Compact gaming keyboards are becoming all the rage, with many of the industry's big names adding 60 or 65 per cent solutions to their arsenal. Having recently put the likeable Asus ROG Falchion through its paces, we've since had the opportunity to try out two even smaller offerings from Corsair and HyperX.
Starting with the former, we have the K65 RGB Mini, a tiny 60 per cent keyboard whose name shouldn't be confused with earlier tenkeyless models. This is Corsair's first attempt at this particular form factor, and for users heavily invested in the firm's iCue ecosystem, a prime candidate for compact mechanical gaming.
Priced at £110 and measuring just 294mm x 105mm x 44mm, the keyboard is so small it's cute, but you might be wondering why anyone would want to forego the functionality of a full-size layout? There aren't any dedicated media controls, you won't find Corsair's signature volume wheel, and even common features such as a palm rest and USB passthrough have fallen by the wayside. Heck, there aren't even any pop-out feet to adjust the typing angle; what you see is what you get.
But that's missing the point. The advantage of a 60 per cent layout is the streamlined nature. K65 RGB Mini takes up very little space on the desktop, leaving more room for mouse movements, and having every available key in close proximity makes for a board that feels nimble and fast. I even enjoy typing on the petite form factor up until a point - it's great when the words flow, but during regular desktop use I'm lost without my arrow keys and numpad. As a result, 60 per cent remains a niche solution, to such an extent that we imagine some users may choose to switch between models on a regular basis; 60 per cent strictly for gaming, and full-size for all other activity.
Plug in the K65 RGB Mini via its detachable USB-C to USB-A cable and you're immediately greeted by vibrant backlighting that plays well to Corsair's strengths. The lighting animations are smooth, accurate and highly configurable, and the 'radiant' spacebar does a fine job of accentuating the effect. Textured double-shot PBT keycaps should keep it looking fresh after years of abuse, while grippy rubber bumpers on the underside help prevent any unwanted movement, yet on closer inspection you do get the impression that Corsair could further improve presentation.
The white plastic keyboard tray, for example, does a good job of enhancing illumination, but highlights numerous contrasting silver screws. The plastic bezel around the sides also has rough edges that ought to be kinder to the skin, and at just 570g, the keyboard has a lightweight feel whose hollow characteristics result in keys pinging and echoing as they snap back into position. Such traits are commonplace on more affordable offerings, but at £110, you might expect metal backing and crisper acoustics.
Corsair's keycap font is reasonably clean and inoffensive, and with 60 per cent boards often employing secondary functions, the K65 RGB Mini goes to town with a vast array of shortcuts. Media controls and volume shortcuts are available toward the right, U, H, J and K awkwardly double as arrow keys, while C, V and B can be used to alter lighting without the need for software. Having so many extra functions could be deemed a positive, yet the sheer amount takes some getting used to - particularly with the Fn and Fn2 modifiers located toward the bottom right - and it results in the keyboard looking somewhat cluttered. T, Y and G are the only letter keys without a secondary legend.
What the K65 RGB Mini lacks in overall refinement, it attempts to make up for with customisation opportunities. The bundle includes a standard spacebar and a regular key adorned with the Sails logo, along with the customary plastic keycap puller. That's merely an appetiser, mind you. For those inclined to add a dash of colour, Corsair is making available optional double-shot PBT keycap mod kits in a variety of colours, including mint green, rogue pink, arctic white and Elgato blue. The $30 kits also includes silicone O-rings that may help reduce the pinging effect, and with a standard bottom row layout, there's scope for third-party keycaps, too.
One further area of customisation is the choice of underlying switch, which for buyers of the pictured UK layout is a toss-up between Cherry MX RGB Red and MX RGB Speed Silver. Both offer a familiar linear feel, with our Red review unit actuating at 2mm with a force of 45 cN, before bottoming out at 4mm.
There aren't any tactile options at the time of writing, making the keyboard better suited to gaming than regular typing, and given the target audience, Corsair is keen to point out its Axon hyper-processing technology, which enables a rapid 8,000Hz polling rate over USB. We struggle to notice any real-world benefit over regular 1,000Hz, but a faster polling rate certainly can't do any harm, and as you'd expect, there's full N-key rollover, 100 per cent anti-ghosting and 8MB of onboard storage that's good for storing up to 50 custom profiles.