CM Storm QuickFire TK Keyboard Review

BluePanda - 2011-11-23 13:49:14 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: December 6, 2012
Price: $99.99

Introduction:

Clicky clacky, clicky clacky, another mechanical keyboard has arrived at my desk for review. Cooler Master has added yet another member to the QuickFire lineup – the CM Storm Quickfire TK. It's a shortened up version of the Pro with a more compact layout to fit where ever you may go with it. The TK comes in three Cherry MX switches so you can pick exactly what "click" you want: red, blue, or brown. Each switch does ultimately decide what the exterior of your keyboard looks like as well – red switches come with red LED keys, blue with blue LEDs, and brown with white LEDs. A steelplate insert behind the keys also comes in those respective colors. Ultimately either your choice in appearance will choose your key type, or your choice in key type will choose your appearance.

Cooler Master gave me my choice – and the Blue in BluePanda won out. Not only did I want the blue appearance, but I did also want the blue switches. I've used both the Cherry MX reds and browns in the past but haven't yet had the opportunity to try out blues. Today that changes. For those of you who don't know much about the different mechanical switches I'll give you a brief run-down (though I do recommend some Googling to get some pictures on how the switches work). Cherry MX Red switches aren't the most loved switch as they are linear in motion, requiring less force to actuate, but easier to make typing errors with. Browns are light tactile switches – they split the field between typing and gaming. You can double tap fast and still feel the click while typing to avoid errors. Blues, what I'm trying out today, are known as the "Clicky" switch, literally because they have a clicky bump when the activation point of the switch is reached. The only down side is that the switch must fully return to be pressed again – making double tapping a little more of a challenge. It's really up to you what you want in a key. There are companies out there you can purchase sample kits from to really get a feel for what is best for you.

Back on track with the CM Storm QuickFire TK, it's about time we get looking at what this keyboard has to offer. We know it's smaller than your typical keyboard sporting the "Serious Firepower in a Compact Size" slogan, however, it still has media keys as well as a full number pad. How this all works out – well, I guess you'll have to do some reading…

 

 

Closer Look:

The CM Storm QuikFire TK got here just a little after the release date and thus lacked the actual packaging. So, instead of the usual box pictures, you get a little relief this time with me not talking all about the packaging. Instead, the keyboard came in a simple cardboard keyboard box with some numbers and letters written on the outside. The box opens up and the keyboard is safely inside with a foam bag wrapped around it to keep it warm.

 

 

Now, if you buy one, you'll get a typical flashy Cooler Master CM Storm box much like the one shown below. These pictures are courtesy of Cooler Master and show off what you will see in stores or on your door step. However, after playing with the keyboard – I must say the box is a bit misleading with the coloring on the keyboard. The box shows the keyboard with blue keys – but red lights for the toggled NUMLK , etc. The real keyboard actually sports blue all the way - Photoshop oops?

 

 

Moving right along, pulling everything out of the box you have a keyboard, a cable for your keyboard, and a key puller (I'm assuming you'll have a quick start guide with the normal packaging as well). Right away you can see the blue steelplate peeking through from behind the keys. This keyboard looks pretty sweet even without any lighting turned on; the keys are also very readable with no lighting, unlike some lighted keyboards that can only be read when lit up.

 

Focusing on the keyboard alone, it doesn't really look too different from a normal keyboard or too small without something else for scale. However, look again and you'll notice the arrow keys and INS, END, HOME, PGUP, PGDWN, and DEL keys hanging out with the numbers. The NUMLK key actually toggles when these keys can be used, and when the number keys can be used. You get one or the other – not both. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I'm guessing it isn't something I can't get used to…

The back of the keyboard, as expected, isn't too complicated. There's a big sticker on the back with a S/N for ownership and some quick labeling to tell you it’s a CM Storm QuickFire TK. There are rubber grips on all four corners to help keep your keys under your finger tips and two rear feet to give those of you who prefer a higher angle a lift. You can also see the grooved channel to allow your cable to be routed best for your desk setup.

