Last year I was not so aware how serious Cooler Master, more specifically CM Storm, were about their keyboards. It wasn't until I received the Trigger with Cherry MX green switches that I realized they were taking real strides to innovate and give customers a full gamut of choices when it comes to switch types offered on their keyboards. CM Storm is one of the only manufacturers on the market even offering green switches, let alone the fact that they offer multiple choices on all of their designs as of late. This means that the customer does not have to sacrifice anything with CM Storm choices just to get a keyboard with your particular favorite switch on it; you just order the one that feels best for you.
One of the cooler things I got to see at CES 2013 was in the Cooler Master suite, and is also where I got to meet Carter who is designing these keyboards and trying to make CM Storm one of the top names in mechanical keyboards. In his pursuit to come up with something out of the box without taking it too far, he designed a mechanical keyboard where initially I thought all of the letters, icons, and numbers had been removed, when I saw it at a distance. After asking Carter about it, he then pulled the keyboard out so I could take a closer look. The idea behind this keyboard was to give the purists and elitists something they would be proud to own, while still making something a visual typist could use and just feel cool for having the top of his key caps blanked out, while still having something to go off of to locate where the key is on the keyboard, too.
There are quite a few "hidden features" in the latest submission from CM Storm. Hence the naming of this keyboard, the Quick Fire Stealth. Just like in warfare, this comes all black to sneak up on the enemies - at a quick glance it has nothing to give it away as far as bold lettering that is plainly visible, and just like the plane, with this keyboard, you can order it with whatever switch type serves the job best under the key caps for you.
I say we dive right in and see what these hidden features and all this talk about the blanked out key caps is all about so that you can make the call for yourself whether or not this is one of the coolest keyboards you have ever seen.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
I want to start with what we see in the chart above before I get too far ahead of myself with the features. The Quick Fire Stealth is also known by the SGK-4000-GK, and when ordering you need to pay close attention to the last three characters of that name. If you want Cherry MX red switches, you need the CR2 model, for browns the CM2 model, for greens (hardest to locate) the CG2 model, and for the blue switch model we were sent, you need to look for the CL2 model of this keyboard. The Stealth offers 12 key roll over in USB mode, but if you need full no key roll over, install the PS/2 adapter they send for that capability. There is also something called repeat rate that I will cover very soon that is also only active in PS/2 mode. They also include things like red WASD keys with arrows on them along with a pair of Cooler Master logo caps for the pair of Windows buttons by the spacebar, and the Stealth has a detachable USB cable like the rest of the series has.
The first and most visual feature is that the letters and such have been removed from the top of the plastic key caps. They are now much smaller and on the front side of all of the keys. This does a few things. One it will really impress your friends when they see there is nothing on top of your keys. It also makes it so you will never wear them off. Lastly since this keyboard is designed to give the faster typists a board to take on anything you can do, you are already a touch typist, and since there are still raised bumps on the home keys, it is just as easy to find your starting point, as it is on any other keyboard. Then you have things like the four speed of repeat rate to bind keys in game and make them spam commands faster with the use of the function key and the F1 through F4 buttons. There are also seven multi-media keys tied into the F-keys that allow you to control any media player with them. You have the Windows lock out keys so that you don't accidentally end up on the desktop, and the board offers a Windows keys on both sides of the space bar.
One of the more important facts about the Stealth is that this is a Tenkeyless design, so you don't have the typical number pad. As for lighting, the Stealth is not back lit, but the three red LED lock lights do add just enough light to be cool without being obnoxiously bright. Remember this is for touch typists, so key backlighting isn't needed.
As I look around, I am glad to see that with a smaller mechanical keyboard, you also are going to pay a much smaller price than the typical average of around $120 that many mechanical keyboards. As I look around, I am finding that the best place to buy one currently is direct from Cooler Master. At the CM Store, you will find the offerings listed at $94.99 before shipping is included, and the best I found online was at just more than $86 before shipping was included. I also noticed that most e-tailers are only offering the blue switch version, where as the CM Store has all but the red at the same price.
