by Jamie Fletcher on May 14, 2012 in Peripherals
Over the years, Corsair has made us realize just how seriously it takes its products. With the launch of its first Vengeance gaming peripherals, we expected to see a continuation of this top-rate quality, but so far, things have been a little hit or miss – at least with regards to software. Let’s see if anything changes with our look at the K90.
The software is still the same as what we dealt with for the M60 review, the 2.12 beta release, which means it still has the same limitations, though fortunately no partial bricking this time.
Most of the problems stem from the fact that this is Corsair’s first software package for its peripherals and it doesn’t have all the years of polish and experience that companies like SteelSeries, Razer and Logitech have had. Things will improve, but for now it’s slow-going.
Known limitations include the inability to record mouse clicks, and using a macro will interrupt the current action (and vice versa, using any key during macro playback will interrupt the macro). These issues will eventually be addressed, but unfortunately, several months after release, there has still been no update to the drivers.
Another issue that persists from the K60 we reviewed is the occasional continuous key streaming, where the board fails to register that a key is no longer pressed. Despite my initial thought that this could be related to the sensitivity of the switches, I am more inclined to believe this can be corrected via firmware, but again, time will tell.
Enough of the limitations; let’s have a look at what the software can do. There are 3 hardware profiles for the keyboard to switch to via the buttons in the top left corner on the keyboard, each with 18 macros, for a total of 54.
MR does not stand for memory recall in this case, but Macro Record, and as its name suggests, it records macros. The process to record a macro is simple enough, if a little counter-intuitive. Press MR, then the M1, M2 or M3 keys to select the profile, then select one of the 18 keys on the side to start recording. Once you have finished typing all the various slash commands in your MMO, press MR again and you’re done. Fine-tuning can then be performed in software.
One issue that can crop up is that if you press the MR button in software to start recording, then press it again to finish, the keyboard will continue to have the MR button blinking away on the keyboard, preventing playback (since it still thinks it’s recording). So after you finish recording, double check that the MR button on the keyboard is not active.
By default, macros record all key presses with a 50ms delay between actions. This is mainly a compatibility issue as some games and applications can’t handle instant key-string inputs. When using this default delay in MMOs, those 50ms soon mount up when entering a long command, so it might be worth trying 10ms instead by selecting the delay button and changing the default delay. If you wish to record key presses with real-time delay, uncheck the default delay box. Alternatively, for no delay, check the ignore delay check-box (be aware, this might cause issues with certain games).
I have run into issues even with the 50ms delay; the first character input before or after an ‘enter’ key will often go ignored, so it may be worth tuning macros so that you have a 100ms delay on either side of an ‘enter’ input. It’s hard to tell if this is an issue with the drivers, the OS or the applications.
The biggest roadblock that many will come across with macros not working will be the game/software not reading from the OS input buffer and going straight to hardware. For that reason, it’s important to enable Hardware Playback in the driver options. I have a number of Star Wars: The Old Republic macros that work without incident, so just make sure Hardware Playback is selected. There is one problem with this method though, that of live recording. When you have Hardware Playback enabled, and you record a macro, you can’t use it until you resave via the software.
A usability tweak for Corsair to consider might be to add the ‘Save to K90′ button to the macro record area, next to the hardware playback check-box; this is to prevent the constant switching back and forth between the Assign and Manage tabs (especially when trying to tune a macro). It would also be a little more intuitive, because it’s not immediately obvious that you have to save the macros to the keyboard for them to work (since most other software allows for immediate playback to check results).
Unfortunately, there are still plenty of issues cropping up in the Corsair forums with corrupt saves causing issues like the macro keys not working, backlight won’t work, etc, most of which are fixed like the M60 mouse, by reflashing the firmware (done automatically via the software install). There may also be a need to disable the selective suspend feature for USB under the OS power saving options to reflash the firmware.
Much like the M60, I really would have liked to give the Corsair K90 an Editor’s Choice, but the software stability and missing features means that it’s still not quite up to par. The hardware is fantastic, these CHERRY MX Red mechanical keys are a real pleasure to use; the 18 keys on the side with three profiles, offer a great deal of flexibility. It’s worth reading our K60 review, as it covers the hardware aspect of the K90. The software and sometimes fatal hardware flashes means there is a certain element of instability to the device.
Once the software has stabilized, I would recommend this keyboard in a heartbeat. However, it still needs to mature before it can shine. I love this keyboard, but it’s not quite ready.
- Solid build quality and hardware
- Responsive CHERRY MX red mechanical keys
- Adjustable backlight
- Lots of flexibility with 18 programmable keys and three profiles
- Hardware playback of macros
- Mechanical keyboard with media keys
- Limited software functionality
- Issues with firmware corruption when saving
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