Techgage logo

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard Review

Date: April 16, 2012
Author(s): Rob Williams

As we discovered in our review, Cooler Master’s QuickFire Rapid mechanical keyboard is a good one. But, it lacked a couple of things that some gamers (like me) demand. Such things include backlighting, a numpad, and in rarer cases, N-key rollover support. All of these things can be found on the QuickFire Pro, so let’s check it out.



Introduction

If someone a couple of years ago asked me if anything exciting was happening in the world of gaming keyboards, I’m not sure I’d have much to say. In recent years, there’s just been very little to catch my attention. Anything released either seemed too overdone, or didn’t inspire me to upgrade. Even market leader Logitech has failed to release a new gaming keyboard in the last year-and-a-half. It makes you wonder – did we really reach a point where there’s little to improve?

That’s a hard statement to settle on, because innovation exists, and it’s alive and well. So what’s the next step, then? If you follow keyboard releases at all, you already know the answer: “Mechanical”.

Mechanical keyboards have been around for decades, so with the onslaught of recent releases, it’d be reasonable to assume that we’re in the midst of a big fad – one that companies such as Cooler Master, Corsair, SteelSeries and others, are just trying to cash in on. After all, has there been a market where there have been more fads than gaming peripherals?

In recent months, as I’ve read reviews on mechanical models, including those on this site from Ryan and Jamie, I started to feel the pull. Coincidentally, Cooler Master at around the same time sent us its QuickFire Pro and Trigger keyboards, so I jumped on them and barked at anyone that came near me. I wanted to finally get a chance at using a mechanical model.

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard

With gaming mice in recent years, we’ve had to worry about which sensor a mouse is shipped with, because there are differences. For mechanical keyboards, what you have to worry about is whether or not they include CHERRY MX switches, and further, which color.

CHERRY MX switches come in four colors; two of which are non-linear. The “Black” has the strongest resistance; the “Blue” has low resistance and finishes with a click; the “Brown” has medium resistance and a bump when pushed half-way; and finally, the “Red” has very low resistance. The “best” CHERRY MX switch doesn’t exist, as it’s all up to personal taste. It does seem that red switches are the most expensive, however.

Cooler Master’s mechanical keyboards don’t have their switches set in stone. Rather, the company states that it will vary by region. Our review sample ships with the brown switch (the same goes for the Trigger). If you have a particular preference with how your keyboard feels, then you’ll want to find out which switch your keyboard will ship with before purchasing. Here are the QF Pro model numbers for each switch:

But enough of that. Let’s get to a look at the QuickFire Pro, shall we?

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard

Though the QF Pro is targeted at gamers, it’s also perfectly suited for non-gamers as well. There are no macro keys, and with all of the LEDs turned off, it looks quite professional. Unlike the QuickFire Rapid that Ryan took a look at a few months ago, the Pro includes a numpad – a feature important to a lot of MMO gamers (like me).

As seen in the above image, the CM Storm logo has replaced the Windows flag logo typically seen on most keyboards. The actions of this button are the same as a regular Windows key, however.

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard

Towards the right side of the keyboard is the “Fn” key (which I managed to cut-off in the photo), and all of the other standard keyboard keys you’d expect. The Fn key acts as a toggle, so in order to use one of the bonus functions of another key, you must push this one and then the other key. This is opposed to any other design I’ve ever seen where you’ve simply had to hold down the Fn key while pushing another.

An example of extra functions can be seen in the photo below. The F1-F4 keys can be used to toggle between the LED modes; F5-F8 controls media; F9-F11 is for volume and finally, F12 can disable the Windows key (so that you won’t get booted out of your game if you accidentally hit it).

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard

The Fn key can also be used to change non-traditional functionality as well. With the Fn key down, hitting N+Del will enable N-rollover mode, which enables many, many keys to be used at once (there is no official number made by Cooler Master). This mode would be good if you had a really specific reason for it, or if you were playing a multiplayer game where two people had to share the same keyboard. For most people, it’ll be fine to leave the keyboard default.

The other unique function is to adjust the USB polling rate. Those options include 8ms, 4ms, 2ms and 1ms. I’ve yet to figure out a reason why anyone would want to change their polling rate, so once again, default will be fine for most people.

One trait that carries through from one mechanical keyboard to another is their size. The QF Pro is no exception. It’s 1.2″ high and weighs 2.86 lbs. For a keyboard, that’s heavy (some laptops weigh less than that), but it does add to the durability and makes it unlikely that the board will slide around in the heat of battle.

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard

The braided USB cable (not pictured) connects to the QF Pro in an unusual, but smart way. In the above image, the cable plugs in right above the CM Storm information sticker, and then routes out through the back. Because of this routing, tripping over the cord won’t pull it out of the keyboard. I am still undecided on whether I’d trust the keyboard to act as a rope to use in dangerous situations.

Testing, usage and final thoughts up next!

Testing & Final Thoughts

Before I post a review for most peripherals, I try to use them for as long as possible to give them a good, thorough test. In the case of the QuickFire Pro, I only spent about a week with it, for a couple of different reasons. The main one is that the Trigger’s release is right around the corner, and I’ll need to be testing that one. That said, this sample will be making its way to my gamer brother, so if any long-term issues arise, I’ll be bringing them up.

