Introduction to the Corsair STRAFE RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Corsair has been around the computer hardware scene for over 20 years, manufacturing high-performance DRAM, but only more recently jumped into the enthusiast-grade peripherals and component market under Corsair Gaming. The products that we’ve seen from Corsair have made us pretty happy, so we’ve got a strong feeling that the STRAFE RGB MX Silent mechanical keyboard that we’re reviewing today won’t let us down. Corsair unveiled its first RGB mechanical keyboard at CES 2014, and the world’s first, which definitely blew people away. Being able to assign keys up to 16.8 million different colors was unthinkable. Here you could only have keys be a single color, which was an advantage in certain situations, but being able to assign groups or individual keys a unique color was absolutely astonishing. Corsair STRAFE RGB One notable annoyance from mechanical keyboards is the actuation sound – many people hate it, some people don’t mind it. From a personal standpoint, I don’t have a problem with it, but quieter is better. Corsair has now launched another first, and an exclusive first mind you, a fully mechanical keyboard utilizing Cherry MX Silent Switches. With the STRAFE RGB you also receive per-key illumination, so no having to worry about what group of keys you want to configure – you can configure them all independently. Like many other advanced mechanical keyboards out on the market, the STRAFE RGB doesn’t forget that gamers may be mashing multiple buttons rapidly, which is why it features 100% anti-ghosting with 104 key rollover. What exactly does that mean? It means that you could technically press every single button on the keyboard at once and they will all register. So what more could a gamer want out of a keyboard? Fast actuation, quiet clicks, per-key RGB illumination, and no concerns about keystrokes not being accepted sounds pretty ideal over here! So what’s so special about the Cherry MX Silent switches? Cherry MX Silent features the world’s first fully integrated noise reduction technology for gaming key switches. Patented noise reduction is enabled by a precision-engineered glass-fiber reinforced base and two integrated component tappets. The amount of force used to actuate the Silent switch vs. the Red is identical (45 cN), key travel distance to actuation is still 2mm, but you will find that the total key travel is slightly less, coming in at 3.7mm vs. 4mm for the standard Red switch. The ‘silent’ factor doesn’t compromise the integrity of the key, as they’re still rated for 50M actuations. Basically what you get is the below image when you view this switch in an exploded view: Cherry MX Silent Key Switch - Exploded View One additional item that is included with the STRAFE RGB is a set of FPS/MOBA keycaps. These keycaps replace the standard keycaps and feature a rubberized, textured, and slightly contoured face. Like most advanced mechanical keyboards, RGB keyboards tend to carry a pretty heavy price tag as well. You can purchase your very own STRAFE RGB Silent for $159.99 at Best Buy or $159.99 directly from Corsair – You will not find the Silent version anywhere else. If you don’t desire the Silent switches, you can pick up the other versions of this keyboard with the standard Cherry MX Red switches for $149.99 or MX Brown switches for $149.99 as well. Each keyboard carries a full and very respectable 2-year warranty, so you shouldn’t have to worry about your keyboard for some time. Corsair STRAFE RGB Corsair STRAFE RGB Technical Specifications: Let's move on and take a brief look at the packaging and take a tour of the STRAFE RGB!

