The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Every time we turn around, it feels like Corsair is up to something new, whether they are gobbling up companies, revamping existing products, or, like now, reinventing what customers should expect in peripherals! We have seen many attempts at Corsair trying to develop ideas of what makes a good mechanical keyboard. We have tested most of them since they got into this game, and what we have now is leaps and bounds better than anything they have produced to date!
Corsair is attempting to package all things gaming onto one keyboard with a much more refined appearance, and while doing so, they have done some things nobody expected! Corsair introduces us to something called AXON, which is a hyper-processing technology, where not only can Corsair now deliver a whopping 4000Hz polling rate, four times faster than anything else on the market, but it also aids in the ability to drive twenty-layer lighting effects!
In this product, we also see the introduction to Corsair OPX switches, which are optical-mechanical, linear switches with just 1.0mm of actuation travel! These switches are Corsair branded under visual inspection, but we believe them to be supplied by Cherry! The cherry on top of all of that is the introduction of the Control Wheel, which delivers a whole other realm of control potential with the press of a button and a twist of a dial!
If like us, you tend to gravitate to the latest and greatest in PC gear, The K100 RGB Optical-Mechanical Gaming Keybo0ard is something you will have to see to believe! While similar in its styling to a few other Corsair Keyboards, we can guarantee you have never seen such an involved keyboard with this level of features and add-ons, making life at the PC easier on the user. Not only does the K100 RGB offer all of the standards we expect to see in a keyboard in any classification, but any gamer or streamer will also love what Corsair is offering. However, it does come with quite the price premium to obtain one!
We will try to make some sense of the chart we copied from the K100 product page, as the information is a bit chaotic and all over the place. We see that the K100 weighs in at 1.31kg, but no mention of size, so we broke out the tape measure. We found the K100 is 18.5" wide, it is 6.25" deep without the wrist rest, and it stands 1" tall with the feet collapsed and 1.5" tall with then extended. It ships to us in a North American layout of 104 keys, with an additional six G-keys used for Macros or Elgato steam deck functions. Each switch is an OPX switch, which is optical and mechanical, made by Cherry but comes with the Corsair logo. All switches are backed with individually controllable RGB LEDs, and there are an additional 44 RGB LEDs on the sides, which is named RGB LightEdge. Scrolling through the list, we also see that the K100 comes with NKRO and Anti-ghosting out of the box.
Connectivity to the PC is handled with a pair of USB 3.0 or 3.1 Type-A connections, one to power the K100 RGB and the other to power the USB 2.0 Type-A pass-through port on the back. The cable is roughly six-foot-long, starts with a single fat braided cable, hits a new cover inline, and breaks out to the pair of braided cables that connect to a PC. An additional note is that battery charging is possible through the pass-through port as well!
Features we have yet to cover are things like the 8MB of onboard storage, which is said to house up to 200 profiles, dependent on complexity, as you can continue to add more profiles via iCUE. Speaking of iCUE, it controls all of the functionality that can be remapped or changed in any way, although with the K100, we see more tabs to look through than ever before! There are dedicated multimedia keys with a roller bar for volume, there is the new control wheel, and dedicated Win lock and profile buttons. We also receive two sets of additional textured keycaps for FPS and MOBA usage, and even a magnetically attached wrist rest with a new design. Speaking of the keycaps, one major point missed in the chart is that all of them are PBT double-shot caps!
While there is plenty to appreciate in what the K100 offers, here comes the toughest pill to swallow. If you are interested, get ready for the dent it will put in your account. No matter if we are looking at the Corsair store or Amazon, the price is the same, at an astounding $229.99! This may be the most expensive keyboard of any type we have had in hand, but to be fair, it is also the most feature-rich product we have seen! At this point, we do feel that the price is a tad high, but as we make our way through this review and assess everything we cover, our opinion may change; but at the moment, we are still dealing with a bit of sticker shock!
