As much as gamers like to show off their big, clunky, and brightly-lit hardware at LAN parties, carrying around all that cumbersome gear can be a bit tiring. With that in mind, Cooler Master has developed a mechanical keyboard that sports a very compact form factor without compromising too much on features.
Design and build quality
Cooler Master has gone with a very clean look for the Quick Fire TK – indeed it looks like a big black brick until you plug it in, when all the backlit keys bring it to life. While it’s narrow enough to fit in almost any desktop space, it’s still a heavy, solid board that sits quite high off the table, even without the extended feet.
The quality definitely seems to be there; the board feels extremely sturdy and well put together, and the keys feel like they can shrug off any amount of extended hammering.
The keyboard’s design is unique in that it boasts a tenkeyless form factor while still having a full Numpad. Cooler Master has squeezed a lot of versatility out of its Numpad keys – with Num Lock enabled it works as you’d expect, but once you toggle that off the numbers become your directional, Home, End, Insert, Delete, Pause, Print Screen and Page Up and Down keys. This design mostly works, but I did find myself getting annoyed now and then when I tried to delete some text or bring up task manager and I started typing numbers instead.
Along the bottom you’ll find two plastic flip-feet, as well as four rubber feet to prevent the board slipping around. In the centre is a hollow for the input cable, as well as grooves to the left, right and straight up to thread the cable through. The cable is braided and the USB connectors gold-plated, another indication of solid build quality.
Along the top you’ll find the F-keys, which double as multimedia keys with the help of a single Fn (Function) key. F1-F4 are used to adjust the keyboard’s backlighting, while the rest are used to used for music playback and volume control.
One thing gaming enthusiasts may be disappointed by is the lack of macro or programmable keys; presumably the small form factor of the Quick Fire didn’t allow for those to be included.
The keys are mechanical, with your choice of Cherry MX Brown, Blue, or Red switches. The backlighting of the keys matches the colour of the switches (with the exception of Brown, which glows a cool white).
This back-lighting is adjustable; in addition to five levels of brightness you can choose to have it fully illuminated, “breathing”, or highlight the WASD cluster (for FPS gaming).
Mechanical switches are somewhat down to personal taste, but they are of better quality and will last longer than typical membrane switches. They also give a much better tactile response, and lack that “squidgy” feel you sometimes get with cheaper membrane switches. Getting the full choice of three different switches means you can settle for the type of feedback and actuation force you feel most comfortable with – I’d recommend trying out the options before making a decision.
Another thing you can fiddle with is the number of keys that can be pressed simultaneously, from 6KRO (six keys pressed simultaneously) to NKRO (any number of keys). This is something MMO players can get behind, but the WASD highlighting and lack of macro keys make this feel more like an FPS player’s board.
The Quickfire is priced at a recommended R1,249, which might seem a little steep for a compact board such as this. While it admittedly is somewhat lacking in features such as macro keys (which may turn off MMO players), its mechanical switches are a dream to type on and the build quality is excellent.
The setup of the keys can be a bit awkward sometimes, but as a hybrid between a high-end gaming keyboard and something that’s portable enough to slide into a laptop bag, Cooler Master have nailed it. The QuickFire TK does everything it says it does, and if you’re someone who values this kind of portability highly, you’ll love it.