Back in October, we saw the announcement of Cooler Master’s first mechanical keyboard, the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid. After waiting months for it to arrive in America, I was finally able to purchase one for review and my personal use. So today we’re looking at the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid keyboard, namely the Cherry MX Red switch model.
PACKAGING AND SPECIFICATIONS
This switch model appeals to gamers since it has no tactile bump or click, and low actuation force for faster double tapping and easier response. For more information on mechanical keyboards, see this guide. But to put it in a nutshell, the main benefits to a mechanical keyboard are a much better feel. Normal keyboards have a mushy feel and quite simply, once you use a mechanical keyboard, you won’t want to turn back. Mechanical switches are also far more reliable and there is a large variety of them with a different feel for each. They also reduce fatigue, as the actuation point is not all the way at the bottom. Now lets take a closer look at the keyboard itself.
- Model Number: SGK-4000-GKCR1
- Key Switch: CHERRY Red
- N Key Rollover: N key in PS/2 mode
- Polling Rate: 1000 Hz / 1 ms
- Interface: USB / PS/2
- Extra Keys: 6 pcs
- Keycap Puller: Yes
- USB Cable: Removable
- Dimensions: 355(L) x 135(W) x 35(H) mm
- Weight: 940g / 2.1 lbs
- MSRP: $89.99 (red switch model)
Notice how the QuickFire Rapid comes with both USB and PS2 interface compatibility. Excellent! This reminds me of their Sirus headset which comes with both 3.5mm jacks and USB cables. Cooler Master really knows about versatility and I’m glad that they continued the trend. PS/2 is superior to USB for a few reasons: the first being that it supports NKRO or N key as listed above, which allows all keys to be pressed at once and they’ll all go through. In USB mode, you only have 6KRO or 6 key rollover (with this particular model at least, I’ve seen some USB keyboards have around 20KRO). It also has a detachable USB cable (mini-USB on the keyboard, full size or PS/2 on the other end). PS/2 interface also can’t be delayed due to other devices.
Six extra keys come with the keyboard as well as a keycap puller which comes in handy especially for cleaning. The dimensions indicate this is a compact keyboard, and this is because of the omission of a numberpad. This is a wise choice for a gaming keyboard, and if you want one with a numberpad, you should wait for the upcoming QuickFire Pro or Trigger. Despite the compact size, the weight is quite high. In fact, it is much heavier than the Logitech G11 its replacing which is much larger. The MSRP is lower than most mechanical keyboards due to the lack of a numberpad. I found one very similar Leopold for the same price – it too has a detachable USB cable, no numberpad, PS/2 and USB support, and Cherry MX Red switches. However, that Leopold doesn’t come with the extra keys, keycap puller, or one particular feature I love about the QuickFire Rapid which you’ll see later.
Inside you’ll find the keyboard inside of a foam bag (removed in this picture), and accessories.
A user’s guide is included.
The accessories include six extra keys – red arrow keys to replace the WASD keys, further appealing to gamers, as well as two Cooler Master keys to replace the default CTRL keys, and a keycap puller.
So that pretty much wraps up this section. The packaging alone bears no surprises, but I love the six spare keys and keypuller. These things would normally drive the cost up even more, but you get them with a mechanical keyboard that costs less than the majority of its competition. Time to move on to the more interesting stuff.
Now we’ll be taking a closer look at the keyboard itself. Upon removing it from the packaging, the hefty weight becomes evident. It is far heavier than any generic keyboard and has “Quality” written all over it. By the way, this keyboard is OEM by Costar, a brand known for their high quality mechanical keyboards. The feel of the QuickFire Rapid is distinctive as it has a rubber coating over the durable, thick plastic body.
I just love the font on the keys, don’t you? I’ve never seen it before and it gives it even more of a unique appearance. They’re laser etched, by the way. Although the font is nice, they’re only ABS keycaps and combined with the Costar stabilizers, they wiggle around a little bit. Costar stabilizers don’t alter the feel of the switch like Cherry ones, but Cherry stabilizers are more stable and make it easier to remove the bigger keycaps such as shift, enter, and spacebar. I would have preferred to see PBT keycaps nonetheless. The red outline underneath the keys is easily visible and adds to the awesome look. It continues the red and black theme – something that CM Storm is known for since the Storm Scout chassis, most of their mice, and their Sirus headset.
You’ll find CM Storm branding on a few areas of the keyboard itself, as well as on the Windows keys (rather than a Windows logo we have a CM Storm logo) and the spacebar which reads QUICK FIRE. I’ve seen some people complain about this, but I rather like it. But like it or not, it doesn’t affect how the keyboard feels or performs.
On the back of the keyboard you’ll a mini-USB port for the detachable USB cable (which can and should be used with the PS/2 adapter). The cable has excellent and complete sleeving – nearly identical to their mice and Sirus headphones. There is also a pair of foldable stands used to tilt the keyboard. There are a total of six feet – the foldable ones, one next to each of those, and two more on the opposite side. The non foldable ones are rubberized.
Here is a shot of the included keycap puller. To use it, simply place it around the key like so. Once you hear it snap into place, hold the keyboard down with one hand and then lift the keycap puller with the other.
The result is exposure of the Cherry MX Red mechanical switch. Each one of these is plate mounted and uses Costar stabilizers.
Here is an overhead shot of the keyboard with the WASD keycaps replaced with the included replacements, as well as the CTRL keys replaced by the included Cooler Master keys. I also turned on CAPS LOCK and SCROLL LOCK to show you how they light up when enabled. Unfortunately, there is no backlight on the keyboard. The F5 to F12 keys function as multimedia keys. To use them, hold FN and just press them. The multimedia function will activate instead of the F key function.
