Remember last week we took a look at the gorgeous Pulse-R Aluminum headset from CM Storm? And how we promised to follow it up again with another review from the same aluminium loving range of peripherals? Well here we are, delivering on that promise and we kick things off today with the CM Storm Mech mechanical keyboard.
Aluminium is the cool, of course aluminium has always been cool when it comes to designing PC components and peripherals, but it’s taken a brand like Cooler Master to realise that fact and bring something to market. Not content with just a single product, CM Storm have released a whole set of aluminium products, first we have the Pulse-R gaming headset that we reviewed last week, today we have the Mech keyboard and next week we will be looking at the Reaper mouse. While the three products are not sold as a set, they are designed to look great together.
Available for around £125 here in the UK the Mech isn’t exactly cheap, but in that respect, mechanical keyboards never are. While £100+ mechanical gaming keyboards are not uncommon, this price puts the Mech into the firing line of some truly fierce competition from Razer, Corsair and Ducky, all of whom have similar priced products that have proven themselves to be a solid investment. I have high hopes for the Mech, the Pulse-R headset was incredible and if the keyboard is half as good as that, we’ll be off to a good start. So let’s get right to the good stuff and see what CM Storm have to offer here.
As you can see from the specifications below, there are three switch types available, but the model we are taking a look at today is th SGK-7000-MBCL1 which features Cherry MX Blue switches. It is also backed up with 64 N key rollover, loads of macro functions, LED back lighting, dual USB 3.0 ports and a mini USB port for charging devices and 128k of on board memory (for macros and profiles settings).
The front of the box features a stylised image of the keyboard, as well as a quick run down of some of the major features. There is also a logo in the bottom right which details what kind of MX Switch the keyboard has, which in this case is MX Blue.
Around the back we have a few more specifications, as well as some close up images of the removable aluminium plate and the extra USB 3.0 ports on the back of the keyboard.
It’s also worth noting that this box is HUGE! Although given that mechanical keyboards are heavy to begin with and that this one has a slab of aluminium on top also, it’s nice to have that extra padding around it, especially if you order online.
Inside the box we see some foam padding and extra thick cardboard on the lid, as well as plenty of soft foam padding around the keyboard and a scratch proof cover over the keyboard its self.
Finally we see CM Storm have also added a protective film to any of the glossy plastic sections of the keyboard.
In the box we found a handy user guide that walks you through all the major features, a key cap removal tool, a small Allen Key and durable USB 3.0 cable.
A Closer Look
The keyboard features an oversized heavy-duty plastic frame that has a cutaway on the left, effectively giving it a large carry handle, while front section forms a wrist rest.
Etched lightly across the left side of the aluminium is the CM logo, which overruns onto the plastic front panel, although instead of laser etching like that found on the aluminium panel, the plastic uses a gloss finish against its softer matte texture.
Between the front edge of the keyboards aluminium top panel and the wrist rest is a gap, the wrist rest slopes down under the metal and has a glossy finish on that edge. This allows the LED lights for the num lock, caps lock and scroll lock to reflect off it, as the lights are set back so you don’t actually see the bulb of the LED.
Along the top we have a full set of F keys, all of which feature a 2nd level of functions via the Fn key. This allows you access to multimedia short cuts, as well as controls for the keyboards features such as the LED lighting.
The keyboard may be quite large in terms of how much desk space it uses, but it does features a nice low profile. The keys have a slight curve to their layout and this should help promote a good typing position in combination with the wrist rest. The keys are well spaced, with the switch set into the main body of the chassis so that the base of the key caps never raise above the aluminium panel.
Around the back we can see that the metal over hangs on the back left of the keyboard, not sure if this really provides any practical benefit, but it certainly looks rather cool.
Here we see (from left to right) the propitiatory USB connection for the keyboard, a micro USB port, 2 x USB 3.0 ports and audio ports, all of which can be used for things such as charging your devices, or hooking up your headset.
The base features four durable rubber strips that will help prevent the keyboard slipping about your desk, although I rarely find that to be an issue with mechanical keyboards due to their extra weight compared to membrane keyboards. There are two flip out plastic feet at the back, they’re not the most durable design ever but still above average in terms of construction.
A Closer Look Continued
The key cap removal tool comes in handy, making it easier to maintain your keyboard, plus it allows us to get a nice look at those lovely MX Blue switches and the LED lighting.
Here we can see how the LED lights reflect from under the metal of the keyboard, very cool looking indeed.
Here (and in the picture above) we can see the localised lighting setting, this allows you to illuminate just the M keys, arrow keys and the WASD keys, handy for gaming in the dark without too many lighting distractions.
If you’re looking for a more intense lighting setting you can fire them all up to their maximum brightness, which lights up all the keys, gives the keys a really nice under glow and even lights up a strip between the keyboard and the wrist rest.
With the aluminium panel removed we can see the under glow of the LED lighting. This also allows you a lot of space to clean between the keys, handy if your constantly dropping crumbs in there.
