As a person who spends the vast majority of my day behind a keyboard, both at work and at home, I believe that there is value in buying decent peripherals to use with a PC, but I've always bought cheap keyboards. So given that I already own a high-end mouse and decent headphones and monitors, I opted to check out some mechanical keyboards. I opted for the CM Storm Quick Fire Rapid, with Cherry MX Brown Switches (Switches are the things that sit under the keys to trigger the keypress signals).
- Great value for money
- Excellent feedback
- Windows-key disable button
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Media/Volume Keys
- PS/2 adapter
- Extra key caps for customization
- N-key rollover (NKRO)
- Detachable cord
- Wire can become loose when moving
- Key caps can be difficult to remove with tool
- Caps/Scroll Lock keys have embedded lights
Model: CM Storm (Cooler Master) Quick Fire Rapid Model No: SGK-4000-GKCM1-UK Height: 30mm (1.2 inches approx) Length: 356.6mm (14.0 inches approx) Width: 135.5mm (5.3 inches approx) Weight: 940g (33.2oz approx) Layout: UK-QWERTY Tenkeyless Keys: 88 Lettering: Laser Etched Switches: Cherry MX Brown Connectivity: USB, PS/2 (via included adapter) USB Response Time: 1ms Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux Colour: Board: Silver-Grey Keys: Black (Red WASD keys included) with white text Status Lights: Red
Credit goes to CM Storm here for making one of the few keyboard packages that I can get into easily. As a long-time user of Microsoft and Logitech keyboards, I know only too well the pain of untangling the cables from vast amounts of plastic and twist-ties. The box opens easily, and because the keyboard and wire are separable, it all comes out easily.
- 1 x Keyboard
- 1 x USB-A to mini USB-B cord.
- 1 x Quick-start guide
- 1 x USB -> PS/2 adapter
- 1 x Key puller tool
- 1 x Red key cap set for WASD.
- 2 x Cooler Master logo key caps for Alt/Win/Fn/Ctrl keys.
There was very little in the box, which explained the small size of the package. Pretty much just the keyboard and the wire, although they do include a set of extra keycaps for W, A, S and D in red, which was a pleasant surprise.
I was a little nervous getting the keyboard out of the box. This is the second iteration of QuickFire Rapid keyboards, and the first iteration, while well received, was mocked for the fact that Cooler Master insisted on plastering their logos everywhere. Upon opening though, I found that they've done a full 180 on that policy, and that except for a small logo on the back, and sticker on the bottom, the keyboard is completely logo-free. This gives it a very cool and functional appearance that I find to be very aesthetically pleasing.
The board itself is silver-grey plastic, with an interesting rubberized finish. It's quite odd to touch, although not unpleasant. I do suspect however that it may prove harder to clean than a standard plastic finish.
The keys are black (or red, if you choose the alternate WASD key caps) with white lettering. The lettering is laser marked, which means it's slightly raised against the key. This should make the keys long lasting, with no worry about the lettering rubbing off.
As far as keyboards go it's pretty basic, no macro functionality, profiles, or any of that kind of thing. For the price though (£70, $80US) you can't really argue since you are getting a full mechanical keyboard. You do get a full set of media keys (play, pause, next, previous, volume up/down/mute), and these are activated by using the 'FN' key in the bottom right. One nice feature that I find myself using quite a lot is the WinKey-Disable button; FN+F9 will disable your Windows key, meaning that you can game without having to worry about hitting the Windows key and being shunted back to the start menu/screen.
It's worth noting that this is a tenkeyless keyboard. This means that there is no numpad, but as a result this allows you to sit and work much more ergonomically by keeping your mouse closer to your right hand (if you're right-handed with your mouse of course). It also makes this keyboard extremely portable, since it's small and will easily fit in a backpack if you travel with your keyboard. I must admit that I miss the numpad, and intend to buy a separate numpad to keep next to my left hand, but the comfort in having your mouse closer to your shoulder is quite noticable in my experience.
