Review: Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard

corsair keyboard in Red LED Backlit - USB Passthrough - Linear and Quiet - Cherry MX Red Switch

Corsair is well-known in the PC and eSports community for quality computer components and peripherals, and its keyboards are no exception. As it stands, Corsair has a solid lineup of standard and mechanical gaming keyboards, including keyboards in wireless and RGB varieties. The Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard has generated a lot of buzzes and garnered much praise since its debut in 2015, but is this customizable Corsair keyboard worth all the hype; and, more importantly, is it the right keyboard for you? In any case, the Corsair Strafe’s features are certainly worth exploring and comparing to competitors, given its reputation to impress.

Pros & Cons Summary

Pros

The gaming community is in love with this Corsair keyboard. Reviewers have a hard time finding something major to criticize, and a word we’ve come across a lot is “impressed.” The ability for macro programming is popular, as is the USB pass-through. More importantly, the Corsair keyboard stands up to rigorous gameplay testing with exceptional performance. Even those reviewers who reported that the Strafe did not necessarily give them any special advantage during gameplay were still complimentary on the product’s responsiveness, reliability and its ability to keep pace. Basically, this Corsair keyboard isn’t going to hold you back.

Cons

There are a few points about the Corsair Strafe that prevents the keyboard from being a “perfect ten.”  The row of function keys (which also act as the media controls) is placed perhaps little a farther from the number row than it needs to be, which makes it slightly less convenient to use. Additionally, the Corsair keyboard is missing wrist rests, which provide comfort during extended periods of typing. If typing up articles and blogs is going to be your main use for the Corsair Strafe, it may be found lacking in this regard. Also, as expected of a mechanical Corsair keyboard, you can definitely hear the keys when you type, so if you do live streams or use Twitch, the keystrokes will be audible. Fortunately, users report that the sound is not excessively loud.

First Impressions

Right out of the box, the Corsair Strafe is an attractive piece of equipment with a fairly sleek look despite the thickness required for a mechanical keyboard. It’s designed with a low-maintenance, brushed, black matte finish, which won’t attract fingerprints as much as chrome or another polished-sheen finish. It has a 104-key layout, and its space bar has an industrial-looking cross-hatched texture that is made of steel. The Corsair keyboard measures .57 by 6.69 by 17.63 inches (HWD), and it weighs 2.9 pounds, which isn’t excessively heavy but also isn’t as portable as other keyboards. On its base are rubber feet to keep the keyboard from moving around during intense use.

Product Features of Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard

The design of the Corsair Strafe’s keys has earned two thumbs up from numerous fans of mechanical keyboards. The keycaps are contoured as well as textured to provide superior grip, control, and comfort when playing. For those who are after a more personalized feel, the Corsair keyboard includes a QWERDF keycap kit for MOBA players and a WASD kit for FPS gamers. The function keys double as multimedia buttons so that you can quickly and easily adjust your audio without any major interruption during gameplay.

For Gaming

Under the surface, the Corsair Strafe keys are built with reputable CHERRY® MX gaming switch technology, constructed with gold-crosspoint contacts, a gold-plated contact closure, and metal alloy springs that are pressure resistant. This helps ensure that the keys will be responsive enough for double and triple taps and that any bumping or catching sensation will be absent from each keystroke. This is technology favored by many professional gamers, and the feel and responsiveness of each button during gameplay is quite indicative of why. This keyboard’s circuitry is designed for hard, fast gaming and is constructed to eliminate any keyboard lag, ghosting, or input jamming. With 104 key rollovers on USB, every key you press independently registers. In ultra-fast gameplay, this accuracy can be critical when tapping crucial combos.

Program

One of the most useful features of the Corsair Strafe is that it is highly programmable. Using the Corsair Utility Engine (CUE), you have the ability to reassign any of the keyboard’s buttons, as well as create your own key combos ranging from simple macros to “what did I just see” levels of outrageousness. Any key can be made a macro. Also customizable is Strafe’s “per key” backlighting in that eye-catching, futuristic-looking red. There are six backlighting presets you can choose from, but you have the option of creating your own as well. (The “ripple lighting” effect is particularly spectacular.) There is also a stripe on each side of the Corsair keyboard where the red backlighting is visible for extra visual appeal.

Built-in USB

For added convenience, Corsair Strafe contains a built-in USB pass-through to simplify connecting to devices such a USB drive or mouse. While it may seem like a small and trivial feature, the USB pass-through saves you the annoyance of having to grope around behind your PC to try to plug in your mouse or headphones. It’s important to note that your PC must have two USB 2.0 ports to be compatible with this Corsair keyboard, and you’ll need Windows 7, 8, or 10. To download the CUE software in order to program and customize your Strafe, you’ll need an internet connection.

Pricing and Purchase Options of Corsair Keyboard

You can get this currently for around a hundred bucks. You’ll find the same or similar pricing online at Best Buy, Fry’s, and Newegg. The best deal can usually be found on Amazon for under a hundred dollars. The Corsair keyboard is covered by Corsair with a two-year warranty.

