyboard’s own non-volatile memory.
LED backlit laser etched key caps differentiate the K95 and K70 from other mechanical keyboards on the market. This K95 is backlit white and looks stunning at night. Offering three different levels of light output along with per-key customization (want only the WASD keys lit? No problem!) that is stored on-board, the K95 will fulfill any gamer’s wants and is only lacking a RGB backlight, now offered by the new Corsair flagship, the K95 RGB. Unfortunately, this is where the fun ends. The K95 suffers from a design flaw that quickly causes the LEDs to burn out. While Corsair claims this problem has been rectified, it has not, and the keyboard used for this review is supposedly a “fixed” model. Furthermore, because this keyboard utilizes older Cherry MX Red switches that do not have a provision for lighting, the LEDs are exposed and bleed light. I personally do not mind this look and competing mechanical keyboards of this vintage suffer from the same problem. However, the new Logitech G910 Orion Spark uses “Romer G” switches designed from the ground up to be backlit, resulting in perfectly lit keys with no light spillage.
Corsair is unwilling to work with owners for a satisfactory solution to the LED failures. Even after complaining, Corsair flat out refused to pay shipping costs associated with replacing our defective keyboard, refused to upgrade us to the K95 RGB – even though we offered to pay the difference, and refused to issue a refund. This leaves owners paying to replace a flawed keyboard each time it fails until the end of the warranty period, at which time Corsair leaves you with a broken keyboard and no apologies. We cannot condone these business practices and therefore will not be recommending Corsair products moving forward. A new Corsair K95 RGB arrived in the mail on February 16th, 2015. This is a welcome surprise from Corsair! While Jared still paid to return the broken K95, this is an acceptable result. We will recommend Corsair products with caution and continue to monitor their customer support. To Corsair’s credit, they did grant an RMA request promptly and remained in communication, even if their suggested resolution wasn’t satisfactory.
Corsair’s K95 is a top tier mechanical keyboard that both looks and performs as good as the price tag suggests. Only Corsair’s support and concern over failing LEDs can keep us away.
Performance – 4.5/5
Build – 4/5
Customer Support – 3.5/5
HexHound Rating – /5
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Newegg (RGB) – Corsair K95 Cherry MX RGB Red Mechanical Keyboard
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