The top panel is a single piece that is held in place by 7 bolts, it’s fairly straight forward to remove and install and you don’t have to remove the key caps to do so.
All the edges are nicely cut, rounded and smoothed, making it perfect to take to your local printing shop to get a new decal applied, or you could even just cover it in stickers, draw on it with permanent markers, spray paint it, your choice.
All kinds of designs could be applied, here I’ve just selected the area in Photoshop and done a simple overlay, but it just goes to show that you don’t have to settle for the standard look.
I always struggle to review mechanical gaming keyboards, mostly because the use of MX switches ensures a fairly unwavering level of performance no matter what keyboard they’re installed in. If you love Cherry MX Red, Blue or Black switches then you’re still going to love them in this keyboard.
However, it obviously isn’t always as simple as that and the chassis of the keyboard can make a big difference to the typing response. One of my gripes about mechanical keyboards is that many of them allow the keys to bottom out, by which I mean the bottom edge of the key cap collides with the chassis of the keyboard. While this isn’t an issue in terms of performance, it makes the keyboards incredibly noisy at the best of times and you have to use things like the O-Ring mod to reduce the issue. Fortunately then the MX Blue switches here are mounted in a way that doesn’t bottom out against the keyboard chassis and the only response you feel is the mechanical “click” of the MX Blue switch. The click of the switch on MX Blue is audible, it’s also fairly tactile and some may love or hate such a typing response, I personally love it as I find MX Red are a little too light.
Gaming is an absolute joy on the Mech and I find the blue switches give you a really nice response that works well for MMO gaming, never missing a single cast. Things can get a little more chaotic on games like Battlefield 3 and the keyboard didn’t let me down there either, especially when I had the local lighting set to WASD on an evening as I never needed more than a glance at the keyboard to find out what I was doing.
Typing is beyond luxury also, this is partly due to the mechanical switches, but also due to the angle and size of the keyboard. Everything is nicely spaced, the wrist rest promotes a nice hand position and the high quality key caps feel great at your finger tips, which is pretty much all I could ask for when typing a 10 hours a day. Having extra USB ports on the back is handy too, even now I’m using it to keep my smartphone charged.
As we said before, pricing for the Mech is around £130 here in the UK via Overclockers.co.uk, but we couldn’t find any US pricing at time of writing. However we expect it to cost no more than $200. It’s not the cheapest keyboard ever (obviously), but it does fall in line with the flagship products on offer from brands like Corsair, Razer and Ducky.
The Mech was never really going to be a bad keyboard, it has clearly been well thought out and designed. There is a great choice of components being used here and the mixture of aluminium, MX switches, high quality plastics and a robust chassis all add up to making a product that looks and feels reliable. I only have three minor issues with the keyboard and when I say I’m clutching at straws here, I really mean it because overall I am pretty much in love with the performance and design of the Mech.
First issue is the flip up legs on the back, they feel ok and are more than likely up to the job, but it couldn’t hurt to have something a little bulkier, even if it is just for peace of mind. Next up is the USB cable, it is thick, durable and no doubt high quality, but it’s also pretty ugly and on a £125 keyboard I think a little bit of braiding would go a long way to improve the overall appearance of the keyboard. Finally we have the multimedia keys, while having them on the Fn key is fine for most people, I tend to have music on all day long so having them on dedicated one touch keys would be even better, especially while gaming as it means I can flick between songs while playing online.
Again, I really think they’re minor issues and are more suggestions on how the keyboard could be a little better in my opinion. Yet for those minor gripes I find this keyboard gives a lot of benefits that make it shine. The first would have to be the choice of switches, more and more I’m seeing products that are locked on MX Red and having choice is never a bad thing. Next we’ve got the build quality and mixing soft matte finish plastics, with smooth glossy surfaces and a brushed aluminium panel really make this keyboard look like nothing else on the market, not to mention the fact you can remove the panel and customise it, making yourself something truly unique in the process.
Performance is faultless in gaming and day to day use, although I wasn’t expecting anything less in that respect. So with excellent build quality, design, great features and a price that falls in line with the competition, the Mech really is worthy of our Editors Choice Award.
- Robust chassis and top panel
- Fun carry handle on the side
- Customisable top panel
- Cool lighting effects on keys and between the chassis and wrist rest
- Extra USB and audio ports on the back
- Choice of MX switch
- Wrist rest
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Keys don’t bottom out
- Might be too large for some desks
- No dedicated media keys
- Stronger feet would have been preferred
“The Mech is easily one of the best mechanical keyboard on the market today, I would like to call it “the” best, but that really falls down to personal taste more than anything. If you’re wanting something that looks truly unique to all the other mechanical keyboards on the market, but that offers the same premium grade performance of any high end mechanical keyboard, then you’re going to love what CM Storm have created”
Thank you CM Storm for providing us with this sample.