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Genius GX Imperator Pro Gaming Keyboard Review

By Doug “Doug Dot Com” Berner

Last year Ed and I took the time to go through a few keyboards, mice and headsets, we needed with a Gaming Peripheral Shootout.  While we were grateful to the three companies that took part the truth is we wanted to do more. Well this year we have Steelseries returning but they are joined by Genius and Logitech for our second shootout round, first in our sites, Genius and the Imperator Pro keyboard.

IMG_1667Lets start with the unboxing experience: Well it came in a box that was attractive, informative and protective. What else could you want in a box, or a significant other for that matter? Seriously you all know how I feel about unboxing stuff by now so you were not expecting a full page of glowing words about how much of a joy it was to see the quality of the plastic bags used. I see it as the equivalent of talking about how comfy the airbag cloth is in a car. It works and that is what matters.

On first examination I was impressed with an overall styling that was aggressive but no so aggressive that it looked alien. A nice textured and rather flat finish did not show finger smudges as I pawed looking for faults in the finish. It boasts reinforced cord with two USB plugs indicating that the two USB ports on the upper edge are powered and not passive, which is a plus if you are trying to charge things like your phone with them. A bank of 6 macro keys are located on the left side and there 3 mode buttons which let you quickly switch between pre-defined customized setups and there is a light dimmer button also at the top allowing you to adjust the brightness to any of 4 levels plus a pulse on/off mode. Also a full set of multi-media keys let you adjust volume and playback on the fly.

So far so good. Lets plug this puppy in and get to banging on it.IMG_1672

Immediately after booting up with the GX-Imperator installed I went to the GX gaming website and downloaded the latest and greatest software, installed it and got down to business.

The setup software is easy to understand and use and even a beginner should have no trouble with setup on this keyboard.

Immediately I noticed the keys display a unique font that makes it stand out in a crowd. This adds a nice flare to the appearance that heretofore I have only found in more expensive keyboards.

Another thing I like is that the Imperator’s software allows infinite color choices so matching to you other peripherals is no problem. On the down side the overall lighting is lacking in couple of ways. Even on the brightest setting the best that can be said for it is that it is subdued. Depending on the color you choose it may be bright enough for your needs. For example I found that the lighter blue shades showed up much better than full reds. I have noted in other reviews that I work in a room with both artificial and natural sunlight and being a stickler for a lighted keyboard, I am often more sensitive about this than other reviews. It all depends on your personal preference but since you can dim this keyboard I would rather have seen them go for an overly bright approach that I could then dim down to what works for me.

IMG_1673Also the lighting on the number keys is uneven which results in the symbols at the tops of the keys are only half lit. Well that’s not totally accurate, if you look straight down on the keys they are fully lit but when you put the Imperator out in front of you in a typing position the top half of each symbol is dark. While this does not affect performance it is a tad annoying.

As for performance the Imperator is a membrane keyboard so it does not feel quite like the mechanical that I am used to, but this is not a bad thing. Mechanical keyboards are not for everyone, they are normally heavier, louder and more expensive than membrane keyboards and as such the world needs both if we are all to be happy. The imperator is very firm and responsive and has a comfort level that is among the best I have experienced. Being a membrane design also means that it is very quiet, a handy thing if you are in a room where other people don’t want to listen to your typing or gaming sounding like Woody Woodpecker had one to many Red Bulls. Thus far I have worked and gamed on the Imperator for nearly 2 months without a problem. It easily fills both roles because the easy to set and use macro and mode switches mean I can switch back and forth between looks and tasks with simple a push of a button.

All in all the Imperator Pro performed as well any keyboard I have had the opportunity to test over the last several years.

Aside from the lighting issue I mentioned above, I would recommend the Imperator to anyone looking for a reasonably priced great performing keyboard for gaming and or production.

Oh and did I mention that all of the GX line rocks this cool scorpion logo? Well it does and let’s face it you just can’t put a price on cool. Seriously it is a cool logo and on the Imperator it makes an appearance on both the space bar and in holo-foil form on the wrist wrest.

When you consider that this can be bought on-line for $70 you have a great combination of quality, performance and affordability. If you do not want the inifitie lighting color options or the USB hub then you can get the none Pro model for $50. Whether you are in the market for yourself or a gamer in the family I recommend add the GX-Imperator keyboard by Genius to your list if keyboards to choose from.

Pros:

  • Quiet, but you expect that from a membrane keyboard.
  • Six macro keys, which is plenty considering 80% of users never any.
  • Infinite adjustable colored backlighting.
  • Lockable windows key.
  • Powered USB pass-through instead of passive means you can charge and operate a larger range of items.
  • Custom font lettering is a nice touch.

Cons:

  • Uneven backlighting when not viewed from straight down.
  • Backlighting needs to be brighter even on light blue which seems to show the best it is among the dimmer lighting systems we have seen.

In the coming weeks I will also be sharing my experience with the GX-GILA gaming mouse and the GX- Cavimanus . So stay tuned to learn more about this complete set that the good folks at Genius were kind enough to send to us for review.

