A great living room companion.
Corsair is known for its quality peripherals, and as evidence we have three of them on our Best Gaming Keyboards for 2019 list already. But what happens when Corsair steps out from its core competency of gaming products and creates a keyboard made for the living room? That’s what I’m investigating here its all-new $99 USD K83 Wireless Entertainment Keyboard (See it on Amazon). It’s small, stylish, and completely wireless, and designed for people who use a streaming box or HTPC and want more control than a remote can offer (and might want to do some light gaming). Let’s dig in.
Corsair K83 – Design and Features
I spent about a week with the Corsair K83, and I found myself more impressed with its design the more I used it. Corsair has clearly spent a lot of time dialing in the perfect size to fit on your lap and allow keyboard and mouse control without needing a lapboard like the Lapdog or Razer Turret. Since its main purpose is controlling your home theater setup, it needs to feel comfortable without wobbling or feeling unstable as you type. Corsair has achieved that here. It feels good to use whether you’re typing or using the joystick and bumper.
Compared to a full-size keyboard like the Corsair K70 RGB Mk.2, the K83 is much more compact as it’s two inches trimmer in length and width, and less than half the height of the K70. It features a 76-key layout compared to the standard 104 keys of a full-size keyboard. Corsair has shaved off the number pad and editing/navigation cluster and replaced it with a trackpad and mouse buttons, as well as some additional controls for lighting, volume and control scheme. This area also features a built-in joystick, and another pair of mouse buttons around the back that function as a bumper and trigger for gaming.
It feels great in the hand too. The slim profile and chiclet keys are reminiscent of a travel keyboard you’d throw into a backpack, but this is a premium product. The top plate is a solid, 2-millimeter thick aluminum plate to keep it rigid for lap typing yet still lightweight at 480 grams. The bottom also has grooves on either side for your hands which gives it a feel almost like a controller when you grip it, making it perfect for kicking back on the couch.
The bottom also has grooves on either side for your hands which gives it a feel almost like a controller
Examining the design a bit more closely, the right side sports a large, glossy trackpad for mouse control. It picks up fingerprints and smudges like nobody’s business, but still manages to look slick and is very functional once configured on a PC. Underneath are two mouse buttons just like you would find on a laptop. Above the trackpad is a metal volume roller like those found on Corsair’s high-end gaming keyboards, and this one can be clicked to instantly mute audio. Two buttons below that also offer backlight control and let you swap between Gaming and Media modes (more on that below).
In the upper right of the board, Corsair has integrated what amounts to half a gamepad with the inclusion of a joystick, bumper, and trigger button. In Media Mode, these act as navigation controls allowing you to easily cycle through menus. In Gaming Mode, they swap to mouse controls.
The button to make this change is labeled as a Function Lock, which also reveals more of its living room-centric design. In the default Media Mode, accessing F1-F12 can only be done by holding the Fn button. Instead, F1-F3 act as your Back, Home, App Select, and Search for easy control of Android devices; F5-F7 handle your 2.4GHz and dual bluetooth connections; and, F8 – F12 provide your media controls.
Corsair K83 – Software
If you’ve used a Corsair mechanical keyboard before, then you know to expect when it comes to software. Corsair has sacrificed nothing here in terms of programmability. You can still program macros and timers and remap keys to your heart’s content. You can even override Windows and customize what gestures on the trackpad do. Even though the K83 isn’t made for hardcore gaming it could easily be used for that simply by pairing it with a normal mouse on PC.
The software suite is also where you’ll tailor the settings that will travel with the keyboard between devices. Being able to set the default brightness of the LEDs, how long it takes for them or the entire keyboard to shut off and save battery are first-stops. After that, calibrating the joystick and adjusting mouse controls are another. My first attempt at lowering the sensitivity on the track pad felt fine on Windows but was far too slow on the Shield TV, so again, it’s a good idea to play around and even have a laptop open with you on the couch to dial in your settings when first setting it up.
Corsair K83 – Living Room Performance
Going hands-on with the K83 over the last week has been a pleasure. I was a little worried when I saw they’d used chiclet keys instead of mechanical switches but they’re tactile, satisfying, and much quieter. Out of the box, the joystick had its deadzone set to zero, which caused the board to cycle through menus until I corrected this in iCUE on my PC. If you’re using a home theater PC, you’ll be able to install windows and make adjustments on the fly, but if you’re using a streaming box, it’s a good idea to have a laptop nearby to make customizations the first time you plug it in.
The good news is that the K83 has wide compatibility right out of the box.
The good news is that the K83 has wide compatibility right out of the box. I was able to use it with my Nvidia Shield TV, including for some gaming, right away. Navigating menus with either the mouse or joystick was fast and intuitive, and having a keyboard on hand to type out searches made looking up shows on Netflix or apps in the Google Play store much easier than using the onscreen keyboard. The K83 supports many of the major streaming boxes, including the Amazon Fire TV, AppleTV, Android-based smart TVs. I only had the Shield TV, tablets, and consoles to test with, but since the K83 is made to work with Android, if you have a streaming box running a version of Google’s OS, there’s a good chance it will work for you too, though some functions do vary by app.
The battery life is also quite good. Corsair quotes 12 hours of continuous use at normal lighting levels and 40 hours with lighting off. Over the last week, I’ve done a moderate amount of gaming and used it as my main control device for our TV and it never dropped below 90%. At 2 hours of sustained use per day, Corsair says you’ll get 1-2 weeks out of every charge, which feels right based on my experience. Unless you’re using the K83 for sustained gaming, recharges should be few and far between.
Corsair K83 – Gaming
I’ve already gone over how well it works for streaming boxes like the Shield TV, but I was definitely curious to see how it worked for gaming. Having a joystick built-in should theoretically make Android gaming much better, whether you’re playing on a set-top box or a tablet. But, as we all know, theory doesn’t alway translate to reality.
In this case, results varied from app to app. My first thought was to play a game of Fortnite, though I was quickly disabused of that notion for fear of having my account banned. Instead, I loaded up Asphalt 8 on my shield and kicked back. In Asphalt, the joystick felt responsive and on par other major console controllers. Being able to use the shoulder buttons to control my car made the game feel much more familiar and responsive than if I were playing using a touch interface. Swapping out to bluetooth mode, I did notice the slightest bit of lag, though that disappeared when I swapped to my tablet, so that may have been related to my device.
I also tested the device with PS4 and Xbox One. Unfortunately, Sony’s console refused to connect with the K83. My Xbox One had no trouble with the 2.4GHz dongle and allowed me to navigate through the menus and storefront. It also seems to work for games that offer mouse and keyboard support where the joystick and shoulder buttons really shined. Minecraft worked with only a quick control scheme tweak to confirm I was using a mouse and keyboard.
Using the joystick to control the camera and WASD felt more natural than I would have expected. It’s a testament to the ergonomic design of the keyboard that it feels as playable as it does. It’s not as comfortable as a dedicated controller in the long term, but still quite usable.
Less usable was Fortnite. The game supports mouse and keyboard but in such a competitive setting, against other people using a mouse (or just really good at a normal controller) the K83 felt like a disadvantage.
I tried a handful of other apps but as you might imagine, how nicely the K83 plays with any app depends entirely on how well the app supports mouse and keyboard. Anything made for touch input, like PUBG Mobile, with either work poorly or not at all.
It’s easy to see why Corsair has labeled the K83 Wireless and entertainment keyboard. It works for some light gaming but pushing beyond that leaves you longing for a real controller.
The Corsair K83 Entertainment Keyboard has an MSRP of $99.99 USD, and is launching today (3/7) for the same price online.