When it comes to the peripherals market it can be easy to get lost in a sea of high-end, high performance and typically high price tag gaming hardware. With the rise in popularity of e-Sports and PC gaming in general, there has been a huge wave of new keyboards over the last couple of years, covering all budgets and needs and while the new Corsair K40 is targeted at the more budget friendly end of the market, it does still promise a wide range of features that should appeal to both gamers and general PC users.
For a little over £50 the K40 isn’t exactly expensive, but it’s still a big enough investment to have you expecting something a little special given that this is a membrane keyboard. Promising a bunch of cool features such as macro keys, on-board memory, customisable LED back-lighting, dedicated multimedia keys and more, it certainly sounds like a tempting option for gamers who don’t want to invest more for a mechanical Corsair keyboard, which are typically more than twice as expensive as the K40 model we have here today. Being feature packed and budget friendly is obviously going to make the K40 very appealing to a wide audience, plus the Corsair brand name is well-known and well trusted by a large portion of the gaming community, so let’s get right to it and see what else this keyboard has to offer.
Specifications and Performance
- Rubber dome keys
- RGB 16.8 million color backlighting with three levels of illumination
- Six dedicated macro keys
- 36KB of onboard memory
- Seven easy-access multimedia keys – STOP, PREVIOUS, PLAY/PAUSE, NEXT, MUTE, VOLUME UP, DOWN
- Windows Lock key for uninterrupted game play
The 16.8 million colour claim is nothing new, but it’s always a welcome addition to a peripheral to have highly customisable lighting.
The packaging is nicely design and features a good image of the keyboard on the front, as well as a quick run down of features such as full key rollover and anti-ghosting via USB.
A Closer Look
The K40 comes hard-wired with a durable USB cable and a custom moulded red USB connection.
The keyboard is nicely laid out overall and short of a few minor tweaks and changes, it does look like the much more expensive Corsair Mechanical Keyboards, even mimicking (from a distance) the brushed aluminium effect of the more expensive models.
Unfortunately this keyboard isn’t made of brushed aluminium, it features a plastic chassis that actually feels a little cheap to the touch, but still overall pretty durable.
The black key caps are contrasted with some silver coloured caps on the WASD keys.
As well as on the UDLR keys, obviously highlighting the most common used keys for any PC gamer.
Up in the top right of the keyboard you’ll find dedicated multimedia keys, which is a very welcome feature at this price range.
Equally impressive inclusion is the macro recording and profile switching keys in the top left.
Down the left side you’ll find six dedicated macro keys, perfect for deploying complex commands in the heat of battle, or more practical solutions such as Photoshop shortcuts.
The mechanical “look” of this keyboard is done by putting the membrane keys on what I can only think of calling stilts, they’re raised quite high from the chassis of the keyboard.
The rubber dome is triggered by the long stem under the key cap. The caps are fully removable and this is certainly a big win for those who like to strip down and clean their keyboard.
Around the back you’ll not find anything of interest, just the hard-wired USB cable contact point.
The underside of the keyboard features four rubber grips and two flip-out feet.
The feet are pretty standard, but more than enough for raising the angle of the board a little, giving a better hand resting position.
Setting up the K40 is as easy as plug and play, but to really get the most out of it you will need to download the software from Corsairs website. With the software installed you can then customise everything from the lighting to the macro settings and with six dedicated macro keys, and 16.8 million colour lighting, you’ll certainly want to do just that. The software is pretty straight forward and not packed with features, but all the basics that you’ll need are present to get some decent macro combinations setup over multiple profiles.
Profiles canbe imported, exported and even saved directly to the keyboard, handy if you’re planning on taking the keyboard with you to LAN tournaments, where software isn’t permitted.
The colour mixer is simple to use and offers up as much colour choice as you can imagine, the only downside I saw was that the whites are a little blue-ish, but on the plus side the colours are rich and bright.
