Review of the fantastic CM Storm Ultimate Quickfire Keyboard.
A Keyboard With Personality
The moment I started typing on this keyboard I fell in love. This keyboard is fun. I had been eyeing "fancy" mechanical keyboards for years, but I was leary of buying one without testing it. This changed last November when I stumbled on a video comparing the Cherry MX switches.
Cherry MX Switches
The switches are what make these keyboards special. There are more than ten variations of the Cherry MX switch. The core of the Cherry MX family is composed of four color brands: Black, Brown, Red, and Blue. These do not reflect the actual color of the keys, they are just monikers. Black is the oldest version, introduced in 1984. The Black switches are likely what were in the keyboards I grew up with. The Blues were introduced in 2007. Professional typists rave about the Blue switches, as they have a very high actuation force, making them harder to press, adding an extra tactile feel and sound for the speed typist. Reds were introduced in 2008 and are marketed to gamers. Reds require a very low actuation force, making them conducive to the rapid key combos that are a common feature of many games. The Cherry MX Browns began production in 1994 and quickly became very popular. The Browns are a little quieter than the Blues, but need more actuation force than the Reds. I chose the Cherry MX Browns as a nice middle ground.
Tactile and Auditory Feedback
Prior to getting the Coolermaster I had been using a generic Dell keyboard. It was quiet and the keys were "shallow" (you only had to press them in about an eigth of an inch to get them to fire. In contrast, the Cherry MX Brown keys are loud and "deep". They clack like the ancient IBM keyboards I grew up using in the 90's. This makes you sound uber productive when typing fast. Switching from the Dell keyboard, my fingers weren't used to pressing down that far. The depth of the keypress took a few hours to get used to.
The combination of tactile and auditory feedback is really special. It makes typing enjoyable -- not that it was a chore before -- it just adds a really nice visceral aspect to something I otherwise used to ignore. Anecdotally, I believe it has improved my typing rate and decreased the number of errors I make. I haven't done any tests to confirm this, but the linear press makes it harder to slip between keys and the clacking makes it very easy to get into a rhythm.
I bought the Ultimate Quickfire version which comes with arrow keys, a full numpad, and white LED backlights. You can control the LED brightness, or disable the lights, via an FN key combo. You can also disable the Windows keys which is a nice feature so that you don't interrupt your gaming experience by any accidental keypresses. One of the most ridiculous features is the ability to set the response time for keypresses. You can choose 8ms, 4ms, 2ms, or 1ms. This is another feature geared toward the hardcore gamer.
This keyboard is heavy. Like a couple of pounds heavy. I think it has a steel plate in it. This makes it feel very solid. It doesn't slide or shift under even the most furious of typing flurries.
Momentary BIOS Freakout
When I first connected it, I noticed that it took a second to light up when I booted my computer. I didn't think much of it, but a few weeks later I freaked out when I couldn't get into my BIOS because the keyboard didn't seem to be on. Thankfully, an Amazon comment recommended switching the USB port the keyboard is connected to. Apparently USB ports are powered in sequence. By moving the keyboard to a different port it lights up almost immediately and I have no problem getting into the BIOS.