Cooler Master Quick Fire Rapid-i Mechanical Keyboard Review
Learning to love mechs and now TKL
My love affair with mechanical keyboards started in 2011 when I picked up my first one after many recommendations on forums and hardware sites. It was glorious and I've been using it consistently as my keyboard at home ever since. After four years I felt it was time to move on, research and identify a new keyboard that suited me and my evolving needs. Fast forward to today, and with the seemingly endless options, full size, tenkeyless, LEDs, RGB, etc you're somewhat spoiled for choice and it may be difficult to pin something down for yourself.
Now personally I enjoy hardware that's understated, minimalist, no frills and easy on the eyes. And that's seemingly where my search led me to with the Cooler Master Quick Fire Rapid-i Keyboard (MX Brown) which retails for SGD $158 in Singapore. Having scoured the net and stumbling upon Reddit's /r/mechanicalkeyboards and Geek Hack, I eventually narrowed it down to this keyboard which I felt covered many of the things I enjoy in the hardware that I own. Minimalist and not too flashy.
The Cooler Master Quick Fire Rapid-i is a a tenkeyless keyboard which means the numpad isn't included giving you a compact keyboard. If you're like me, and don't ever really use that side of conventional keyboards then I urge you to consider TKLs as I learned too in my research that there may actually be postural and health benefits to using one.
It seems to make sense that your shoulders are aligned better towards your monitor and for gaming and work. Your mouse is also situated closer as the space where the numpads used to be are no longer in the way. This translates to a firmer posture and a shorter travel time for your hands when typing or gaming. After 2 months of using my first TKL I'm glad I made the switch and don't miss full sized keyboards anymore. I will be sticking to TKL keyboards for the foreseeable future and might consider getting one for work as well.
I've mentioned no frills earlier and how I think that translates very well terms of features is the simplicity of just plugging in the keyboard to have all your presets loaded without any kind of software unlike the other brands especially with RGB options which obviously demand more configuration and software installed setting up. This is great for those who travel to LAN parties or bring their mechanical keyboard with them to the office or long holidays (yeah I actually bring my mech when I go on 3 week holidays to visit my family) and plug it in to different computers or your office machine. I like that you don't need to load software as it becomes very convenient where you have nothing to think about or plan for especially for travel. Simply put, if you're the type who just wants a plug and play keyboard with LEDs then you'll enjoy this.
Speaking of LED backlighting, there are 5 modes with 5 different levels of illumination levels that you can save as profiles. The different modes are; 1. slow breathing dark to light, 2 keys light up only as you press them, 3 same as the second but there is a time delay and you can see the keys still lit up and fade away slowly, 4 is the gaming mode which lights up WASD and the arrow keys, and lastly 5 my favourite is the entire keyboard lit up and bathed in white light which is very satisfying for me. The keyboard has an ARM processor to control the effects, illumination and save individual profiles. There are also media buttons which are always much appreciated in modern keyboards and on this one you have them placed as alternate keys above the arrow keys section of the board. They can be activated by holding the FN key.
The design is plain and minimalist just as I like it with a very small logo and branding in the front of the keyboard, effectively out of sight for the user. I appreciate how Cooler Master has embraced the whole minimalist aesthetic and has decided to lay low on the branding compared to their competitors who are sometimes guilty of massive obnoxious logos that just kill it for me. In this respect I must commend the decision to really go all out with a clean and no fuss look. Other things I enjoy about the design and I believe is still pretty unique is the fact that the base part of the keyboard where the keys are above have a white finishing which acts to accentuate and increase the brightness of the LED lights, giving a clean and uniform lighting experience for the keyboard.
In terms of the keys, the font used that was chosen I feel is a bit too tacky, a bit too forced in terms of trying to be too futuristic and sci fi. This seems to be happening quite often with keyboard manufacturers where Jed mentioned the same thing in his Razer Black Widow Chroma review. While I have nothing against sci fi and futuristic looking things I think such fonts on keyboards should probably stay neutral and not try too hard or "gamery".
It also has a detachable micro USB connector to allow for easy stowaways and traveling which I am starting to see as becoming more common these days in high end gaming mechanical keyboards, however this isn't exactly perfect. The one provided is angled at 90 degrees to the left which could be a bit awkward for some people, it isn't too bad for my set up and I can live with it but it would have been great if it was just a straight.
Build quality and the bottom line
The Cooler Master Quick Fire Rapid-i feels solidly built and has a nice heft to it, which surprised me considering it's a TKL and small. The weight gives it the stability you need when gaming so it doesn't knock or slide about. There is a nice soft finishing covering the entire body of the keyboard which gives it a premium feel and helps ensure that fingerprints don't show on the keyboard. The white LED lights at its maximum setting are bright and this is how I like to keep them for my set up. Overall no complaints in terms of build quality especially coming from a Japanese Filco keyboard for four years. This did not disappoint in terms of sturdiness and solidity. For its price point, features and build quality I can safely say that this is a pretty great TKL keyboard for those who want something minimalist and plain, I mean even the LED's are as plain as they come. If you're looking for your first TKL keyboard and enjoy minimalist designs and can live without RGB, you probably can't get any better than the Cooler Master Quick Fire Rapid-i right now.