As we've often mentioned here at OC3D, the joy of typing on a mechanical keyboard is one of those things you need to experience to fully appreciate. It's like the boost you can get from installing a Solid State Drive. If you've only ever typed on the scissor laptop style or, even worse, on keyboards that rely upon membranes to get the job done, then you owe it to yourself to treat your fingers to the tactile joy of a Cherry switch model.
Two things tend to dissuade people though. The first, and most obvious, is the price. Because of the quality of the components spread across the amount of keys on your average keyboard it quickly becomes expensive in pure volume terms. The second one is the size. You don't take the Rolls Royce of keyboard switches, Cherry's, and squeeze them into something cheap and tiny. But not everyone has a lot of space available to them. Even more so when you look around at the size of the average computer desk from a place like Argos or Ikea.
CM Storm have been producing high quality peripherals since they were first created as an off-shoot of the hardware titan that is Cooler Master, and the Quickfire TK combines the quality of Cherry switches into a compact size to suit those who haven't got an Aircraft Carrier handy.
There are three models to the Quickfire TK, all changing depending upon the version of the switches inside. The main difference is the amount of pressure needed to actuate the key, and on the model we have here we've got the lightest version, the Cherry Red, which requires only 45g to press.
|Model Number||SGK-4020-GKCR1(Red switch)|
Cherry MX Blue/ Brown/ Red
ABS, grip coated, removable
All keys, Red, 5 Levels, 3 Modes
NKRO (windows only)
1000 Hz /1 ms
USB 2.0 full speed
1.8m, braided, gold plated, removable
544 g/1.2 lbs
Lately we've been seeing more and more keyboards that have a separate cable, and the TK is no exception. The cable is of the highest quality, with very soft braiding and the ubiquitous gold plating.
The size, or rather lack of, is the most striking element. Thanks to some very careful key arrangement you have everything you could wish, just in a more compact size.
Underneath is the cable connector which can be then routed straight out the back or either side depending where your tower is situated. The feet are higher than many we've seen in recent times and allow for a very comfortable typing angle.
If you've ever wondered how you could tell these are Cherry Red switches, the answer is rather obviously in the colour. It's not some nebulous marketing identifier. The red switches are red, the blues blue, etc etc. One of the little things that CM Storm have added which helps both in terms of solidity and attention to detail is the steel plate which is colour-coded to match the switch type.
Often compact keyboards achieve their small stature by dispensing with the numpad, so we're pleased to see that CM Storm have kept the numpad but relocated the cursor cluster to the numblock. The keys already duplicate the majority of the insert/home suite, so only the print screen and pause/break keys are added.
With a combination of the function key and the F1-F4 keys the keyboard springs to life with an extremely bright (but thankfully variable) red glow. In keeping with the trend of gaming keyboards you can also set it to only illuminate the WASD keys.
One very cool little feature is when you hit the numlock the cursors match the numlock status, allowing for an 'at a glance' idea of which mode you're in.
Initially this reminds us a lot of the Ducky Channel we just reviewed a couple of weeks ago. It has Cherry Red switches, a detachable USB cable, and some fancy lighting trickery. Indeed it is very similar. In the same way that all modern family cars are approximately the same, and all TVs are about the same, so it's true with keyboards. If you choose the Cherry Red switches with built in LED and are constrained by the requirements of the 105 key QWERTY layout, then you're very likely to end up with a keyboard that looks and feels a lot like all the others.
So what does the CM Storm Quickfire TK offer to separate it from the pack?
Firstly of course there is branding. As much as it shouldn't make a difference whose name is on the product as long as the quality is there, we know that many of you are fans of a particular brand. Because Cooler Master, and thus CM Storm, are purveyors of a wide-range of high-quality hardware then it's even easier to desire all your products are from the same company.
However, we hold no bias towards particular brands here at OC3D, and so we have to look a little deeper for the gold at the end of the rainbow.
The two key points of the Quickfire TK are the compact size, and that colour-coded steel plate. As well as providing a very sturdy backbone to the whole keyboard the plate is a nice aesthetic touch. Even with the keyboard darkened there is a glimpse of the colour beneath. The size though is the big selling point. Usually when keyboards are reduced there are features that have been cut out that either cause consternation or, as any touch typer who has changed keyboard knows, cause you to spend half your initial period with it endlessly deleting things your muscle-memory refuses to forget. The TK dispenses with both these problems by including a full numpad and the main QWERTY part of the keyboard is in the standard format.
The lighting is seriously bright. If you've ever felt that the colours on your peripherals were a bit weak then have no fear, as this could easily double as a source of mood lighting in an evil lair. Thankfully it can be turned down dramatically, or even off entirely, but it's nice to have the ability to bathe your face in a red glow if the mood takes you.
Pricing is the one place we cannot comment, as this is a pre-production sample and no pricing information is available at the time of going to press. We do know that both the 'lacking a numpad' model and the full-size one in the Quickfire range are available for around £70, and if the TK comes out at that price point it's a very tempting buy indeed. The build-quality is excellent, the Cherry switches are the best in the business, and the compact design suits anyone who is lacking in desk-space. With the assumption that it will appear at this price point, we're happy to award it the OC3D Silver award.
Update - on the day of going live we found out that the price would be £62, we felt this meant we should move its price score up from a 7 to an 8 in the price graph and this then moved it in to Gold award territory.
Thanks to CM Storm for supplying the Quickfire TK keyboard for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.