We did a double take last week when we saw Corsair’s announcement that its new K55 keyboard would cost just $50. The K55’s announcement boasted of RGB lighting, too, which is typically a premium feature. Considering that Corsair’s top-end mechanical keyboard, the K95 RGB, carries a price tag of $190, and the going rate for any mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting is over $100, this was both rather shocking and would severely undercut much of Corsair’s competition.
Razer’s least expensive mechanical keyboard is the $70 BlackWidow X TE, for example. But when we drilled down to the detailed specs of the K55, we noticed that there was no mention of the switches. Curious, we reached out to Corsair last week with questions but have yet to hear back. Our own observations, though, tell us that this is not a mechanical keyboard. (Update: We've now heard from Corsair, see note at the bottom of the article.)
Indeed, where usually you’d find something like “100% Authentic Cherry MX Switches With 50 Million Click Lifespan And Preferred By Pro Gamers” or some such marketing spiel plastered on top of the specifications list, there was no mention of switches at all, save for this, the fourth bullet of the list: “Quiet and responsive keys give a satisfying feel.”
Ah, there it is. These are not mechanical switches; they’re probably just membrane switches. Then, we looked closer at the language describing the lighting: It’s RGB, yes, but it’s three-zone backlighting, not per-key, and although Corsair’s CUE software is mentioned in the press materials, it’s in reference to the Harpoon RGB mouse the company announced at the same time as the K55.
Further, if you look closely at the images in the release materials, it appears that instead of a metal top plate design, the keys are resting on a translucent plastic bed.
Funny enough, as we saw with Razer’s “Mecha-Membrane” Ornata and Cooler Master’s “mem-chanical” MasterKeys Lite L non-mechanical-switch keyboards, that plastic actually makes for a lovely backlight arrangement, diffusing the light better than the top plate designs that are so popular. However, whereas Razer and Cooler Master pushed their not-quite-mechanical keyboards as budget-friendly alternatives to their mechanical-switch products, Corsair just kind of buried all of that in its press release.
The K55 is a fugazi. We still don’t know what exactly Corsair used for switches on it, but it is a $50 keyboard with nice-looking RGB (three zone) backlighting, and it has six vertical G keys on the left side for macros, so hey, that’s something.
Update, 11/14/16, 10:20am PT: Corsair got back to us to confirm that the K55 is indeed a membrane keyboard. It will serve as the replacement to the K40 (opens in new tab) and the K30 (opens in new tab), which launched back in 2013.