Takes a lickin’ and keeps on clickin’
When you need that spill-resistant keyboard.
Over the years, Corsair has developed a name for itself as one of the premiere manufacturers of mechanical gaming keyboards in the market. One could argue that their K70 series is the leading inspiration for gaming keyboard design to today. Their dominance isn’t just limited to physical design, however. RGB illumination and powerful software programming have also defined their keyboards and set them apart from the competition.
Today, we’re looking at a newer entry in the mechanical keys catalog with the K68 RGB. The K68 is more of a budget-entry, but still packs a suite of premium features to please gaming fans. It’s also water and dust resistant with an IP32 rating. We put that to the test. Without further ado, let’s take a close look.
Specifications and Design
- MSRP: $119.99
- Keyboard Size: Standard
- Key Switches: Cherry MX Red
- Keyboard Backlighting: RGB
- Switch Lifespan: 50-million actuations
- Report Rate: 1000Hz
- Matrix: Full Key (NKRO), 100% anti-ghosting
- Water/Dust Resistance: IP32
- Media Keys: Dedicated
- Wrist Rest: Yes
- Cable Type: Tangle-free rubber
- WIN Lock: Yes
- Software: CUE Enabled
- Dimensions: 455mm x 170mm x 39mm
- Weight: 1.41kg
- Warranty: Two years
The K68 arrives in standard Corsair keyboard packaging. The box is rich with feature-highlights and definitely plays up the RGB illumination. This is 2018 and a Corsair product, so that should come as no surprise.
Everything is well packed inside the box. The keyboard ships with the usual plastic dust-sleeves on both the keyboard, cable, and plastic wrist-rest. We also get a pair of small documentation inserts that describe the warranty and unlabeled hotkeys.
Taking it out of the box, it’s here we get the first indicators of how Corsair managed to cut $50 off the price of the K70 RGB. The cable, rather than coming braided, is standard rubber. Likewise, the included wrist-rest is a more lightweight plastic, felt especially in the more flexible arms attaching it to the keyboard’s body. Neither of these are bad, especially when many gaming keyboards don’t include a wrist-rest at all.
Another change we see here is the move to a plastic top plate versus the “aircraft grade aluminum” found on their upper models. For this price, it’s a reasonable trade-off that keeps it in line with other keyboards in this price range. It also has the side effect of making the keyboard slightly quieter to use.
The K68 features a standard 104-key layout. In the upper right, we find our media controls. One major change from the K70 and up models is that the metal volume roller has been replaced with standalone buttons. These buttons are an upgrade from the only slightly cheaper Corsair Strafe RGB and all are RGB enabled. To the left of the indicator lights we also have a Windows Lock button and a three-level brightness control.
Moving onto the keys themselves, we have standard ABS keycaps with large translucent legends. These legends are great for shine-through but definitely carry the “gamer chic” vibe with them. The keycaps are smooth and easily show oils from your fingers but are sculpted enough to keep you from sliding into typos. They’re also single-shot, which means they’re made out of one piece of plastic. Corsair has used the standard approach of painting, coating, and laser etching. Over time, they’ll begin to shine and could eventually begin to fade.
Replacing these keycaps is a non-starter. Like many gaming keyboards, the K68 uses a non-standard bottom row to give extra width to common modifiers, Control and Alt. As a result, the majority of keycap sets not produced by Corsair themselves will be incompatible. Corsair does offer a relatively affordable set of PBT caps but for another $50 if you do want to upgrade.
What I really like about the K68 is that is uses a white mat under each key set to diffuse the light into a kind of “bed.” It gives a vibrant, flowing effect to your lighting presets, though light isolation is next to impossible.
The K68 uses Cherry MX Red switches, which are perfect for gaming. Cherry Reds are linear switches which means they don’t offer tactile feedback. They’re also lightweight, coming in at only 45cN of actuation force to type and responsive with 2mm of travel per actuation. For typing, there’s more of a learning curve to avoid typos but it’s nothing unusual if you’ve been using mechanical keyboards for any length of time.
Perhaps the most defining feature of the K68 is its dust and water resistance. It’s rated at a level of IP32, which means it’s protected from dust and particles greater than 2.5mm and liquid spray at an angle less than 15-degrees from vertical. Corsair has accomplished this by encasing each switch in its own rubber sleeve. As you can see in the picture above, with keycaps in place, this essentially protects the keyboard from all but the worst spills.