While the keyboard in design and function may have been designed for the purists and the elite, at least it doesn't come with an astronomical price that is usually present with such words in most products like this.
Just like all the rest of the CM Storm products we see, the Stealth comes in the same black packaging with the use of red accent slashes at the top. Aside from getting your first glance at the key caps on the Stealth in the large image, you can also see that this board was shipped with Cherry MX blue switches.
The small panel on the right offers the Storm Tactics of the CM Storm products. No matter what they are, they need to be strong, secure and give user the control they desire.
The long thin band at the top of the packaging discloses that this is a mechanical keyboard, the Quick Fire Stealth, and if you need more information, you can visit the address given.
The left side of the packaging covers the name of the board on the left, but at the right it shows that this is Windows 8 compatible next to the system requirements. You can also see that this is the SGK-4000-GKCL2-US, so we have the US layout and blue switches.
At the top of the back panel, in red text, you will find the nine features we have already covered so far, now listed at the top. It is then repeated another seven times in various languages using white text for these.
After getting through a security sticker to show the box had not been tampered with since it was packed, I was able to open to top to look at the packaging. Of course this whole thing is shipped inside of a larger box to your door, but the keyboard is surrounded in a thin layer of foam for added protection, along with tucking the cable and extra goodies under the cardboard at the back, so that they don't have a chance of damaging the keyboard.
CM Storm Quick Fire Stealth Mechanical Keyboard
Fresh out of the box you can see the so called phantom key caps on the Stealth keyboard. Not one of the key caps has anything on top, and from a fair distance it appears there is nothing there at all either. It isn't until you get closer that you notice the much smaller letters and symbols painted on the front of the caps.
You can see the layout is completely typical, just where you read each key is moved. You can also see a place where an LED will light up when the caps lock keys is activated.
The right side of this Tenkeyless keyboard stops with just the eighty seven key layout. There are no fancy gaming keys, Macro buttons, or even a number pad, pure, sleek, and stealthy is the name of the game here.
I removed the WASD keys and both the sticker and the model number on the box were correct. We do in fact have a full set of Cherry MX blue switches under each keycap. With these you will have the tactile feedback, you will get a click when they are pressed, and these require 50 grams of force to operate.
With the rear legs still folded in, you can see the Stealth does have a natural inclination of the keys as you go toward the back of the keyboard. Also the top half of the keyboard wraps all the way to the bottom and leaves no visible split around the edges.
Across the back of the keyboard all you will see is a raised section in the middle at the bottom of the keyboard to allow a cable to go through it and of course the CM Storm and logo painted on the right side.
When you raise the legs on the Stealth, you are given another 1/2" of height in the back and raises what was at a ten degree angle to now having a 15 degree angle of attack on the key caps.
Quick Fire Stealth Continued
Looking under the keyboard, you can see there are no screws holding it together. Instead the top half clips into the bottom half as they both tightly surround the PCB and steel plate inside. You can also see at the top edge of the bottom, you have to option for a bit of wire management for the cable that attaches to the keyboard just above the sticker.
On each side of the Stealth you have the option to set the keyboard on the rubber pads, four in total. If you do want to raise the back of the keyboard for a more ergonomic feel to the keyboard, you simply flip the feet out of the lowered compartments, and they will give you what you are looking for.
Since the keyboard has a detachable cable that comes with it, I figured I should show where it attaches. Right near the sticker in the large opening you can see there is a mini-USB port to accept the cable. Then you have three choices of how to route the cable so the board will sit flat on your desk.
As you can see, for the testing PC near my photo booth, it sits off to the right of the table. This is why I ran the cable to the left, so when I flip it over the wire is already pointing to my PC. In any case, this will help make the cord more manageable for your specific needs.