 

 

Looking from the side profile of the keyboard you can see that it tries to take up the minimum amount of space by only being just wide enough to place all the keys. The natural angle is about average for a keyboard but props up to stand quite a bit higher. You can also see the rounded cut out that allows you to pass your cable out the left side to keep your desk tidy. It has a nice simple look without trying to be over styled.

 

 

Turning the keyboard around and taking a look from the back side there are no annoying USB hubs or headphone jacks hiding on the back. I've never liked when companies thought I needed to plug things in here when the front I/O panel of my case is only a little further away. Instead we find just a simple CM Storm logo, rather subtle – and something I'll never see day to day. Turning it over with the feet up you can get a better idea of how robust these two feet are. They snap into place and besides jumping on the keyboard feel ready to hold up whatever weighted typing you may have. The tips of the feet also have rubber to again maintain placement of your keyboard.

 

 

If you didn't think about it in the first few pictures, the keyboard doesn't have a cable attached. The CM Storm Quickfire TK sports one of my favorite CM Storm keyboard features – the removable cable. One end is a mini-USB to plug into the backside of the keyboard, while the other end is your standard USB to plug into your rig. The cable is nicely braided making it easier to route your cables and avoid the "stick" between cables.

 

Closer Look:

Plugging in that cable takes a little effort, like any cable, if it isn't turned the right way, it's not going to go in. However, once you do get it in place, it's pretty easy from there. You can route the cable directly out the top like most standard keyboards, you can route the cable to the right to feed your rig, or you can route the cable to the left to keep your desk nice and tidy. It really depends on where you are plugging it in, but being able to route it one specific direction really helps clean up your desk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These next couple pictures serve more a purpose than to just show you more of the keyboard. They provide an idea of how the keyboard sits on your desk along the edge where your wrists may sit. I think it also provides a nice indication of how tall the keys are (your typical mech key height really). The second shot lets you peer in at the blue between the first and second column of number keys (merely because this is where the camera centered) getting a glance at the blue once again. I must say the blue is quite a bit less noticeable in any less lighting. It really serves as a rebound for the LEDs and a very subtle accent when off. So if you're not digging the color of the steelplate – it's not the end of the world.

 

 

The top line of function keys F1-F12 all serve as dual purpose keys as well. F1-F4 control the lighting options, F5-F8 control the media playback, F9-F11 control the volume options, and F12 toggles the Windows key on or off. The ESC key is no exception from that row of options and serves as a dual for toggling 6KRO for Mac users or NKRO for Windows users.

Now I can't quite decide if I want to give my true feelings on the number pad here or in the testing section itself, but if you can guess at all, I'm not too fond of it. A lot of laptops have a similar pad, if they have a number pad at all, that has the nested navigation keys so some of you are quite used to this – or have a slight problem with it as I do. Nonetheless it does allow the keyboard to be quite tightly keyed allowing for a nice small deskspace or great for travel – I'll leave my true thoughts for later.

 

 

This is perhaps one of the more fun parts about shooting pictures of a keyboard – popping off a key. If you didn't get in trouble for popping keys off keyboards in class or have never had the pleasure of moving the keys around for those too unfortunate to touch type -- you won't understand. But as a kid I always liked taking things apart, including pulling keys off keyboards. Underneath it really isn't all that exciting, but you can see the top end of the blue switch (literally colored blue) and the mounted LED that allows this beauty to light up. So if you haven't had the fun – why not go mess up your dad's keys and see how long it takes him to figure it out…

 

 

Lighting up the keyboard was pretty simple – plugged it in and BLUE! By default all the lighting is lit except for the F12 key (the Windows key toggle). The first picture shows the lighting at its lowest setting – the second the lighting at its brightest. Don't let the pictures fool you; this keyboard gets bright. Toggling the light mode with FN F4 there is the option to pulse the lighting as well. The other option allows you to only light up the "gaming" keys: W,A,S,D, and the arrow keys. I never really liked the appearance of such on my Razer Lycossa – but it is nice to be able to reduce the amount of keys lit up at a dimly lit LAN party. The last picture is to show you what it looks like when you toggle on all the NUM LK, PGLK, and CAPS LK keys. All three of the indicator lights at the top right of the keyboard light up. And the arrow keys in the number pad turn off. I'm guessing this design was to show you that you have the numbers as the current enabled setting making the arrow keys as "don't use me, I don't work that way right now" - it's just a reminder of the need to annoyingly toggle the NUM LK to use the keyboard as a keyboard.