In practice, this works very well. I started by spraying the keyboard with a water bottle and then outright dumping the bottle of water on it, both while plugged in. Water channeled itself right out the bottom of the board and all but tiny droplets ran out with a quick tip to shake it out. Everything still worked perfectly.
The bigger problem is cleaning it. Water runs out fine, but tipping a soda onto it will still require some serious cleaning to oust the stickies.
The only downside, if you want to call it that, is that the keys do feel slightly softer to the touch. It doesn’t feel all that different from using o-rings and has a similar damping effect, so I wouldn’t call it a con. It’s definitely something to keep in mind if you don’t like the feeling of o-rings, however.
One of Corsair’s most impressive accomplishments is its software package, the Corsair Utility Engine (CUE). Since the K68 packs the same or similarly powered lighting controller as their most high-end boards, it’s fully capable of displaying advanced effects that can transcend “standard” keyboard lighting into full-on animations. It’s also within CUE where you’ll find all of your macro programming capabilities, key remapping, and special program bindings.
With CUE, Corsair allows greater, more user friendly control over lighting effects than any other manufacturer on the market. The K68 features individual backlighting for every key which can be completely customized on their own or in groups. If you’d prefer to keep things simple, you can simply stay on the “Basic” tab and select from a wide selection of presets including your standard spectrum, reactive typing, waves, and ripples, but also a couple unique options that display a rain of different colors or Tron-like Visor effect.
In fact, you don’t need the software at all, if you’d rather skip it, as they’re all built into the keyboard itself and accessed with function commands. You’d be doing yourself a disservice to skip it, though, as not only can they be customized in CUE but many more options wait under the surface.
If you want to kick things up a notch (BAM!), you can switch to the “Advanced” tab. Here, CUE turns into the Photoshop of keyboard software, allowing you to layer effects, customizing timings, gradient shifts, angles, speeds, and lighting trails. To get you started, you select from the type of effect you’d like – say, Wave – and then you’re free to tweak to your heart’s content. With layering, the possibilities feel almost endless.
Then again, some of us would just like to make our keyboards look cool without spending hours learning to program them and tweak dozens of layer functions. Thankfully, there’s an active community creating new profiles all the time. You can view Corsair’s RGB Hall of Fame here but I also recommend checking out the work of Lewis Gerschwitz, one of the most talented and prolific profile creators out there. He has dozens, but my current and all-time favorite is the cycling 1UP mushroom. It doesn’t get more “gaming keyboard” than that.
CUE also allows you to program macros for your favorite games or work tasks. You start by selecting which key you’d like to bind, then hit record. You can add, edit, or remove delays quickly and easily (which is great if you’re automating work online). In truth, I use this function more for work than gaming but certain genre fans will definitely benefit from it.
You can also bind keys to output strings of text, key combinations (like alt+shift), launch executables, and control your media. If you’re waiting on a cooldown, you can set a key to trigger a countdown timer for launching a certain command. You can launch common programs or individual executables, enable, or disable keys. If you’re adventurous, you can pair it with AutoHotKey to really automate your computer use. It’s a powerful software suite with benefits outside of just gaming.
The K68 is a more budget-oriented entry for Corsair but it’s far from feeling like a budget keyboard. They’ve scaled back in smart ways, like swapping the metal top plate for plastic and cutting out the braided cable. More than being a downgraded K70, the K68 is far closer to an upgraded Strafe with its added media controls and spill protection. These are great additions that are fairly priced at only $10 more at current prices. If you’ve wanted an RGB keyboard, Corsair’s are some of the best money can buy and this is a great place to start.
|Review Terms and Disclosure
All Information as of the Date of Publication
|How product was obtained:||The product is on loan from Corsair for the purpose of this review.|
|What happens to the product after review:||The product remains the property of Corsair but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.|
|Company involvement:||Corsair had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.|
|PC Perspective Compensation:||Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Corsair for this review.|
|Advertising Disclosure:||Corsair has purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.|
|Affiliate links:||This article contains affiliate links to online retailers. PC Perspective may receive compensation for purchases through those links.|
|Consulting Disclosure:||Corsair is not a current client of Shrout Research for products or services related to this review.|