Ah, keyboards. Granted, they're not the sexiest of PC peripherals, but the fact remains they're one of the most important--the gatekeeper to gaming, lolcats, and uh, "specialist" photography. As such, there are a wealth of third-party keyboards out there, all with different design flourishes to entice you away from the freebie that came with your PC.
New to the keyboard party is Corsair with its range of Vengeance peripherals, which take on the likes of Steel Series and Razer at the premium end of the market--and with a price tag to match. The range consists of two USB keyboards and two mice, but it's the keyboards we're taking a look at here; the K60 aimed at first-person shooter players and the K90 aimed at massively multiplayer online fanatics.
Both keyboards share a common chassis made of plastic, topped with a solid slab of brushed aluminum onto which the keys are placed. This gives the keyboard a good weight, which--along with some small rubber feet--ensures it won't slide around a desk during even the most frantic of gaming sessions. The aluminum also gives the keyboard a solid, premium look and feel; one that doesn't get immediately covered in fingerprints like Razer's super-glossy Black Widow series.
The keys themselves are fully mechanical (except the function row), making use of Cherry Red MX switches. Mechanical switches give each key press a much more tactile feel than the standard rubber membrane used in cheaper keyboards. There's a lot of travel in each key, which takes some getting used to, particularly if you're a heavy laptop user. But if you stick with it, you'll find it's a much more satisfying experience.
The Cherry Red switches give the Corsair's keys a smooth feel, with a lighter actuation force than the Cherry MX Black or Blue keys used in other mechanical keyboards, such as the Razer Black Widow. This makes them an excellent choice for gaming. There's just enough resistance to let you know you've pushed a key, while the smooth feel makes performing quick double taps effortless.
Also nice are the media keys on the top right of the keyboard, which are unobtrusive and a much more sensible inclusion than a bling-tastic LCD display or odd function keys that will rarely get used. There's even a lock button, which allows you to disable the Windows key, ensuring you don't accidentally quit to the desktop during a particularly heated session. And, if you're a mutant with tentacles for arms, the keyboard will register up to 20 key presses at once, along with full key-independent anti-ghosting so any button combination will be recognized without error.
Where the two keyboards differ is in their extra features. The K90 has been designed with massively multiplayer online players in mind, and as such, it features a row of programmable macro keys to the left of the standard keys. The included software allows you to program them to any key combination you like, while four preset buttons at the top of the keyboard let you switch between different profiles on the fly. It's a nice feature that works well, but the additional keys mess with the positioning of your hand, which can be off-putting if you're used to anchoring your left hand on the edge of the keyboard. The K90 also features an adjustable blue backlight, which is handy for those late night sessions, as well a comfy removable wrist rest.
Sadly, there's no backlight on the first-person shooter focused K60. Instead, there are removable red key caps, which are stored inside a small wrist rest that clips onto the left of the keyboard. The keys clip onto W, A, S and D, as well as numbers one to six. They're aggressively curved and have a textured surface, which differentiates them from the other keys. Seasoned players probably won't find them that useful, but it's nice to have the option if you find your hands getting lost during a game.
The K60 and K90 are excellent keyboards. The built quality is rock solid, the keys feel great, and they look the part too, staying away from the overly ostentatious look that so many manufacturers seem to lavish upon gaming peripherals. Once you're used to the mechanical keys, it's difficult to go back to a regular, rubbery membrane keyboard, but there's a price to pay for doing so: The K60 retails at £94.99 ($109.99), while the K90 goes for £109.99 ($129.99).
That's a lot to pay, but it compares favorably with other mechanical keyboards, which usually retail at around £100. Just remember; the Corsair K60 and K90 won't turn you into a Call of Duty champion overnight (sadly, there's still no replacement for lots of practice), but as keyboards go, the K60 and K90 are among the very best you can get.