CORSAIR K95 RGB PLATINUM XT Keyboard Review: Improving the Flagship
CORSAIR’s Best Keyboard Just Got Even Better
CORSAIR has launched a new flagship mechanical keyboard at CES 2020, the successor to their K95 RGB PLATINUM. The new model is the K95 RGB PLATINUM XT, and no, the XT is not a reference to the IBM XT (Extended Technology) personal computer specification from the early 1980s. Ok, yes, that computer used a keyboard, but we aren’t talking about it right now.
We really liked the K95 RGB PLATINUM XT when it launched back in 2018, and this version promises to be even better. So what’s new here? The overall list of features is pretty massive:
- Dynamic Per-Key RGB Backlighting with 19-Zone LightEdge: Immerse your desktop in incredibly vibrant lighting effects with near-limitless customization
- PBT Double-Shot Keycaps: 104/105-key precision molded, 1.5 mm thick keycap set resists wear, fading, and shine through years of gaming
- Six Dedicated Macro Keys: Fully programmable with complex macros and key remaps, or swap to the included S-key keycaps and program special streaming commands through Elgato Stream Deck software
- 100% CHERRY MX RGB Mechanical Keyswitches: For the precision and accuracy you demand, the German-designed CHERRY MX SPEED RGB Silver with ultra-fast 1.2 mm actuation and MX RGB Brown iwth tactile bump offer proven performance and reliability with a new 100 million keystroke guarantee. The keyboard is also available with CHERRY MX RGB Blue which offer a clicky and tactile experience.
- Detachable Plush Palm Rest: A soft textured cushioned leatherette palm rest offers the comfort to breeze through marathon gaming sessions
- Anodized Brushed Aluminum Frame: Premium aluminum construction designed to withstand a lifetime of gaming
- Dedicated Multimedia Control: Take command of your media and adjust volume without interrupting your game using a signature CORSAIR aluminum volume roller
- USB Pass-Through Port: Provides convenient access to an additional USB device such as a mouse or headset, with tidy cable routing under the keyboard
- Powerful CORSAIR iCUE Software: Enable vivid dynamic RGB lighting control, sophisticated macro programming and full-system lighting synchronization across all iCUE-compatible CORSAIR devices
- 100% Anti-Ghosting with Full N-key Rollover: Ensures that every keypress registers, no matter how fast you play
- 8MB Onboard Profile Storage: Hardware macro and lighting playback let you take up to five profiles with you, wherever you go
Of the many features of this new model, several are new compared to the previous non-XT version. Among these differences are the PBT double-shot keycaps (upgraded from ABS), the macro keys now working cross-functionally with Elgato Stream Deck software, the keyswitch stem design (updated to improve durability/longevity), adding a Cherry MX Blue switch option, a new palm rest design (now cushioned with a leatherette surface), and the onboard memory now stores 5 profiles (up from 3).
- Chassis: Aircraft-grade aluminum, black anodized, bushed finish
- Form-Factor: Extended, 110-keys
- Key Switch Technology: Mechanical CHERRY MX with Gold Crosspoint Contact Technology
- Key Switch Types:
- CHERRY MX SPEED RGB Silver, 45g Actuation Force, 1.2mm Actuation Distance, 100 Million Keystroke Guarantee
- CHERRY MX RGB Brown, 55g Actuation Force, 2.0mm Actuation Distance, 100 Million Keystroke Guarantee
- CHERRY MX RGB Blue, 60g Actuation Force, 2.2mm Actuation Distance, 50 Million Keystroke Guarantee
- RGB Lighting:
- Key Backlighting: Individually Lit and Per-key Programmable
- Other Backlighting: 19-zone Rear LightEdge
- Backlighting Color: RGB, 16.8 Million Colors
- Keycaps: 104/105-key Double-shot Molded, PBT, Double-Thick Wall, Backlight Compatible
- Key Matrix: Full Key Rollover (NKRO) with 100% Anti-Ghosting
- USB Connectivity:
- Wired, 2x USB 3.0 Type-A
- Passthrough: USB 2.0 Type-A
- Report Rate: 1000 Hz
- Media Control: Dedicated Hotkeys (Stop, Previous, Play/Pause, Next)
- Volume Control: Dedicated Volume Roller (Up, Down) and Hotkey (Mute)
- Brightness Control: Dedicated Hotkey (Cycle)