There are also six extra key caps sent along with the Stealth that lends color, arrows, as well as a couple of Cooler Master logos sitting on what were the Windows keys.
After powering up the Stealth, since there is no software to confuse you or mess with the layout, and the lack of backlighting in this model, the only bit if flash aside from the key caps is found in the Caps Lock, The F9 Windows Lock key and on the Scroll Lock key to denote if they are on or not.
Accessories and Documentation
Tucked in the back of the box you will find a few things. One of them is the near two meter braided cable that is gold plated on both ends, and uses a USB connection to plug into the PC and the mini-USB to plug into the bottom of the Stealth.
You also are given a USB to PS/2 adapter to take advantage of the full NKRO support versus the standard 12 KRO in USB usage. If you want to use the On-The-Fly Repeat Rate buttons, you will also need this adapter for it to function. The other piece setting there is a key puller to help you swap out extra key caps.
Speaking of those extra key caps, you are sent a red WASD key replacement set with both the letter and the arrow being painted on the plastic cap. This is the same story for the pair of Cooler Master caps, they are painted on the cap as well.
There is some paperwork to help you find your way around the keyboard. In this section CM covers the layout of the key features. You are pointed to the Repeat Rate keys, the multi-media keys, Windows lock key, the pair of Windows keys, and of course the location of the Function key to work most of these features.
Along with the specifications, package contents, warranty information and tech support information, there is also a little bit of product placement advertising at the bottom showing off the Recon mouse and Sonuz headset you may not already own.
You also have the nine features that were listed on the back of the box, again listed in the paperwork. This covers everything from the switches used all the way down the list to the removable braided cable we just took a look at.
On the back of this fold out pamphlet you will find most of the warranty information and what the warranty will or will not protect against. I will say this about the construction, I have seen the YouTube video of CM Storm's Carter running these over with cars and trucks, so unless you do something drastically wrong of get some sort of component failures, if you can run them over and have them work, I think they will do just fine on your desk.
This is my first test with a Tenkeyless keyboard, and I have to say that the Quick Fire Stealth has really sold me on the setup. I rarely, if ever, use the number pad anyway, so not having that extra three inches or so of keyboard is very nice for me. I tend to type on my lap, and I am always running the right edge of my trigger into my desk, with the much shorter width of the Stealth, it just fits so much nicer and leaves room to do other things around it. For those using this on a desk, think about when you are gaming, you can now have more room to mouse on the side of the keyboard as well as saving desk space. While the blue Cherry MX switches aren't my personal choice, they aren't that far from the greens and I still got the tactile feel and satisfying click, it just takes less pressure to use the blues.
With facts like the numbers and letters moved to the front of the key caps, the fact that they send along a PS/2 adapter, and that you need that adapter for full NKRO support, you can tell this keyboard is designed for those who can really put the words out when typing with a fair amount of speed. If you have issues with surpassing the abilities of 12 KRO support, you are just a blur of finger while typing. This leads me to believe that unless you are buying this keyboard just because it is strange and will make your friends do a double take, and that is okay too, this keyboard is truly made for those purists out there who aren't going to be spending much time looking at the keyboard, except just to gauge where it is on the desk before you have at it. I for one am a bit of both. While I can go pretty good without looking at the keyboard, I am one who appreciated the tiny symbols on the keys I don't use as often to make sure I wasn't searching completely blind.
No matter how you see the Quick Fire Stealth, it is going to be a huge hit. Think about it like this. You have all of the basics needed, mechanical keys, key cap legends that won't wear off, at least on the stock key caps, it is Tenkeyless and saves room, and you have to admit it, the keyboard does look badass. Now add in the fact that there isn't any software to get in the way, no additional gamer keys, no profiles, just the purist form of typing bliss.
Considering then that the price of the Quick Fire Stealth is only $84.99 currently at the time of writing, and offers quite a bit for the money, you would be almost silly to pass this up if you are in the market for an affordable mechanical keyboard that gets the job done simply and with style.
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