CM Storm QuickFire Rapid Mechanical Keyboard - Singapore Review

The CM Storm QuickFire Rapid is a mechanical keyboard from CoolerMaster. I recently bought this from Amazon for $90 SGD and shipped it to Singapore (read about buying from Amazon here). The CM Storm keyboard is made by the company that is famous for heatsink fans and computer casing. I am about to find out if their keyboard has the same quality as its other products.


Product Range

The keyboard that I have is from the QuickFire series. Just for the QuickFire range, there are so many variants, a newcomer can get lost when choosing the right one for the first time. You can find one that meets your needs and budget if you follows these steps. First, decide if you need a number keypad. Keyboards without the keypad are known as tenkeyless. They are in shorter in length so your hands do not have to travel further to reach the mouse. I went for the tenkeyless version for this reason and also to keep the keyboard compact. I do miss the number pad. The tenkeyless are usually cheaper than their full-bodied brothers because of the lesser number of keys. In the QuickFire, Rapid is tenkeyless and XT is the full keyboard.

Rapid is the tenkeyless version. Measurement: Length 35.5cm x Breadth 13.5cm
Next, you can choose whether you want the letters to be etched on top of the keys, etched on the side of the keys or you can go pro: no letters etching. For example, the QuickFire Stealth has letters etched on the front of the keys. The QuickFire Rapid has futuristic fonts laser-etched on top of the key using laser. You can feel the letters on the keycaps when rub your fingers over them.

Connecting the QuickFire Rapid

Inside the QuickFire Rapid box, there is the keyboard, a braided USB cable, a USB to PS/2 converter, a replacement set of keys and as key puller. The replacement keys include four red up, down, left, right keys and two CoolMaster branded keys. I think the CoolerMaster keys are meant to replace the WIN keys. I was impressed with the braided USB cable because it is the first time I have seen one. Also, the ends of the cable are gold-plated. By having the cable separate from the keyboard, it means you can replace the cable if it gets damaged or if you want to use a shorter or longer cable than the one provided. Plugging the cable into the keyboard, you can choose to route the cable through the sides or the front. This is an innovative design: by routing through the side, you create less tension at the point of connectivity and you expose less of the cable. On the other end of the cable, you can choose between USB and PS/2 connectivity (plug in the converter). This is a no-brainer. Always go for PS/2 where your computer supports it - PS/2 is interrupt-based and supports NKRO.

Detachable braided USB cable running to the right side. Clips to raise the back of the keyboard.

Build Quality

This keyboard is damn heavy and weighs a little shy of 1kg. They must have put weights in it. My hands could not get use to its weight when I took it out of the box. Is this a keyboard? The wired and wireless keyboards that I am accustomed to using for the last 20 years of my life is only 300 to 400g. Apart from the weight, the structure of the keyboard feels very stiff. You can press down hard on the keys and the board will not flex and creak. You have heard those horror stories of traders throwing keyboards at IT support staffs. You definitely do not want to try that unless you are out to kill. This keyboard is a weapon. The surface of the board is rubberised plastic and feels powdery smooth to touch. There is no plasticky feel of those $20 keyboards. The model of the keyboard I received only has a logo on the front of the keyboard and it is out of sight. Looking at the top of the keyboard, it is very plain and I love it. CoolerMaster has given a premium touch to this device.


Typing Experience

The typing experience is the main point of going mechanical. The switch that I have chosen is the Cherry MX Brown and I am typing on this at this very moment. The bump during actuation can hardly be felt. To me, it feels like a linear switch. I'm a heavy typist and this is the first time I am using using a mechanical keyboard. The keys have a lot more depth than those rubber-domed ones. When the key bottoms out, there is a hollow feeling and sound to it. Although the cherry mx brown does not have the clicky sound, the sound that is coming from bottoming the key (where the key meets switch) is loud enough to be irritating. It is louder than my wireless Microsoft keyboard. If you have a partner that is sleeping in the room, the mechanical keyboard is not a keyboard that you want to use.


The keyboard height caught me by surprise. It is two times higher than the normal keyboards. I experience wrist fatigue when typing on it. Right now, I am searching for a comfortable wrist pad that will lessen the fatigue from typing. There are three keys that has red LED lights when activated. The Caps Lock, Scroll Lock and Win Lock. When you activate the Win Lock, it disables the Win key and it is meant to prevent Windows keypress during gameplay and minimising your game. This is truly innovative and it is the first time I have come across on a keyboard. Also, the FN keys activates the secondary mode of the Functions keys, giving you media functions: pause, stop, reverse, forward, mute, increase volume, decrease volume.

* Update 5 Dec 2013: After two months, I do not feel as much fatigue from typing now. However, if you want raised cushion for typing, the size 14 wrist pad from Grifiti matches this keyboard length exactly.

Grifiti Fat Wrist Pad 14 (4 X 14 X 0.75 Inch)

Installing O-Ring on the keycaps to reduce sound and impact

After using the keyboard for two months, I decided to get rid of the "tack" noise as the keycap hit the switch. I bought these rubber o-rings (pack of 125) after measuring my key caps. For only USD$8, I highly recommend that you get them together with the keyboard. The dimensions are as follows: 7/32" Inner Diameter (ID), 11/32" Out Diameter (OD) and 1/16" Width. The hardness of the rubber is measured using the durometer scale: I use one with a value of 50A, the higher the number the harder the rubber.


I removed the normal keys using the key cap puller provided with my keyboard. For the larger keys like space bar, cap locks, back space and enter, I followed the instruction from this step by step image guide. The key here is to be very gentle or you will break the plastic hook. Use a strong piece of metal (like a ear digger) to push the metal wire away from the plastic hook. I use two o-rings for the backspace and enter keys because they are subjected to harder hits from me. For all other keys, I used one o-ring only. Apart from using rubber o-rings, I learnt from my friend that you can also use felt to dampen the sound.

After installing the o-ring, I love my mechanical keyboard even more. The sound is softer and there is no jarring impact when the keycap hits the enter of the switch. Also, I'm practising to type where I only half-press the keys so that my typing is faster.

Conclusion

To me, using the mechanical keyboard may be like riding a fixie for the first time. You don't know how good it feels until you get used to it. And then you never want to go back to the old ways afterwards.


Buy from Amazon.com:
CM Storm QuickFire Rapid - Compact Mechanical Gaming Keyboard with CHERRY MX BROWN Switches
009 Buna-N O-Ring, 50A Durometer, Round, Black, 7/32" ID, 11/32" OD, 1/16" Width (Pack of 125)
You should try these too:
Logitech Wireless Marathon Mouse M705 with 3-Year Battery Life - I bought this mouse 5 years ago and the battery just won't die. It is sturdy for everyday use and even saw me through thick and thin in my Battlefield 3 games.
SteelSeries 4HD Professional Gaming Mouse Pad (Black) - I just got this recently and it's a joy to glide the M705 around.