STRAFE RGB Packaging and a Closer Look

Corsair packaging is always colorful and well thought out, and the STRAFE RGB is no exception. On the front of the box you will find several facts regarding why you’d want to purchase this keyboard, as well as information on the switch type – MX Silent in our case today. Looking down on the front edge there are a few more key points. The opposite edge gives you many of the technical specifications and requirements to run this keyboard on your computer. The very back side points out several more features pointed out on an picture of the keyboard. [gallery columns="4" link="file" ids="174636,174637,174638,174639"] Opening up the box you will find that everything is neatly packaged in its own bag. You will find a bag with the FPS/MOBA keycaps inside, the wrist rest, and the keyboard itself. Corsair STRAFE RGB Box Getting the STRAFE RGB out of the box you will notice a very standard 10-key layout. Our keyboard today features Cherry MX Silent switches, which are exclusive to Corsair currently. You can also get this keyboard in standard Red or Brown switches, should you want a little more noise or tactile feedback (respectively). Out of the box this keyboard looks pretty hefty and sturdy, and it sure is weighing in at just over 2 lbs. This heft should help the STRAFE not slide around on your desk while you’re deep in gaming mode. Corsair STRAFE RGB Flipping it over you can see four rubber feet along with the rear keyboard props to angle the keyboard, which have rubber feet on them as well. Next to the two front rubber feet (or bottom as depicted in this picture), are the slots to connect the wrist rest. Other than that, there is nothing really special down here. Corsair STRAFE RGB Underside The side of the keyboard is white with a little light strip at the top that will light up white, accenting this keyboard nicely. Corsair STRAFE RGB Side Back to the top – did you happen to notice the spacebar looked funky? That’s because it has a fairly industrial-style texture on it. This is not rubberized or soft touch by any means. Corsair STRAFE RGB Spacebar Texture The function keys have multimedia keys for something like [sort of] quick access to changing to the next track in whatever music gets you pumped for gaming. Corsair STRAFE RGB Multimedia Keys On the upper right you will find the numlock, capslock, and scroll lock lights (not configurable), and also a brightness button and a Windows Key lock. I can’t count the number of times I’ve mistakenly hit the Windows key while gaming, only to have my darned game minimized. With that, I have to thank Corsair for providing easy access to disabling this button. The brightness button will allow you to change the brightness from off, to 33, 66, or 100 percent. Corsair STRAFE RGB Lock and Brightness The keys are all exposed rather than sunk down like many other keyboards, so cleaning may be simpler, though you do have a greater chance for other debris to find its way in more often.   Corsair STRAFE RGBIf you didn’t notice from earlier pictures, the USB cable for this keyboard is quite hefty and includes two connectors. Why two connectors, you say? Well, the one that has a picture of a keyboard is for utilizing the keyboard, while the other is for a USB pass-thru. Corsair STRAFE RGB USB Yes, next to where the cable connects to is a port to connect a single USB 2.0 device. Corsair STRAFE RGB USB Passthru Regarding the cable on this keyboard, I do wish that Corsair braided it and lost some heft, as it is quite bulky. A braided cable just looks a lot nicer, and with a keyboard in this price range, it has almost been commonplace to see cables braided. Corsair includes a wrist rest that has a nice soft texture on it. There are also FPS/MOBA keycaps, an instruction manual, and a warranty guide included. Corsair STRAFE RGB Contents Here’s a close-up of the texture on the wrist rest. Corsair STRAFE RGB Palm Rest Attaching the wrist rest is as easy as sliding the two prongs into the slots on the bottom that I showed you earlier. It definitely compliments the keyboard well, though it doesn’t have the heft that the keyboard does and actually feels a little flimsy should you choose to use it while typing or gaming. Corsair STRAFE RGB The FPS/MOBA keycaps are a pretty nice addition to the STRAFE, featuring rubberized, textured, and contoured tops, though I feel only hardcore gamers will end up using them; removal is extremely simple with the provided tool. I personally am not a WASD gamer, rather I use ESDF, so I will not end up using them. Unfortunately you cannot combine the keys from the MOBA set as the contours are off. Corsair STRAFE RGB FPS-MOBA Keycaps Again, removing the keys is easy with the provided tool and you can see the Cherry MX Silent switches here.  I removed the rest of the keys for the FPS keycaps… Corsair STRAFE RGB - Cherry MX Silent Switches …and installing the new ones is as simple as pushing them down firmly. [gallery link="file" columns="2" ids="174635,174658"] Shot showing the contoured keys: Corsair STRAFE RGB FPS Keycaps MOBA keycaps installed: [gallery columns="2" link="file" ids="174661,174660"] This wraps up the product tour, so let’s move on and take a look at the software that drives the STRAFE RGB, which Corsair calls the CUE software.

