While everything else in the gaming space is getting bigger, it’s all the rage to downsize your keyboard in the name of gaming performance. Corsair’s new mechanical keyboard, the K70 TKL, is a tenkeyless refresh of its popular K70 design. Not one of those 60% minis floating around (you can check out our Corsair K65 Mini review), the K70 TKL is still a full-sized keyboard minus the 10-key pad, complete with function and utility keys that minis have moved to secondary key layers. Is chopping off the Numpad just another ploy to make an ordinary peripheral a "gaming” device, or will a gamer actually realize some benefit by using this smaller form factor? That's the big question we plan to answer with our Corsair K70 TKL review.
- Price: $139.99
- Form Factor: Tenkeyless
- Keyswitches: CHERRY MX RGB, mechanical, 45g actuation force, 1.2mm (Speed), 1.9 mm (Silent), 2.0mm (Red)
- Backlight: Individually lit and per-key programmable, 16.8 million colors
- Keycaps: PBT double-shot, 1.5mm thick
- Connectivity: Detachable USB 3.0 Type C to Type A
- USB Report Rate: Up to 8,000 Hz hyper-polling
- NKRO: Yes
- Dimensions: 360mm (14.2in) x 164mm (6.46in) x 40mm (1.58in)
- Weight: 0.93kg (2.06lbs)
Corsair’s K70 series of keyboards have been around for a while, so opening the box of the K70 TKL went as expected. The face of the TKL has that familiar brushed metal look, giving the TKL the same expensive feel as its big brother. A removable braided USB cord further added to the visual value.
Other than the keyboard itself, there isn’t a whole lot to be found in the box. The TKL does come with a pack of extra keys, something that is fairly common for a gaming keyboard. The included key puller makes removal of the original keys a breeze, but the alternate set consisting of the WASD and QERF keys are extremely tight-fitting and take a lot of pressure to fully seat onto the switches. The alternate keys have a textured and curved surface to provide first-person shooter fans with additional no-sight identification of finger position. While the extra texture is a nice feature, I personally found the additional curvature of the caps annoying during regular typing so I quickly swapped them back to the normal style keys.
Even without the added weight of a keypad, the K70 TKL is still a hefty beast. Weighing in at a hair over 2 pounds, the four large rubber pads on the base ensure the keyboard won’t budge unless you purposely shove it. The TKL’s aluminum frame provides a very sturdy typing platform that doesn’t bend or flex as you type. Topped off with 1.5mm thick double-shot PBT keycaps, everything about the TKL’s build exudes confidence that the keyboard will not be a limiting factor in your typing or gaming.
Besides the lack of a 10-key pad, I quickly identified some other differences between the TKL and the full-sized K70. Keeping with the smaller is better concept, the TLK doesn’t come with a wrist pad. The lack of a pad does allow a smooth bottom edge instead of the ridge the K70 has, giving the TKL a sleeker-looking design.
There are also some differences along the top of the keyboard. The original K70 offered multimedia control through a volume wheel and mute button on the top right of the keyboard with play/pause, stop, previous track, and next track buttons nestled between the roller and the top of the Numpad. The TKL keeps the same functionality, but the four buttons are now located on the top left of the keyboard since their original home above the Numpad is gone.
You’ll also find a Profile button situated next to the Brightness and Windows lock buttons of the original K70 which allows you to quickly cycle through up to 50 custom lighting and key assignment profiles stored in the onboard memory. Another cool feature added to the K70 TKL is a small switch located next to the USB cable. A quick toggle of this switch puts the TKL into Tournament Mode by disabling any key macros or alternate assignments stored in the onboard memory.
Under the hood of the TKL is where the real changes occur. Last year, Corsair introduced Axon Hyper-Processing Technology on their flagship K100 keyboard. This new System on a Chip has found its way to the TKL and gives an unprecedented polling rate of 8,000 Hz. That’s 8 times greater than a typical gaming keyboard, including the original K70. I doubt that even a robotic hand could fully utilize such a fast polling rate, but it does mean the TKL will give you a quicker response time on your keypresses.
Speaking of key presses, Corsair is outfitting the K70 TKL with three switch options. They have gone with Cherry MX mechanical switches, with Speed (1.2mm actuation distance), Silent (1.9mm), and Red (2.0mm). All of these switches provide Full Key Rollover with 100% anti-ghosting, but fans of tactile switches may be put off by Corsair’s choice to not offer the Blue or Brown switches available on the original K70.
The K70 TKL isn’t just about gaming, though. For anyone who uses their computer for work as well as play, the TKL offers a good balance between size and function. A 60% keyboard can still be used for light typing through the use of additional key layers accessed with combo keypresses, but doing so is cumbersome at best. Since the TKL maintains a standard ANSI keyboard layout, there isn’t any need to memorize any extra key combinations for function buttons or the like.
If you find yourself space challenged by a small desk or a cramped keyboard tray, the extra few inches of mousing space will be very welcome. The extra room is just enough that you aren’t always hitting your hand against the keyboard or having to readjust your mouse position when you come to the edge of your desk. In a world of compromise, the extra space is well worth the loss of the 10-key pad.
I also found it to be a perfect size when pulling out my joystick and throttle for flight games. Putting a regular-sized keyboard between the two sticks put them at an unnatural angle and required moving the keyboard deeper onto the desk for comfortable play. With the TKL, I could leave it between the two joysticks and still rest my elbows on my armrests and comfortably hold the sticks.
When it comes to RGB lighting, the K70 TKL really shines. Just like the full-sized K70, you won’t find any lighting on the sides or underbelly of the TKL, but the RGB switches give off a healthy glow. Lighting features are controlled by Corsair’s iCUE software, which makes full use of the TKL’s per-key lighting.
It may not be the most intuitive lighting software available, but there is no denying just how robust iCUE’s feature set is. You are able to create multiple complex lighting and key assignment profiles for both software and hardware mode. Software mode requires the iCUE app to be running in the background, but downloading profiles to the TKL’s 8MB of onboard memory allows you to switch between profiles even when the iCUE software isn’t running. Depending on their complexity, the TKL can store up to 50 unique profiles, with switching between profiles handled by pressing the Profile button mentioned previously.
The smaller form factor of the K70 TKL is really a non-issue for me. I have adjusted to the lack of a Numpad and rarely even notice it is missing. The only real benefit I have garnered from the smaller size is the ergonomic comfort gained when using additional peripherals like a joystick and throttle; anyone with less physical room should also enjoy the additional mouse space.
On the technical side of things, the Axon hyper-polling is lost on me; nothing can help my slow reaction time. But for anyone who lives and dies by cutting milliseconds off their reaction time in first-person shooters, the Axon technology packed inside the TKL will surely blend right in with their 16000 DPI mouse and 240 Hz monitor.
For me, the real question here is whether the K70 TKL is worth the suggested $139.99 price tag? Honestly, most gamers probably won’t notice a difference in performance when comparing the TKL to a cheaper keyboard. That said, keyboards aren’t something that I want to change out on a regular basis, and I have found that $30-$40 keyboards don’t last long when subjected to the harsh conditions found on my computer desk. So, when I factor in the sturdy quality, sleek look, the customization of per-key lighting and key assignments, and all the technical upgrades over the full-sized (and more expensive) K70, I could easily see myself shelling out 140 bucks for the TKL. Who needs a 10-key pad these days anyway?
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.