Mechanical keyboards are more popular than ever with the gaming community, their high precision and high quality make them well suited to many things, but their prowess in gaming is where they really shine. Cooler Master have crafted many of the best mechanical gaming keyboards on the market and their latest effort, the Quick Fire XT looks set to expand on their already exciting range.
Packed full of features that make it an ideal choice for gaming, as well as general day-to-day use, the Quite Fire XT looks like a great product, but the most exciting thing of all has to be the price tag. Available for just under £72 including shipping, which is obviously expensive, but still representative of cheap for a mechanical gaming keyboard, many of which cost in excess for £100. The cost is often a reflection of the switches used, Cherry MX are not cheap, but in terms of quality and performance, you get what you pay for.
The Quick Fire XT comes in a choice of popular Cherry MX switches, Red, Green, Brown, or Blue. The model we have in the office today is the MX Blue variant, but keep in mind that availability of certain switches will vary depending on region. MX Blue are a pretty specialist choice for keyboards, they’re often quite loud as they offer a strong tactile “click” when pressed, this gives a satisfying tactile sensation while typing, but is often regarded as noisy switch as the click is certainly audible as well as physical.
The Quick Fire XT comes nicely packaged in the usual CM Storm colours and features a stylish picture of the keyboard on the front of the box as well as a small picture that details the switch type (MX Blue).
Around the back you’ll find a quick run down of the major features of the keyboard, but we’ll take a close look at those in a moment.
Everything you need to get you started is included in the box, a simple user guide, a key cap removal tool, some custom key caps, a braided USB cable and a USB to PS2 adaptor.
A Closer Look
The keyboard is finish in a high quality black plastic with a durable chassis with very little trim around the edge, which should save you a little desk space.
All the key caps are removable and very high quality with a custom font. There is a slight curve to the key layout from front to back, but it is very subtle.
Around the back is a small CM Storm logo and a USB connection port for hooking it up to your computer.
The keyboard has a few settings built into it that you can tweak on the fly, at the top of the number pad you’ll find you can change the polling rate.
At the top are multimedia short-cuts, these can be accessed via the Fn shift key.
Pull the key cap and you’ll find the superb Cherry MX Blue switches, as you can see these are not LED lit like many other mechanical keyboards, but this is one think that has helped keep the price low without impacting performance.
The custom keycaps clip into place easy enough and while I have put these on the WASD keys, you could place them pretty much anywhere on the keyboard, such as on the up, down, left and right arrow keys.
Testing the performance of a mechanical keyboard is pretty straightforward these days, the uniform nature of the Cherry MX switches means that the MX Blues in this keyboard will perform just as well as the ones in any other keyboard. What really makes the difference are the subtle touches that each manufacturer applies to their product. The MX Blue switches in the Quick Fire XT are mounted a little higher above the keyboard chassis, meaning they don’t bottom out as hard as some other keyboards. Bottoming out is when the base of the key cap hits the keyboard chassis, that doesn’t happen with this keyboard, but you do still get the click from the MX Blue switch and another thunk when the switch is fully pressed. This sensation is very pleasing, it’s an absolute joy to type on and you’ll be looking for excuses to type lots of text even if you don’t really need to.
When it comes to gaming, the tactile sensation of the click is great when you’re wearing a headset, you literally get a feel for what you’re doing and this can work wonders for your accuracy. The switches are quite light too, so rapid keystrokes are a breeze, meaning you can really mash away at it when playing things such as StarCraft II.
There is however only one downside to these switches having clicks and pops, they’re damn loud! If you live on your own or have a private gaming area away from any other living being, then you’ll be fine, as it’s not annoying when it’s you causing the noise. My girlfriend for example would throttle me with the USB cable after about twenty minutes of typing on MX Blue switches. Even with a rubber dome dampening kit the MX Blue switch still has its internal click, so those seeking quiet performance may want to look into the click free MX Red switches.
For gaming there really is very little better than the Quick Fire XT, it’s a precision weapon and if anything is going to improve your gaming performance or experience, it’s a high quality peripheral. Macro deployment could be better, but software does allow you do get things sorted, however I would have preferred a rack of dedicated macro keys to the left side of the keyboard, especially for MMOPRG gaming.
This is certainly one of the strong points for Cooler Master, since this keyboard doesn’t feature full LED backlighting, the cost has been able to stay low and competitive, which means you still get all of the performance at a much lower cost. For around £72 from CCL this is an absolute bargain. Obviously it’s a lot more expensive that a similar specification membrane keyboard, but mechanical switches have a much longer life span and this keyboard has great build quality overall, so it’s a very good return on investment.
As an all round keyboard, the Cooler Master Quick Fire XT really delivers on all fronts, it’s really well made and feels durable and tough, something that will no doubt please those who plan on throwing it in a LAN bag and taking it on their gaming travels to tournaments and events. Fully removable and replaceable key caps extend the life span further, making it easy to strip the keyboard down and give it a good clean when you need to, but also allowing you the use of custom keycaps from places such as QWERKeys. The braided USB cable is good quality too, but should it fail it’s just a standard USB cable, so it’s easily replaced should you ever need to.
The MX Blue switch keeps with the high quality that Cherry have become world-renowned for, but won’t be to everyone’s taste due to their strong tactile click and somewhat noisy performance. Fortunately there are a choice of switch types available from Cooler Master and I suggest that you get down to your local retailer or purchase a switch sampler if you’re not familiar with mechanical keyboards, find which one works best for you before making the big investment.
As subjective as style can be, the Quick Fire XT is a great looking keyboard. It’s nothing too fancy in terms of design, actually it’s pretty basic looking, but the quality of the material used really shines through and basic or not, it still looks and feels like a premium quality product.
- Great build quality
- Choice of Cherry switches (availability of each depends on region)
- Macro features
- Removable key caps
- Accurate performance
- Nice aesthetics
- Ideal for eSports / Tournaments
- Competitive price
- No separate / dedicated macro keys
- MX Blue switches are loud
eTeknix says: “For around this price you’ll struggle to find anything better, the build quality is superb, there is a good selection of switch types and the price tag makes it great value for money; the Quick Fire XT is easily one of the best value for money mechanical gaming keyboards on the market today and it’s another great addition to the already exciting CM Storm range.”
Thank you Cooler Master for providing us with this sample.