Chad's Peripherals Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: MSI B450M Bazooka Plus - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: Intel Core i7 8700 - Buy from Amazon
- Cooler: Corsair H100i Pro - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 2666MHz 16GB - Buy from Amazon
- Video Card: MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ventus 8G OC - Buy from Amazon
- Storage: Corsair Force MP300 480GB - Buy from Amazon
- Case: Corsair Crystal Series 280X - Buy from Amazon
- Power Supply: Corsair CX750 80 Plus Bronze - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
Packaging, Accessories, and Documentation
The front of the box for the K100 follows their latest packaging style with all of the tiny triangles on the black backdrop, where we see the Corsair name and logo at the top left and the full name of the keyboard to the right. Under the near life-sized image of the K100 in all of its RGB glory, we see mentions of the OPX switches, the English layout, and to the right is the iCUE logo.
On the left end of this longer side panel, we see the product's name, followed by a shortlist of specifications. We did not see in the standard specs chart that the OPX switches require 45 grams of force, and with a total travel of 3.2mm, only 1mm of that is needed to actuate the switch.
At the opposite end of that same panel, we find images noting what ships in the box above the mention of a two-year warranty. The sticker found here tells us that this is the CH-912A01A-NA/PK model, but it is called something slightly different when looking at shops like Amazon, but it is the same keyboard, although there are options of OPX or Cherry MX switches on the Corsair store.
Continuing around to the next panel, we run into this smaller yellow one with the Corsair name and logo to the left, above the K100 naming. To the right, the rest of the area is used for the tagline "Press the Advantage."
We skipped the second long side of the box and moved right to the small opposite end of the box, as they are identical in what is displayed. Much like the other end of the box, we see the same information on the left, but this time the tagline is replaced with an image of the K100.
On the back of the box, there is a lot to take in. At the top, we see mentions of AXON, OPX, legato stream deck, and iCUE, with an image of the keyboard and a large switch shown on the left. To the right, we find features listed in a few different languages and explain what the OPX switch is. We can also see by looking at the bottom edge that the K100 RGB is said to work with a PC, a MAC, and even an XBOX One.
After lifting the top off of the thicker premium packaging, we get our first glance at the K100 RGB. We can see the cable at the back, which is also where the extra keycaps are found, where the wrist rest and literature are under the keyboard. Typically the keyboard ships inside of a plastic bag, but the K100 RGB ships under a clear plastic dust cover, which can be kept and placed on the K100 when not in use. However, not bagging the keyboard makes for a very dust-laden product, so be prepared to clean it!
Under the keyboard, we located the new style padded wrist rest. Using micro-dots for texture, the leatherette covering is smooth feeling but keeps your hands in place, and we also dig the Corsair name and tiny yellow box centered at the bottom.
We found a Corsair logo molded into the plastic frame under the wrist rest, which has six feet around the edges. The tabs at the top also have feet under them but are magnetic tabs to lock onto the keyboard's bottom easily.
Along with the cable, at the back of the box, we found a plastic bag. In it are these two sets of highly textured and angled keycap sets. The one to the left is for FPS gamers, and the one to the right is for MOBA gamers. To aid in removing the default keycaps, we also found a plastic keycap puller tool in the bag.
The literature that accompanies the K100 RGB is what you see here. The manual at the left covers all of the goodies you get, how to connect the device to the PC, and even a guided section on how all of the functionality in iCUE is controlled. There is a safety information guide covering usage and disposal, and the warranty guide addresses what Corsair covers for two years. Also, it offers information for contact with Corsair should an issue turn up.
Corsair K100 RGB Optical-Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
As we mentioned earlier, when the keyboard is not being used at the moment, or you know you will be away for an extended period, you should place the dust cover on the K100. Investing this much in a keyboard, you will want to keep it clean and presentable at all times. Even if the K100 RGB is powered, you can still use the cover and not lose any of the lighting effects you have set.
Corsair decided to not only drive up the appearance of the side of the K100 with the four individual sections cut into the frame, but you can also see white plastic diffuser bars at the top of each section. These allow for some of the 44 RGB LEDs in the LightEdge and will add RGB ambiance to the desktop.
At the top left corner of the K100 RGB, we immediately run into the control wheel. When powered, the center where the iCUE logo is is a button to swap colors and functions. Once on the proper function, you can turn the knurled wheel to make changes. On the left of the wheel is a dedicated profile button, and to the right is the WIN lock key.
