Corsair STRAFE Mechanical Keyboard review

Last week we reviewed the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard. An excellent portable Bluetooth keyboard for phones and tablets, but not something you'd ever use to play actual games on a desktop. Serious PC gamers should have three things: a gaming keyboard, a gaming mouse, and a controller. Grab those components and you're ready to enjoy Windows gaming in style.

Corsair, best known for its computer components like RAM and power supplies, produces a successful line of mechanical keyboards under its Corsair Gaming imprint. The Corsair STRAFE Mechanical keyboard is the latest such product. Designed to offer all of the performance of top-tier keyboards at the very reasonable MSRP of $110, the STRAFE packs plenty of bang for your gaming buck. Learn more in our full review with video!

Why mechanical?

Gaming keyboards come in many shapes and sizes, but one type is widely recognized as the cream of the crop: mechanical keyboards. Typical keyboards consist of keys that press down on rubber-dome switches connected to a large, flat membrane. Cheap to make, but not exactly the most responsive or durable style of input device.

Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, contain individual mechanical switches for every single key. These provide the greatest possible precision, and they're certified to last years longer than other keyboards. And even when an individual mechanical switch breaks, you can always replace it without losing the device. Plus, mechanical keyboards make an audible clicking sound that lets you know exactly when a keypress has registered.

Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard review USB port

Design and features

The STRAFE is a full-sized keyboard with a matte black plastic body and glossy black sides. Both of those sides have a red lighting strip where the side meets the top surface of the peripheral. The body of the keyboard does not have a palm rest.

On the rear of the device sits a USB pass-through jack, allowing users to connect an accessory like a controller, mouse, or memory stick to your computer (or even Xbox One) via the keyboard itself. The keyboard's extra-thick rubber-coated USB cable has two male ends: one for the keyboard, and an optional one for the pass-through feature. Each of the two plugs has a bright yellow easy-grip connector.

Corsair's STRAFE includes two alternate sets of textured gray-colored keycaps and a key removal tool. To use the tool, simply position its two prongs around a keycap, squeeze, and pull up. The key will come off or go back on with ease.

Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard review USB cable

The first textured keycap set replaces the W, A, S, and D keys typically used for movement in FPS games. Because the keys curve inward and bear a distinct texture, they let players easily find the WASD position in an instant.

The other set targets MOBA players, providing alternate Q, W, E, R, D, and F keys with unique curvature and ridges. I find the WASD set feels great and doesn't impede my typing at all, so I'll be keeping the original black keys packed away with the QWERDF batch.

Beneath each key, you'll find a Cherry microswitch and an individual RED LED. The STRAFE comes equipped with either Cherry MX Red or Cherry MX Brown microswitches. The MX Brown model should reach the market by early August.

The MX Red switches (which I received) were designed for gaming and have a low actuation force, allowing for rapid actuation. The Cherry MX Brown switches provide tactile feedback upon actuation. They're well suited for gaming and typing. To learn more about the differences between Cherry MX switches, visit The Keyboard Company.

Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard review key removal

More keys

In addition to the optional textured gaming keys, the STRAFE's spacebar also features a ridged texture (and an LED in its top center). I doubt many people lose track of the spacebar while typing, but the texture still feels good to touch and emphasizes the key's importance.

The STRAFE does not have dedicated media keys, which seems like an obvious oversight in a $100+ keyboard. It does provide media functions as secondary commands, however. These commands work by default with Windows Media Player. They can be enabled or disabled with several other common players as well via the CUE application.

By pressing the Function key in combination with F5-F12, users can mute or adjust system volume and stop, play, and skip during media playback. Hitting the Function and F keys with a single hand requires a bit of stretching. It might be easier just to use two hands.

Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard review right side

Corsair Strafe

Besides all the standard keys, the STRAFE has two extra ones in its top-right corner.

The left one toggles LED brightness from off to low to medium to high. The right key enables or disables the Windows key itself. Found at the bottom-left corner of the keyboard between CTRL and Alt, the Windows key serves many useful functions in applications. But you don't want to accidentally hit it while gaming because it will minimize the game.

Don't worry if you don't require either of the extra key's default functions. The Corsair Utility Engine program included with the STRAFE allows all keys to be reprogrammed. Peripheral-specific utility programs can be unwieldy to use sometimes, but not CUE. It lets users easily change key functions, set up key and mouse macros, customize the keyboard's lighting functions, and more.

Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard review side

Light it up

Whereas Corsair's higher-priced mechanical keyboards offer RGB lighting and user-selectable colors, the STRAFE only comes with red LEDs. This can be seen as a negative because some people might not like the red color scheme and lighting.

