Date: May 13, 2013
Author(s): J.D. Kane
Since the release of its QuickFire Rapid in late 2011, Cooler Master has done well to capture a good portion of the mechanical keyboard market. Its models are built-well, cater to gamer and traditional user alike, and look good. What’s next? Introducing a keyswitch that no other company in North America can: Cherry MX Green.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of our look at Cooler Master’s Storm QuickFire Rapid with Cherry MX Green switches, let’s indulge in a little bit of exposition and background info, shall we?
It’s a bit hard to believe, but Cooler Master has only been in the keyboard market space for just short of two years. That presence started in mid-2011, when the company announced its QuickFire and Trigger mechanical keyboards released under the banner of its Storm brand.
The QuickFire Rapid was the first model made available, and accordingly Techgage got a review sample in January of 2012. It was a hugely impressive debut for Cooler Master, and it started a trend: To date, each CM Storm mechanical keyboard that has ever been released – QuickFire Rapid, QuickFire Pro, Trigger, and QuickFire TK – has earned Techgage’s esteemed Editor’s Choice award.
Today, we’ll be having a good look at CM Storm’s latest attempt to keep its impressive record of keyboard review perfection intact: The QuickFire Rapid, now equipped with Cherry MX Green key switches. This QF Rapid is not an all-new model, per se; rather, it is an evolution of the original offering featuring a hitherto unavailable type of Cherry MX key switch.
As explained in the introduction of our QuickFire TK review, when CM Storm first released its mechanical keyboards, the company adopted the interesting tactic of releasing only one Cherry MX switch type for each model for each geographic market. For example, in North America, the QuickFire Rapid was available with just the Cherry MX Blue switch; for the QuickFire Pro and the Trigger, MX Browns were used. Even at the time, I thought that the company was artificially limiting its own sales potential by doing this. For instance, at the time, I really wanted a QF Pro with Blues; having had no experience with the Brown switch type, I couldn’t justify buying one at full price at the time it was introduced. With the advent of the QuickFire TK, it became clear that the company had listened to consumer feedback.
These days, you can now buy almost every CM Storm mechanical keyboard with almost every Cherry MX key switch available.
It’s a critical point. After all, keyboards are all about user preference; this, in turn, is usually most dependent on the type of key switch the end user prefers. Whether it’s a certain type of mechanical key switch, or even a non-mechanical switch type, each end user develops personal biases for his or her favorite switch type.
Cooler Master has four of the most popular Cherry MX switch types for its models: Blue (tactile and clicky); Brown (tactile and non-clicky); Black (linear with moderate actuation force); and Red (linear with light actuation force). With the QuickFire Rapid now available with Green switches, CM aims to capture a rarely-tapped market segment. It’s worth noting that for the time being, CM holds exclusive North American rights to Cherry’s Green switches – great for the company, not so great for the consumer.
Now, with this preamble done, let’s have a closer look at the Cherry MX Green-equipped QuickFire Rapid.
Although it is the newest QuickFire Rapid, astute observers will notice immediately that this plank is not identical to the first iteration of this model. For one thing, it has now got a matte black chassis. The original QuickFire Rapid, which is still available, is silver grey in color. Also missing on the Cherry MX Green QF Rapid are the CM Storm markings to the right of the Esc key and above the arrow key cluster. Personally, I much prefer the new treatment of the chassis. The matte black is classy, discreet, and austere. However, don’t take that to say that the original QuickFire Rapid is sullied by a surfeit of branding.
Naturally, though, this new variant of QuickFire Rapid shares much more than it differs from its sisters. For example, it has the same detachable USB cable; it also has the same accessory package that is comprised of extra keycaps, keycap puller, user guide, and USB-to-PS/2 adapter. The bottom of the chassis is also identical. And, obviously, the number pad-less form factor is identical as well.
It’s even got the same media keys – F5 through F12 – as the original QuickFire Rapid. Using these is as easy as toggling on the Fn key, then pressing the correct F-key that you need. Pressing F9 also disables the Win key, which is useful during gaming sessions.
Indeed, the only substantial difference between this model and the rest of the QuickFire Rapid lineup is that this is equipped with the hard-to-find Cherry MX Green key switch. The photo above shows what the actual key switch looks like with the keycap removed.
Now that we’ve had a good look at this keyboard, let’s move on to a discussion of how it feels to use and my overall thoughts.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve got a bit of a keyboard fetish. Over the years, I’ve used and sampled almost thirty different keyboards. Today I have around ten keyboards here at my apartment alone (four of which are Techgage review samples). I’ve sold quite a few others that I’ve previously owned as well. The others have been given to clients and family members for whom I had built PCs.
I’ve owned membrane switch keyboards of many types; I’ve also owned several keyboards with each of the four major Cherry MX mechanical key switch types. But until receiving this QuickFire Rapid for review, I had never used a keyboard with the Cherry MX Green switch.
So although I do have experience with three of CM’s Storm mechanical keyboards (the original QuickFire Rapid with Blues that I borrowed for a few days from a good friend, a QuickFire Pro with Browns that I bought at a substantial discount, and the QuickFire TK with Reds that I reviewed in November 2012, this review is still a bit of a revelation to me.
