11 Sep 2015
This is a review for the Corsair Strafe with Cherry MX Brown switches. This is the regular one not the silent variant. In the UK it retails for around £99 in the UK and around $99 in the US. This is a review unit sent to me by Corsair.
Additional Box Photos
Nothing too fancy about this unboxing. It was a nice cardboard box and the keyboard was wrapped in plastic. You also get your keycaps and keypuller vacuum packed.
What’s in the box?
- Additional Keycaps + Keypuller
Look and Design
From a gaming keyboard standpoint this is one of the more low key designs. This is something I think is quite important as you will often seen a gaming keyboard that just seems illogical in its design choices. The body is black plastic and has a red visible switch plate. The switch plate is not fully visible but hidden under the plastic top case. This creates a nice effect with the red backlight. Around the edges this is most obvious around the corners and the arrow keys.
With the red plate and the red backlight this is a red themed keyboard. The red light does look nice but it is a bit of a tired colour scheme. The red does go nicely with the red plate but the light casts some odd looking shadows on the front of the F row keys.
The top of the case has a textured surface which helps avoid fingerprints and anything sticking to the top. However, this ends around the sides where you have a mirror finish and a light bar. The light bar is quite bright, this is because they have a dedicated LED just for the light bar. You can also see that the case tapers towards the front, which results in an odd curved front.
Despite this sounding like a bad idea, I think this looks quite nice on this keyboard. The mirror finish on the side is a strange decision but not all that pertinent to anything. It is unlikely you will see your keyboard from that side. The effect of the light bar around the edge is quite nice as anything that is immediately around your Strafe will be slightly illuminated with red. Overall I still don’t see the need for this line, but it is there.
At the top left there is the Corsair sails logo, and on the right you have your LED indicators and two buttons for backlight control and a strange windows looking button.
Below these buttons you have a line that runs across the top of the board. It is almost a pencil holder, but it is just a little too small to be of any use. I think the purpose of this is just to split off the top where you have the logo and additional buttons. If you think about it without the line, it might look like a G80-3000 where you have quite a large bezel at the top. For the Strafe I think the line looks OK. But I think if the keyboard ended at the line you would have a cleaner looking keyboard without having to make use of additional space for no reason.
This is one of the nicer looking ‘gaming’ keyboards and despite some questionable design choices I do think this is a nice looking keyboard.
You will notice the legends are top centred which generally works apart from nothing lines up. This is most noticeable on the left side. This is some of ISO’s doing but this happens with centre aligned legends.
As I mentioned before the case is all plastic, but you do have a metal switch plate. The plastic case does make this keyboard feel quite light which you wouldn’t expect looking at it. From using this keyboard I don’t think it has lost anything from not having a metal case and the plastic works absolutely fine. Despite it being plastic it is overall very sturdy. On the underside it has two feet that splay out to the edges of sides of the keyboard. The design of the case is not too slanted and is one of the flatter designs I have seen. Having a flat keyboard and then the feet for tilting it seems like a good idea. That is almost in place on this board. There is also rubber feet in all 4 corners so it really doesn’t move on my desk. That said it certainly is a lighter keyboard so you can move it with a bit of intent.
It comes with Cherry MX Browns which are 45g tactile switches these are of course tried and tested in the mechanical keyboard world so there is nothing to fault there. The visible switch plate is something that stands out on this keyboard and I think is quite nice. I don’t remember seeing an arrangement quite like this it is most definitely tailored so you see a bit more of the red. Typing on it is a nice experience. There is no ping and the switches aren’t moving anywhere. The two buttons in the top right feel quite nice but they are not Cherry switches. They are mounted in the upside down position so the LED is on the top.
One aspect I as surprised about when unboxing this keyboard was the mammoth cable. It is the thickest cable I have seen on a keyboard. This is likely because it is both for USB pass through and connection of the keyboard. It is a thick cable with very chunky ends.
