CM Storm QuickFire TK mechanical keyboard review
The keyboard features a braided, detachable USB cable with a length of 1.8 meters and the USB connector is gold plated.
The USB cable isn't only detachable but also allows for some cable management. The rear of the keyboard has a vertical and a horizontal groove, enabling you to route the cable via the top, left, or right side of the keyboard. We also see four rubber pads to prevent slipping on your desk and two feet if you like to elevate the keyboard to improve your ergonomy.
The QuickFire TK is a keyboard without too many bell and whistles, it has a very compact layout and unlike many other (much larger) keyboards it doesn't have any extra keys. The function keys all have a second functionality, which is accessed by simultaneously pushing the Fn (function) key, just like on a laptop keyboard. The second functionality of the ESC key enables you to switch between 6KRO (6-key rollover) and Full NKRO (n-key rollover) but oddly enough the included manual does not explain how you activate this. Fortunately, the user guide on Cooler Master's website is more detailed and explains that you need to press the N key plus the ESC key to activate NKRO.
N-key rollover means each key on a keyboard is registered individually, each key press will be detected no matter how many keys you are holding down, while 6KRO means the operating system will register any combination of up to six keys plus modifier keys (like Shift, CTRL, ALT). In the past NKRO was only possible via PS/2, but these days several firms (including Cooler Master) offer USB keyboards with NKRO. The feature is disabled by default though, because NKRO mode is not supported on Macs and may prevent some PCs from booting.
The first four Function keys let you adjust the keyboard's backlight. Pressing the FN key plus the F1 key lets you switch the LEDs on/off, the F2 and F3 keys are used to turn the brightness down or up, and the F4 key lets you adjust the LED mode. The keyboard offers three light effects: Gaming Cluster (W, A, S, D and Fn key are illuminated, plus arrow keys if num lock is off), Full LED Backlight and Full LED Backlight with breathing effect.
The Function keys from F5 to F11 can be used to control your media player, and the F12 key lets you disable the Windows key so you don't get kicked out of a gaming session by accident. Another function that isn't explained in the included product manual is that by holding the FN key for three seconds you can lock it in an always-on state. Pressing FN for three seconds again will restore the F1-F12 keys to their default functions.
On the picture below you can see a closeup of the numpad. The Num Lock key lets you toggle between the regular numpad functionality and the navigation/editing keys. The upper right corner of the keyboard features a small CM Storm logo as well as three red LED indicators to indicate the Num Lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock state. You can also see that this keyboard has a "double zero" key, I have rarely seen a keyboard with such a key and I have no idea why Cooler Master decided to implement this key on a gaming keyboard.
The keyboard has a quite normal angle for a desktop keyboard. You can use the keyboard's feet to create a more sloped angle, if that is what you want.
The included key cap puller provides an easy way to remove key caps. No interchangeable keys are included so this is primarily intended to help you clean your motherboard. Like most keyboards the keys have a cylindrical shape. They're made from ABS plastic, they're laser-etched and feature a matt, grip coated finish.
And here's a closeup of the Cherry MX Red mechanical switch and the keyboard's steel plate, which has a corresponding color. The steel plate gives the keyboard a more durable feel, there's no bending or whatsoever on this keyboard, the build quality feels really good. In the picture you can also see the LED that's located on top of every Cherry MX switch.
The Cherry MX switches are rated for 50 million keystrokes, each switch consists of a spring and two metal contacts that are gold plated to prevent corrosion. When you press a key, the plastic stem of the Cherry MX goes down, which makes a steel spring close the switch to signal the computer that a key has been pressed. The QuickFire TK is available in three different variants; with Cherry MX Red, Cherry MX Blue and Cherry MX Brown switches. Which one you'll like will depend on personal preference, and it may even vary depending on the tasks you're doing, some switches may be better for gaming while others are more comfortable for typing.
The Cherry MX Red has a low actuation force, it's a linear switch that feels the same from when you start pressing it until you bottom out. Because the actuation and release point are at the same position, these switches do not have a tactile feedback. The Cherry MX Brown is a light tactile switch, it has a soft, tactile bump about halfway through the key press, but no clicky sound. The Cherry MX Blue switches have the highest actuation force, they provide a tactile bump plus an audible click when the actuation point is hit around halfway down. For a more detailed comparison between these switches, including GIFs that illustrate how the different switches work, I suggest you head over to the Mechanical Keyboard Guide at Overclock.net.
Added: December 16th 2012
Product reviewed: CM Storm QuickFire TK mechanical keyboard
Reviewer: Thomas De Maesschalck