Corsair had room for six G-keys with a slightly extended layout compared to the standard 104-key designs, which are angled and have silver tops on the keycaps. These are used for Macros and used for Elgato streaming functions with a bit of additional software. We also love the little touches, like the "// K100" to the G6 key's left.
Backing away, we can see the standard seventy-four keys in the K100 layout, which are capped with PBT double-shot caps, all of which have a cylindrical shape and a near smooth feel to them. The font is easy to read, with one exception, as that has to be the worst looking ampersand we have ever seen!
To the right, we find the other thirty standard keys. Above the arrows at the bottom, we have the command keys flanked to the right with a number pad, with a second set of arrow keys for left-handed gamers.
At the top right corner is where you will find the dedicated multimedia keys. At the top, we see a mute button and the roller bar for volume control. The row just below them are for stopping a track, going back a track, play and pause, and the last one will move forward a track.
The right edge of the K100 is nearly a mirror image of what we saw on the left edge, but this time we have the largest of the two feet options extended for the most ergonomic angle the K100 has to offer. Corsair included diffusion bars here too, which continue the LightEdge RGB lighting.
Along the entire back edge is another diffuser bar, which can be seen between the aluminum top and the plastic frame, and in the center of the back edge is a bump where the cable exits, and is also where a Nexus can be attached with the mystery bracket that shipped in the Nexus box. Off to the braided cable's side is a yellow USB 3.0 port, allowing users to connect anything from thumb drives, more peripherals, or even a charge cable for various devices!
The cable that connects the keyboard and pass-through port to the PC is thick and braided until it runs into the new breakout cover. Once the cable exits the cover, it is now two individual cables that terminate in connectors with icons molded into them to denote, which is for the keyboard functionality and the pass-through port.
Under the K100 RGB, we find four large feet supporting it as it lays flat on a desk. There is a section cut out to allow for a small and large foot in the back feet, which extends to the sides and is nearly impossible to collapse! The product sticker is found in the top triangle in the middle, while the lower one sports the K100 name, and all around them are wire guides to help manage cabling on the desk. The last thing to note is the pair of notches along the front edge, where the magnets from the wrist rest attach to the keyboard.
Inside the K100 RGB
We pulled a few of the keycaps as we attempted to open the K100 RGB but were thwarted from doing so by a pair of hidden screws under the shiny plate at the top edge. Nonetheless, all of the keycaps, even those on the G-keys, and the extra sets are all double-shot PBT, which adds to the caps' longevity, as legends will not wear, as there is no paint to wear off! The larger caps have three stems in them, which tells us the torsion bars are built into the keyboard, not exposed.
Looking at these switches, you might immediately think of Cherry MX Speed Switches, and you would not be entirely wrong in that assessment. However, these are a hybrid optical-mechanical switch, and they come with Corsair logos on the clear bodies. We also confirm that the large keys use built-in torsion bars with helper stems.
Before we added power to the K100 RGB, we also wanted to make sure we got at least one shot with the wrist rest attached. While it is ever so slightly wider than the K100 RGB, it will add 3.5" to the keyboard's depth.
With the K100 receiving power, we are greeted with a rainbow assortment of RGB LED lighting across all of the keys and even behind the control wheel and dedicated multimedia keys. In the center, the Corsair logo is white, and always is, as are the locks to the right of the logo, and when the WIN lock is used, there is another icon that shows up to the left of the Corsair logo.
Along with the lighting found on the top, the LightEdge system is also illuminated to match. On both sides and along the entire back edge of the K100 RGB, there is a steady glow from the extra forty-four RGB LEDs, and each of them is individually controllable via iCUE. We do have to say that the LightEdge does deliver quite the ambient glow around the K100 RGB, which we like a bunch!
Corsair iCUE Software
With iCUE already running on our Vengeance 5180 peripherals test system, all we had to do was plug in the keyboard, and the pre-installed iCUE found the keyboard immediately. We did make sure to check the settings tab to update software as well as updating all firmware. With that out of the way, in the default window for iCUE, we click on the K100 RGB box and move into customization.
