Mechanical keyboards are quickly becoming an essential piece of hardware for anyone who takes their PC gaming seriously. CM Storm, Cooler Master’s e-Sports aligned subsidiary, is the latest to join the market with the release of its first keyboard, the QuickFire Rapid.
The first thing you’ll notice about the QuickFire Rapid is its compact size, thanks to the absence of a number pad. We’ve seen other keyboards forgo the mechanical switches on the number pad as a way to keep the price down, so we suppose its complete removal was the next logical step. One advantage of the compact size is the ability to position your mouse a bit closer to your left hand, which may suit some gamers. Keeping with the compact size, the keyboard is also devoid of any palm rest. Whether this affects you or not will come down to personal preference - for us, it wasn't a big deal.
The keyboard is finished in a rather drab, rubberized matte grey, which fits the look of many mechanical keyboards we’ve seen, but seems contrary to the flashy, light-up cases and mice which make up the rest of CM Storm’s product line. Keeping with its no-nonsense styling, features are utilitarian, with just the basic multimedia controls found as Fn options on the F5 to F12 keys. A useful LED on/off indicator is found on the caps lock, screen lock and Windows button lock keys, replacing the indicators traditionally found above the number pad.
Our review unit was supplied with Cherry MX Black key switches, which seem to have become the standard for mechanical gaming keyboards (SteelSeries, Thermaltake and a number of other manufacturers use them). The keys have zero tactile feedback, which generally means you’ll be bottoming out when hitting them, but which also makes them smooth and solid. They also have a fairly high resistance and travel, which makes them perfect for repeated, rapid key pressing, but somewhat tiring for typing.
If you do a lot of typing, or you prefer something with a more tactile feel, the QuickFire Rapid is also available with MX Blue, Brown or Red switches. Blue switches (Razer uses them in its BlackWidow mechanical keyboard) provide more tactile feedback and a softer feel, which make them more comfortable for typing, while Brown switches are somewhere in between Black and Blue. Red switches are very similar to Black, but require much less force to press (Red switches will also cost you S$20 more at S$149). As with all Cherry MX switch keyboards, the keys were a bit squeaky, although individual results will, of course, vary.
The QuickFire Rapid uses a detachable mini-USB to USB cable connection with a polling rate of 1000Hz. A much preferred PS/2 connection is also supported via a supplied converter, which gives the keyboard full NKRO or n-Key Rollover (sometimes known as anti-ghosting), completely removing the need for polling and ensuring that each keypress is correctly detected regardless of how many other keys are being pressed at the same time.
One nice extra that comes packaged with the keyboard is a key puller tool and six extra keys: four red keys with arrows on them to replace the WASD keys for a more prominent look and two Cooler Master logo keys to replace the CM Storm Window keys if you prefer their traditional logo. The tool makes pulling keys a breeze: simply pop it on to the key, push down until it clicks, then pull up.
The QuickFire Rapid’s choice of Cherry MX switches, solid build quality, PS/2 connection and affordable price make it a great entry into the mechanical gaming keyboard market. Well thought out features such as LED indicators on lock keys, extra keys and key puller tool, and a detachable cable (keyboard failure is often caused by cable failure – and cables are much cheaper than keyboards) help separate it from others in the field.