- Windows Lock: Dedicated Hotkey (Toggle)
- Status Indicators: Num Lock, Caps Lock, Scroll Lock
- Cable: Fixed, 6ft (1.82 m), Braided
- Adjustable Height: Yes
- iCUE Software: Supported in Version 3.24 and Later
- Product Dimensions (w/o Palm Rest): (LxWxH) 465 x 171 x 36 mm / 18.3 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches
- Weight (w/o Palm Rest): 1.31 kg / 2.88 lbs
- Palm Rest: Detachable, Cushioned, Foam, Leatherette Cover
- Other Accessories:
- FPS and MOBA Keycap Sets with Keycap Puller
- S-key Keycap Set
- CORSAIR Logo Keycap
- Warranty: Two Years
- MSRP: $199.99 USD
$199.99 USD MSRP
“The CORSAIR K95 RGB PLATINUM XT Mechanical Gaming Keyboard immerses your desktop in dynamic RGB lighting with per-key illumination. Precision-molded PBT double-shot keycaps, 100 million keystroke-guaranteed CHERRY MX SPEED RGB Silver and MX RGB Brown keyswitches, and an anodized aluminum frame offer extraordinary build quality.
Six dedicated macro keys establish an in-game advantage, with the added benefit of Elgato Stream Deck software integration. A detachable cushioned leatherette palm rest offers plush comfort, while dedicated multimedia keys, an aluminum volume roller, and a USB pass-through port put convenient control within reach.
Powerful iCUE software gives you control over your lighting, macros, key remaps, and more. With 100% anti-ghosting with N-key rollover and onboard storage for five profiles, the K95 RGB PLATINUM XT lets you play with a full deck.”
K95 RGB PLATINUM XT Design
The brushed aluminum construction is a functional and stylish aspect of the design, which is lightweight while still feeling very strong. As with the previous version this is an extended layout, with the column of macro keys on the left side bringing it up to the 110-key number specified.
If you are familiar with the previous model of the K95 RGB PLATINUM you won’t see anything at first glance to indicate this is a new revision, as the improvements are mostly internal – though perhaps the biggest of these is right there in the open: the keycaps.
The new double-shot PBT keycaps are a big upgrade from the standard ABS keycaps of its predecessor (and most mechanical keyboards on the market), with PBT often an upgrade for enthusiasts looking for a more premium option. And for the uninitiated, double-shot PBT keycaps can feel quite a bit different than ABS, and they hold up a lot better over time. That these have been added without raising the MSRP of this model is commendable, and possibly the best feature of this XT version if I had to pick one.
The base of the keyboard is plastic, with large rubber pads on the corners to keep it from moving on the desk. Pop-out feet allow for height adjustment, and these also have rubber pads on the ends. These feet are also quite strong, and felt like they would hold up over time (though any statement about longevity is always a guess until we start reviewing keyboards one year later).
The dedicated volume roller is aluminum and feels smooth and appropriately premium, while the playback keys are also better than expected with a pleasant amount of travel. The keyboard offers toggles on the upper left side for lighting effects, lighting intensity (including off), and Windows key lockout. And the cable, which splits off into dual USB 2.0 cables to support the USB passthrough, is very thick and has a nice braided cover. Yes, even the USB cable looks and feels premium.
A look at the profile of the keyboard shows fairly shallow key caps which should help enhance the RGB lighting effects, and you might notice the additional RGB lighting strip around the sides, which extends to the back. The back of the keyboard is also home to that useful USB 2.0 passthrough, which allows the connection of a mouse (my preferred use), or any other USB 2.0 device like a gaming headset.
No discussion of mechanical keyboard user experience can ignore the all-important key switches, and our review sample of the K95 RGB PLATINUM XT features CHERRY MX RGB Blue key switches, a new addition to the XT model with the previous version only offering CHERRY’s MX RGB Speed Silver and MX RGB Brown switches.