The simple fact is that each Cherry MX switch type is different from each other. So although I have significant time with the Blue (my favorite), Brown, Black, and Red switch types, the Greens promise to deliver a different experience compared to anything I’ve used up to this point.
The first press revealed a lot: It required a noticeable amount of extra force to activate compared to my favorite Blues. As Cooler Master’s own CM University reveals, there are distinct differences in required actuation force for each switch type. The Blues require 50g, the Greens 80g. Thirty grams may not seem like much, but in practice it’s a difference you can definitely feel. There is also a noticeable tactile bump in the keys’ downward travel, which is something the Green shares with the Blue switch type as well. Echoing Cooler Master’s own conclusion – that you can view Greens as a stiffer version of the Blues – is apt.
Like my Blue-equipped daily driver, the Green-shod QuickFire Rapid is a dream to type on. While I think I still much prefer the Cherry MX Blue switch best, the Greens have moved past the Browns as my second favorite type. I really have come to depend on the tactile and auditory feedback you get from both the Blue and the Green switches, so that largely explains my strong preference for them.
I’m still quicker on my daily driver compared to the Green QuickFire Rapid: 92WPM/0 errors vs. 88WPM/0 errors (results compiled through the average of three runs of the same typing speed/accuracy test I always use on TypingTest.com). It’s a miniscule difference, but I think my little bit of extra speed comes through the significant advantage of familiarity with the Blue switch type. I’m a little unsure what impact the difference in activation force makes, if any, but I do know that I find the super-light (45g) Cherry MX Red-equipped keyboards that I’ve used to be the worst both in speed and in accuracy for me. It’s a little interesting that the 5g difference between the Blue and Red switches negatively impacts my typing speed and accuracy far more than the 30g difference between the Blues and Greens.
The unanswered question, of course, is whether or not I’ll gain even more speed without losing accuracy with the Green switches. This is a difficult issue to address, simply because of the massive disparity in familiarity that I have for the Blues compared to the Greens. Nevertheless, to register typing speeds 95.6% of my best average performance with Blues with a keyboard fitted with a hitherto unfamiliar switch type vouches for the overall quality of the QuickFire Rapid. That I don’t make typos whilst doing so is even more impressive. I mean, with most other keyboard reviews that I’ve done, I would typically make an error here and there.
Ergonomically, the QuickFire Rapid hits the sweet spot. The key layout is ideal, with no keys in weird or unexpected positions. I’m sure that this is one reason for my accuracy with this keyboard. The lack of a number pad does impact its usefulness as a plank for the office (I enter a lot of numerical data in my day job), but end users know that prior to buying one of these, so complaints on this particular front would be outright daft.
It’s fun enough to use in games, though the weight of the Green switches do take a little bit of getting used to. In this usage scenario, you do notice the heavier actuation force required. I can’t say I felt any undue finger fatigue using the QuickFire Rapid in games, but then again I don’t spend extended hours just gaming the night away. For hour-long (or maybe even two hours) sessions, the Cherry MX Green-equipped QuickFire Pro is as good as any mechanical keyboard as I’ve used. I’m not a gamer who relies on macros at all, so I didn’t miss this functionality whatsoever. Just know beforehand that that particular arrow is not in this keyboard’s quiver.
In terms of the keyboard itself, well, it certainly feels like a very high-quality item. It exhibits zero chassis flex, and it’s quite heavy for its size. I especially like the bulletproof impression it exudes, a feeling I got when I reviewed the QuickFire TK some months ago.
If there is one quibble that I’d bother to point out, it’s the detachable USB cable. Now, this is a feature all of the company’s mechanical keyboards share; to be perfectly honest, I find this feature to be a bit on the pointless side. I simply don’t see what practical advantage there is in being able to remove the cable from the keyboard. Not only that, but I also think that having a detachable cable introduces an additional potential point of failure: It’s not unknown for USB connectors to incur damage. Having said that, if your cable does get damaged, it’s possible to replace just the cable, instead of junking the entire keyboard (assuming, of course, the end user doesn’t possess the ability to repair a broken USB connector).
The QuickFire Rapid with Cherry MX Green switches has an MSRP of $99.99. I think this is a fair price for a truly high-quality keyboard. There are gaming keyboards out there that cost more, yet will never approach the QF Rapid in terms of build quality. There’s also some value to having a keyboard equipped with the rare Cherry MX Green switches. It’s a bit like owning an objet d’art, a conversation piece: Not everyone has one, and it’s a point of pride amongst the number of people who do own one because of it.
But to classify this keyboard equipped with this type of mechanical key switch as a mere trophy is to sell it far too short since it is a superior performer at the job it’s supposed to do. It’s a touch typist’s keyboard, for sure. And it’s more than adequate for gamers as well (just as long as you accept that it doesn’t do macros out of the box, since it doesn’t come with a dedicated software package as some of its market competitors do).
So, let’s get to the million dollar question: What do we make of the QuickFire Rapid with Cherry MX Green switches, since its CM Storm brethren all earned Techgage’s esteemed Editor’s Choice award?
This one’s easy.
The streak continues for CM Storm’s mechanical keyboards.
CM Storm QuickFire Rapid
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