By Doug Berner
As I talked about in our review of the K60 and M60, we got a chance to check out some of the cool offerings from Corsair while at CES. The K90 and M90 keyboard and mouse are designed around the needs of the MMO player. Since both Ed and I are avid RPG gamers and dedicated MMO players this set was one we really looked forward to checking out.
Designed for MMO gamers this pair of products grabbed out attention right away with their aggressive styling and unusual features. A few months ago the good folks at Corsair were kind enough to send us some review samples and we have been hard at work putting them through their paces, kicking the tires so to speak. Yes we are far from the first source to review these products but as our listeners know we strive to do a thorough test on items like this to get a feel not only for the initial impressions and feature list but to see how well they hold up and how they perform under a variety of situations on a daily basis. So with no further delay I will jump right in with our impressions, experiences and conclusions of the K90 and M90 from Corsair.
I will spare you the unboxing experience and tell you that they were more than adequately packaged. (by now you all know how Ed and I feel about “unboxing reviews”).
As mentioned above this keyboard is designed from the ground up to be not just a gamer’s keyboard but a MMO gamer’s keyboard. For the non-gamers out there who are about to stop reading let me just clarify by telling you this is not JUST a gaming keyboard and the features included to make it appeal to gamers are also excellent additions to a daily work and general use keyboard. The K90 is essentially a variant of the K60 the review of which you can read by clicking the link at the beginning of this article. As such it shares many of the features and characteristics of the K60 like the brushed aluminum case, Cherry MX Red mechanical switch keys, heavy braided cable and aggressive styling. The additions included to set the K90 apart and make it appeal to MMO gamers and for that matter many others are a massive bank of programmable macro keys included in a bank on the left side of the keyboard, backlighting and a full length wrist rest.
First the basic features you will find in the K90
1 Mechanical Cherry MX Red switches for all the primary typing keys means you get the long live and precision of mechanical switch keys with a very light touch.
2 Solid brushed aluminum upper and lower deck construction means the K90 offers a great aggressive styling that does not show finger prints as well as sturdiness that insures you could use it as a self-defense weapon if you ever needed to.
3 The connection cable is heavy and reinforced to the point that an average adult could probably swing on it without damaging, much less breaking it. Yet is has a good deal of flexibility to it.
4 The multimedia keys located in the upper right corner are unobtrusive yet function easily and efficiently and the analog volume roller control which at first look seems out of place on a modern digital device actually performs faster and with more accuracy than any button volume control I have seen.
That is where the similarities end. The features that make this a better MMO keyboard than is FPS cousin include:
Programmable Macro Keys: 18 Macro keys which are easily programmed with the software to repeat any of those multi key tasks that are a mainstay of most MMOs. Simply launch the software and assign as many key strokes as you want to one of the function keys. You can also adjust the delay time between key strokes if you need to. As mentioned above though these same keys can be very useful in the real world where you may use the same series of key strokes over and over to perform repeat processes for cut and paste, editing or switching between applications. Using these will save time and reduce the potential for errors when performing these tasks.
One interesting characteristic of the macro key bank is that it is set down at a lower level than the primary keys on the main deck of the keyboard to avoid accidentally hitting them. I’ve seen some people ding the K90 for this and the fact that the macro keys are not mechanical. But in my experience this has been an effective way to keep me from accidentally banging these and causing embarrassing gaming moments that my friends would never let me live down. As for them not being mechanical, well they don’t need to be. They have made the feel of the macro keys nearly identical to the main keys, these keys get used a hundred times less and lets face it if they were all mechanical we would be looking at a more expensive keyboard. So in my opinion I think Corsair hit the mark with their choice of placement and key types here.
Back Lighting: The inclusion of laser etched, backlit keys on the K90 provides solid elegant backlighting in any color you want as long as it is blue. The fact that it only comes in blue may turn some off who have other colored lights in their case and want everything to match and I am hopeful that a future incarnation may be offered in different colors or even multiple colors to make everyone happy. However if you like blue you will be happy with the K90’s backlighting which performs admirably in all room lighting environments. Or if you are not a fan of blue you do have the option to turn it off with the press of a button located at the top of the keyboard.
Additionally the backlighting does not extend to the edit keys the macro keys or the function keys. Corsair seems intent on keeping the focus on the keys that are used the most by backlighting only the primary keys, arrow keys and numpad keys.
Full length wrist rest: The final feature that sets this keyboard apart from its FPS cousin is the inclusion of a full length wrist rest. Its hard to say a lot about a wrist rest other than that this one does its job admirably. It has a nice textured finish and does a good job of making the K90 more typing friendly that its FPS counterpart.
All in all we have been faithfully pounding on the K90 for about 3 months and it has performed and held up admirably. They software makes programing the macro keys fast and easy and actually makes it possible to have multiple profiles that you can set up for various games or applications that you use. I cannot imagine anyone needing more macro keys than this, ever.
The backlighting is quickly adjustable to three different levels or can be turned off all with the touch of a button and Cherry MX Red switches make this thing a joy to type on without the hand fatigue I have sometimes experience with heavier switches.