Still, the red lights here look really nice. Not only can users toggle between three different lighting levels by default, but they can also customize the lighting level in even greater detail using the Corsair Utility Engine. You can even adjust the lighting behavior for individual keys so that only the keys you use for a game light up, and more.

As demonstrated in our video review, CUE also offers some impressive keyboard-wide lighting profiles for users who crave the extra flare:

  • Visor: A red line moves from left to right and back again.
  • Rain: Lights "fall" like rain from the top of the keyboard to the bottom.
  • Pulse: The entire keyboard pulses from low intensity to high and back again.
  • Wave: Waves flow from left to right across the keyboard.
  • Type Lighting (Key): Only the keys you touch light up, then they slowly go out again.
  • Type Lighting (Ripple): Ripples of light emanate from whichever keys you hit. This is my favorite effect.

Corsair Strafe Mechanical Keyboard review

Killer keyboard

The Corsair STRAFE features top-of-the-line Cherry MX switches, optional textured gaming keys, highly customizable per-key red lighting, a convenient USB pass-through port, and great software. Features-wise, it has nearly everything you could ask for, other than real media keys and RGB lighting.

How does the STRAFE feel to use, though? It feels perfect. The keys provide just the right amount of resistance when pressed. Each makes an audible click, not unlike the sound you get from pressing a button on an arcade stick. Yeah, they sound a bit louder than cheaper keyboards, but the comfort and performance are totally worthwhile.

Although I prefer controllers for many types of games like platformers and racing, keyboards obviously excel for genres like shooters, MOBAs, RPGs, and strategy games. The STRAFE truly enhances the experience with these games. Its optional curved and textured keys and lighting modes will help anyone keep their fingers in optimal position and find important keys in a flash. Corsair's anti-ghosting technology ensures that complex key combinations will work properly rather than "ghosting (opens in new tab)," to boot.

If you're looking for a gaming keyboard that won't break the bank, the Corsair STRAFE is an excellent choice. After playing a few games and typing this review with it, I'm going to have a tough time going back to my notebook's much less impressive keyboard.