For all of the options on the left, of which the profiles section is currently open, the right side of iCUE will look similar to what this window shows, which is a live view of the K100 RGB. For now, we will continue through software with the default profile, but to add more, click on the plus in the profiles header, name the profile if you wish, and get to programming.
While the Actions menu is the way to gain entry to the Macro menu, Actions encompass anything you want to make one of the keys on the K100 RGB do. To get to what you see in this image, we clicked on the plus on the right side of the actions header and then clicked on the G1 key. Macro is the default option, and with three sub-menus, you can program the Macro in the box below, but you can also add advanced and start settings to these same commands.
Other actions are found in the dropdown menu, where they are broken up into two sections. Actions are Macro, text, media, launch application, timer, disable, or profile switching. You can swap the alphabet under the remap heading, use numbers and symbols, change function keys, enhanced keys, keypad functions, modifiers and locks, language keys, mouse button commands, and keystrokes. If you cannot find what you are looking for in key customization here, keep looking!
Lighting effects are the same as we have seen in much of the latest Corsair gear. We see the multiple options in the predefined category, custom options in the middle, and lighting link options for various devices to sync together. As to the per-key RGB lighting, in the image above, select one of the lights in singles or groups, and program them to suit whatever look you are trying to accomplish. Of course, you also have options like brightness and direction for modes, and when getting into custom colors, you have multiple ways of selection colors, including RGB code entry.
Hardware actions throw us a bit as it seems like everything works the same as it does with the actions menu, just that the actions are auto-saved as you set them, and the hardware version says they are not and need to be saved to a profile for functionality with iCUE being closed. There are also a few fewer options to choose from on the hardware level.
Hardware lighting is similar to lighting effects but again is set to be used without iCUE running. We have fewer options to choose from in this menu than the previous one and also need to be physically saved to a profile.
The control wheel has a section devoted to it, and the image to the right has closed in on just the dial now. On the left, there are eight preset options to use the control wheel for, and you can enable them with the slider to the left and change the color in the box, which denotes what it is currently able to control. You can also add your own commands to control with this wheel. It could be anything really, only your imagination and its convenience are the limitations.
The performance tab is where one goes to address what is deactivated when using the WIN lock button and is also where you can reset the keyboard to its defaults. Lock indicator LEDs can be color selected to any solid color, whether picking from the wheel, using RGB code, or clicking on one of the predefined boxes.
The last tab on the left pertains to profiles and is where you can see which ones are currently stored onboard the K100 RGB. As you at them through the Profiles tab, they will auto-populate in this menu and can also be added here. You can also use this space for all of the things the text at the bottom of this window explains it does.
To find a few other settings, most importantly, to set that 4000Hz polling rate, you need to click on settings at the top. You can also adjust brightness here, change the layout, clear the onboard memory, and update the keyboard firmware. iCUE settings are also part of this menu but are for the entire environment control, less for keyboard specific customization.
Gaming and General Impressions
DOOM Eternal & PUBG
The K100 RGB is a pleasure to game with when it comes to the feature set it has on offer. With the extra G-keys, Macros, and just about anything you feel a game needs can be just a pinky away. Whi9le the control knob could be used for something like weapons switching or cycling through spells, you will have to tinker a bit to get that aspect to fit into your life, as your hands will have to leave the main section of the keyboard to click on the proper setting first, if not already on it, and then twist the dial to select what it is you want to do. iCue comes into play with all of what we have already covered, and the level of customizations and the number of profiles that can be stored onboard make the K100 near limitless in what it can do.
However, these new OPX switches, even with a 45-gram force rating, as some of the softest and easy to actuate speed switches we have ever tested. What does this mean in real life? For us, it meant that we were constantly jumping any time you moved our left hand to reach beyond the standards around the WASD keys. For instance, every time we pressed F to open doors in PUBG, we would jump instead of opening the door. Since our thumb constantly rests on the space bar, and the actuation distance is only one millimeter, it is easy to see that any errant movement can register a keypress.
We found less of this in DOOM, as we tend to stick to the WASD keys most of the time, without the need to wander around the keyboard much at all. While not a deal killer for many, it was something we never seemed to get passed in the many weeks of testing this keyboard!
