Date: March 30, 2016
Author(s): Tom Roeder
It’s not hard to find a great mechanical keyboard nowadays, and even Corsair’s lineup alone could be considered overwhelming. One of its latest planks, the Strafe RGB Silent, is a bit of a unique entry, as it exclusively utilizes CHERRY switches tuned for silence. If you’re a gamer and want a keyboard with a great feel that won’t wake the family up, Strafe RGB Silent is worth a look.
If you are looking for a new keyboard nowadays, it is not difficult to find a good one. In fact, the amount of choice can make simply choosing one a good challenge. Even Corsair, a single company, has a huge collection of planks to choose from. Fortunately, the company takes its peripherals very seriously, so you are bound to find one that perfectly suits you without much fuss – especially if you are a gamer. As of late, and like most other keyboard vendors, Corsair has chosen to implement mechanical switches on its entire fleet of keyboards, including the one I am taking a look at here: Strafe RGB Silent.
If you have never used a keyboard with mechanical switches, you are really missing out. I would strongly urge you to find a friend with one, or go to a brick and mortar store and try out a few, as there is nothing quite like it. When it comes to switch types, there are a few different companies making mechanical switches. Kahil, Topre, Matias, and others, while Logitech made its own with the Romer-G. CHERRY, however, is often regarded as the industry standard, being offered in most premium mechanical keyboards today. This is not a hard-fast rule, but everyone can agree that CHERRY is the most recognized name in mechanical switch keyboards.
There are also many different flavors of CHERRY and other mechanical switches. These are often categorized by color, and the differences are tied to audible and tactile feedback, spring tension, and depth of key press before the switch is actuated. It all really depends on your preference. Personally, my favorite CHERRY flavor is blue. It offers satisfying feedback, but is noticeably loud. Gamers often prefer the red variety, as reds do not have any tactile feedback; they are a completely linear travel, from top to bottom. Personally, as more of a typist, I don’t prefer this, but for gaming, this offers a speed that many gamers really prefer.
The keyboard I am reviewing today – Corsair Strafe RGB Silent – offers a CHERRY switch not available with any other make or model keyboard because they are a Corsair exclusive; enter the CHERRY Silent Switch. The engineers at CHERRY worked closely with the engineers and designers at Corsair to bring a new offering to the table. Now to be honest, a red switch is pretty quiet as is, but CHERRY and Corsair have improved this even further, making a switch 30% quieter than other switches. Because these switches are manufactured in Germany by CHERRY, its reputation for consistency and quality is second to none. The keyboard comes with RGB backlighting, making your choice of backlight color nearly infinite.
At quick glance, the Strafe can look a little unassuming, but it just requires a closer look. The main body is a nice flat black, with white trim on the sides. The plate under the keycaps is white; this is a design feature that is subtle, but it really does make the keyboard pop visually, and has a neat effect with the backlighting.
The keyboard is really minimal as far as extra buttons go. There are no extra rows of macro keys, no dedicated volume knob, and no dedicated multimedia keys, either. Some look at this as an advantage, as it does reduce the footprint of the keyboard. In a day when monitors keep getting bigger, and multi-monitors becoming more and more common, desktop real estate is getting more and more precious.
There are multimedia buttons, but they are not dedicated; you have to hold down the “FN” button to activate them. On my main daily driver keyboard, I do have dedicated multimedia buttons and a volume knob, so at first I did miss these things, but I found that after a while it became second nature to use the media buttons and volume on this plank.
As I mentioned before, this keyboard is really tailored for gamers, but there are features that even the most discriminating typist will appreciate, or the gamer with grease on his fingers from his Hot Pockets. The wrist rest has a fantastic texture on it; it has a wonderful balance between comfort and grip. It feels luxurious and premium, and grips well. The spacebar also has a nice texture. I wasn’t sure at first if I would like that, but it quickly won me over, as it just feels great when you are using it. I am a bit hard on space bars, so sometimes my thumb will slip a bit as I use them – but not on this keyboard.
The body of the keyboard has a matte finish that looks great, until you get it dirty, and then it is not easy to clean. A microfiber cloth is a must, but it’s still not that easy to clean.
The keys have a smooth, contoured shape consistent with most keyboards out there. These keycaps aren’t anything special, but they are nice enough. Often times when keyboard makers change keycap shapes, have raised lettering, or other modifications, and I really don’t care for it. I am a sucker for details, so thank you for keeping this standard, Corsair.
This keyboard does come with extra keycaps, but they are not ordinary keycaps. You can replace the WASD with textured, light grey, and slightly slanted keycaps when you are gaming. These are standard CHERRY compatible keycaps. I personally did not care for them, but I can see users definitely liking this feature. The keyboard even includes a nice key-puller, making changing out your keycaps quick work.
The keyboard has a generously long USB cable, with two connection points. If you are using USB 3.0, you only need to plug in the one connector with the keyboard icon on it. If you are using USB 2.0, you will need to plug in both connectors. This is for the extra power required for the backlighting, as well as providing a pass-through connector on the back.
On the bottom of this keyboard we find the flip out feet to adjust the angle of the plank. These are very sturdy, well made, and lock into place with a very satisfying feel. You would have to be almost trying to break one of these off. There is no rubber on these feet, but the keyboard seemed to stay put very well, thanks to the rubber grips toward the front of the keyboard.
The accompanying software installed quickly, and is a very minimal download. Personally, I would like to see companies start storing the installation software as flash storage on the keyboard itself, but this is not a big deal.
The software works as expected, and navigating through the UI is smooth and fluid, and you will quickly become a regular expert. One minor annoyance I did find: there didn’t seem to be a default method for making the color of the keyboard static. It always had to be in some sort of pattern of change, so I defeated this by selecting the option to have it alternate between two colors, and I just selected the same colors. The issue was easily solved, and maybe I am an old curmudgeon for not wanting lights changing all of the time, but it seemed a little strange that the option was not available. If it is, it is very difficult to find.
In the UI, you can quickly make macros, change the lighting features, create profiles, change the layout, update the firmware if needed, and contact Corsair Support. There are also hyperlinks to the Corsair forums.
The thing about this keyboard that intrigued me the most was this new CHERRY Silent Switch. I was already familiar with the red variety of switch, and they are not a noisy switch to begin with, so I was really anxious to get my hands on this keyboard and give it a try for myself.
Personally, I spend more time typing than gaming, so my primary interest is more for practical typing applications, so right off the bat, this keyboard is at a disadvantage, because red switches are simply not optimized for typing; they are a gaming switch after all.
The keyboard is honestly very, very quiet. I don’t have a regular keyboard with red switches handy to compare it to, but I would say this keyboard is noticeably quieter than others that I have used. The keyboard has a very premium feel.
Every time I review a keyboard, I always give them the “flex test”, which is just me grabbing the keyboard on both ends, and seeing how much torsional flex the keyboard exhibits with moderate force. This test just gives me a general idea of how well made the plank is. This keyboard is not the stiffest that I have tested, but it seems to be a very stout, well made keyboard.
I used this keyboard for several weeks as my daily driver, and I have to say that it never let me down. Even when gaming, I found that I really enjoyed the Silent switches. They are very fast, responsive, and above all, quiet.
You can purchase this keyboard from Corsair directly for $159.99 USD, or from Best Buy or Amazon.
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