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A detailed review of my experience with the CM Storm Quick Fire XT Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Review: Cooler Master CM Storm Quick Fire XT Dec 9, 2014 4:00am UTC
Back in March of this year, I decided to abandon the tradition silicone dome/membrane/whatever you want to call it keyboard paradigm in favor of the much acclaimed mechanical keyboards that have become popular on the market, specifically in the gaming sector.

In this picture you can see that I've got the space bar turned around backwards so that my thumb hits a rounder surface, rather than a harsh edge. Yet another tweak I made ;)

I watched a lot of videos, took a few trips to Best Buy to test them out and ended up purchasing the CM Storm Quick Fire XT from Amazon for $93.24. A gift card brought the price down to around $63. I use this keyboard on a daily basis and am writing this entire reivew using it.

Let's be real here: It's definitely better than a traditional-style keyboard, but it's not perfect.

The end.

KIDDING! Let me start with what I don't like and what I believe to be unacceptable for the price paid.

One of the key marketing factors with mechanical keyboards is the consistency and reliability of each key press. That said, It's not really acceptable for my keyboard to have two keys on it that don't perform to the same standard as the rest. Now I'm sure that Cooler Master would have gladly replaced the unit since (like is stated in most warranties) it was not free of workmanship defects upon arrival. But I stuck with it anyway and made do.

So what were the two problems? The =/+ key and the right shift key. Let's start with the =/+ key.
Here's a picture of a normal Cherry MX Brown key switch:

Now here's a picture of the =/+ key:

Notice the difference? It might not seem like a huge deal that the black plastic is crushed inward toward the brown actuator, but it caused the key to be significantly harder to press and also blocked it from popping back up on its own.

Fortunately in this case I was able to use a small pair of tweezers and clear out enough of the malformed plastic to allow the switch to actuate normally:

The shift key, however, is a different story. It seems as though any time I apply pressure to the bottom half of the key, the stabilizer bar mechanism gets stuck on the way down, so there's often a large "pop" when attempting to fully depress the key. And it takes significantly more force to press than the left shift key.

But now let's move onto the things I like, which aside from those two key problems (really only one now), is basically everything.

The biggest pros here are consistency, feel, and ease of use. Cherry MX Brown switches are a happy medium between the ultra-clicky MX Blue switches and the smooth, silent MX Reds. The Browns have a very subtle tactile bump at the actuation point that I only consciously notice when I'm pressing a key with the intent of finding the actuation point.

I noticed that when I first got the keyboard I was using a hugely unnecessary amount of force to actuate the keys. More recently, my typing has gotten much quieter, faster, and more consistent by simply allowing my brain and fingers to "sense" the actuation point on each key, rather than needing to mash them all the way down to the steel plate underneath.

At the office, I've still got a traditional, membrane keyboard that I use on a day-to-day basis. I find it MUCH more fatiguing than the mechanical keys, even though the travel distance of each key is actually shorter on the membrane keyboard.

The biggest difference though that I'd point out is the fact that essentially through the entire travel of every key, the actuation force is linear... even through the release. There's no "pop" back up when the membrane's dome travels back to its resting position. There's also no guess work as to when the "un-actuation" happens. It's hard to explain, but on a membrane keyboard, you can sometimes un-actuate a key, even though it hasn't sprung back up to its resting position. This will never happen on a mechanical keyboard; you can always feel exactly when the key has been pressed and released.

The ability to disable the Windows key while in-game (or just whenever you decide to hate on Windows) is a nice touch, but honestly, I never remember to turn it on until it's already too late and I'm staring at a bunch of live tiles rather than my cooldowns.

Overall I really enjoy the typing experience on the Quick Fire XT. The sound the keys make is extremely satisfying and actually makes me "desire" to type more... And I can! Because there's definitely less finger fatigue for me than on a membrane keyboard.

I haven't decided if I like it better or worse for coding as of yet, but I'm leaning towards better simply because of the consistency. Membrane keyboards have no definite sense of the "bottom" of the key travel. You can kinda squish it around a bit when you're down there.

So to conclude:
Would I recommend that you go buy one? Yeah, I think so, but make sure before you keep it that everything works perfectly out of the box, especially if you opt for a relatively cheap one like me.

Would I recommend it for gaming? Absolutely. It's such a superior experience.

Would I recommend it for typing? Yes, but not if you're concerned about noise levels. Those in close proximity to you may find it annoying if you're typing up a paper while they're trying to concentrate a few feet away.

Would I recommend it for coding? Probably, but make sure there's no crazy changes to the layout of the keyboard. Some manufacturers will exclude the ten-key portion or the home/end/pgup/pgdown section specifically for gaming to get the mouse hand closer to the keyboard hand.
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