EDITOR'S NOTE: The Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series won a "highly recommended" honor for best gaming keyboard in the Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for gaming.
The Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series reminds me of the Corsair K70 RGB Mk.2 in all of the best ways. Like its best-in-class bigger brother, the K70 RGB TKL Champion Series features a sturdy chassis, excellent key switches, gorgeous aesthetics and robust software. Unlike the Mk.2, however, the K70 RGB TKL drops the numpad, and adds a handful of tournament-specific features. What the K70 RGB TKL lacks in size, it makes up for in specialization.
There are a few tiny drawbacks that make the K70 RGB TKL feel just a little less perfect than its full-size counterpart. The $140 price feels hard to justify, when the standard model costs only $30 more. There aren’t that many key switch types to choose from, and the split design on the media keys takes some getting used to.
Overall, though, the K70 RGB TKL is a worthy follow-up to the Mk.2, and well worth the asking price for anyone who wants the best gaming keyboard (and one of the best mechanical keyboards) on the market, just without the space-consuming numpad.
Key Type: Mechanical | Switch Type: Cherry MX Red or Speed | Illumination: Full RGB | Size: 14.2 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series review: Design
If you’re familiar with the Corsair K70 RGB Mk.2, then the Corsair RGB TKL Champion Series should look pretty familiar to you. Like the full-size model, this keyboard features a black brushed metal-style chassis, elevated keycaps with bright per-key RGB lighting, discrete media controls and a distinctive ridge on top.
Unlike the Mk.2, however, the K70 RGB TKL has two tournament-friendly features: a detachable, braided USB-C-to-USB-A cable, and a novel “Tournament Switch.” The former is self-explanatory; the latter requires a little explanation.
On the back of the K70 RGB TKL, there’s a small switch that turns the keyboard from its default mode into a “tournament compliant” mode. This gives the keyboard a static color pattern, disables macros and resets the keyboard to a default profile. The switch lights up a small LED, which theoretically lets tournament officials check for compliance at a glance.
The Tournament Switch is not a feature everyone will use, but it’s a cool idea. My only complaint here is that the switch really should activate the Windows Lock mode, which prevents you from accidentally tabbing out of your game, as well. As it stands, you’ll still need to hit the Windows Lock mode separately after you enter compliance mode.
It’s also worth discussing the discrete media controls here. On the upper-right-hand side of the keyboard, you’ll find a mute button and a textured aluminum volume dial. So far, so good. But the stop, rewind, play/pause and fast-forward buttons are all on the upper-left. This divided media control setup is necessary, considering that the K70 RGB TKL has much less real estate for extra keys. But it still takes a lot of getting used to, particularly if you’ve spent the last few years with discrete media controls. I routinely muted my music when I meant to pause it instead.
Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series review: Keys
One advantage Corsair has over most of its competitors is that it usually insists on authentic Cherry MX key switches in its gaming keyboards. The Corsair K70 RGB TKL lets users choose between Cherry MX Red and Cherry MX Speed switches. This is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, Cherry MX Reds and Speeds are excellent switches, albeit quite similar. They’re both quiet, linear models, the main difference being that Speeds have faster actuation and shorter key travel than Reds.
The downside, of course, is that there’s no option for Cherry MX Brown or Blue, as the Mk.2 offers. Keyboard aficionados who want both a tactile feel and a smaller peripheral profile are out of luck, at least for now.
Still, Cherry MX Reds, which came with our review mode, are comfortable, efficient switches for both gaming and typing. On a Typing.com test, I scored 123 words per minute with 99% accuracy on the K70 RGB TKL, compared to 117 wpm with 97% accuracy on my usual Logitech G915. You just can’t beat a Cherry, it seems.
Corsair has also called attention to the Axon hyper-processing technology in the keys. Briefly, Axon decreases a keyboard’s latency to both detect keystrokes and transmit keystroke information (theoretically) much faster than competing models. According to Corsair, Axon technology can detect keystrokes at a rate of 4,000 Hz and transmit then at a rate of 8,000 Hz – a far cry from the traditional 1,000 Hz that most gaming keyboards offer.
As to whether this makes a difference, it doesn’t seem to in everyday play. In tournament conditions, where furiously mashing a key for the fastest possible response time might make a critical difference, Axon does at least have the potential to be faster. Either way, it’s probably one of those features that requires more real-world data before we can say much about it definitively.
Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series review: Features
The big features of the Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series are the Tournament Switch and the Axon processing technology, both discussed above. However, it’s also worth discussing the Corsair Utility Engine (iCUE) software, which has seen some serious upgrades recently.
iCUE lets you reprogram any key, set up complex lighting effects, create profiles for individual games and apps, and even differentiate between software- and hardware-based profiles. So, if you'd like, you can get the full K70 RGB TKL experience on a computer without iCUE. Unlike before, however, the lighting effects are simpler to set up, particularly across multiple Corsair devices. A feature called “Scenes” lets you set a unified color code, whether it’s an attractive rainbow wave or a red/yellow/green pattern based on your CPU temperature.
Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series review: Performance
In news that won’t shock anyone who’s used a Corsair peripheral before, the K70 RGB TKL’s in-game performance is excellent. I tested the device with Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition, Doom Eternal, Octopath Traveler and Final Fantasy XIV. The keys felt precise and responsive, whether I was gearing up the Doom Slayer to eviscerate the legions of Hell, or giving my party of pixelated adventurers turn-based commands.
In Age of Empires and Doom – titles that belong to competitive genres – I tried to gauge whether the Axon technology gave me a significant edge over any other high-end gaming keyboard, but didn’t feel much. I executed commands just as fast as I normally would. Whether this would be different in a high-stakes, high-stress tournament scenario, we’ll have to wait for the esports crowd to discover.
Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series review: Verdict
Since the Corsair K70 RGB Mk.2 is still the finest gaming keyboard on the market, it should come as no surprise that the Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series is about as good as TKL gaming keyboards get. I miss the numpad, personally (and the wrist rest), and I can’t say whether the tournament-specific features will make a practical difference. But either way, the K70 RGB TKL is a gorgeous keyboard with wonderful switches, and that’s often all you need.
The Razer BlackWidow Lite is a lot cheaper, if you can live without RGB lighting, and the Logitech G915 TKL’s wireless features are impressive, if you’ve got money to burn. Otherwise, the Corsair K70 RGB TKL Champion Series is an easy recommendation for anyone who can live without a numpad.