With the K40 being targeted at the gaming market it only seemed right to get straight into the good stuff, so I fired up a few games of League of Legends, Torch Light II, Diablo III and Battlefield 4 to see what it could do. The cheaper plastics of the key caps do feel a little strange at first, although not lacking in similarity to some soft touch material plastics. I do like the raised keys as they give a nice travel distance and despite them only being membrane dome triggers, they give a satisfying pop when pressed, a little better than you’re average membrane keyboard, but way short of the quality of a mechanical.
Gaming is a job on this keyboard, the keys are a little slower than say MX Red switches, but you can still make snappy double taps and adjustments without any issue. The macro keys are within good reach for deploying quick casts, but not so close that you trigger them when searching for the Caps Lock key. Having multiple profiles that can be switched straight from the keyboard is great for expanding the macro settings, especially if you want different macros for different character classes without having to leave the game to change your keyboard settings.
The keyboard is also nice and quiet, great for those who don’t want the noisy distraction that you often get with mechanical keyboards, although it’s not exactly a new thing for membrane keyboards to be relatively quiet.
Day to day work on the K40 is pleasant enough, due to me wearing out my previous keyboard I’ve actually switched to the K40 as my full-time keyboard for reviews and gaming and I’ve certainly no complaints so far. The keyboard could however benefit from a wrist rest, especially given the elevated nature of its keys, perhaps something similar to that of the Corsair K70.
The Corsair K40 can be picked up pretty cheap if you shop around, at time of writing the keyboard is just £52.99 from Dabs.co.uk and while not incredibly cheap, it does represent a competitive price tag given the amount of features that Corsair have crammed into it. Unfortunately for Corsair their main competition for this keyboard is the Corsair K50, which is pretty much the same keyboard, but with a lot more macro keys and a wrist rest and that can be picked up for about £2-3 more, it’s really down to your own needs if you really need those extra macro keys or not, as the K50 is quite a wide keyboard.
I really like the Corsair K40, as I said before I’ve actually started using the keyboard full-time on my main rig. I like the quiet keys and the typing action is light so not to cause strain from the thousands of words per day I have to type, not to mention the endless gaming and social media mooching that I do each day. It’s not a perfect keyboard and there are a few minor draw backs to it, but fortunately nothing serious. The key caps feel slightly cheap, or at least their smooth texture is a little off somehow. They look great and their build quality is fine, but the finish feels a little strange to the touch compared to most any other keyboard I’ve used. The other issue comes with the media keys, they’re great if you’re using Windows Media Player, useless for Winamp and while I know a work around to have them work with other media players, I would have liked to have seen this functionality to be adjustable in the K40 software.
Overall design is really nice on the K40 and while Corsair have clearly made an effort to rip off the style points of their own high-end keyboards, there is no harm in trying to style the keyboard on something that already looks great. The keyboard layout makes it easy to use, the macro keys are in a nice position, the multimedia keys are nicely designed and the back-lighting effects are superb. It’s certainly aesthetically pleasing and should look great in any environment, be that office use or as part of a gaming setup, but of course style is a very subjective thing.
The price is very competitive given the keyboards specifications, but I can’t shake off the fact that the K50 is barely £2 more from some retailers. This is because the older product has now been discounted, but with more macro keys and a nice quality wrist rest, the K50 may prove better value for money for some. If you’re short on desk space to place the bigger K50, or simply don’t need those extra macro keys and the wrist rest, then the K40 is every bit as good in terms of core performance and you may as well save the extra change in your wallet.
- Clean design styled on more expensive mechanical keyboards
- Customisable LED lighting
- Multimedia keys
- Macro keys
- Easy to use software
- On-board memory makes it tournament ready
- Key caps have a cheap feel to them
- No wrist rest like the K50
- Price is currently very close to the K50
eTeknix says: “The K40 is a solid investment for those looking for a mid range keyboard, it packs plenty of features that make it ideal for both work and gaming, but without the over the top price tag that often plagues many gaming friendly keyboards.”
Thank you Corsair for providing us with this sample.