Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve received a few mechanical gaming keyboards to test out. In particular, new units from Creative and Razer have arrived, both which pack full RGB backlighting and remarkably similar feature sets. Naturally I wanted to test out both new keyboards, and there’s no better way than a head-to-head battle.
To flesh this comparison out into a true three-way battle, I reached out to Corsair, who provided me with their K70 RGB Rapidfire keyboard. This is the keyboard we rated as the best for gaming in our Best Keyboards article last year, so it’ll be interesting to see whether this still holds true throughout this comparison.
The Creative keyboard I have on hand is the Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08: the only keyboard that Creative currently sells. It hits all the right buzz words for current gaming keyboards though, with mechanical keyswitches from Omron, full RGB capabilities, and dedicated macro keys. It’s also the cheapest keyboard in this roundup, currently retailing for $30 less than the other two.
The Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 is, naturally, Razer’s second generation RGB-backlit mechanical keyboard with a revamped design and additional keyswitch options. The variant I was sent includes Razer Green keyswitches, which are the most clicky of the three options, while Orange switches provide 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|
|Keyswitch||Cherry MX Speed RGB||Omron PRES||Razer Green|
|Dedicated Media Keys||Yes||Yes||No|
|Dedicated Macro Keys||No||Yes||Yes|
|Passthrough||USB||USB||USB + Audio|
|Rollover||Full key rollover||26-key rollover||10-key rollover|
|Max Polling Rate||1ms||1ms||1ms|
|Key Lifespan||50 million keystrokes||70 million keystrokes||80 million keystrokes|
Design and Comfort
As you’d expect from a desktop keyboard, the layout of all three keyboards is essentially identical, with all including the standard set of function keys and a numpad. The K70 RGB Rapidfire has a slightly larger spacebar at the expense of smaller Alt keys, but this has little effect on the actual usability of the keyboards, and results in some non-standard keycap sizes for those wanting to swap them out with ease.
The build quality and materials used for each keyboard is different across the board, although all three use entirely black elements. The Vanguard K08 is made from harsh matte plastic for the wrist rest and keyboard base, with some glossy elements. The actual keycaps are a soft matte plastic, which is the best keycap finish of all three keyboards.
The BlackWidow Chroma V2 also uses harsh matte plastic for the keyboard base, which Razer accurately describes as “smudge free”. The keycaps use a semi-soft finish that’s perhaps the glossiest of the three, however this doesn’t have a negative effect on the feel of this keyboard. The Chroma V2 pulls well ahead of its competitors as far as wrist rests is concerned though, thanks to an extremely plush padded design which, surprisingly, you don’t see on many other gaming keyboards.
It’s for this reason that the BlackWidow Chroma V2 is the most comfortable keyboard to use, with its padded wrist rest providing awesome support for your hands during lengthy gaming or typing sessions.
The K70 RGB Rapidfire isn’t as comfortable as the BlackWidow, however its build quality is the best of the three. The keyboard base is made from lightly-brushed aluminium with a plastic support, which gives it a more premium look than the other keyboards. Its keys sit above this aluminium plate as well, making it easier to clean after months of use. However, the inset design of the Vanguard and BlackWidow keyboards leads to a more intense RGB effect, at the expense of design appeal and ease of cleaning.
The wrist rest on the RapidFire is made of a pleasing soft-touch plastic, which is more comfortable than the Vanguard’s wrist rest, but not as good as the BlackWidow’s. Corsair’s wrist rest mounting mechanism is the most secure, and it’s the only system that allows you to move around the keyboard without the rest detaching. The BlackWidow uses a neat magnetic system, the best option if you only want to use the wrist rest at certain times, while the Vanguard K08 simply sits atop small tabs on the rest to prevent it sliding away during usage. Lift the K08, and the rest is no longer attached.
All three keyboards use braided USB cables.
All three keyboards include USB passthrough, though the BlackWidow Chroma V2 is the only that also comes with a 3.5mm audio jack for audio passthrough. Headphone users may find this handy, however its position on the right edge of the keyboard – along with the USB port – may clog up your mouse area on small desks. Both the Corsair and Sound Blaster keyboards have their USB port along the back edge, which is a better position for reducing desk clutter.
It was disappointing to see the BlackWidow being the only keyboard without dedicated media keys, as this is a feature I found extremely handy on the other offerings. Both the Corsair and Sound Blaster keyboards include an excellent metal scroll wheel for volume controls, along with play, stop, and skip buttons. Both also include dedicated keys for brightness and locking the Windows key.
The Razer keyboard does include media and brightness controls, however they are mapped 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 dedicated controls for these key functions instead.
Macros on the Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 are pretty easy to set up. To create macros on the keyboard itself, all you need to do is hit Fn+F9 to activate the macro recording mode, type the macro you want, hit Fn+F9 again, and hit the key you want this macro to map to. You don’t have to map macros to the dedicated macro buttons: you can set macros on every single 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 launch programs, act as other keys, and more.
Macros on the Vanguard K08 can only be set up through Creative’s Sound Blaster Connect software. There does not appear to be any way to create macros on the keyboard itself, which means you cannot quickly create macros on the fly.
The K70 RGB Rapidfire is the only keyboard here that doesn’t include dedicated macro keys; you’ll need to purchase the more expensive K95 RGB Platinum to get this functionality. However you can setup macros for any key on the keyboard (as well as remap keys, launch apps and more) through Corsair’s Utility Engine software. Like the Vanguard K08, there’s no way to create macros on the keyboard itself.
The K70 comes with several additional features not found with the other keyboards. Along the back edge is a switch that allows you to quickly change the polling rate of the keyboard, and put it into a special BIOS mode that provides the greatest compatibility when using your PC’s BIOS. There’s also a second set of FPS and MOBA keycaps included that you can swap in for increased texture on the most important gaming keys like WASD.