Specifications And Software
We’re getting our hands dirty with the Corsair Gaming K70 RGB Red, a model that comes with a 104-key U.S. layout and media keys, but no dedicated macros. It has Cherry MX RGB Red switches on board.
Although Corsair was by no means the first to release a keyboard with multi-color backlighting, it has the distinction of bringing adjustable per-key backlighting to the gaming keyboard world. It did so with the RGB series, which included the K65 RGB, K70 RGB and K95 RGB. For one year, Corsair had an exclusive partnership with Cherry to use the all-new Cherry MX RGB switch, so it took other manufacturers a while to develop their own with partners, or wait for the exclusive partnership to end.
Corsair Utility Engine Software
Corsair’s RGB keyboards got much flack in their early days for having terrible software, and although some elements may have improved with version 1.14.43, the “CUE” or “Corsair Utility Engine” software is still something close to abysmal.
To begin, the opening screen presents us with four main tabs: Profiles, Actions, Lighting and Settings.
The Profiles tab contains the basic profile settings. There is one sub-tab labelled ”Assignments” where you can set each individual key to act as a macro. To make a macro, you right-click the key you want to configure (left click does nothing) and assign an action. Then, a large window shows up with a handful of elements you can configure, name and save. The options are precise, including down-to-the-millisecond timing between keystrokes and whether it should start on press or after the release of the switch.
In the next sub-tab in profiles (Lighting), you can choose from a few preset lighting effects using the standard settings. With advanced settings, you can pick from the custom lighting effects, which you have to create elsewhere in the CUE software.
The “Performance” sub-tab in profiles customizes what the “lock” button does. Standard, it disables only the Windows key, but you can also configure it to disable Alt-Tab, Alt-F4 and Shift-Tab.
The “Actions” section is where the macros are stored. This is convenient, because it means that the macros you create are saved without being assigned to certain keys, even if it seemed so when you first created it. Therefore, when you delete a macro from a specific key, you’re actually just unassigning it. Assuming you name your macros sensibly, they are quite easy to manage in this way.
The real nightmare is in creating lighting effects. The main Lighting tab isn’t where you adjust the lighting. That’s just where unassigned effects are stored, similar to the Macros. This is confusing, because when I made a solid green effect, it didn’t appear on the keyboard. Eventually, I realized that I had to go back to Profiles-->Lighting, select the keys I wanted to light up in green, and then apply that effect to them. (As frustrating as that may be, Razer’s Synapse and G.Skill’s software also have the lighting split up in two different menu areas.)
Creating a simple effect is already a challenge, but if you have the patience to learn the software, you can make practically anything you want – people have made Pacman effects, Snake, Thunder, and more (although I do not want to imagine how much time it would have taken to make those). Fortunately, under the “standard settings,” there are a few pre-made lighting effects.
One thing we did note when playing around with the lighting is that the Cherry MX RGB switch appears to be unable to display the color white effectively. To make white, it combines all three of its colors, which results in a rainbow of colors cast on the switch north of the one being lit up.
The lighting also isn’t particularly bright. In a dark environment it lights up beautifully, but if you’re sitting next to a window in broad daylight, you’ll have trouble telling whether the keyboard is lit at all. This is something at which Razer’s keyboards with the white backplate and Logitech’s keyboards with the Romer-G switches do a notably better job.
If you want to know exactly how to make the lighting effects, Corsair has a manual that is 140 pages long.
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