I had been looking at getting a mechanical keyboard for quite some time before I picked the Quick Fire Rapid, but there's quite a lot to learn before you jump in. I won't go into a comparison of the various mechanical switches because it's something of a science, and there are good guides available, such as this one at Overclock.net. Personally I opted for the Cherry MX Brown switches, since they're reputed to be a good compromise between gamer switches and typist switches. I find them to be quite nice, they have a tactile response when the switch has been triggered, so I know when the key has been pressed without necessarily having to press the key all the way down. One thing I have noticed is that you can tell when you have UN-triggered the switch meaning you can double-tap a key very quickly.
The keys themselves have a very nice feel to them, and (as I mentioned previously) the lettering is laser marked onto the keys, meaning that the lettering shouldn't come off.
The product comes with some additional key caps. Some generic ones for replacing the Win/Alt/Ctrl keys, and some red arrow keys to replace W, A, S and D for the gamers among us. The product also includes a key puller tool, meaning that you can customise the keyboard to your taste. I only chose to replace the W-key with a red arrow. The key puller itself I found a bit of a pain to use, since the puller would inevitably try to push the key while trying to get a grip on it. In the end I had to stick something underneath the key to get the key-puller tool to grab the key to remove it. Inconvenient, but certainly not a deal-breaker.
The keys that have state (such as scroll lock, the WinKey-disable key, and caps lock), all have embedded lights in them, so you can tell when caps lock is on, or if the windows key is disabled. I found this to be something of a poor design choice since the caps lock in particular is hidden by my little finger, meaning I can't see if I accidentally trigger caps lock until it's too late. I also find that the WinKey-disable key is a bit dazzling if I'm using my PC in the dark. Separate lights along the bottom of the keyboard would have been nicer.
Since this keyboard is quite basic, there's no driver installation required other than what comes included with your operating system. Cooler Master make no mention of whether this keyboard is Linux compatible, they say Windows only, but I assure you that it is fully functional in Linux. The keyboard works equally well over USB and PS/2 (with the use of the included adapter), however I'd recommend using PS/2 over USB since you get faster key responses and N-Key Roll Over with no loss of functionality. It also saves you a USB port if you have PS/2 ports available, which is always a bonus.
The cord provided in the box is simply a USB-A -> Mini USB-B wire, meaning that it's easily replaced if lost or broken. It's braided and certainly feels tough. My biggest complaint with this keyboard is that the connection between the keyboard and the cord feels very flimsy and easily breakable. Lifting the keyboard usually causes the cable to come loose, and inserting the cord into the keyboard feels like you're bending the plug. I'm assured that the port is perfectly capable of tolerating such abuse, but a better method of securing the wire under the keyboard would certainly have been appreciated.
Under the keyboard is a set of three grooves which you can push the cord into, meaning you can have the cord coming out of the left, the top or the right depending on where your workstation is located.
I find this keyboard a delight to use on a daily basis. Cherry MX switches are truly great, and regular rubber dome switches feel spongy and cheap in comparison, even on more expensive keyboards. As with all mechanical keyboards though, it's worth noting that key presses emit a fairly audible *click* when they bottom out, meaning that your work colleagues will likely not be pleased if you buy one for work.
The keyboard feels very comfortable for long typing/gaming sessions too. I feel very little fatigue typing for more than an hour at a time, and I find gaming to be slightly more enjoyable with easier keypresses, although oddly I find myself accidentally hitting caps lock more than I should.
For me, the absence of the number pad is somewhat noticable. I've built up a bit of a muscle memory for punching in IP addresses and such, and using the numbers across the top of the keyboard isn't a great substitute. I don't intend to give up the keyboard though since the comfort in having the mouse closer to my shoulder more than makes up for the lack of numpad. I have instead bought a separate numpad that I intend to keep next to the keyboard for those pesky IP addresses.
In the scale of bangs to bucks, this keyboard can almost not be beaten. It's the only brand name mechanical keyboard I could find in the price range I was looking at, and Cooler Master are undercutting the competition by a third (at the time of writing, the nearest competitor keyboard I could find was £40-£50 more). This not only makes it one of the cheapest mechanicals on the market, but also the best value for money of any keyboard by far.
Functionally, it's not for everyone. Many will miss the lack of number pad and gamer features such as macros and profiles, but for people who spend a lot of their time typing, I think it's worth treating your fingers to a mechanical keyboard.
For people looking to make a break into the world of mechanical keyboards, I definitely recommend this as an entry model.
TOTAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10