Corsair K70 Pro Mini Wireless review: A compact, feature-rich gaming keyboard
One of the main appeals of mechanical keyboards is their customization. With the right keyboard, there’s an almost endless amount of parts to upgrade, swap out, or customize to get a keyboard that precisely meets your needs. There’s obviously nothing wrong with using a keyboard exactly as it comes out of the box, but sometimes it’s just fun to tinker with.
Hot-swappable keyboard switches take this customization even further. Rather than having each key’s switch soldered to the board (meaning you have to whip out a soldering iron to change it), the hot-swappable switches can be removed with a simple pulling tool. This makes replacing them as easy as changing a keycap. The feature has become increasingly common on enthusiast boards, but is still relatively rare on keyboards from consumer or gaming brands.
This makes Corsair’s K70 Pro Mini Wireless an interesting accessory. At first glance, it looks a lot like the kinds of mechanical gaming keyboards Corsair has been producing for years with its aggressive gamer font and RGB lighting. But underneath, it’s the company’s first keyboard that features hot-swappable switches. That means it offers a powerful blend of Corsair’s gaming-focused features, such as low input latency and enthusiast map customization.
At $179.99, it’s pricey, and its 60% compact layout won’t suit everyone. But it ticks a lot of boxes if you’re willing to pay the price.
The Corsair K70 Pro Mini Wireless is a very recognizable Corsair product. It’s all black aside from its flashy RGB lighting, and each of its keys is styled with an aggressive all-caps font. At the top, there’s a single USB-C port for charging and connectivity, a physical on/off switch, and a small docking station for the keyboard’s 2.4GHz USB dongle.
There’s no switch to put the keyboard in macOS layout mode and no Mac-specific keys or legends. This is a Windows-focused keyboard – understandable given Corsair’s focus on gaming. Two feet under the keyboard allow you to set it at a steeper angle if you prefer.
Between its USB dongle, the ability to save up to three different Bluetooth connections, and good old-fashioned wired connectivity, there’s a good range of connectivity options. That said, some of them aren’t as responsive as others. You’ll need to use wired connectivity to get the keyboard’s maximum polling rate (where it will look for keystrokes internally at 4000Hz and report them to your PC at 8000Hz), but it can only report at 2000 Hz when using its 2.4 GHz dongle. Corsair doesn’t say what the keyboard polling rate is over Bluetooth, but generally the wireless standard isn’t known for its low latency.
Corsair only sells the K70 Pro Mini Wireless with either Cherry MX Red linear switches (which my review sample had) or gaming-focused Cherry MX Speed Silver linear switches, but the fact that it’s replaceable hot means you have plenty of other options if you’re willing to buy switches separately. You can swap out alternative Cherry switches, like tactile browns or clicky blues, or even more esoteric community options, like Holy Pandas or Gazzew Boba U4s. The world is truly your lobster.
Corsair includes the required switch puller in the box with the keyboard (there’s also a key puller) to remove the switches, and I was able to replace a couple of them with relative ease. The only problem here is that only Three Pin Switches (Plate Mount) can fit into the keyboard circuit board, which means you’ll have to cut the plastic tabs five-pin switches (PCB mounted) to shape them. It’s not the end of the world, but it does mean you’ll have to choose your replacement switches carefully or be prepared to do a bit of modding. This isn’t ideal when the selling point of hot swapping is simplicity.
It is also, of course, possible to swap the keycaps of the K70 Pro Mini Wireless. There’s no need to do this just yet, as the keys that come with the keyboard are durable dual-shot PBTs and allow the keyboard’s RGB backlight to shine through. It should also be noted that since each of these keys has a secondary function, many additional legends are printed on the sides of the keys. Replace the keys and you may have trouble remembering your keyboard shortcuts. Finally, the switches on the keyboard are oriented to the north, which may cause compatibility issues with some Cherry profile keys.
The K70 Pro Mini Wireless is a very compact keyboard. It uses a 60% layout, which means it lacks additional dedicated keys like a function row, number pad, or even arrow keys. The result is a keyboard optimized for desks with limited space or even large desks when you want to maximize the space available for your mouse.
If you’re a gamer who sometimes lacks space for the mouse because of a large keyboard, a compact model like this can be very useful. But, for others, such a restrictive layout is less ideal, and I’ve struggled to use the K70 Pro Mini Wireless as a work keyboard over the past week. All of its “missing” keys are accessible via a function key at the bottom right of the keyboard, but having to press two keys just to access the arrow keys is tedious, and it only gets worse when you need to add more modifiers. I often had to press up to four keys simultaneously while working, and it felt very inefficient. I would not recommend this keyboard for office work.
It’s also not a particularly efficient keyboard for typing. Although Corsair uses original Cherry switches, which are durable and durable, the construction of the keyboard makes them cheap and plasticky, and they don’t feel as good as competing compact keyboards from Epomaker or Keychron. This is doubly the case for the larger keys, whose stabilizers sound clinky and metallic.
The K70 Pro Mini Wireless feels much more comfortable when using it for gaming, where you don’t miss the extra keys and (in theory) have the most to gain from its reduced input latency. But I remain skeptical that most people can feel the benefits of polling rates above 1000Hz. I tested the K70 Pro Mini Wireless using it for gaming Surveillance on a 120Hz OLED display, first in its 8000Hz wired polling mode (which must be manually enabled in Corsair’s iCue software), then with its 2000Hz dongle, and I couldn’t perceive any difference between this and a standard 1000 Hz keyboard. Reassuringly, there doesn’t seem to be an input lag penalty for using the wireless keyboard, but you shouldn’t expect a big upgrade.
One aspect of the K70 Pro Mini Wireless that I didn’t expect to be useful, but was, are its mouse shortcuts. By default, pressing the Fn key with WASD moves your mouse across the screen, and there are also hotkeys for speeding up and slowing down mouse movement, as well as left and right clicks. It’s inaccurate enough that I would never recommend anyone trying to play a game like this, but it’s a great feature for people like me who need to control a gaming PC under their TV with a wireless keyboard and trackpad. That means the K70 Pro Mini Wireless is a useful little tool that couch gamers might want to use to start a game to then play with a controller, although at $180 it’s very expensive compared to keyboard/trackpad combos. inexpensive wireless that are readily available.
Battery life is decent but not outstanding, according to Corsair’s estimates (my testing involved regularly plugging the keyboard in via USB to test latency, so I couldn’t run it consistently during my time examination). It promises up to 32 hours with the backlight on, rising to 200 hours with the backlight off. So expect to charge it weekly for the privilege of keeping its lights on or a little more than once a month otherwise. That’s nothing compared to Logitech’s (otherwise less specified) $150 Mechanical MX Mini, which offers 15 days with the backlight on, or 10 months without the backlight, but roughly on par with the RGB model of the $65 K12 from Keychron (up to 240 hours with backlight off).
With its 60% compact layout, the K70 Pro Mini Wireless is a keyboard that will never suit everyone. It’s great that Corsair has caught up with the emerging trend towards hot-swappable switches, but if you’re looking for a compact keyboard that you’ll need to use for equal parts productivity and gaming, then my advice would be to – at a minimum – get a slightly larger 65% map that includes a group of arrows. No amount of switches or customization keys will make up for the missing keys.
Used primarily as a gaming keyboard, the K70 Pro Mini Wireless fares much better, and it’s nice to get the customization of an enthusiast mechanical keyboard without giving up the quality-of-life features of a major brand like Corsair. But $180 is a lot to pay for a gaming-only keyboard. The Corsair K70 Pro Mini Wireless might be a very customizable keyboard, but ultimately it’s not very versatile.
Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge