For those of you who never owned or haven't ever used a mechanical keyboard and are quite happy pounding away on muddy keys, maybe it is about time you step away from the pig sty and move into one of the new offerings specifically designed with gamers in mind, while offering Cherry MX switches for a much better feel. With the specific sample we are going to be looking at today and one of the first I have seen to go this far, Cooler Master actually offers this keyboard with four choices of switches depending on the "feel" you want in your mechanical keyboards.
For those that don't use mechanical keyboards, the switch types offer different tactile feels to the way the switch moves. Some switches are linear in feel, that is to say the same pressure applied at the beginning finishes the keystroke, while others have Force Feedback with a stiff spot in the middle of the press that require a bit of extra love to activate. On top of that there are more silent keys like the red switches used in the Corsair products we have seen and on the opposite end are keys that produce that satisfying "clack" when the key completes its travel when pressed. The sample I received today comes equipped with Cherry MX brown switches which have a "bump" in the middle of the stroke where the key registers and isn't a loud "clacker", but still gives that mechanical key click to each press of any and all keys on the keyboard.
The keyboard we are going to be getting in depth within a page or two is the CM Storm QuickFire Pro mechanical gaming keyboard from Cooler Master. This is low man on the totem pole for the Cooler Master mechanical offerings, they introduced three to be exact, but all three have their own style and flavor to set the apart, along with what they offer. In this instance we are going to be looking at a somewhat backlit keyboard with a detachable USB cable and in my instance Cherry MX browns, but even then you have the choice between browns, blues, reds and blacks, just be sure you look at the correct model number when ordering.
That in mind let's see how this version of the CM Storm QuickFire Pro takes on what I have already seen in mechanical keyboards immediately directed towards gamers.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
As you can see right away with the specs chart above there are four models of this keyboard being offered. While it does state there will be some regional dispersal of specific key sets, it shows that the QuickFire Pro can be had with Cherry MX Black, Blue, Brown or Red switches to accommodate for users particular preference to the way the keys react. When I was asked about looking at this keyboard, I don't recall a discussion of the keys, but none the less, the version I received came with Cherry MX Brown switches that have a force feedback "bump" in the travel and have medium resistance to initial pressure.
The keyboard also offers full N-Key Rollover, in basic terms this means if you press multiple keys at the same time, they all register. You also get 1000 Hertz or 1 millisecond polling rate, so there should be no lag between you pressing the key or keys and them registering to the computer. The QuickFire Pro has options on lighting - in one mode you have W, A, S, D, the arrow keys and the CM Storm logo lit. A second mode illuminates twenty-one keys and the space bar, along with the arrow keys and logo. A third mode allows for a breathing mode of the second set of illuminated keys and of course, you can turn them all off as well. The board offers a Windows Lockout under the F12 key and offers multimedia functionality with use of the function lock key.
The QuickFire Pro is a thick keyboard and it elevated a bit more that what I am typically used to for use. The chunky plastic housing is 454mm from left to right; 155mm from front to back and from the desk to the top of the spacebar is 31mm in height and gets slightly taller as you go to the back of the QuickFire Pro. Underneath, near the product sticker is where you can attach the full speed USB 2.0 cable that CM provides. I have read that you should only use this cord as others will not allow full functionality, or you can type, but don't have lights - that sort of issue. You will also find that the board offers three routing choices for this cable to leave your workspace clean and as wire contained as possible.
Looking around I see that pricing is sort of all over the place for the forty or so hits that come up in a Google search. The lowest of the group was a $92.83 listing, while at the other end of the spectrum you can see listings very near $130. Buyers definitely beware when looking for this keyboard; it seems the frugal shopper can save quite a bit of money if you do a bit of comparing. For the purposes of comparing this to the others I have seen, I am going to split the pile and go with a pricing of around $110 as the reference price.
Now that we know what it has in it and how much it is going to set you back to obtain one, let's get into it and have a closer look at things.
The QuickFire Pro is front and center on the front of the packaging. Around it is an electrical storm on a black background where Cooler Master adds their name and the fact that this is a gaming mechanical keyboard.
At the bottom right corner, Cooler Master also makes sure to add a sticker denoting the Cherry MX switches used on the keyboard in the box. Here it states we have brown switches with medium resistance and force feedback in each keys travel.
The left end of the packaging offers the name of the keyboard, the system requirements for the OS and the bar codes and model number.
The top edge of the packaging has a bit of information translated in twenty-one languages that states...
... that this is a Mechanical Gaming Keyboard named the QuickFire Pro and if you need more information go to www.cmstorm.com to obtain anything you may need for this device.
The right end of the packaging explains what the Storm Tactics is about. It's based on Strength, Security and Control. This gives their buyers everything they are looking for in peripherals. Nobody wants a cheap keyboard that can be stolen in an instant and doesn't control your character as you wish while gaming.
On the back you will find the features I covered in the specification to be listed here in nine languages. The right side shows off the removable key caps and use of Cherry MX switches, covers the LED lighting, the Full N-Key Roll Over and the wire management options for the detachable cable.
Opening the top brings us to the inner packaging. The cardboard is folded in the back to house the key puller and cable, while the keyboard is slid in a foam envelope and placed under a plastic cover to protect the investment in transit.
CM Storm QuickFire Pro
Out of the box the QuickFire Pro is sleek with the black on black of the keys and frame of the keyboard and I really like the white and grey logo as it doesn't automatically draw the eyes to it, it's more subtle than the bold red I am used to.
From the table to the spacebar you have 31mm you need to get your wrists accustomed to, it does sit a fair bit taller than most keyboards I see and those similar in height have a wrist rest, which this does not. The left side has five grooves to add design while the right houses another CM Storm logo.