Thank you to the folks at Genius for sending us the GX Imperator Pro for review.

Show segment from show airing the weekend of May 11th, 2013

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | 5 Comments

Vengeance K90/M90: The MMO Connection

By Doug Berner

17April2012 005As 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”).

The K90 keyboard: 17April2012 007

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:

k90 ss02Programmable 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.

The M90 MMO gaming mouse:17April2012 016

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.

M90 ss02The 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.

Conclusions:

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.

June 2, 2012 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Corsair K60/M60: Jumping into Pro Gaming

By Doug Berner

Vengence K60 Series 073Back in January while at CES, Ed and I had a chance to sit down with the folks from Corsair. Among the cool stuff they had to show us, were the Vengeance K60 keyboard and M60 mouse. I was struck by the style and feel of both of them at the time but did not have a lot of hands on time at the show to put them through their paces. When Ed called a couple of weeks later to let me know we had gotten a set in for review I jumped at the chance.

The K60 and M60 are billed as FPS (first person shooter) gaming items and so one would expect them to be both rugged and reliable.

When I got my hands on the set, the first thing that struck me was the same thing that had leapt out at me when we saw them at CES. Both the K60 and M60 have a one of a kind aggressive design that looks distinctly military. A solid, no-nonsense chassis built from brushed aluminum peeks out from the edges of the M60 mouse. There is a plastic mouse body attached to it but there can be no doubt that the heart of this thing is a solid metal brute. Even the scroll is made out of a solid piece of aluminum, extra wide in appearance with a notched black rubber center. The K60 takes this level of solid and aggressive styling one step higher. Black matt keys rise up from the surface of an upper deck crafted from one solid piece of brushed aluminum. Unlike virtually every other keyboard out there the upper deck does not rise up around the outside edges of the keys. The result is a look and feel that make the K60 and M60 stand out in a crowd. Vengence K60 Series 089

Plug and play performance for both the K60 and M60 was flawless right out of the box. The K60 is a mechanical keyboard but I noticed right away that it has a very light feel to the keys. This is surprised me since this is a mechanical keyboard. The reason is that Corsair has chosen to use cherry red MX switches in the K60. Compared to the cherry black switches I had been used to in other keyboards the cherry reds in the K60 have a much lighter touch. One of my very few complaints about mechanical keyboards was that if you are not used to them you can experience some finger fatigue with extensive typing. The K60 eliminates this concern because the cherry red switches are both light and crisp. I have always found typing on a mechanical keyboard to be a joy and the K60 takes that joy to the next level. The K60 offers the great solid and responsive feel that I expect from a mechanical keyboard but with no finger fatigue even after hours of constant use.

Vengence K60 Series 091I’m all about innovation and thinking outside of the box, and Corsair has scored points with me by doing several innovative things in the K60. First, they set the multimedia keys down at a lower level than the other keys on the keyboard. Since they are not used nearly as much as the typing or even the numpad keys this make sense, it keeps them out of the way while still being accessible . Also the volume control is an analog knurled aluminum wheel. At first glance this type of control seems out of place on a modern digital device but in practice it gave me a faster way to ramp my volume up or down than holding a up or down button for the adjustment. It also lends itself to the military styling of the K60.

Corsair knows that a FPS gamer lives on the WASD keys and to accommodate players and make our lives a little easier they include a contoured removable wrist rest just for the left wrist. I found this to be very comfortable helpful while gaming and easily removable while using the K60 for the more mundane hours of my life which require typing. The wrist rest is not just a wrist rest though for it also houses a set of bright red rubberized replacement keys for the WASD and the numbers 1-6 keys, again for the benefit of the gamers. (this is after all a FPS gaming keyboard) also contained in the wrist rest is a key puller to make changing they keys over a snap. After installing the replacement keys I have left them in full time because they do not distract from typing but they have a texture on the top which makes the easily identifiable in the dark. You will need something to find them if you game in the dark as one of the few shortcomings of the K60 is that it does not come with backlighting of any kind. I am fond of back lighting and if I could change one thing about the K60 it would be to add it. However at 109.00 there is just no way you could expect all the things you get in the K60 PLUS backlighting. I am hopeful that the future holds a ”K60 plus” that would offer everything that makes the K6 great and adds backlighting.Vengence K60 Series 093

Speaking of keys; here is where the K60 had a hiccup and I stress a hiccup because while is has been a problem in early models it is being addressed as we speak. Some of the lettering on the keys wears off prematurely and by prematurely I mean in like a week. Apparently there was a problem at the manufacturer that resulted in poor etching of the letter area and the ink sticks to them only slightly better than an egg to a Teflon skillet. Corsair is aware of the problem and is offering replacement keys to anyone who has the issue and requests a new set. Future versions will not have this problem. In fact they are even moving to a different type of key labeling system.

