Corsair K100 RGB keyboard review: Speed is the name of the game

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In the quest to find the best gaming keyboard, you have many options. Should you go full-sized or tenkeyless (TKL)? Wired or wireless? What color of the rainbow should the key switches be? The list goes on. Depending on how you answer those questions, Corsair’s latest flagship, the K100 RGB, is either the keyboard of your dreams or your worst nightmare. 

The K100 is stacked with 110 keys to type on — including a dedicated row of customizable G keys, 44 zones of RGB, an iCue-powered wheel dialer, Corsair’s proprietary OPX optomechanical switches, wired connection with USB passthrough, and a detachable cushioned wrist rest. If there’s an “Everything but the kitchen sink” keyboard, this is it. 

That said, the K100’s starting price of $229 is not for the faint-hearted, and I wouldn’t recommend the keyboard for everyone. But if you can get used to its unconventional navigation tools, conquer the sophisticated yet rewarding software experience, and sacrifice enough desk space, then the K100 may very well be your endgame keyboard.

Like

  • Keyboard is customizable to your heart’s content
  • Up to 8,000Hz poling rate
  • Optical linear switches are responsive and built to last
  • Detachable wrist rest

Don’t Like

  • Expensive
  • Optical linear switches are loud and not ideal for typists
  • Full-sized keyboard plus wrist rest takes up a lot of space
  • iCue software is cluttered

Specifications

Dimensions

18.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 in (470 x 166 x 38 mm)

Weight

2.98 lb (1.35 kg)

Keyboard size

104 keys (full-size) plus six macro keys 

Key switch

Corsair OPX optomechanical switches or Cherry MX Speed (linear)

Keyboard material

Aluminum frame

Connection

Wired via two USB-A 3.0 connectors (one for USB passthrough)


There’s no question that the Corsair K100 RGB is a colossus of a keyboard. Weighing just under three pounds, it’s heavier than most full-sized boards, and the dimensions don’t make the portability any better. Still, if you plan on setting and forgetting the K100, then your biggest concern should be making desk space to fit the keyboard and its accommodating wrist rest. The review unit that I tested came with Corsair’s new OPX optical-mechanical switches, but the K100 also comes in a Cherry MX Speed variant. No matter which version you buy, you’ll be typing on linear-based keys. 

Design

The Corsair K100 RGB provides a traditional full-sized, 110-key setup in a brushed aluminum body that feels as premium as it looks. Like its predecessor, the K95 RGB Platinum XT, the K100 has a dedicated row on the left side for G keys, a volume scroll wheel on the upper right, and four media control buttons underneath. Adding to the mix is a new iCue wheel dialer on the upper left, which has a button at the center to change between modes and functions. Altogether, the keyboard gives the essence of a glorified Bop It toy. You can scroll, spin, click, and tap it to your heart’s content. 

corsair-k100-rgb-keys.jpg

With colorfully-lit keycaps and a cushioned wrist rest, the Corsair K100 RGB is as suited as flagship keyboards get. 


June Wan/ZDNet

At the center of the K100 lies a grid of double-shot PBT keycaps, each housing Corsair’s OPX optical-mechanical switches. If this is your first time shopping for a mechanical keyboard, then all of that jargon may have just flown over your head. 

In summary, double-shot (or, double-layered) PBT keycaps are some of the most durable offerings on the market, and Corsair claims that the ones on the K100 can withstand up to 150 million key presses. Compared to traditional mechanical keyboards that last up to tens of millions, the K100 sets a new measure for durability. 

Double-shot PBT keycaps are also pricier than standard, single-layered ones, costing around $50 for a quality set. If there’s any reason for Corsair to charge $229 for a keyboard, these keys are one to blame. 

Also: Everything you need to know about mechanical keyboards

Every key on the K100 is highly customizable, both physically and digitally. Through the iCue software, which I’ll go more in-depth with later on, you can remap any key on the board, set macros, and even designate an RGB lighting effect per switch. This level of modifiability is rare for pre-built keyboards. 

corsair-k100-rgb-icue-dial.jpg

The iCue dialer on the top left of the keyboard lets you control various programs and functions. 