Corsair CUE Software

Corsair doesn’t require you to install the CUE (Corsair Utility Engine) Link software to use the STRAFE RGB keyboard, but if you want to get the most out of the keyboard, you absolutely will want to. This program is somewhat lightweight, with the current download of version 1.11.85 coming in at 56.7 MB. You can find the software by clicking here and choosing “Gaming Keyboards” from the dropdown menu – look for the STRAFE RGB CUE Software. On this same page, Corsair also had in-depth documentation for using CUE. I would like to start out by saying that while some people around the web have complained about latency with the Corsair CUE software with other products, you will not find this same latency with the STRAFE RGB. Any changes that you make in the software are instantly recognized by the keyboard, so less waiting and more gaming is in your future! Overall navigation through the software is pretty simple. When you open it up for the first time, the keyboard goes from the default of every key in red and WASD in white, to a RGB spiral.   The first screen you’re presented with is the Assignments screen. Here you can modify any key to do any function that you wish, whether it’s remapping F1 to be the letter A, mapping F1 to do multiple keystrokes, or mapping F1 to be a macro – plus so much more. 01 - Corsair Strafe RGB - Profiles - Assignments The next tab is the lighting control tab. Here you can individually select keys and modify their color or select a big group by clicking and dragging your mouse to basically lasso a bunch of keys. You can also change the overall effect from the default ‘Spiral Rainbow’ to other preset profiles like Rainbow Wave, Visor (Think of KITT from Knight Rider), Rain, Color Shift, Color Pulse, Color Wave, Type Lighting (Key), and Type Lighting (Ripple). Each effect has some additional settings, such as the Spiral Rainbow can be put in clockwise or counterclockwise motion, plus the speed of rotation can change to either slow, medium, or fast. You’ll find similar additional options for each effect. On this tab you actually learn that the traditional Corsair logo is hidden on the upper left of the keyboard and can be assigned whatever color you wanted, as well. If you don’t want to light it up, you most certainly don’t have to and it’s hidden on the physical keyboard.  The below screenshot is from utilizing a lighting profile found on Corsair's website. 02 - Corsair Strafe RGB - Profiles - Lighting Finally on this section of the software you will find a Performance tab. There isn’t much to this section other than the ability to control what the LOCK button does on the upper right hand of the keyboard. Since this keyboard is targeted at gamers, I would strongly recommend ticking the “Disable Windows Key” box at the very least. 03 - Corsair Strafe RGB - Profiles - Performance Up top we go to the Actions tab. This is the place to create your macros, canned text per keystroke, a bunch of keystrokes on the press of one button, etc. This can get a little complicated for some, but I feel a hardcore MOBA gamer will find this section extremely useful. [gallery link="file" columns="2" ids="174679,174680"] The next tab is the lighting effects tab, and here you can create various effects when an action is performed on the keyboard. So if you hit your macro that’s tied to your W key, you can have it ripple with only that key and however you wanted the effect to appear, or you can do something far more complex. It’s pretty darn cool if you want to take the time to program these functions. [gallery columns="2" link="file" ids="174681,174682"] Lastly the Settings tab lets you do a few things. There are 3 sub-tabs here as well, with the first one being Device. The Device tab will allow you to modify the current layout, change the polling rate (default is 1000 Hz), and verify the keyboard’s firmware. 08 - Corsair Strafe RGB - Settings - Device On the Program tab you will find a link to update the software, change some on-screen display settings, and modify associated media players. 09 - Corsair Strafe RGB - Settings - Program Lastly the Support tab gives you exactly what you’re thinking it would, links to online technical support resources. 10 - Corsair Strafe RGB - Settings - Support Now wait a minute, what if you don’t want to bother with the tedious task of creating your own lighting profiles? Corsair has you covered with RGB Share. Users can upload their own profiles to RGB Share and you can import them to your keyboard with ease. As of posting this, there are currently only eight (8) different profiles up there, and some are pretty awesome.  I do know that if you browse around the Corsair forums, you can find even more user-created profiles that are compatible. Here’s one example of a custom light profile that you could do on your own, if you have the patience to do it. Otherwise, click here to check out these profiles, which include videos of what they do.  Fortunately the profiles that you see on the Corsair page you can simply download and import to your STRAFE. This is what the side accent lighting looks like.  Again, this can only be turned off or on, but you cannot change the color of it. Corsair STRAFE RGB Accent Lighting Now while pictures don't do true justice like the video above, some pictures can still look awesome.  Here are a couple shots with a few of the built-in effects and also using the Electricity profile found in the video. [gallery columns="4" link="file" ids="174662,174671,174670,174669,174668,174667,174666,174665,174664,174663"] Well, this wraps up the software section. Corsair has put a lot of thought into the CUE software and I’m happy to see any changes you make are instantaneous. Instant changes will make many people happy, because we all know that sitting around for changes to happen isn’t exactly fun.

