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This stunning Corsair keycap set has one major problem

The Corsair Steel Crimson keyboard sitting on a desk mat.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

If your keycaps had names like Steel Crimson and Steel Azure, could you stop looking at them? I certainly can’t stop looking at this new set from Corsair, which is available as part of a bundle with a limited edition desk mat. These are some lovely keycaps, but they have a couple of issues that may be too big to overlook.

It’s a push into enthusiast keycaps for Corsair, and from a visual standpoint, they fit the mark. However, a lack of flexibility with your keyboard layout limits their use, and the high price is hard to stomach for what Corsair is offering.

Creative keycaps

Arrow keys for Corsair's Steel Crimson keycaps.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Corsair isn’t known for keycaps, but this set certainly has the looks to put the company on the map. they seem to stem from Corsair’s acquisition of Drop earlier this year, which is a company known for releasing high-quality keycaps and keyboard accessories. This kit has some enthusiast trimmings but carries some amateur oversights.

The kit includes a full set of PBT dye-sublimation keycaps. They aren’t double-shot PBT keycaps, so the legends are printed on them rather than injected as you see with double shots. Dye-sub isn’t inherently worse, but there’s definitely a larger quality range. Thankfully, Corsair lands on the upper end of that range.

A Corsair keycap next to an Osume keycap.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The legends look good. They’re a touch blurry if you compare these keycaps to a dye-sub keycap from an enthusiast brand like Osume, but only in a side-by-side comparison. I never noticed quality issues on their own. These are PBT keycaps with a thick top, so they feel good to type on and produce a satisfying sound (assuming they’re on a high-quality board).

Corsair did something interesting with the profile. I can’t tell if they’re XDA or DSA, but the keycaps have rounded corners, and the profile is flat. I’m partial to an XDA profile, so I appreciate that Corsair went this route. However, it’s certainly a different typing experience compared to something like a Cherry profile, and Corsair should note the profile so buyers aren’t caught off guard.

Corsair's Steel Crimson keycaps on a keyboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The finish on the keycaps is interesting, as well. It’s much less of a grippy, matte finish than you traditionally find on keycaps. It’s smooth and a little sticky at first. I’ve never seen a finish like this on a set of keycaps, and I’m not sure how long it will hold up. From first impressions, it seems high quality, but with uncharted territory, there’s always a chance that the finish will wear down after months of abuse.

One undeniable thing, however, is that the keycaps look great. Corsair managed to make the gradient look smooth despite the clear lines between each row of the keys. There are just a couple of problems with actually buying them.

Two big problems

Corsair's Steel Azure keycaps installed on an Asus ROG Azoth keyboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

As much as I love the look of these keycaps, it’s tough to recommend them. That’s because you’re not getting a full set of keycaps. Well, at the very least, you’re not getting all the keys you need for different keyboard formats. Corsair assumes you’re using a full-size, 104-key keyboard. If you’re not using a keyboard that comes with the same spacing, you’ll have some keys missing.

Most keycap sets include sizes for things like your Enter and function keys and different sizes for Shift, Backspace, and Tab. Corsair doesn’t. As you can see from the ROG Azoth I loaded up with the keycaps below, I had to skip a handful of keys in the bottom right corner because Corsair simply doesn’t include them.

Function keys on the Corsair Steel Azure keycaps.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

This is a little misleading because the Corsair product page specifically says the set supports 100% and 75% layouts (the Azoth is a 75% layout, for the record). Even a cheap $30 set of keycaps on Amazon can get this right. Corsair doesn’t really have an excuse here.

It’s particularly concerning considering the price of the kit. Corsair asks for $120 — $110 on sale, at the time of writing — for the keycaps and desk mat. To be clear, that’s without a keyboard (Corsair sent out a K70 Core RGB for the sake of testing). Corsair sells the desk mat for $40 without the design, meaning $80 worth of value is going to the keycaps. And frankly, this is not an $80 set of keycaps.

I already mentioned Osume, who also sells keycap kits for $80, and they’re some of the highest quality you can find. Even Drop, who sells some of the most expensive keycaps you can buy, has most of its kits available between $80 and $120. And yes, those come with a full set of keys with different sizes, so you’re not locked to one specific keyboard layout.

The Corsair Steel Crimson keycaps installed on a K70 Core keyboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

If you use a full-size keyboard, this kit is a solid option. There should be more flexibility here, though, with various additional sizes being the norm for keycap sets. Thankfully, the keycaps are only half of this kit, and the other half is remarkable.

The surprising standout

A Corsair desk mat sitting on a desk.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

You might think the keycaps are the main draw of Corsair’s keyboard bundle, but the mouse mat is what really shines. I unboxed the two kits while I had a friend over, and while looking over the keycaps, my friend picked up the mouse mat out of the box: “Wow, that’s nice,” he said. You can tell immediately. It’s thick and heavy, and you know right away that you’re holding quality in your hands.

The mat measures just shy of 37 inches long and 16 inches tall, so it’s big enough to fit your keyboard and mouse with room to spare. The Steel Azure and Steel Crimson color ways have the same design, with different accents. A repeating tri-tip design fades in and out across the mat, set on a light gray background.

I don’t expect this mat to fray any time soon.

It looks great set up, but I really like how the design frames your peripherals. The bottom diagonal line shoots out the top and bottom of the keyboard, while the empty space on the right gives you room to flick your mouse. I’m not sure if that framing was intentional from Corsair, but it makes your peripherals feel like they have a place on your desk.

As mentioned, the mat is thick. It’s about a quarter of an inch thick and heavy enough that it doesn’t aggressively buckle at the ends when you lay it down for the first time. Corsair has thick braiding around the edges that matches the color theme, too, and although I haven’t had months (or years) to test the durability, I don’t expect it’s going to fray any time soon.

Gradient pattern on Corsair's desk mat.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

On top of the mat, there isn’t much friction. Even the cheapest gaming mouse pads are smooth enough that you can play, but your mouse glides across Corsair’s desk mat. I can flick the edge of my mouse with one finger, and it will slide from the bottom to the top with basically no resistance. It feels great to play on.

I would highly recommend the from Corsair. The company sells the desk mat separately in a basic black color scheme for $40, and it’s definitely worth that price.

I still can’t recommend you pick up a kit, though. When you spend $120 on keycaps and a desk mat, there are too many situations where you won’t have all the keys you need. You’re better off buying the MM350 Pro for $40 and investing the $80 elsewhere on high-quality keycaps.

If you have a full-size keyboard, this isn’t a bad kit. It’s a little expensive, with Corsair seeming to charge a premium for the design rather than giving you a discount for picking up a bundle, but it’s not egregious. You’re getting solid keycaps and a fantastic desk mat. It’s just a shame Corsair doesn’t include a few extra keys.

Editors' Recommendations

Jacob Roach
Senior Staff Writer, Computing
Jacob Roach is a writer covering computing and gaming at Digital Trends. After realizing Crysis wouldn't run on a laptop, he…
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