The back of the keyboard stands 45mm from table to the top of the F-keys. This side also carries the groove and logo theme as did the front, but this time there are seven groves followed by another wire management hole on the right of them.
Here is the fan that is tasked with pushing air through the ceramic coated fins. This fan has a black frame and seven blades and the frame holds four white LEDs. This fan is PWM controlled and has a 4-pin connector to plug into the board.
The right side is angled and has the wire management hole just as did the left side of the QuickFire Pro.
Under the keyboard you can see four rubber pads keep the QuickFire Pro in place with optional feet in the back. There is the sticker with the model and serial number on it and just above this is where it has a plug and wire management options for the included cable.
It was tough to get the right angle and still have enough light to show it, but here is where the mini end of the USB 2.0 cable plugs into the QuickFire Pro.
The flip out to use, flip in to store feet will allow users to add an additional 11.5mm to the rear increasing the angle for users that desire their boards to sit a bit taller in the back.
CM Storm QuickFire Pro Continued
On these 74 keys in the layout you get the standard US layout with a special letter A, the windows keys are CM Storm logos, the lighting and multimedia keys are held within the function keys along with the F12 Windows lockout and the spacebar carries the QuickFire name.
Here are the other thirty keys of the 104-Key layout. Along with the logo, arrow keys and the number pad, there is also the ability to change the response time and changing from 6-key to full N-Key roll over.
I am skipping ahead into the hardware so I can pull a few caps to see what is taking care of business under all of these caps.
These are in fact Cherry MX Browns as advertised and something else, unlike the Corsair offerings, this isn't a hybrid of mechanical and rubber dome switches. Each and every key on this board uses a Cherry MX Brown switch.
I also went ahead and plugged in the full speed USB 2.0 cable provided with the keyboard and even did a bit of routing to show why the trails are in the design of the underside.
Since this is a driver-less product, once powered up we get to start playing around. Using the FN-key and the mode button (F4) we got the QuickFire illuminated to its first setting. This is just eight keys and the CM Storm logo that illuminate on this setting.
The second setting kicks off the lightshow with the left third of the keyboard now glowing red and the addition of the spacebar. This has 28 keys lit and allows gamers to find most of not all basic left hand keys in game.
This last shot was to show that when the Caps lock, Number lock and Scroll lock keys are pressed, the white panels at the top right corner also will glow with a red LED to denote if they are in use or not.
Accessories and Documentation
The 1.8 meter, full speed USB 2.0 cable included is braided with cloth to cover the wire and offers a standard USB end for the PC and a mini-USB end for the QuickFire Pro.
For those of you who can't stay out of the bag of Doritos while you are gaming and you get a chunk of the chip caught between the keys; this is when you break out the key puller tool. This simply slides over a key cap and clicks when the legs are locked onto the key, then just lift it to remove the cap and retrieve that bit of corn chip from keeping the key from pressing fully.
The manual comes in quite handy when you first plug in the keyboard and are trying to figure out what works the lighting, multimedia and things like the windows lock out and polling rates. Since this is a driver-less keyboard, keep the manual handy until you are familiar with the keys.
Inside, on the left panel, things like the warranty, advanced functionality, multimedia keys, Windows lock, switching NKRO modes and polling rates. On the right it shows the LED controls for the two modes I showed you, a third mode that allows a "breathing" pulsing of the lights intensity and the ability to change the brightness in four levels when in the first two lighting modes. It then shows which keys are illuminated on the QuickFire Pro in each of the three lit options.
Using the QuickFire Pro mechanical gaming keyboard for a couple of weeks and writing a few reviews with it, I do find myself not hitting multiple keys as much on the CM Storm as I did then, but that also may be attributed to a month or so of me getting used to mechanical keyboards in general. I found the Cherry MX Brown switches do have a better "feel" to them than the red's I started using in my reviews. There is a feel-able "bump" in the key travel midway down. This I think has some bearing on the fact that I am not hitting multiple keys at once. As it takes a bit more force to activate the browns than the reds took and that bump is almost a safety net of sorts, as it takes just a bit more pressure to get the key through the "bump" in its travel to activation.
As far as the rest of the features go, they are cool to have, but some I just don't see the difference unless specifically testing them to see the speed or see how many keys sow up in notepad when I mashed the keys. Having an adjustable polling rate may give you an advantage if you are very fast on the keys. In my experience running through the setting none of them hindered my experience in what I play. The optional roll over is nice, but again I don't try to get more than one, two, or three keys going at once and Control-Alt.-Delete works on any keyboard. This isn't to say there aren't users experiencing issues with these exact features on lesser boards, it's just that this keyboard showed no issues with the low end settings, there isn't really the need to set everything to its highest levels unless you are experiencing specific issues with your usage or gaming on the QuickFire Pro.
The multimedia keys work with most programs by default although you either need to keep the FN lock on all the time or remember to hit it before you try to use them. This brings me to the lighting. I like the simple eight key lighting and I like the advanced lighting of 26 keys. If you are a visual typist, having half of the keys lit in a darkened room almost erases the letters on the other keys as you use it, the contrast is just that bright when the LEDs are at full strength.
As for the aspect of specifically gaming on this keyboard and maybe a little bit of chatting and replies on Facebook, this is a really great option for the $110 average price. In the end I am left wanting a little more though, as I do wish this keyboard had a fully illuminated option.
Considering that every key on the QuickFire Pro is a Cherry MX Brown switch and this is where others saved money for the high-end aluminum top, if lighting isn't a must, you are getting a bit more bang for the buck with the CM Storm QuickFire Pro, as it is a truly mechanical gaming keyboard that has a few extra options in lighting and control without all the mess of adding a driver suite.