There is one USB port on the top edge of the keyboard and while this one less than many keyboards come with now. It is still one more than 90% of users will ever use. If you need this feature one will almost always be enough.
A price tag of about 120.00 seems a bit steep to those who have not yet discovered the wonderful world of mechanical keyboard. But the combination of quality construction, unique styling and outstanding feature more than justifies the price. The K90 is among the best keyboards we have reviewed here and has earned a spot in my personal top recommendations for those looking for a first rate keyboard with generous macro capabilities.
As with the K90 the M90 shares some commonality with its FPS cousin the M60 FPS mouse.
The M90 is a sleek aggressively styled sturdily built mouse aimed at the MMO gamer with features they are sure to value and again those same features could also be valuable in everyday and production/office use.
It offers the same rock solid aluminum foundation found in the entire Vengeance line of products and sports that same wide rubber clad aluminum scroll wheel that I loved so much on the M60 but the similarities with the M60 pretty much end there. The M90 has a completely different shape and feel to it.
Oh it’s a hefty hand full just like its FPS counterpart but unlike the M60 this mouse does not have removable weights to adjust that weight for those who like a lighter feel to their mouse. This was no detraction to me since I prefer a heavier feel to my mice.
A generously long braided cable connects the M90 and is both flexible enough not to interfere with operations yet sturdy enough to not be in danger of breaking or wearing out any time this decade.
The fit and feel of the surfaces of the M90 are a nice matt black that does a great job of resisting finger prints and smudges while still offering a non-slip tactile experience.
Internal lighting on the M90 is blue to match the K90 keyboard and is very subdued. The Corsair logo on the rear is lit in white and adds both brand recognition and a nice bit of flare to the appearance.
Again functionally after months of use we have had no problems or technical difficulties with the M90, it has performed flawlessly and shows no noticeable signs of wear.
The thing that sets the M90 apart from most of the gaming mouse crowd is the addition of several programmable macro buttons on the thumb side. Nine to be exact and these like every button on the M90 (it has 15 in all) is easily programed to allow you to customize the M90 for any game functions you like in any order you like. Few other mice can boast this amount of flexibility and when combined with the number of programmable macros found on the matching K90 the amount of customization is staggering.
At the heart of the M90 is a 5,700 DPI Avago Technologies ADNS-9500 LaserStream™ gaming sensor. Sure that’s a mouthful to say but what it means is that on every resolution and on every surface we tested the M90 it performed with wonderful speed and sensitivity in every application and every game we tried it on.
The Macro Buttons: Ok let’s get down to what makes this mouse stand out in a crowd. All those buttons give the M90 a level of flexibility that not many other mice can even approach. The inclusion of the software which allows the possibility of up to 50 profiles means this mouse can be customized for multiple games and applications and have some left over for multiple users if you have to share it with someone else. From the standpoint of customization the M90 sets the bar way above most of its competition.
However; I said this mouse has a lot of flexibility and there is the one shortfall I find in the M90. Those buttons on the thumb side are not the easiest to use in any situation much less an immersive environment like gaming. The thumb buttons, all nine of them are located around the edges of the thumb side. They are all narrow and rather to firm for such small buttons. The result is that for me and at least 4 other people that I had try the M90 out, the buttons were not easy to find and when found were difficult to press without changing the grip to apply more pressure.
I think I understand the reasoning behind the placement to be that they should be available but not in the way of your thumb so as to avoid accidental pressing of them during regular gameplay. An admirable thought but the execution of the design leaves quite a bit to be desired. Perhaps if I were 20 years younger or had an extra joint in my thumb to allow it to bend to those awkward positions easier my experience would have been different but in fairness my other test subjects ranged between 14 and 20 years of age so I don’t think it’s just that my thumbs are old, fat and worn out.
In every other aspect the M90 is a sterling example of what I would expect from Corsair; unique styling, quality construction, and innovative features. I would like to see a future incarnation of the M90 that had easier to reach, larger buttons with a lighter touch. Then we would have a winner in every category. But for me the thumb buttons are a deal breaker. If I didn’t need them I could just ignore them but since they are there I feel a bit cheated by not being able to make use of them.
The Corsair K90 MMO keyboard is a winner hands down. Aggressive styling, well thought out key layout, rock solid construction, elegant backlighting and a veritable cornucopia of programmable macros make this a MMO gamer’s dream keyboard. Only the limiting of backlight colors could possibly be a detraction and that not by much. If you are a gamer or will be buying for a gamer in the near future and want an unforgettable experience that is sure to enjoyed for many years you should look at the Corsair M90.
The Corsair K90 MMO mouse, while offering that same line up of Aggressive styling, rock solid construction, and elegant backlighting, could have benefited from a bit more testing and research on the number of joints that humans have in their thumbs. Having said that, results may vary and if you find that you can live with the placement of the thumb keys you will not be disappointed in the M90 in any other respect.
Review Aired Live 2 June 2012.