June Wan/ZDNet

Speaking of rare, the K100 has an iCue control wheel that, I originally assumed, would be able to navigate between macros and windows layouts. The reality is that there are only eight A/B functions that the control wheel can dial through, including brightness levels, track jogging and selecting, vertical scrolling, zoom, and more. Each mode is color-coded through its ring of RGB, and the dialer itself is made with textured aluminum. I found the control wheel to feel wonky and loose, and in some cases, the sharpness of the outer ring made turning it rather painful.

corsair-k100-rgb-macro-keys.jpg

A side row of six macro keys can be programmed like that of the Elgato Stream Deck. 


June Wan/ZDNet

There’s also a row of G keys on the leftmost side of the K100, which takes advantage of Elgato’s popular Stream Deck software. From G1 to G6, you can map the keys to a dedicated function, smart home routine, IFTTT prompt, you name it. If you’re a streamer, the keys make for excellent overlay buttons, so you can switch from your main camera to in-game feed with a click. The only real issue I had with the extra row of keys was the need to adjust my muscle memory. Since I was used to having my “Esc” and “Ctrl” keys on the farthest edge of the keyboard, I’d occasionally tap G1 or G6 instead.

Also: 5 ways the Elgato Stream Deck can streamline your workflow

Performance

Corsair’s OPX optical-mechanical switches are some of the most sensitive ones that I’ve tested. Through infrared signals and linear mechanics, the K100 detects keystrokes with an actuation force of 45 grams at an actuation point of just 1.0 mm. That beats out the likes of the Razer Huntsman V2 and SteelSeries Apex Pro which rate at 1.5 mm and 2.0 mm, respectively. By using a laser to actuate presses, gamers will find the K100’s accuracy and responsiveness of the keyboard’s 4,000Hz polling rate very favorable. Meanwhile, typists like myself, who often prefer tactile and clickier inputs to begin with, will experience the occasional mistouch and typo. 

I’d also like to call out the loudness of the K100’s OPX switches. Coming from a Logitech MX Keys, the Corsair is drastically louder to type on, though some will find that, and the hollow nature of linear switches, pleasurable. I prefer a more silent keyboard experience, especially for those late-night gaming sessions. See below for a sound and typing test of the K100. 

While the faster actuation point takes some getting used to, the typing experience of the K100 is clearly not for all. Like most gaming keyboards, the keycaps are much taller and thicker than the low-profile nature of productivity-themed boards and laptops. This means that unless you sit high enough to have a natural typing posture, the bundled wrist rest is a must when using the K100. Fortunately, Corsair has crafted a wrist rest that is cushiony and padded enough to keep your hands comfortable for hours on end. As seen in the video above, I found the perfect wrist rest distance to be an inch away from the K100 keyboard. 

Software

Like most mechanical keyboards, the Corsair K100 RGB is at its best when synced to companion software. In this case, the iCue app lets you modify a bevy of features, including the lighting effects, how you want parts of the keyboard to glow, key assignments, and of course, the control wheel. While the software can be unintuitive, like how the “Lighting Effects” and “Hardware Lighting” tabs are close to the same thing, you can definitely achieve the ideal layout after fiddling around. 

corsair-k100-rgb-lighting-effects.png

The RGB lighting of the K100 is so intricate that you can designate a color or effect by the key. 


June Wan/ZDNet

From my experience, the out-of-box configuration for the K100 is more than enough to get through clerical tasks, photo editing, and gaming. But if you’re adventurous and seek a keyboard that’s as personable on the inside as it is on the outside, then the iCue software should satisfy your wanderlust. Just know that most modifications can require four- to five-step processes (as shown in the image above), so patience is key. 

Also: Best mechanical keyboards: How does the Corsair K100 stack up?

corsair-k100-rgb-side-lighting.jpg

Glowing lights surround the sides and back of the K100 keyboard.


June Wan/ZDNet

Bottom line

At $229, the Corsair K100 RGB is not for everyone. In many cases, the extra buttons and dialers can be viewed as gimmicks and make you question whether there’s just too much on one plate. But for the niche of enthusiasts and gamers who can reap the benefits of the added inputs and blazing-fast actuation speed, the K100 is as good as it gets. 

Alternatives to consider

Along with our running list of the best mechanical keyboards, here are some worthy alternatives to the Corsair K100 RGB: 

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