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • All ive got to say : SEXYY!! But the price...even I prefer controller except for fps and getting a keyboard this costly...
    PS. No love for left handed gamers...
  • In 2015, I wonder how $115 can be called reasonable for a keyboard. That's crazy
  • Because its a mechanical keyboard not a rubber dome board that costs pennies to make. These things are built differently. Last time I checked, things that are well built still fetch a premium
  • Agreed.
    I've got the new vengeance k95 rgb model with cherry red switches - that was about £180 in the UK, dunno about dollars but you definitely get what you pay for - I've been using mechanicals and still field ibm m models and the new corsair kbs are fantastic.
    I've got o rings under the keys so they are quiet and actually prefer this set up to the brown keys - I type all day and love how little pressure is required. I'm glad in 2015 one can get quality - you do indeed get what you pay for. Some may say it's too expensive but it's all about consumer choice otherwise expensive things wouldn't exist. I think this represents good value and is priced accordingly. Anyway, this is a nice keyboard - though I like the rgb set up as I can have multi profiles depending on whether I'm writing, trading or gaming. Highly recommend corsair kbs!
  • >Last time I checked, things that are well built still fetch a premium True that. There is truth to the statement "You get what you pay for"... You want a $20 keyboard, go for it, it will do almost the same thing but, not as good.
  • 100%.
  • I remember IBM keyboards costing $350... This is not a regular keyboard
  • This looks great, my "Colour Theme" is red, white and black anyway so at that price it looks pretty perfect. Have an Apex RAW at the moment, which isn't mechanical but still enjoyable to use - This might replace it
  • Not a fan of the lack of marco and media control keys.  Personally I'll continue to use my Microsoft Sidewinder X4 keyboard.  I am perfectly happy with the typing feel on it, and I haven't really found any benefit to mechanical keyboards in game.  Death usually comes to me due to my lack of reflexes, and not the milliseconds of keyboard actuation. 
  • Yeah, same here.  Got the X4 on Amazon BF in 2011 for $20...  Its really tactile for what it is
  • They dont make the X4 anymore :(
  • I was going to say something similar. I love mechanical keyboards but the lack of dedicated media controls makes this one a no go. Guess I'll keep lusting after the high end logitechs or the Das keyboards.
  • Looks nice..
  • Nice board
  • Nope. I need a gamer edition of Genius Slim Star 100 and Netscroll for left handed gamers....
  • The lighting scripts available for their K70 are insane: Corsair has nice products, but I'd rather go for a "non-gaming" keyboard.   
  • How do you/Why would you, connect your Xbox One to the USB port on the Keyboard???
  • You can use keyboards to type messages on Xbox One. In Project Spark you can use a keyboard to play games. For example in Project Spark there is a Mario typing game where you have to type words to make Mario jump over enemies.
  • bought mechanical keyboard later found it was just a meme
  • Red is the preferable color as that is the easiest on your eyes in a dark room. Other colors will glare and mess with night vision.
  • Also, that's one of the reasons well designed and thought out cars use red lighting in the interior and on the dash.
  • Pontiac for the wi... :(
  • Red lighting makes me cry.
  • Once you go mechanical you really can't go back. Also consider how many hours a day you work at your desk. The price is very reasonable for something that will get thousands of hours of use
  • Yeah ever since I got my mechanical I can barely type on regular keyboards. The difference is crazy.
  • wish they made this in non mechanica... the click click click will drive my coworkers bonkers and i might have to choose between my mechanical kb or my job :)
  • Yeah, but once they see it they'll be jealous as hell.
  • trust me - u dont want to make enemies over a clicky clacky cherry red mechanical kb where I work. These pple complain about the tiniest of all things...
  • Red and brown keys are fairly quiet, you can get a dampener set (o-rings) to reduce the bottoming out noise. Unlike blue switches, there is no actuation click noise.
  • Fu(& coworkers. What are they gonna do? Whine to the wife at the Christmas party?
  • I bought a K95 model about a year and a half ago and will never go back to a regular keyboard for the home office.  The keys themselves feel great but about a month ago some of the leds started to go out.  A simple email to Corsair support has yielded me a newer model.  Corsair will definitely stand by their product.  I'm now looking to buy another one with Cherry blue/blacks.
  • I've got the k95 too - fantastic bit of kit and love the macro keys! Also, though I've never needed it, glad to hear their customer service is on point. Good to know.
  • I'm still using a Merc Stealth, an upgrade due soon but don't know what would replace it with
  • Nice keyboard, very nice layout. As a hard core gamer, Console and PC (about 50-50), a good keyboard is important. Not just for typing but, timing those jumps or raising your K/D ratio.  For years  have been using the Microsoft Pro Natural Ergonomic keyboards. I've been using them from the WIndows 98 days. Still to this day use them. Never felt a need to get a dedicated gaming keyboard (that I have used a hanfull of them over the years) as I am very happy with my keyboard now. They work awesome for gaming, your hand sits natrually on it and it's very confortable to type on. It's really the best of both worlds...
  • I'm envious of anyone rocking this keyboard. Puts my G-whatever from Logitech with giant screen and no available drivers on W10 to shame.
  • I have logitechs k750. The solar keyboard. Been using it for several years now and the monitors lights alone power that bad boy up. No power issues. But i was looking at the k70. I may now look into this one instead.
  • I had a few k750 keyboards (work and home) and I really liked them. That was before I switched over to a mechanical one and I don't want to switch back.
  • I am also using a k750 on the secondary computer and it has not let me down in the 3 years i've had it.  It would be cool if someone made a wireless solar mechanical.
  • I own the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition Elite Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. It is quiet for a mechanical keyboard and is precise. It costs about the same as this one on Amazon. My suggestion is to try them out in the store first. Each 'Type' of key (red, black, blue) (not the color of light that they emit) acts, feels, and sounds differently. Do some research and you will be glad that you did.
  • That's the nice thing about mechanical keyboards.  You can choose and even change the type of feedback that feels most comfortable to you. 
  • I feel like I'm the only serious PC gamer who doesn't use expensive peripherals. I'd rather spend that money towards a new camera. I'm also a video editor.
  • We all have to prioritize. I do a lot of typing, so a good keyboard is important to me. But I just bought a new audio recorder to improve my convention videos, and I'll be investing in a better camera next year too. Oh! Also need to build a new desktop PC. It never ends, man.
  • Lol it never ends indeed! I tend to just buy the best spec and keep the pc for two years and then donate to a local hospital - currently fielding an insanely ramped up machine - and I type a lot so a keyboard that is good is a must... I'm glad Intel ate delaying new chips lol
  • That's very good of you! I've used my gaming notebook as my sole computer for the last three years. Can't really afford a new one of sufficient power this year, so I'll save $800 or so by building a decently beefy desktop instead.
  • I do believe building a rig is the best value - one certainly doesn't need 32gb ddr4 unless you want, or top specs our whatever, but you'll always get better value!
    I bought a msi gt 80 titan - a beastly laptop and a fantastic gaming laptop with a proper mechanical keyboard. Now, I live in the UK and this was purchased in the states... I have to go to third party service points, if it needs a repair (haven't had to yet) but it's very expensive and a self built rig probably represents better value - though I really appreciate the keyboard and the gt80 is what I take when go away from home... As a writer that might be a consideration for you - dependant on budget, of course. A self built rig and a tablet is going to be much cheaper ;)