Windows and Productivity
When it came to our daily grind, we found errant key presses to be much less of an issue, likely since we tend to put the keyboard in our lap and kick back, which has our hands more hovering over the keyboard rather than resting on it. It is still very easy to make multiple key presses if your accuracy is not that great, so editing word documents such as this review took longer as we tended to find random letters here and there.
On the flip side, Macros for productivity are a nice thing to go ahead and program, as you can save tons of time creating shortcuts for workflow, and with the entire keyboard being remap-able, you do not need to depend on just the G-Keys; anything is fair game. The control wheel was more useful to us in photo editing, where we could easily zoom in and out of an image for dust removal.
We also liked the ability to scroll web pages with the same wheel, and with one of the defaults being the Macro record button, on-the-fly programming can be had without the need to visit the iCUE suite. We have also come to appreciate the dedicated multimedia keys, as we tend to use custom keycaps a lot, which removed the symbols for the dual-layer style options out there. With the K100 RGB, all of the buttons and the roller bar are easy to see and use when cranking the tunes when some of your favorites make it into the rotation.
At first, we ran into a very strange issue, where the PC would ding with a keypress, but nothing was registered to the PC. After some tinkering and fiddling around, we solved that issue. However, Corsair wanted to ensure we were left with no problems and forwarded a Vengeance 5180 over to us as a dedicated peripherals test rig. However, even with that system, we are not completely trouble-free, as we seemingly are running into some memory read error in iCUE, which we are currently working with Corsair to sort out.
The hope is that by spending the last month in conversations and having developers look through our log files and system stress test results, these issues can be fixed so that the masses do not run across what it is we ran up against here. The primary issue was a bit of a deal killer, but it is now sorted. The error we have now does not adversely affect the performance and functionality of the K100 RGB. It is simply slightly annoying to click in a box to close iCUE every time the system is reset.
On the flip side, Corsair has made one of the most involved keyboards we have seen to date! The only thing it is missing is an OLED screen, and we feel every currently available option in mechanical gaming keyboards is packed into this sleek looking and resilient design! After much testing, we do find that all of the features work as intended, and even though the K100 RGB is slightly wider than most 104-key designs, it is easy to get used to, as the extra length is on the left side, so our hand placement on the desk is the same as with any other full-size keyboard.
We love the two feet on either side for multiple heights to choose from, and we love it even more that these feet flip out to the sides. Small adjustments to the positioning of the keyboard will not end in collapsed feet! The wrist rest is comfortable, and even though it is covered in leatherette, we did not find our hands getting sweaty and slick on the surface, which is a plus in our book!
Many may not consider upfront the sheer amount of light that the K100 RGB puts off. Not only are the keys illuminated well, but with the LightEdge system in play, your entire setup above the desk will glow in whatever colors you wish for the extra forty-four RGB LEDs. We could go on and on about what all the K100 RGB is capable of, but the bottom line is that it is a well thought out design with so many features you can get lost in programming. While the switches are not our personal favorites to use, we do know that the gaming scene is full of users who swear by red and silver switches, and Corsair is playing to those users here!
Being the most feature-rich mechanical keyboard, boasting about things like the AXON processing, which never misses a beat, but more importantly, is four times faster at polling than many other keyboards on the market. OPX switches are also new, and while we had our own take on them, for those used to speed switches, these can be even faster to use with such a short throw as one millimeter. As companies add more features and new technology, it comes with more R&D, modern tooling for production, leading to a higher price point. Compared to other Corsair mechanical keyboards, we feel the price is in line with what we expected.
Even so, at $229.99, this is easily the most expensive keyboard on the market! While the pricing was initially a tough pill to swallow, the more we used it, and the more we customized it, the more we came to appreciate the K100 RGB Optical-Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. It may not be for everyone, but you will not be disappointed for those willing to give it a try!
The Bottom Line
While the K100 RGB is the new hotness for Corsair, full of features and highly customizable, the cost is the thing that will keep many customers away. While worth the cost to some extent, it is likely the one thing that will turn some away.
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