In the past few weeks I have received some mechanical gaming keyboards for testing. In particular, new units from Creative and Razer have arrived, both of which have full RGB backlighting and remarkably similar functions. Of course, I wanted to test both new keyboards, and there is no better way than a head-to-head fight.
To turn this comparison into a real three-way battle, I turned to Corsair, who provided me with the K70 RGB Rapidfire keyboard. This is the keyboard that we ranked the best for gaming in our "Best Keyboards" article last year. So it will be interesting to see if this is still true during this comparison.
The Creative keyboard I have on hand is the Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08: the only keyboard Creative currently sells. With mechanical key switches from Omron, full RGB functions and dedicated macro keys, however, it hits the right buzzwords for current gaming keyboards. It's also the cheapest keyboard in this summary, and currently costs $ 30 less than the other two.
The Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 is of course the second generation mechanical keyboard from Razer with RGB backlighting, a revised design and additional key switch options. The variant that was sent to me includes Razer Green key switches, which are the most clickable of the three options, while orange switches ensure silent operation and yellow switches are geared towards ultra-fast linear responses.
|Spec||Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire||Creative sound BlasterX Vanguard K08||Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2|
|Key switch||Cherry MX Speed RGB||Omron PRES||Razer Green|
|Special media buttons||Yes||Yes||No|
|Special macro buttons||No||Yes||Yes|
|Pass-through||USB||USB||USB + audio|
|To turn around||Full key rollover||26-key rollover||10-key rollover|
|Maximum query rate||1ms||1ms||1ms|
|Key life||50 million keystrokes||70 million keystrokes||80 million keystrokes|
|price||$ 169.99||$ 139.99||$ 169.00|
Design and comfort
As you would expect from a desktop keyboard, the layout of all three keyboards is essentially identical, including the standard set of function keys and a number pad. The K70 RGB Rapidfire has a slightly larger spacebar at the expense of smaller Alt keys. However, this has little impact on the actual usability of the keyboards and results in some non-standard keycap sizes for those who want to easily replace them.
The build quality and the materials used for each keyboard are completely different, although all three use completely black elements. The Vanguard K08 is made of matt plastic for the palm rest and the keyboard base with some glossy elements. The actual keycaps are made of a soft, matt plastic, which is the best keycap finish of all three keyboards.
The BlackWidow Chroma V2 also uses hard, matte plastic for the keyboard base, which Razer describes as “smudge-free”. The keycaps have a semi-soft surface, which is perhaps the most shiny of the three. However, this does not negatively affect the feel of this keyboard. In terms of palm rests, the Chroma V2 is way ahead of its competition thanks to an extremely soft, padded design that, surprisingly, you won't see on many other gaming keyboards.
For this reason, the BlackWidow Chroma V2 is the most comfortable keyboard, whose padded palm rest supports your hands perfectly during long gaming or writing sessions.
The K70 RGB Rapidfire is not as comfortable as the BlackWidow, but its build quality is the best of the three. The keyboard base is made of lightly brushed aluminum with a plastic support, which makes it look better than the other keyboards. The keys are also located over this aluminum plate, making them easier to clean after months of use. However, the design of the Vanguard and BlackWidow keyboards leads to a more intense RGB effect, which is at the expense of design and easy cleaning.
The RapidFire's palm rest is made of an appealing soft-touch plastic that is more comfortable than the Vanguard's palm rest, but not as good as that of the BlackWidow. Corsair's wrist rest attachment mechanism is the safest and the only system that allows you to move around on the keyboard without loosening the rest. The BlackWidow uses a decent magnet system. This is the best option if you only want to use the palm rest at certain times while the Vanguard K08 simply sits on small tabs on the rest to prevent slipping during use. Raise the K08 and the rest is no longer appropriate.
All three keyboards use braided USB cables.
All three keyboards have USB pass-through, although the BlackWidow Chroma V2 is the only one that also has a 3.5 mm audio jack for audio pass-through. Headphone users may find this convenient, but its location on the right edge of the keyboard – along with the USB port – can clog your mouse area on small desks. Both the Corsair and the Sound Blaster keyboard have a USB port on the rear edge. This is a better position to reduce clutter on the desk.
It was disappointing to see that the BlackWidow is the only keyboard without dedicated media buttons, as this is a feature that I found the other offerings to be extremely convenient. Both the Corsair and Sound Blaster keyboards have an excellent metal scroll wheel for volume control as well as buttons for playing, stopping and skipping. Both also include dedicated buttons for brightness and locking the Windows button.
The Razer keyboard contains media and brightness controls, but these are assigned as additional functions on the F keys. Some games and applications require the use of the F keys, so it would have been nice to see special controls for these key functions instead.
Macros on the Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 are fairly easy to set up. To create macros on the keyboard yourself, all you have to do is press Fn + F9 to activate macro recording mode, enter the desired macro, press Fn + F9 again and press the key to which you want to assign this macro. You do not need to assign macros to the dedicated macro keys: you can set macros for each key on the keyboard.
You can further customize macros or create more detailed macros in Razer's Synapse software. Here you can set keys to start programs, act as other keys and much more.
Macros on the Vanguard K08 can only be set up using Creative's Sound Blaster Connect software. There doesn't seem to be a way to create macros on the keyboard itself, which means that you can't quickly create macros on the fly.
The K70 RGB Rapidfire is the only keyboard that does not contain dedicated macro keys. You have to buy the more expensive K95 RGB Platinum to get this functionality. However, you can set up macros for each key on the keyboard (as well as reassign keys, launch apps, and more) using Corsair's Utility Engine software. As with the Vanguard K08, there is no way to create macros on the keyboard itself.
The K70 has several additional functions that are not available on the other keyboards. At the back is a switch that allows you to quickly change the keyboard's polling rate and put it in a special BIOS mode that offers the greatest compatibility when using your PC's BIOS. There is also a second set of FPS and MOBA keycaps that you can use to swap key game keys like WASD to improve texture.