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Corsair crams 4 extra keys into an extremely thin wireless mechanical keyboard 

Corsair K100 Air.
Enlarge / Corsair K100 Air.

There are people who prefer a more compact keyboard, be it for portability, a preferred aesthetic, or saving space. There are also those who prefer keyboards with as many keys as possible. We’re not just talking about full-size keyboards with numpads. We’re talking about the kind of extra programmable keys that can store macros, launch a favored app, or input a complex string of characters with a press. Corsair’s K100 Air, in a way, seeks to address both groups. The mechanical keyboard has a small bank of macro keys inside an incredibly thin 0.4-inch (11 mm) thick frame.

The K100 Air manages to be just 0.4 inches at its thinnest point, according to Corsair’s announcement Thursday, with Cherry’s MX Ultra Low Profile mechanical switches. The keyboard will use the clicky version of the switch, which has 1.8 mm of travel and actuates at 0.8 mm with 65 g of force.

A profile view.
Enlarge / A profile view.

Even by low-profile standards, that is some shallow typing. For comparison, the MX Low Profile Red switches in keyboards like the Das KeyBoard MacTigr we recently reviewed and Razer’s DeathStalker V2 Pro have 3.2 mm total travel, 1.2 mm pretravel, and actuate at 45 g of force. Those keyboards are thicker, naturally, at 1.06 inches and 1 inch tall, respectively. And full-height Cherry MX Blue switches are specced at 4 mm/2.2 mm/60.

We’d have to try the keyboard out before passing judgment on the typing experience, but we anticipate keypresses to feel extremely short and quick, with the higher actuation force, tactile bump, and click helping ensure it doesn’t feel like you’re typing on mushy sand.

Currently, Cherry’s MX Ultra Low Profile switches are mostly found in a couple of high-end laptops, the Alienware m17 R5 and m15 R4 gaming laptops. Reviewers like Tom’s Hardware have pointed to typing featuring a small downgrade compared to dedicated mechanical keyboards with traditionally sized low-profile switches. It’s fair to expect typing on the K100 Air to feel dramatically different from typing on a full-height mechanical keyboard.

That said, Corsair stuffed the slim peripheral with a row of G-keys above the numpad that are reprogrammable with the likes of macros and application launching, without having to sacrifice any keys from a full-size layout. According to Corsair’s announcement, the keyboard has 8MB of onboard storage for transferring macro settings and even RGB lighting preferences across 50 different profiles. We’ve seen pricey keyboards not even offer a single profile.

Corsair told Ars that the keycaps use a proprietary ABS plastic
Enlarge / Corsair told Ars that the keycaps use a proprietary ABS plastic “blend.”

Corsair is aiming the mechanical keyboard at gamers, which is appropriate, considering the advantage some players can get from being able to register key inputs as quickly as possible. Thus, the keyboard has an extremely high polling rate of 8,000 Hz when using its detachable cable with a PC or Mac, compared to the typical 1,000 Hz. But keep in mind that you’d need a beefy PC with strong graphics capabilities and a speedy display to reap the max benefits of the high polling rate.

The wireless keyboard connects through a detachable cable, a USB-A dongle, or Bluetooth. It can connect to three different devices via Bluetooth, and the user can toggle through connected devices by pressing a dedicated button on the keyboard.

If you skip the flashy backlighting, the keyboard can last for up to 200 hours before needing a charge, Corsair’s announcement claimed (with RGB, the claim drops to 50 hours).

The K100 Air will come out on October 4, but Corsair wouldn’t confirm a price yet.

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