Since its initial release, you now have a couple more purchase options for your Corsair Strafe than originally offered. The Cherry MX Red was the first version to come out, but now you can also buy a Cherry MX Blue or Cherry MX Brown version. In addition, the Cherry MX Silent is now available, which has been designed with noise-reducing technology that’s supposed to make the Strafe 30% quieter than other mechanical keyboards. If you’re dying to get the Strafe but are concerned with the level of noise produced by mechanical keyboards when typing (which will be noticeably picked up by your mic during a live stream), this could be a good alternative; and although it’s not a silent alternative, it is a less obtrusive one.

How It Compares to Other Mechanical Keyboards

Given that the Corsair Strafe is not as pricey as some other mechanical keyboards, it’s understandably missing some of the more advanced features of its higher-priced competitors.

Roccat Ryos MK Pro

For instance, while the Corsair Strafe and Roccat Ryos MK Pro are both mechanical keyboards and both have a reputation for their high quality and reliability, the Ryos MK Pro does have some additional functions and features. That might make you consider it worth the price tag. The Ryos MK Pro, Roccat’s flagship model for their new Ryos keyboards, costs well under $200. Though some good discounts are available that bring the keyboard’s price a little closer to the Strafe, albeit it is still more costly. Like the Strafe, it too has advanced key rollover, as well as individually backlit buttons and a finish that’s smudge-resistant. Also, like the Strafe, the Ryos MK Pro has customizable lighting modes, but currently only in blue light. A noticeable difference between the two keyboards is the Ryos MK Pro’s built-in wrist rest. In the which was something that some reviewers wished the Strafe had. However, other reviewers of the Ryos MK Pro say that this extra-wide wrist rest is actually a bit bulky. And the trouble is that you can’t remove it.

Advantage

One advantage to the MK Pro over the Strafe in regard to the backlighting is that on the MK Pro you can customize specific keys that need to illuminate. This is pretty handy for establishing patterns used for in-game controls. The keyboard can take you even deeper into your gaming experience. It is by acting as a health gauge or damage indicator with different lighting schemes. To support all its functions, the Ryos MK Pro is more advanced than its Ryos predecessors in that it has two ARM Cortex processors and 2MB of onboard memory. In which helps account for its higher price than the Corsair Strafe. In addition, the Ryos MK Pro is highly customizable with programmable macros. The keyboard actually has eight dedicated macro keys, while the Corsair Strafe has none. Of course, as the Ryos MK Pro keyboard is programmable, there are dozens of more options when it comes to customizing gaming macros. And they can be tied to any letter key. While impressive, for some people this level of customization is going to be superfluous.

Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma

The Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma is another responsive and dependable keyboard that has staunch fans in the eSports community. Discounts can bring it pretty close to the price of the Corsair Strafe. The Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma offers customizable, multicolored backlighting that you can set up to include your favorite macros. A major plus attached to this ability is that you can create different profiles for different games. So that the custom settings act on a per-game basis, which is also possible with the Corsair Strafe. However, unlike the Strafe with its one-color option, with the Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma, you can assign certain colors to specific keys. Or you can enjoy the whole spectrum of colors across the keyboard, as there are 16.8 million color options available.

Advantage

The Razer BlackWidow keyboard also offers a more portable design than the Corsair Strafe. It is weighing a little less than two pounds, or nearly a pound less than the Corsair Strafe. The catch here is that unlike the Corsair Strafe, this keyboard has no numeric keypad. And it can feel somewhat small and close during typing. As a gamer, this is probably the keyboard you want to take with you on the road. But you may want to think twice before purchasing it for everyday use or if you need a numeric keyboard to set up custom macros. Daily use is likely to be much easier with the size and feel of the Corsair Strafe.

Mechanical Keyboards VS. Standard Keyboards

An important thing to note about the Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard is that fourth word in its name: mechanical. Some gamers prefer the feeling of a mechanical Corsair keyboard and believe that it actually improves their gaming skills. While other gamers dislike the feeling of a mechanical keyboard and believe they play better without one. Though you can hear and feel the difference when you compare standard and mechanical keyboards side by side, as mechanical keyboards are noticeably louder, the electronics of each keyboard is also sending signals to your PC in different ways. Some gamers prefer the linear feeling of mechanical keyboards. Because you won’t feel that little bump before the key bottoms out. Additionally, fans of the mechanical device also say that it’s easier for them to double- and triple-tap the keys. And also tell when you press it. Many gamers that prefer to “mash” their keys don’t experience an added benefit from smooth gameplay. So it’s not really a selling point for them.

Corsair Strafe

In addition, the Corsair Strafe does have the smooth, purposeful feel one would expect from a mechanical keyboard. And its 104-key rollover on USB means precise key signal detection. The keys may feel like they require somewhat more force than standard gaming keyboards. Before you buy, it’s best if you can try out standard and mechanical keyboards in person. This is to see which feels best for you and which suits your gaming style.

What We Think

If you’re an avid PC gamer or a keyboard enthusiast who loves your macros, you’re not likely to regret giving the Corsair Strafe a shot. The Corsair keyboard won’t have quite the level of customization of higher-priced models. And its backlighting is generally more aesthetic than functional. However, they reasonably price the Corsair Strafe for how reliable, well-made, and customizable it is. Its anti-ghosting ability is definitely a plus. And we can’t help but it impresses us (there’s that word again) by how well it keeps up in the thick of intense gameplay, performing practically without flaw. If you’re looking for a solid piece of equipment to start enhancing how you game, the Corsair Strafe is an excellent place to start.

 

QUALITY

PRICE

RATING

BEST

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