For those without experience with different key switches, CHERRY MX Blues are a “clicky” switch (they have an audible “click” with each key press), and they are also tactile (there is a bump you can feel as the switch actuates). They have a slightly heavier 60 cN operating force compared to the other options, with CHERRY MX Brown 55 cN and MX RGB Speed Silver just 45 cN.
CHERRY MX Brown switches also have the longest pre-travel distance – 2.2 mm – in the MX lineup, and their overall 4.0 mm travel is tied for the longest in the product line. In contrast, the CHERRY MX Brown switch has a 2.0/4.0 mm pre/total travel and the MX Speed Silver has 1.2/3.4 mm pre/total travel.
Image via Cherry
What does all of this technical information mean? It means it takes a longer and ever so slightly firmer key press to actually get a key to actuate, which, coupled with the tactile feel and distinct audible “click” creates an experience that is unique to the MX Blue and its imitators. I personally prefer a slightly heavier operating force, preferring keys to require a bit more intent to actuate.
In my experience ultra-light, low actuation speed switches can result in accidental key-presses with my heavy-handed tendencies, and Blue switches feel more traditional – though the click can be a sticking point and is not always popular with people you may have to share space with. I do like the way these MX Blue switches feel, but in the CHERRY MX lineup I’ve settled on MX Brown as a go-to switch that meets most of my preference criteria without being as noisy.
I’ll make this short: PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) is a popular material for key cap upgrades for a reason. Quoting mechanicalkeyboards.com here, PBT key caps offer these advantages:
- They can survive temps of up to 150 C
- They are resistant to solvents
- They are mechanically Strong
- They do not “shine” as fast as ABS keycaps
Oh, and they feel a lot better, too. Honestly, I was pretty shocked at how much of a difference double-shot PBT can make with a keyboard, and I’m happy to see CORSAIR add them to the K95. The shine-resistance factor is appealing if that bothers you about ABS, but the other advantages – such as the weight and feel difference – are best left to an in-person experience. Trust me, they’re great.
The K95 RGB PLATINUM XT features Dynamic Per-Key RGB Backlighting, with basic lighting control via on-keyboard toggles and full customization via iCUE software. The lower-profile key caps allow for more light to shine out from the sides of each key, and this helps enhance the lighting effect. Of course lighting intensity is adjustable, and the RGB lighting can be turned off completely if you desire.
In addition to the per-key backlighting CORSAIR equips this model with a 19-Zone LightEdge system – adding a strip of lighting to the rear of the keyboard (which wraps around the corners slightly) for an ambient lighting effect.
CORSAIR’s software is as good as any in the industry, and I find it to be very slick and straightforward for an intuitive experience.
In addition to the customization features we’ve seen in previous CORSAIR keyboards this XT model offers a new Elgato Stream Deck Software section in iCUE, which allows the six dedicated macro keys to be programmed for Stream Deck functions. Another change in iCUE with this new XT keyboard is the addition of an “Increase Keyswitch Debounce Time” option, which CORSAIR says can “prevent a double registration if a single key is pressed too quickly in rapid succession”.
With the new K95 RGB PLATINUM XT keyboard CORSAIR has checked literally every box I can think of, creating as close to a perfect, out-of-the-box mechanical keyboard as I’ve experienced. The choice in CHERRY MX key switches, double-shot PBT keycaps, USB passthrough, customizable per-key lighting and macros, onboard profile storage, and solid construction are all I could ask for in a gaming keyboard, and as usual CORSAIR’s iCUE software experience is excellent.
Extras like the plush palm rest (surprisingly soft) and the ambient lighting are nice to have, and the alternate keycap selection (alternate FPS, MOBA, and S-key keycap sets are included as well as a CORSAIR key) along with a keycap puller add to the value. So how much does this hyper-premium mechanical keyboard cost? It retails for $199.99 USD, which is the same price as the previous K95 RGB PLATINUM. After all of the additions mentioned in this review that price looks better than the previous model, but $199 is still quite a bit to spend on a keyboard for many people. I’m just saying you get what you pay for with this one.
Bottom line, if you are looking for an ultimate gaming keyboard, this one will be very, very hard to beat.