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In 1996, I took PC gaming very seriously. So much so that I scrounged a heavy-duty OmniKey 101 keyboard and a three-button mouse out of a dumpster. It wasn’t the sexiest stuff at the time, but it gave my Quake skills a hardware edge.
The mouse in particular didn’t use any sort of lens tech for movement detection, but a hard rubber ball and two mechanical shafts. The third button seemed like a bit of overkill at the time, but I took it as a sign of progress.
I never imagined that progress would eventually mutate the three-button mouse into a 17-button beast, yet that’s where we are. And Corsair seems determined to release its own contribution to the 17-button gaming mouse in the coming months.
During a private demo session, the PC gaming hardware manufacturer laid out a spread of new designs hitting production soon, including mice, keyboards, and headsets. The immediate future for the company contains a lot of buttons … and colors. Yeesh. The colors.
Yes, I said, ’17 buttons’
Corsair’s Scimitar RGB contains a lot of features that most gaming mice are obliged to have. This mouse has been carefully molded for comfort and contains a grippy clickable scroll wheel. The classic pointer and middle finger two-button layout is present, and a whopping 12,000 DPI optical sensor is taking care of position tracking. The mouse also features an RGB lighting scheme capable of 16.8 million colors, which seems to be a major feature of Corsair’s upcoming product line (more on this later).
The first thing that snagged my attention, however, was the design of the thumb pad.
The Scimitar RGB’s most obvious feature is a concave 12-button dial pad that resides within the unit’s thumb rest. The button layout contains three rows, with four buttons each. Unlike other mice with a similar 12-button setup, the pad can be slid forward or backward for comfort and then locked into place with a small hex-like screw that can be found on the bottom of the mouse.
My first concern when looking at the thumb pad buttons was how I would be able to differentiate one button from another without having to drop my eyes to check what I was activating. When I locked the pad down into a place that felt comfortable and gave the thumb pad a try, the curvature of the layout helped give each button a unique tactile identity. I may have not known what specific number button I was hitting (so if you tell me to hit button three, I wouldn’t have a clue which one to press), but after a little wiggling around, I could tell which button in what row I was activating.
The other issue that I imagined would spring up with the design is button sensitivity. Having 12 buttons on the thumb rest requires a sweet spot of input sensitivity and push resistance. The buttons on the version of the Scimitar RGB I was testing seemed to be in a good range where it wasn’t so sensitive that a quick jerk of the mouse to the right didn’t accidentally activate a button input. Yet not so hard to click that the mouse needed to be rigidly held still to actuate the dial pad.
But it also isn’t as if I had a grueling play session to really put the dial pad through the motions, either. Hopefully an opportunity to do so will come soon.
Strafe RGB keyboards
To complement its Scimitar RGB gaming mouse, Corsair is also working on two mechanical keyboards. The Strafe RGB ($150) and Strafe RGB Silent (a $160 Best Buy exclusive). Both keyboards feature a fairly solid hard plastic base with a comfortably designed wrist rest. I don’t typically use wrist rest setups since I can’t seem to find one that feels good for long periods of time. Part of the problem is that most wrist rests I’ve used are either too hard or awkwardly shaped (also, perhaps my huge hands are an issue). The wrist rest Corsair is using for the Strafe RGB feels much more spongy than the typical hard plastic dreck I wind up throwing away.
Both models also feature RGB-lit Cherry MX switches and are by far the most colorful chunks of hardware in Corsair’s RGB campaign. The things were pretty much blasting the room with a rainbow wave during the entire meeting.
The Cherry MX switches themselves, however, seem to be Corsair’s practical selling point here. Consumers will have a choice between one of two types of Cherry MX switches: red or brown.
What’s the difference? Red Cherry MX switches are considered the default gaming keyboard switch. These little guys are known for being highly responsive and have extremely low actuation requirements in order to register an input. This means the travel from the top of the button’s position to the lower point where it make contact is the most unimpeded, direct, and short of the Cherry MX line.
Brown Cherry MX switches are slightly less clicky when compared to the Red Cherry MX switches. Losing the audible cue of the click, which can act as a feedback mechanism to the user whenever an input is successful, can be a bit unnerving for some people. So the switch features tactile feedback in the form of the travel of the switch, which adds a slight “bump” to the keystroke. Brown Cherry MX switches have as much travel distance as the Red Cherry MX switches, but the added bump in the brown switch’s path does add a tiny obstruction.
Does the slight bump in the stroke have an effect on a brown switch’s speed of input? If there is a speed difference between red and brown, I imagine it would be incredibly slight. But I also haven’t had a chance to compare both switches against each other, either. Sounds like a good experiment for a future article?
The Strafe RGB Silent model also features an additional layer of silence within the chassis and switch design. So if you’re in a situation where you need your gaming keyboard to be as silent as possible, such as if you have a partner who can’t get to sleep while you’re up late playing games, it may be worth hunting down the Silent model using Brown Cherry MX switches (although you’ll still get to blast your sleepy partner with rainbow colors …). If you wind up trying to locate this model, you better stick to Best Buy. Although the Strafe RGB is planned to be available openly to distributors willing to stock it, the Strafe RGB Silent is an exclusive to the blue-and-yellow big-box retailer.
Void gaming headsets
Wrapping up Corsair’s new product line is the Void line of gaming headsets. The Void family consists of four models: the Void Stereo (3.5mm wired plug, $80), Void USB (USB wired, $100), Void Wireless (wireless 2.4GHZ, $130), and Void Wireless SE (wireless 2.4GHZ, Yellow Jacket or Carbon color scheme, $150 Best Buy exclusive).
All four headphones feature the same physical design, which sees the headband rest a bit more forward than my older Turtle Beach headset. The band sits somewhere between the widow’s peak of the average male hairline and the uppermost crown of the skull. The cups are comfortable and were spacious enough to cover my entire ear.
The left cup on all four headphones features a mute button and a volume wheel (the Wireless models also had a power button). Corsair was adamant that it wanted to design a headphone whose controls didn’t require the user to juggle a wired dongle or require releasing their right hand from the mouse.
The Void Wireless SE is obviously the killer of the group, featuring Dolby 7.1 surround sound support, a black and yellow “Yellow Jacket” color scheme, and a special matching USB receiver dock, the prototype of which can also double as a charger. Like the Strafe RGB Silent Keyboard, the Void Wireless SE is a Best Buy exclusive.
The Void Wireless SE, Void Wireless, and Void USB all feature Corsair’s 16.8 million RGB color lighting and adjustable LED indicator lights on the mic. The poor Void Stereos is the only product in the entire Corsair lineup to miss out on the light party.
Taste the rainbow
There’s obviously a theme to what Corsair is showing me. The colors … holy crap … those colors.
All of the color-based products can be controlled via the Corsair Utility Engine (version 1.9), which enables users to edit not just the color scheme of the products but also custom animations and lighting effects as well. The coolest yet most impractical part of the entire thing is that the lights can be coordinated between other Corsair RGB products.
Corsair showed this off by setting up a rainbow wave animation, which flowed from the keyboard to the mouse to the headphones and then back to the keyboard again. All as if it were one coherent flow of colors.
What practical gaming use is there for this? You’ve got me. Maybe one potential use is to color certain keys a specific RGB value so it’s easy to tell which button does what function (if you’re into hunting-and-pecking while playing a game).
Maybe this is unrealistic, but it would be cool to link color and animation to taking damage. Perhaps you could link it to the status of a character’s health? That would likely require cooperation with a game’s developer or a crafty modder, but hey, I’m thinking out loud here. They’re colored lights on gaming hardware, which is a far cry from the equipment I used to dig out of dumpsters.
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