 

 

 

The blue is just about everywhere on this keyboard; even the indicator lights are blue! I really like this, as a lot of times there seems to be a need for companies to mix blue and red or now even green with things. I like themes, and that little accent always ruins it. The three light up quite brightly and with the angle of the keyboard you can always see what is toggle on or off. I also thought I'd return to the favorite pulled key and show off that LED in its true color. Quite bright when turned up to full.

 

Specifications:

Model Number:
SGK-4020-GKCL1 (Blue Switch)
SGK-4020-GKCR1 (Red Switch)
SGK-4020-GKCM1 (Brown Switch)
Key Switch:
Cherry MX Blue/Brown/Red
Keycaps:
ABS, grip coated, removable
Keycap Puller:
Yes, ring puller
Backlight:
All keys, red/blue/white, 5 levels, 3 modes
Key Rollover:
NKRO (Winodws only)
Polling Rate:
1000 Hz/1ms
Interface:
USB 2.0 full speed
USB cable:
1.8m, braided, gold plated, removable
Dimensions:
377.5(L) x 138(W) x 33(H) mm
Weight:
544 g
 
 

*Availability depends on regions

 

Features:

 

 

 

All information provided by: http://www.cmstorm.com/en/products/keyboards/quickfiretk/

Testing:

Cooler Master's CM Storm Quickfire TK was definitely put through over a week of use and testing. During this time it was used it in everyday use, writing emails, surfing the Internet, typing documents, anything the average person might usually do on a day to day basis. A few games were played to check the response from the keyboard, as much different expectations are held here than writing to Mom. The last abuse the keyboard received was through working. This included various tasks such as writing code, using Excel, and working with other tasks where layout of the keyboard might make a difference in productivity.

As a keyboard is a rather subjective review to start with, it is more appropriate to provide the feedback from its use rather than trying to assign meaningless numbers. It is pretty easy to distinguish a keyboard one likes compared to another one hates by explaining things rather than trying to assign a concrete number. The things that bothered me during testing might not be something you ever use a keyboard for – and thus won't bother you if you buy the keyboard. This type of feedback feels more productive than you guessing why I rate the keyboard you own a seven and the reviewed keyboard a five. No more guessing - here's what I loved, and what I hated.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Everyday Use:

Writing emails and trolling on the forums doesn't seem like a complicated task from any desk or for that matter any keyboard. It almost seems like any keyboard will do. However, some are better than others. This particular CM Storm Quickfire TK has Cherry MX Blues – quite frankly my new favorite switches. It's a very loud keyboard, but it's a very confident keyboard. You mis-type rarely and when you do you know almost immediately that you've missed a stroke. I really like the feel of these and would highly recommend playing with some Cherry Blues if you haven't had the chance. The only real downfall for everyday use I could even think of was the loudness of the keys. But if you don't mind the sound, I'm sure your roommate can just find a set of headphones to avoid you.

 

Gaming:

Playing a game is where most keyboards (especially gaming keyboards) tend to rise or fall. The CM Quickfire TK rose to the occasion and performed quite well. Besides the loud clickly clack and the excessive key bang rage all my friends heard on the other end of my mic, there wasn't much to complain about. I could really feel the click in the key, so when I wanted to sneak up on someone I had full control. The overall shorter length of the keyboard also played quite the roll here as well, serving two real benefits in my case. First, I tend to like rather large mouse pads. For whatever reason when I game my mouse goes where I want my character to go – so if I look right, my mouse goes quite far right. It's really quite a problem of mine, which is somewhat fixed with a large mousepad. Large mouse pad and large keyboard aren't two to go together. The shorter length allowed me to keep my two arms on one desk rather than feeling so wide spread. The second issue I personally have is a lot of stuff on my desk during busy times of the school year. The keyboard gets shifted one way and a book takes up half my mouse space. In any manner – the keyboard took up so little space compared to my usual Razer Lycossa, that playing games was easier than I recall during finals week. The response is great and the NK rollover makes it all the better. +1 from Gaming.

