Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
After being thoroughly let down with the last keyboard we saw from Cougar (600K), we again step up to the plate to have a look at the last of the series. This time around there should be much less to go wrong, simply based on the fact that we are moving away from Cherry MX switches and the technology and circuitry needed to make such a device function properly, and this time we are venturing into membrane switches. Many readers may turn their heads and scoff at this design, but believe it or not, there are a ton of users out there who just have not accepted the mechanical keyboard bandwagon, or truly have no need for such a keyboard.
For the group that does not feel that the pricing and feel associated with a mechanical keyboard is justified, Cougar was sure to offer an option to take on that share of the market. Now while the 700K is the top of the line for Cougar currently, and the 600K was a similar design, just stripped of a few things that some may not need, this time around we are back to getting all of the things we would associate with a top tier gaming keyboard, with only two major changes. One of course is that there are no mechanical switches in this design as we mentioned, but the other major change is the lack of metal to structurally solidify the device, but that also offers a keyboard that is ultra light and just as functional as the 700K.
This latest of the trio of offerings from Cougar is of course the 500K. While we are not a huge fan of membrane based keyboards as a whole, as we just spend way too much time typing away on keyboards not to look for one that gives us the best custom feel, we do see that devices like this still do have a solid foothold in the market, and just because we do not prefer them over a mechanical keyboard, does not mean that we cannot appreciate the design and feature set of such keyboards. What we really love about this design, is that unlike with our 600K, this 500K membrane switch based keyboard works as intended right out of the box. So with a stellar start to the 500K review, let's dive right in and see just what Cougar is offering with this peripheral.
As the naming in the chart shows, the 500K is indeed a gaming keyboard, and is based on membrane switches. With textured plastic used as the top and bottom frames, and the lack of a steel or aluminum plate in the design, this time we are dealing with a 0.9kg keyboard. Around the outside, you will find the full assortment of keys and a full number pad, Macro keys, lighting keys, multimedia keys, the works, even offering a pass-through USB port at the back. Speaking of the back, this is also where the 1.8 meters of braided cabling comes from to allow the gold plated USB 2.0 connections to be made to the PC.
It also features an ARM Cortex 32-bit MCU to take control of all of the functionality, and is what talks to the PC and keeps the settings from the UIX software system. while they do list specific gaming styles that this keyboard supports, it is just an idea of usage, as this keyboard will also functions just as well with any style of game or work load you can throw at it. The nice thing is that we even still get 1ms response time, repeat rate options, a Windows lockout key, and there are also six additional programmable buttons that sit to the left like we found on the 700K.
While most mechanical keyboards on the market are in the range of $100 or more, and is likely to stop most buyers in their tracks with just that, we are seeing that for a membrane based keyboard, the Cougar 500K is retailing at $89.99. To us that isn't really all that great. Considering the fact that as time goes by, mechanical keyboard pricing tends to drop into this range, it really blurs the line to how far you can push a non-mechanical keyboard price before you are just asking too much. On the flip side of the coin, we have seen others offer keyboards in this range that are not mechanical as well, but even with those we were pretty hard on them about the pricing. We feel if you are going to choose the average route in a gaming keyboard, it should also come with average pricing. With the bar set pretty darn high with just the price point alone, let's see just how well the 500K from Cougar can convince us that it is worthy of said investment.
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