In the time I did spend with the QF Pro, I’ve been left very impressed. Moving to a mechanical keyboard wasn’t a life-changing experience, but it was a very welcomed change none-the-less. I’ve reached the point where I’d rather use a mechanical keyboard now. A statement like that deserves some questioning, so why exactly do I feel that way?

First and foremost, it’s the responsiveness. On this KB, it’s actually too responsive if you are in the habit of resting your hands on some keys. In one MMO I play, I usually keep my hands hovered over the F1-F4 keys, so my palm inevitably rests on some of the lower keys. On this keyboard, I experienced occasions where I’d accidentally push some of those keys. This isn’t an issue per se, though if you are in the habit of doing the same thing, it does take some getting used to.

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard

Because of the increased responsiveness, though, using the keyboard is simply more enjoyable. I haven’t really found myself typing any faster than before, or more accurately, but I have found typing to simply be more enjoyable. In some ways, it’s hard to accurately describe the feeling. If you like responsiveness, you can’t go wrong with a keyboard such as this.

Of course, mechanical keyboards aren’t only known for their tactile feedback, but also their noise – and yep, the QF Pro is not quiet. As I normally type and game with music going in my ears, I don’t really mind the noise, but it is a little odd to realize that anyone near the room will hear me clickity clacking away. It’s not noisy to the point of ridiculousness, but it’s certainly noisier than any other keyboard I’ve ever used. Pro-tip: keep your mic far away from your keyboard when using Ventrilo or Teamspeak; your clannies will appreciate it!

One of the best reasons to upgrade to a true gaming keyboard is to gain the ability to use many keys at once without the worry that it’s going to screw up on you. The occasions where you will need to use more than four keys at once might be rare, but it’s nice to know that your keyboard will be able to handle it. This is especially important with games that don’t handle that sort of usage too well. In the past I’ve lost total control in Borderlands due to the issue.

To perform tests based around key usage, I pushed down a variety of keys in random configurations, using the two modes the keyboard ships with. “6-key” is essentially a default setting, whereas NKRO is the N-rollover that allows you to push many more keys at once. The results below were created by me pushing down on all of the displayed keys at once.

In the 6-key mode, pressing any more than 6 keys at once can result in a variety of things; the first six might display, less than six will display, or nothing will display. I’ve never had such a problem with the NKRO setting, and as you can see, in one result I managed to print out 26 keys at once. I think it’s safe to say that you are going to run out of fingers before you will the number of keys you can press.

The NKRO mode does however come with one caveat: it can’t be used outside of the OS; eg: POST. According to Cooler Master, this is a flaw, but not with the keyboard. Instead, it’s simply an issue with some motherboards and their BIOS (I haven’t tested the keyboard on an EFI machine). Switching between the two modes is very easy, however, and only takes about 15 seconds. The first time you switch modes Windows will install a second driver for the keyboard, as according to the OS, it’ll be a completely different model.

Final Thoughts

Even though I’ve been using the QuickFire Pro for less than a week, I’m sold. If I were in the market for a mechanical keyboard with this feature-set, I’d pick it up without hesitation. There are competitors, of course, so sometimes your decision will boil down to aesthetics. Of them all though, I think the QF Pro is one of the best looking models out there, if not the best.

What would keep me from purchasing the QuickFire Pro is that it lacks macro keys – a feature I require for my MMOs. That’s one of those things that won’t affect everyone, however, so if macro keys aren’t ever a requirement of yours, then this is a nonexistent complaint. One potential downside for some though might be the lack of a wrist-rest – and on a keyboard this high, that would have been appreciated.

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard

There is something else lacking on both the QF Pro and Trigger that drives me nuts: dedicated media keys. In order to change a song, you must hit the Fn key and then the respective F key. This is normally fine, but because the Fn key only acts as a toggle, using the media keys gets tedious after a while. On the right side of the QF Pro are three “Lock” status LEDs. As far as I am concerned, those should not exist, and instead, each Lock key on the KB should be backlit to represent the status. Who uses Scroll Lock and Caps Lock, anyway? I think most would agree that the space could have been better utilized for dedicated media keys.

I can’t wrap up this review without mentioning the LED backlight. There are a couple of different modes, and four levels of brightness. You are able to have only the WASD and other select keys lit, or most of the left-side of the KB (as seen in the top-most image on this page). If you so desire, the LEDs can pulse, rather than stay at the brightness you set them at.

Everything said, this is one of the best keyboards I’ve ever used, and if I didn’t care either about dedicated media keys or the macro keys, I’d pick it up in a heartbeat. At $99, the QuickFire Pro is very well-built, performs extremely well, and is a joy to use. Oh, and in case it matters, it looks good, too.

CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard
CM Storm QuickFire Pro Gaming Keyboard

Discuss this article in our forums!

Have a comment you wish to make on this article? Recommendations? Criticism? Feel free to head over to our related thread and put your words to our virtual paper! There is no requirement to register in order to respond to these threads, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Copyright © 2005-2019 Techgage Networks Inc. - All Rights Reserved.