There are several types of keyboard technologies, but most of us have only encountered three: membrane, dome switch and scissor.
If you are on a laptop, you almost certainly have a scissor switch keyboard. If you are on a desktop computer you are probably using a membrane or dome switch keyboard.
Some of use a fourth type of keyboard: those with mechanical switches. If you play games or are a typing nerd, then you may find mechanical keyboards amazing.
Each individual key has its own complete switch underneath it. Different mechanical keyboards have different switches, and these switches vary in the amount of force needed to depress each key as well as the distance the key needs to travel before activating. The most prolific mechanical switches are made by a company called Cherry, and their switches are color-coded.
If you learned to type on a real typewriter or typed on an IBM Model M keyboard you’ve experienced the glory of a mechanical keyboard.
I love typing on mechanical keyboards. I love the tactile response of the switches and also the satisfying “clackity clack clack” of typing on them.
In general, mechanical keyboards come with luxury features like rubberized key caps, engraved / laser cut letters instead of stickers or screen printing, media controls, USB / microphone / headphone ports, etc. I really like back-lit keyboards. Almost all backlit mechanical keyboards have individual LEDs for each key.
I own two XArmor keyboards, the U9 and the (apparently discontinued) U9BL, which had LED backlighting. The U9BL became hard to find, and I tried Monoprice’s mechanical LED keyboard. At the time, it sold at a promotional price and was pretty competitive. However, my first Monoprice keyboard died after about a year of use, and the replacement only lasted two days.
I had one goal: find a backlit mechanical keyboard for less than $100 delivered on Amazon Prime.
The Storm QuickFire from CoolerMaster met all of my requirements, but I should have added a fourth criteria: a full-sized keyboard.
Overview and build quality
The QuickFire retails for $100, but depending on price fluctuations on Amazon you can buy it for less. The keyboard is black, but CoolerMaster offers five combinations of switches and LEDs:
- Blue switches with blue LEDs
- Red switches with red LEDs (this was the one I got)
- Brown switches with white LEDs
- Green switches with green LEDs
- Red switches with white LEDs
That’s quite a selection; most keyboards only come in one LED color and one switch type. Manufacturers will make different models with different switches, and it’s unusual to have one keyboard with four switch types or four LED colors.
My XArmor U9BL has blue switches, and they are very loud. Gojira can hear me typing in his room, even though I’m on another floor and he has his door closed. The Monoprice keyboard has red switches, and that was a lot more tolerable according to my co-workers.
The keyboard, regardless of switch type or LED color, has three LED modes and five levels of adjustable brightness. The three modes are all off, all on, and WASD for you first person shooter players.
All of the mechanical keyboards I own have nice cables; the QuickFire is no exception. It has a heavy, braided cord that can be routed out of the middle or either side of the keyboard.
The Storm QuickFire is meant for gamers who travel to tournaments or LAN parties — it’s very compact and light-weight without feeling cheap or flimsy. The keyboard measures less than 15″ long, and is almost four inches shorter than a typical full-sized keyboard.
Unfortunately for me, I wanted this keyboard for my office, so the unconventional layout and size were drawbacks and not detriments.
There is no dedicated 10-key numberpad, which is somewhat common for gaming mechanical keyboards. The real killer is that the Storm QuickFire also lacks arrow keys and page up / page down keys.
Instead, these keys all share the same space, and you have to toggle between numbers and arrow / paging controls.
I’m betraying my age a little, but I took Typing I and Typing II in junior high. We had a section on 10 key, and I’ve used it ever since. As a recovering Web developer I am also very dependent on the arrow keys and also use home and end a lot.
If you’re playing games that don’t require these keys (or only require one set or another) then this won’t bother you.
If you’re planning on using this keyboard at work it might make you murderous.
I ran the CoolerMaster Storm QuickFire keyboard for about a week before returning it. The fit and finish was great, but I bought the wrong thing. I can’t fault the product for it, so I am still giving it high honors even though it’s no longer in my possession.
Strongly recommended if you don’t need a full-sized keyboard.