Saturday, 15 August 2015

Corsair Gaming Strafe

Corsair Gaming Strafe

Corsair Gaming’s new Strafe is the first totally new design to come out of Corsair’s peripheral arm for a few years, and it takes quite a different approach to features than the classic K-series keyboards.

For a start, while the plastic construction is solid, it’s a far cry from the aluminium used in several of Corsair’s previous efforts, including the K70 and K65. There are also no dedicated media controls – instead you use a combination of a function key and the F keys. That’s a bit of a shame given the price – at £100, the Strafe is only a little cheaper than the venerable K70, which is still available at a few etailers and includes dedicated media controls, while the RGB version available for around £20 more.

Thankfully, the Strafe offers a couple of features that help it justify its price tag. The backlighting is fully programmable and is per-key configurable, so you can illuminate specific sets of keys depending on the game you’re playing. Using Corsair’s Utility Engine (CUE), you’re able to apply some pretty fancy lighting effects and reassign every key as well. The software itself is still a tad complex compared to other suites we’ve used recently, however, such as the software with the Labs-winning CM Storm Trigger-Z.

The backlighting is crisp and punchy, but it does have a slight pinkish hue, especially at the brightest two of the three light levels – you can toggle through the levels using a dedicated button above the numeric keypad. The lighting also extends to strips running down the side of the chassis, which match the brightness level of the keys as well. You can turn off the lighting too, but the lowest setting is quite appealing both in daylight and in a dark room if you don’t want the glare of full brightness all the time. You can create macros with the CUE software as well, although sadly the Strafe lacks any dedicated macro keys.

Our sample’s keys all used Cherry MX Red switches, which had the usual light, linear feel that’s great for games, with responsive, quick and accurate keystrokes. However, if you want a higher actuation force or more feedback, you’ll need to look at keyboards with Cherry MX Black, Blue or Brown switches and, sadly, the Strafe only comes in Red or Brown flavours. On the plus side, you can replace any of the QWERDF keycaps with the supplied textured caps, which help to anchor your fingers to the right key-sets in games through tactile feedback.

Finally, a feature that’s been absent from many Corsair Gaming keyboards is a USB pass-through port – the K70 RGB, for example, lacks one. However, it returns with the Strafe and is located to the right of the main cable. Sadly, it’s only USB 2 and not USB 3, but it’s still useful for connecting a mouse or headset. The cable itself isn’t braided but it’s heavy-duty and stretches to a handy 1.8m.

The Strafe is a solid effort from Corsair Gaming. Its programmable, per-key lighting and replacement keycaps are great, and it’s good to see the USB pass-through port return too. However, its plastic casing and lack of dedicated media controls are disappointing when compared with the aluminium K70, as are its lack of macro keys. The Strafe is a decent gaming keyboard, but this is a crowded market and Corsair is capable of doing better. ANTONY LEATHER

A solid keyboard for Cherry MX Red and Brown users, although the lack of macro keys and media controls put it up against some stiff competition.

Connection Wired, USB
Cable 1.8m, non-braided
Materials Plastic
USB ports Yes
Backlighting Red
Switch type Cherry MX Red
Extras Cherry MX Key puller, replacement tactile QWERDF keys