It is not detachable which would have been good with such a great cable, but I don’t see it breaking off any time soon. With the option of USB pass through this keyboard has two USB connections. This is where I have an issue. The cables splay out in opposite directions. You have to force them to be parallel to each other as they are trying to go the opposite way.
When plugging this in I have two USB ports right next to each other but I have to rotate the cable to get them both in. This will only really bother you if you are using the USB pass through as you will need both plugged in. You also have no routing options for this cable, just straight out the back. With a cable as thick as this it can be hard to bend if you have small desk space with limited space directly behind the keyboard.
This is not the most feature driven keyboard there is. But there is not always additional features needed for a keyboard to be good. To start with the Strafe has full 104 key rollover.
USB Pass through
USB pass through does as you expect. You move a USB ports functionality from your computer to your keyboard. Whether this is useful, is up to you. You don’t have to use it so this is a harmless feature. The USB port on the keyboard is located just to the right of the cable.
The Strafe does have a lot of features that are not really enabled on the board. Additional features are found in the CUE which is a piece of software that is used in conjunction with this keyboard. It allows you to customise macros and the function of buttons and FN combinations on your board. Using this software on Windows I found it to be quite comprehensive and it does give you a lot of options. One advantage I found was the ability to customise the windows lock to include alt. Small changes like this are good in the hands of the individual user, as everyone likes their layout the way they like it. This was something that was annoying about the MX 6.0. The CUE is an extensive piece of software and can get very confusing. I did not know what I was doing half the time. This could use some work, but if you want to change something about your keyboard you can through this software. The bad thing about relying on external software for these additional features, is the fact that it is sort of useless without it.
This leads into my next point which is Linux support. There really is none. To start with, when booting into my Arch installation it adds 30 seconds. Initially this is something I thought might be solved by upgrading the boards firmware. But I did that through CUE on Windows and it did nothing to improve the situation. The two additional buttons in the top right also have different functions in Linux. They stop your keyboard from working. If you try to adjust the backlight brightness or use the win-lock you will have to replug your keyboard and wait the 30 seconds before you can use it again.
One feature that is universal is the media keys, but these are hard to get wrong. I’m not sure whether I can complain here as Mac and Linux support is not listed on its specifications.
FPS and MOBA Keycaps
FPS and MOBA keycaps are additional keycaps that are bundled with this keyboard. It is something that makes a stock keyboard stand out. I think the most interesting thing about these keycaps is the construction. The top grey part clips onto the black main part. They are like customisable doubleshots.
I don’t play any MOBA’s so I did not put the MOBA caps to good use. But I did make sure to test the WASD caps. I played Dirty Bomb and Mad Max. Two things stand out about these keycaps. They are curved and they feel like sandpaper. The legend seems to be the source of the horrible texture, but it really takes over the feel of the whole cap. These keycaps are for gaming situations, so not meant for typing. But as this is a keyboard I think it is reasonably to expect you might have to type something in a gaming situation.
The curved nature of these keycaps makes it feel a little off. It really threw me off when typing even a small amount. The texture really kills these caps. Having an addon pack with just different coloured caps would have been fine. But I did not enjoy using these at all.
The other alternative cap it comes with is the textured spacebar. Unlike the rest of the special caps, the spacebar feels great. This is actually a nice addition to the keyboard.
Quite innocuous really. I found this to be a very nice keyboard to type on and use. It just falls short as it has no additional features that give it much merit. CUE is impressive but complicated to use. If you are looking to use it you might have to spend a lot of time figuring out what you can do and how you can do it. As a stock mechanical keyboard that is used for gaming, I think you could do a lot worse. No Linux support and lacklustre attempt at interesting keycaps just make it seem less impressive. Overall I have enjoyed using this keyboard for typing and gaming. I did not miss the WASD or MOBA caps. I think the whole ‘gaming’ keyboard is a misnomer and it is a little redundant to have a ‘gaming’ keyboard. Without the additional features I still enjoyed using it. The major issue I had was the Linux support. If someone is looking to get into mechanical keyboards and wants to come in from a gaming angle. I think this would be a good option.
Typed on The Corsair Strafe