With eSports on the rise, the market for premium gaming keyboards has grown substantially. While only a couple years ago shelves were dominated by only a small handful of options, today nearly every major peripheral manufacturer has several keyboards in its lineup. It's become more difficult than ever to tell them apart as this heated competition has resulted in increasingly refined products.
Corsair has experienced monumental success with its best-selling K70 keyboard. However, priced at around $129+ it's a product that's been out of reach of many gamers. In response, Corsair has crafted a new product at an entry level price of $109. That product is the Corsair STRAFE Mechanical Keyboard, one that has gained the attention of PC gamers for its dashing looks and simplicity.
As with Corsair's K70, the STRAFE has exceptional build quality. Its full keyboard, which includes a numerical pad, is composed of high-grade plastics built with a sense of style. Unlike some of the competition, there's no creaking during stress, and it's all housed in a uniform lightweight body making it easy to transport. Best of all, there is no glossy finish to be found anywhere on the keyboard, meaning you don't have to rid it of dust on a weekly basis.
The STRAFE's keys are tall, with the unique benefit of providing you access to the base without pulling keys out; you won't find a competing keyboard that's easier to clean than this one. In the event that you want to pop out keys for one reason or another, the package comes with a key cap puller that'll help you with that.
Setup is as simple as plug-and-play via USB on the Windows platform—your mileage may vary on other operating systems—, and although you don't have to install the Corsair drivers it's advised. The cable is thick and lengthy, allowing the keyboard to be installed safely without extension cables. It's also equipped with a USB pass-through port in the event that you want to daisy chain a headset, mouse, or other device.
The only thing missing from the package is a wrist rest. For some users—including myself—these are a necessity, so you might have to look for a third-party solution to prevent wrist strain. On one hand its absence means you aren't paying for something you may not need, but on the other hand the ergonomics fall short of what most competitors offer out of the box. The tall keys certainly don't help in this regard.
The STRAFE comes in two flavors: Cherry MX Red and Cherry MX Brown. These styles correspond to the mechanical switch types included. Cherry MX Reds remain the most popular on the market today for their low resistance and clickiness, but they do tend to be more noisy. If you game casually, the MX Browns may provide a better experience during everyday use. Ultimately, the choice is yours as both are offered at the same price point.
Although most of the keyboard is black, the base is red and so are the LED lights embedded underneath each key making for a great contrast. The color can't be changed, but its brightness can through the use of a dedicated button on the top-right of the keyboard. This button, in addition to the Windows key lock, feel great to the touch like the rest of the keyboard. You won't find dedicated media controls, and instead you'll have to rely on two-key function inputs in order to pause media and adjust volume.
Supplied are a few textured key caps that you can use to replace your major input keys (Q, W, E, R, D, and F). These can be particularly useful in MOBAs where slippage is a concern for some players. By default, the spacebar has this textured top, which takes some getting used to when typing.
Upon installing the Corsair Utility Engine you can begin tweaking the keyboard in various ways. The macro options are easy to define and extremely powerful. Options range from multi-key input to timers and even mouse controls. The sky is the limit. You can also employ some lighting effects through the software, allowing the keyboard's red LEDs to host a parade in your room.
Despite the price point, the Corsair is no slouch when it comes to performance. Key input is dependable, with 100% anti-ghosting. Its key performance can go toe-to-toe with just about any keyboard out there.
The design language of the STRAFE is reminiscent of SteelSeries' popular 6Gv2 Mechanical Keyboard, which you can commonly see at eSport events. As great of a product as that is, the Corsair has it beat in several ways, from its easy to clean interface, to its software and LED lit keys. Offered at the same price, the STRAFE has set a new standard that the competition will have to take seriously.
At $109 the Corsair Gaming STRAFE Mechanical Keyboard is a great option for those looking for an entry level mechanical keyboard. Its build quality and materials will serve you well in the long-run, while its attractiveness will improve the look of your gaming space. It performs as well as the best in the market, but lacks the wrist rest and dedicated media controls that you may be looking for. If all you want is high performance in a simple package, the STRAFE can't be beat.