Corsair STRAFE RGB – Cherry MX Silent Keyboard – Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Simply put, Corsair did a phenomenal job with the STRAFE RGB keyboard, and the MX Silent switches gives the keyboard a slightly more elegant touch. There is no need to modify your keycaps with rubber O-rings to silence the loud clicking of a Red switch, rather the new silent switches take care of that for you and do a very good job. Corsair STRAFE RGB Lighting Effect Those disliking the “clickity-clack” of mechanical keyboards will probably appreciate the MX Silent switches – I know I do – and Corsair is the exclusive manufacturer utilizing them currently. Since I have no way of comparing the noise level via a sound meter, I would have to say it’s a tad quieter than your traditional quiet membrane keyboards. A very common one that I’ve got a lot of mileage under is something like this Dell keyboard, found at a lot of businesses or homes. Corsair STRAFE RGB - Cherry MX Silent Switches It took no time to appreciate the quality of the fully mechanical STRAFE RGB. The keyboard is solid, keystrokes feel extremely smooth and precise, and the lighting is just awesome. It has a bit of heft to it, which does help build a sense of quality. Featuring a full 104-key rollover, you don’t have to worry about keypresses not being accepted. The per-key illumination is beyond awesome, because not only can you assign one of 16.8 million color choices, but you can have some wicked-cool effects behind your keys.  Check out Corsair's website and forums for lighting profiles that will work with the STRAFE; you will be impressed with what some people can do. If you liked what you saw today, you can get your very own STRAFE RGB featuring Cherry MX Silent switches at Best Buy for $159.99 or Corsair’s online store for $159.99 with free shipping. If you don’t care about the noise level, you can purchase the STRAFE RGB with MX Red switches for $149.99 on Amazon or MX Brown switches for $149.99 as well. You will receive a full 2-year warranty on your keyboard, with a guaranteed 50 million keypresses per switch, so there should be very little concern with your new investment. Corsair STRAFE RGB We’ve recently looked at a competing RGB keyboard and the STRAFE RGB definitely has some pretty tough and lesser expensive competition out in the wild. What Corsair has riding behind them is the fact that they’re using Cherry MX switches, which a large chunk of people will tend to know and trust vs. house brand knock-off switches. I think if I had to nitpick about a few things with this keyboard, it would have to start with the fact that this keyboard doesn’t have a braided cable, rather it’s just standard rubber. For the current cost of this keyboard, one has almost come to expect nicer looking cables. Regarding the wrist rest, while it feels great thanks to its soft touch feel, but it is a bit flimsy and could use a little bulking up to stiffen it. I occasionally found it wiggling around while typing, albeit only slightly. Lastly, I’m not sure how many others are out there, but I’m not a WASD gamer, rather I’m an ESDF gamer – it feels more natural and you have access to more keys. With that said, I found that the FPS caps were useless to me, even when trying to utilize the MOBA keycaps since the contour was incorrect. Corsair STRAFE RGB Accent Lighting When it comes to lighting, the only flaw that I found is with the secondary key functions, such as your !, @, #, etc. symbols. With the LED being at the top of the switch, the illumination is weak at the bottom of the switch where these functions are listed. I can’t say that Corsair will be alone in this flaw, though, as this is going to be a common issue among many different backlit keyboards. Next, I would have liked to see Corsair allow the ability to change the color of the white side accents, instead of just on or off. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig the white accent, but I think others may want to change it to red, blue, or manly pink for example. Lastly along the lines of the lighting, I wish the keyboard’s lighting had a timeout period that it would turn the lighting off.  I tend to walk away from my computer for hours at a time or just lock it when I go to bed, so I have to make sure I turn off the lighting manually. Thankfully adding a timeout period should be a simple software update, so perhaps Corsair will make this change down the road. It was really tough finding anything seriously wrong with this keyboard, as I find all of the aforementioned pretty minor flaws. While the price tag is a tad high, which you do tend to find with Corsair's RGB keyboards, I think Corsair has a hit on their hands, which is why I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this keyboard to my family, friends, or you. LR_Recommended Legit Bottom Line: Corsair’s STRAFE RGB with Cherry MX Silent switches is a remarkable keyboard that’s fully customizable. I feel this keyboard is almost perfect and is a true gamer’s dream.