I mentioned earlier that the K60 deck does not rise up to enclose the keys but leaves them standing starkly above the brushed aluminum deck which gives the whole thing a very aggressive military look. While evaluating the K60 I inadvertently discovered another more practical effect of this design. Spills don’t go down into the body of the K60 the way they would a typical keyboard. Instead they run between the keys and slide down to the bottom of the keyboard where they are easily mopped up without making the keys all stick together in a mess like you get with most other keyboards. I’m not sure if this is a case of form following function or of the result was a fortunate side effect of the design. Either way I am impressed by the fact that for the first time I have a keyboard on my desk that does not eat more chips and soda than I do. Thank you Corsair!

Vengence K60 Series 076Now on to the M60; as I stated in the introduction I was immediately blown away by the styling of the M60. Seeing that aluminum frame peeking out at me from under the matt back body, with that fat aluminum mouse wheel bedecked with a flat heavily lugged rubber center came near to giving me a physical response that I probably should not have from looking at a computer input device. Add to that a solid heavy feel, some subtle backlighting and this thing looks like it could have been designed by a well know American motorcycle maker.

Performance wise I could not ask for more from a mouse. The M60 takes a beating and does not stop, it looks rugged and it is rugged. The button response is crisp and precise and if you want you can use the downloadable software to customize this performance in about every imaginable way.

The DPI is adjustable from 100 – 5700 through the software, which allows you to set up multiple profiles and adjust the report rate and lift height. Here you can also adjust the DPI of something they call the Sniper Button. Located on the right side under the normal forward and reverse buttons you would expect.

The Sniper button allows you to instantly drop your DPS with a press of your thumb for that micro fine feel you want when you are trying to place that perfect head shot in your favoriteVengence K60 Series 078 FPS. This is another example of a great idea from Corsair, because while many mice let you adjust your DPI on the fly you normally need to use one of your mouse fingers to do it. Problem is that finger is also probably your trigger or your zoom finger. Allowing players to instantly drop that DPI down to say 600 snap off the shot and return to the normal DPI this way means faster response and better accuracy and in a FPS that’s the difference between bringing home the bacon or being the bacon.

Additionally in one of those more mundane hours of my life spent editing text I found that the Sniper Button was useful when I was highlighting text to be copies. With my normal DPI settings I sometimes have to be careful not to highlight way too much text. The Sniper Button let me instantly drop to the lower DPI for the highlight faster than using the normal method of hitting the DPI switch with my index finger, highlighting they switching back. So there you have the justification for buying this great mouse to make you more productive at editing text which just happens to also let you score more precision shots in games!

I have only one small bone to pick with the M60. That Sniper Button that I loved so much comes with a scope crosshair marking on it which I was able to wear off in about 3 weeks. Yeah it’s not noticeable unless you are looking for it but hey I figure if you are going to put it on there, it should be on to stay.

Oh I mentioned above that the M60 has a great beefy feel to it. I love this in a mouse, while I want them to glide effortlessly across any surface I chose I also want to know I am moving something and at 4 5/8 ounces the M60 is the heftiest mouse to come across my desk. The average for a gaming mouse seems to be about 3 7/8 ounces and while that may not sound like a huge difference it makes all the difference in the way it feels when I’m using it. If however you like a lighter touch to a mouse never fear, the M60 allows you to quickly adjust that weight by removal of up to 3 weights from the bottom. You don’t even need a screwdriver to do it as the heads are slotted to accept a coin for easy removal for the “tool challenged” among us. Each of those weights is 1/8 of an ounce and I suppose you could even leave the screws out that hold them in to save another 1/4 ounce overall of you want to get the M60 down to a bantam weight contender.

I could add more information on both the K60 and M60 here but being a combination review this has already gotten pretty lengthy. So lets get down to the part I always jump to when reading other people’s reviews. 8 > )

Conclusion: The K60 gives you the the durability and response you expect from a mechanical keyboard with crisp and lighter key touch than most. It brings to the table an aggressive military styling that any FPS gamer will love and an innovative volume control that is faster and more precise than buttons. The price is very reasonable for a mechanical keyboard and both typing and gaming on the K60 is a dream. Defiantly check this out if you are in the market for a new keyboard even if you are not a gamer. It performs as good as it looks. Lack of backlighting may be a deal breaker for some but not for me.

The M60 is a winner in every aspect. The styling and heft of the thing remind me of a sportster, and its performance and customization make it a top notch choice for hard core gaming or day to day professional use. Remember the Sniper Button has more uses than just awesome headshots! Its solid construction and dead sexy looks make it stand out in a crowded room and the price is spot on, you can spend a lot more money and get a lot less mouse from other companies.

I have been using the same keyboard for over a year and as much as I love it the K60 will now be on my desk for my everyday use and gaming. And the M60 is going to fill a void I have had for a while now, I have gone through at least 6 mice in the last year and while many of them were noteworthy none captured my heart and fill my mouse needs the way the M60 has.

Great work Corsair these two are a match made in geek heaven!

Review of the Corsair K60 and M60 as aired live 31 March 2012

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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