Here’s another shot of the keyboard. A cool feature on the QuickFire Rapid is that you can enable a “Game mode” which locks the Windows keys. This is useful since normally, when in a game, pressing the Windows keys (accidentally) will exit your game. With the windows keys lock, they don’t function and won’t interrupt your game. To enable it, simply hold that FN key for a second or two, then press F9 at the same time and release both keys. The F9 key will then light up like the CAPS LOCK and SCROLL LOCK keys, signaling that the Windows keys are now locked. One thing I dislike, which nearly every keyboard has, is how the keys sit in grooves, allowing dust to build up around the keys and making it harder to clean.
So upon first look of the Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Rapid, I have mostly positive impressions. The weight and the feel of the keyboard is absolute top quality. I love the rubber-coated finish as well as the unique font, and just overall styling aspects. The Windows key lock is a very useful feature, as is the detachable USB cable with PS/2 adapter. However I keep wishing there was a backlight. For this particular model, a red backlight would be perfect. At least it substitutes for this with the red paintjob underneath the keys. I’d also like to see the keys elevated so they no longer sit in grooves, which just catch dust and make it harder to clean. PBT keycaps would have been nice as well. Nevertheless things are looking mostly positive for the QuickFire Rapid. Lets get on to the performance now.
The CM Storm QuickFire Rapid uses Cherry MX Red mechanical switches which have a low actuation force, and no tactile bump or click. This may be best for gamers, who need a fast response and don’t need a tactile bump/click. These switches are nearly identical to Cherry MX Black switches, except black require more force to actuate.
Mechanical switches are louder if you bottom out, but once again, mechanical switches don’t have to bottom out in order to activate. This is the benefit of the tactile bump/click of other switches – they let you know that you hit the actuation point (which is about half way down to the bottom on most or all mechanical switches), so they let you know when you can let go. Once again Cherry MX Red switches, which this particular model uses, lacks this since most gamers don’t want that feel as it might get in the way, and gamers usually bottom out anyway. If you type without bottoming out, then these red switches are silent and even quieter than normal keyboards.
So for the performance tests, I did a word per minute (WPM) test using this website. Now I don’t type a whole lot – I got this keyboard for gaming since that’s what I do most with my computer. For these tests, I did three different word per minute tests (each one has different text) and took the average of them. With the Logitech G11, my average was about 88 WPM, scoring 88 on the first, 91 second, and 84 on the third and a maximum of 8 errors. With the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid, I scored an average of 99 WPM, scoring 98 on the first test, 93 on the second, and 106 on the last with a maximum of 3 errors. So that’s a difference of 11 WPM which is very good, but increasing WPM probably isn’t why people buy a Cherry MX Red switch keyboard.
I did some gaming tests as well, playing a while in the original Turok game (an FPS with platforming elements), Serious Sam 3: BFE, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, and even Battlefield 3. While playing all of these, the far superior feel of pressing the keys becomes evident once again. Mechanical keys are linear so pressing keys gives a more precise feel. I used Battlefield 3 just for the Quick Time Events, and I can double tap much faster with the mechanical switches. The low activation force also helps with platforming in Turok which requires constant jumping.
The bottom line is, there is no comparison between regular keyboards and mechanical keyboards. The feel is totally different and I actually hate typing on regular ones. They just feel so mushy, cheap, and give a less positive response. Whether you’re gaming or typing, you use your keyboard a lot so I don’t mind paying extra for a keyboard that feels and functions much better.
The Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Rapid is listed as a gaming keyboard, and for that it does the job perfectly. The lack of a numberpad is a bonus for gamers in my book – numberpad just gets in the way and now I have more space for a larger mousepad and a joystick. This is the first mechanical keyboard I’ve owned, and while I have experience with the old mechanical IBM keyboards (Buckling spring switches I believe), but these Cherry MX Red switches are something else. The low actuation force and lack of a tactile bump/click makes them a great choice for gamers. On top of that, the QuickFire Rapid has great styling even though the lack of a backlight disappoints me, but the price is hard to beat for a mechanical keyboard. Time to score the product, with 5 being the highest in the subcategories and 100 being the highest overall score.
- Appearance: The QuickFire Rapid has a black and red theme going on, which matches other CM Storm peripherals and also indicates that it uses Cherry MX Red switches. The finish is appealing and fitting, and the font on the keys is excellent. No backlight will hurt the score, same for the gaudiness of the font choice and perhaps excessive branding. 16/20
- Construction: Everything about the board construction is excellent. It has a very hefty feel and is quite heavy for a keyboard (especially a small one), a nice rubber coating on the surface, and of course Cherry MX Red mechanical switches. Cable sleeving is perfect and the included stands do the job just fine. I’m not a fan of having the keys sit in grooves, but nearly every keyboard has that issue. The ABS keycaps are quite bottom of the barrel, so points are coming off for this. 16/20
- Performance: There isn’t much performance to a keyboard to be honest. Since this one uses mechanical switches, it causes less fatigue and gives more positive feedback. My WPM went up by 11, I’ll make even less mistakes in games, and double tap much faster. 20/20
- Functionality: The QuickFire Rapid has no programmable keys, as the price would suggest, but it has the Windows key lock, detachable USB cable, PS/2 adapter, multimedia keys, and the included keycap puller and key replacements. No complaints really. 20/20
- Value: At $89.99, the QuickFire Rapid red switch model costs $10 more than the blue switch model because the Cherry MX Red switches are harder to find as far as I understand. Compared to its competitors on elitekeyboards and newegg, it is $10 less than the aforementioned Leopold keyboard at this moment, and the difference is even greater between the QuickFire Rapid and other mechanical keyboards. The QuickFire Rapid is a leader in mechanical keyboard value. 20/20
- Overall: 92/100