For those who take PC gaming seriously, a run-of-the-mill office keyboard is probably not going to cut it. That said, gaming keyboards run the gamut, from small and simple to enormous and complex.
If the latter description appeals to you, consider the Corsair Vengeance K95 ($150). This mechanical keyboard is enormous, but it's also an absolute joy to use and offers enough features to satisfy everyone from action/adventure aficionados to hardcore massively multiplayer online (MMO) junkies.
The Vengeance K95 is all about contrast, and nowhere is this more evident than in its color scheme. The keyboard itself is jet black with a metallic sheen (save for the textured wrist rest, which uses a cross-hatched rubber pattern), but all of the letters and numbers on the keys are illuminated bright white.
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The most noticeable feature of the Vengeance K95 is its sheer enormity. The device measures a whopping 21.5 x 9.6 inches (compared to the Feenix Autore's 17.3 x 5.4 inches, or the Roccat Ryos MK Pro's 20 x 9.2 inches), and its wrist rest needs to be screwed in for stability. Make no mistake: This keyboard is a pretty peripheral, but if you have a cramped computer setup, don't bother with it.
Each key has a slightly rounded depression, so it's just as comfortable to rest your fingers for extended periods of time as it is to actively type. The Vengeance K95's Cherry MX Red key switches are easy to press and don't require much pressure to activate. Typists who prefer a more satisfying click will probably want to invest in a keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches instead, such as the Corsair Vengeance K70.
We also found the keys to be more responsive and quicker to release than those on an average membrane keyboard. Using the Ten Thumbs typing test, we logged 106 words per minute with a 0 percent error rate on the Vengeance K95, compared to 94 words per minute with a 0 percent error rate on a standard Dell KB212-B keyboard.
The Vengeance K95's most distinctive feature is its extra set of keys, labeled G1 through G18, that come in six rows of three on the keyboard's leftmost side. The keys are theoretically there to record macros, although users can also give them keyboard- and mouse-specific features, such as launching programs or controlling media. We found it challenging to incorporate them into our existing typing style, but the extra unassigned buttons could be very useful to some players.
Still, the number of extra keys raises the question of why users needed 18 more buttons rather than just one or two within easy pinky reach. Recording macros and assigning them to extra keys is a smart feature, but the average player does not need 18 different macros, or 54 if you count all three accessible keyboard profiles.
Although the Vengeance K95 is very comfortable overall, it does have a few downsides. The keyboard's size makes it tough to place on a small desk, and the extra set of keys means that the Vengeance K95's feel is different from that of other keyboards.
We often put our hands in the center of the keyboard and started typing, only to discover that we were generating gibberish. Reaching over to the extra G keys is not intuitive, either, since we had to move our left hand rather than just our fingers.
As with Corsair's other keyboards and its line of gaming mice, the Vengeance K95 runs on Corsair's configuration software. Although the software is a bit on the dense side, it can still accomplish just about anything a user desires.
The Vengeance K95 has three programmable profiles stored on the keyboard itself, although, unlike with Corsair's gaming mice, users cannot program additional profiles to store on a computer. For each profile, users can customize what each button on the keyboard does, which buttons are illuminated and the overall level of illumination.
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Recording macros with the Vengeance K95 is simplicity itself, thanks to a macro-record button right on the keyboard. Simply hitting the button, pressing the desired buttons in the appropriate order and delaying the proper amount between each keystroke will record a macro on the fly.
This is incredibly useful for hardcore MMO players, who must often fire off very specific sets of skills in a predetermined order (known as a rotation). For example, players can cast a fireball, inflict a negative status effect while waiting for it to cool down, and follow up with a buff that increases their magical powers. Imagine pressing just one button, rather than 10, to employ an entire spell rotation, and it's easy to see why a dedicated macro-recording button could be a boon.
We put the Vengeance K95 through its paces with four games: "Titanfall," "Batman: Arkham City," "StarCraft II" and "Star Wars: The Old Republic." This selection let us experience first-person shooter (FPS), action/adventure, real-time strategy (RTS) and MMO performance.
The keyboard performed admirably with each title, whether we were dashing around multiplayer maps in "Titanfall" or switching between Batman's multitude of gadgets in "Arkham City." In particular, though, we enjoyed our time with "The Old Republic." The ability to set up and use macros, such as devising complementary combinations of lightsaber strokes, without pausing gameplay was helpful, and assigning our favorites to the G keys allowed us to keep them close at hand.
Since the Vengeance K95 is a USB keyboard rather than one with a PS/2 input, users can roll over only so many keys at once. That said, in our tests, we found that we could simultaneously activate more than 10 keys. Unless you possess more than 10 fingers, the rollover capability should be more than sufficient.
The Vengeance K95 has huge physical dimensions and a price tag to match. Still, it offers users a lot for their money. The keyboard is functional and comfortable, and although it arguably has too many extra keys, that's way better than not enough. Users who prefer membrane keyboards or dislike Cherry MX Red switches will want to look elsewhere. Otherwise, the Vengeance K95 is a good choice for PC gamers with a lot of physical space and a predilection for high-level MMO play.
Actuation: 45 g
Key Travel: 5 mm
In-Key Rollover: >10
Size: 21.5 x 9.6 x 1.5 inches
Weight: 2.97 lbs.
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