 

Working:

Getting work done is where the CM Storm QuickFire TK really hit the wall for me. I'm pretty adaptable to the strangest things I review here on OCC and can adapt to using any mouse and usually just about any keyboard. However, I won't joke; I did about break this keyboard in half when working last night. I literally tossed it aside and broke out an old Logitech Internet keyboard – your basic "stock" keyboard to get things done. Writing code, or working even in Microsoft Excel without ease of access to the arrow keys or END/HOME keys is almost murderous in a sense. If I had the arrow keys, I didn't have the numbers; if I had the numbers, I didn't have my END key. I reach for one and receive the other – no matter the indicator light, I don't look at the keyboard while I type so I was lost time and time again. I had survived in nights past of work, toggling back and forth and making the same mistakes with the wrong one toggled again and again, but promised myself it would be something to come to be natural. It never did. The keyboard sits on the floor still - until I get my work done, it does not have the privilege of my desk.

 

Summary:

It's hard to win. Most keyboards that are great for gaming are likely not so great to get work done on and vice versa. There are some that meet halfway and are pretty good in both but never really great at one thing. They are somewhat like people. Some of us are much better at gaming than others, and some of us geeks are just better at math. No matter which way you look at it you have to find what is best for you. This keyboard may murder you in getting work done but it's a hell of a line of keys for your everyday use and a great set for gaming. I did like this keyboard quite a bit – but taking away my working keys means I likely won't be keeping her around, but she very well could be your new best friend.

Conclusion:

In the end, I honestly tried to love this keyboard. It's mechanical, it has blue lighting, a blue steelplate and it's of the usual CM Storm durability. It is everything most of you can agree make up a great keyboard. That and my Razer Lycosa is losing keys – so it's about time I actually switch into something else. Unfortunately that love couldn't quite be forced. The toggle option to switch between the number pad and what are quite essential keys was frustrating. I guess it's one of those things you don't realize you use/enjoy until someone takes them away from you. At first I said, "BAH, I don't even use arrow keys, and my laptop doesn't have a number pad – it can't be bad." I was quite wrong about that.

Writing code, or heck, writing in general when you want to go back just a few spaces without deleting or grabbing the mouse – those arrow keys are your friend. Not always having a number pad wasn't really an issue either – I can touch type with the top row of numbers so the number pad is only really nice for some serious calculation work or what not. However, the toggling to get to my friends, the END and DEL key about plucked the last straw for me. Though the lighting was supposed to help remind me which options were toggled on – I couldn't for the life of me figure out which way was which. Every time I thought it was one way – it was the other. Yes – anyone can look at the indicator light and figure it out, but in the heat of a good thought perhaps you'll suffer like me. Even my laptop has a separate column for these keys – just didn't flow with my style.

With that said, it doesn't make the keyboard a "fail." For me, I'll probably keep pounding away at the half broken Lycosa until it simply doesn't work just to have my keys in place. Some people don't mind a reduced keyboard and that's where you guys come in. The quality of this keyboard is exceptional. Like most CM keyboards it's likely a certified weapon in case of an apocalypse. The keys feel great and light up rather evenly. And, even for my first time on Cherry MX Blues, I'm smiles all around. It is a great keyboard – but if you remove a few keys from your keyboard and can't survive then this probably isn't the keyboard for you. This one is up to the user to really decide. Like all our keyboard reviews, they are subjective – and by that, I didn't care for it, but you still might. I just try to give you the inside and out to help you decide if it's for you; will this be your next trolling link to the Interwebs?

 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: