The very first keyboard that I owned was a rather hefty IBM mechanical one. These input devices were built well enough to let you hammer down nails and sometimes even people who dared to annoy you. However, with no frame of reference, it was easy to take this level of quality for granted. It is only later in the '90s when I tried out the new-fangled membrane keyboards that I realised truly how awesome these mechanical keyboards were. If you have read my gaming keyboard guide, you will realise the extent of my dislike for the membrane-based abominations. Let's just say that the idea of purchasing an expensive gaming keyboard bearing polydome switches is, for me, a complete and utter waste of good money.
Tough enough to be used as a club
Built like a tank
Fortunately, the days of having to rely on good ol' TVS Gold are gone now. Lately, the Indian market has seen the introduction of premium gaming-grade mechanical keyboards from Razer, Corsair, SteelSeries and Cooler Master. There's a new kid on the mechanical block—the Cooler Master CM Storm Quick Fire Pro. It has a lot going for it at the outset, thanks to scores of keyboard geeks on the Internet raving about it. Then again, one can't discount the "Ooh shiny!" effect new products seem to have on the early adopters. Well, that's exactly what we're here for—to give you a learned, unbiased opinion on whether this Rs. 5,500 keyboard is worth the asking price.
Any doubt you may have regarding its credibility is dispelled the moment you lift it off its cardboard packaging. Boy, this thing is heavy! By heavy, I don't mean it-won't-break-in-six-months sort of heavy. No sir, this is the kind of heft that could be used to bludgeon someone to death. Just don't drop it though. Not that it will break, but because it will destroy your leg, break through the floor, and kill the milkman and Sharma aunty downstairs, before going all the way south to give Beelzebub a concussion. It really does make you wonder if Cooler Master has shoved in some depleted uranium to add weight to its relatively compact dimensions.
In fact, the only time another keyboard impressed this much with its build quality was when I had got my paws on the Razer BlackWidow. This isn't a coincidence though. The BlackWidow and Quick Fire Pro are rumoured to have been made by the same OEM—iOne. Does that mean the latter forces you to sand down the [Space Bar] and re-glue the stabiliser posts for all larger keys, just as it was the case with the BlackWidow? Fortunately, you don't have to trifle with all that, because iOne seems to have learned from its mistakes.
The Quick Fire Pro employs the Kalashnikov philosophy—simple, sturdy design bearing high tolerance values
The Kalashnikov philosophy
The CM Storm Quick Fire Pro embodies the design of the infamous Kalashnikov assault rifle: a simple approach that eschews complexity for reliability with large, sturdy parts put together using high tolerance values to prevent jamming. Likewise, the gap between the Quick Fire Pro's keys is large enough to prevent them from brushing and/or snagging against each other. Additionally, this makes you less prone to inadvertently hitting two keys at the same time, while also improving ergonomics.
The Kalashnikov philosophy extends to its omission of a driver suite. That means you can't individually remap keys—a feature that can prove useful for poor console ports that don't allow controller customisation. However, if you can live with that, the Quick Fire Pro does everything else that a gaming keyboard can without the need to install a clunky driver. You can set lighting levels and modes, adjust polling rate in four steps, and even switch between 6-key rollover and N-key rollover. Yes, you heard it right; this little puppy does N-key rollover over USB. If that sounds bhojpuri to you, head over to this article to know what I'm on about.
A rather high lower lip makes a wrist rest mandatory
The Quick Fire Pro is slightly smaller than the BlackWidow, with dimensions similar to Corsair's mechanical offering. However, it's a proper full-sized keyboard replete with the ability to use the function keys for media playback with a modifier. The Cherry MX Red switches, however, feel absolutely sublime. The key caps are thick and solid, and deliver a reassuring dead thud each time you bottom them out. The plastic quality is excellent, while keycaps offer a grip level that lies somewhere between that of BlackWidow (quite grippy) and Corsair K90 (not so grippy) keyboards.
Chinks in the armour
The Quick Fire Pro, however, isn't without a fair share of chinks in its armour. For starters, it looks rather vulgar and loud, especially with its sharp edges and bright red illumination. The lighting itself is restricted to the WASD cluster, [Space Bar], half the numeric row, arrow keys and select function keys. While that's fine for gaming, it's only fair to expect Cooler Master to light up the whole shebang for nocturnal typing. Especially for this kind of money. The lack of a wrist pad will literally prove to be a sore issue here. Its lower lip is way too elevated to use comfortably without one.
On the bright side, the braided cable is sufficiently long and well built. Its gold-plated, detachable mini-USB connector looks rather expensive, and is provided with multiple channels that allow you to route it from whichever end that you fancy. The keyboard performs exceptionally well with games as well as regular typing. In fact, its precision impressed me the most in the last few levels of Super Meat Boy, which usually tend to expose flaws in even keyboards that otherwise seem adequate for gaming.
The detachable cable can be routed any way you please
Should you buy this keyboard then? Well, if you want one that's just as well-built as the BlackWidow (which is amongst the best gaming-grade mechanical keyboards available in India) out of the box, the CM Storm Quick Fire Pro is the one for you. However, If you are the enterprising kind who isn't fazed at the prospect of fixing the BlackWidow's inherent flaws with [Space Bar] clearance, and don't mind re-gluing the stabiliser bar mounts of its larger keys, it does offer similar levels of build quality with added driver-based customisation.
Having said that, the Quick Fire Pro does offer Cherry MX Red switches that aren't found in Razer's offerings. Moreover, once you buy a good gel-filled wrist rest, this keyboard sure is an absolute delight to use. An MRP of Rs. 5500 isn't bad at all considering the level of build quality and performance offered here. Cooler Master's latest mechanical keyboard, then, comes highly recommended despite its minor niggles.