Introduction & Specification
Cooler Master, they do allsorts, they are currently celebrating their 25 year anniversary. They have a massive range of components and peripherals and seem to serve the majority of pricing segments. I have used loads of their cases and coolers over the years, along with handy brackets and mounting things that turn up when something doesn’t quite fit.
For a good while now Cooler Master have been making keyboards, they have developed a style on their high end mechanical units that is very appealing, my excitement in this review stems from the same high end styling and build being used in their more budget orientated membrane set.
Here is a rundown of the specs of the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L combo set.
|Switch Type||Cooler Master Mem-chanical|
|Repeat Rate||Normal 1x / Turbo 8x|
|On-the-fly system||Lighting / Multimedia / Win LK / Full Keys LK|
|Cable||Non-Detachable Rubber Cable|
|Connector Cable||USB 2.0|
|Cable Length||1.8 Meters|
|Dimensions||439 x 129 x 41mm|
|Product Weight (without cable)||967 g|
|EAN Code (US Layout)||4719512052754|
|UPC Code (US Layout)||884102028861|
|Sensor||Optical AVAGO 3050|
|Switch Type||Omron 10M|
|On-the-fly system||Lighting / DPI|
|Cable||Non-Detachable Rubber Cable|
|Connector Cable||USB 2.0|
|Cable Length||1.8 Meters|
|Dimensions||114 x 64 x 39mm|
|Product Weight (without cable)||91 g|
Not a bad spec lineup there, quite a few features for the money too, some Omron switches on the mouse, always welcome, AVAGO 3050 sensor, I shall have to see how that fares, although they are offering dpi settings of 500, 1000, 2000, and 3500.
Time to fire up the Canon and get pixels laid down on the CCD.
Arriving in a long box we are left in no doubt as to the contents. lots of colour on show, detailing the RGB capabilities, a big Cherry Keycap compatibility logo and a nod to the special custom combination membrane/mechanical switches.
The back of the box brings us some more detail about the layers on the keyboard, along with specification details in various languages. Not too much to mull over here the packaging is pretty standard, while attractive doesn’t go overboard on the marketing, what we’re really interested in lies inside.
Well hello there, if I didn’t know better I would think I had just unwrapped a mainstream mechanical keyboard with a smooth mouse, both devices feature standard rubber/plastic cabling, nothing fancy there, there is also a nice colour manual to go with it. The star of this package is definitely the keyboard, let me separate it all out and we can delve in further.
There is a nice weight to this keyboard, if I put it next to a MasterKeys L mechanical board I don’t think I could tell the difference, oh wait a minute, there is less of a curve on the keys and the cable is fixed in, thats all. top right we have the letters N C S and G, so that will be numlock, capslock, scroll lock and go RTFM Bo.
Well look at this, a flat underside, just two rubber feet at the front preventing sliding, and the rear feet have rubber on them wrapping around the back so they work both in the up and down position, depending on your preference. The Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L keyboard looking good so far.
Illumination! Well the MasterKeys Lite L is quite the looker when plugged in. As with many other keyboards that have lighting options you use the FN key plus a selection of F-keys to change the settings, you can choose a rainbow wave for example along with various zones, there are quite a few colour combinations available with 5 different brightness settings for Red, Green and Blue, allowing for a good number of customised effects. The lights bleeds around the keys as it is done in the board rather than the switches, this is not always to everyone’s taste but I think it looks fine and doesn’t detract from being able to read the legends on the keycaps. After doing some manual reading the G on the end is for two modes Windows Key Lock and Full Key Lock, which until disabled locks up the entire keyboard apart from the Function key and related F keys of course. This is something I have not seen before usually its just the windows keys, I suppose it could offer a quick way to protect the system from tampering or accidental keypresses without locking the workstation. Onew other non standard option is a turbo repeater system, using FN + F10 you can set the key repeat speed to 8x the normal repeat rate, reminds me of autofire on old 8 & 16bit system Joysticks.
Trusty keycap puller readily reveals the cross shape of the familiar Cherry style stem, you can see that the lighting is in the board as it’s not centered on each key, the plunger is pretty smooth, it is closest to a Cherry red switch, linear and smooth, if it wasn’t for the membrane softening the bottoming out, you could be fooled in to thinking the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L keyboard was a mech.
Here we have the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L mouse, a dark all black build, its fairly light but the shell size is pretty good. The scroll wheel has a rubber tyre on it which aids gripping, there is a DPI button behind it, the main mouse buttons extend from the mouse body to the ends with no separation under the knuckles.
On the left and side of the mouse we have forward and back buttons, the material is all plastic which could get quite slippery under heavy use as it is very smooth.
Around the back the mouse looks fairly plain, the Cooler Master logo is part of the shell and in a shinier texture, this logo does not light up however it will spend most of its time under your hand so it’s not terribly important, there is a clear plastic strip at the bottom which will allow the lighting to shine through.
On the right hand side we have plain plastic, still smooth and no buttons, the shape is really comfortable though and works with many grip styles, I would be tempted to apply some rubbery strips to aid grip.
Here we have the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L mouse looking us in the eye, the cable is centre mounted and you can see the two main buttons go all the way to the front edge with a little overlap. Much closer to the wheel here you can see the diagonal texture of the tyre, the ridges don’t match up with the notches on the wheel but its quite usable.
Whats underneath then? Well we can see the sensor, some regulatory info and a serial sticker and mouse slider pads, which have an indentation at the edges, this indicates to me they are replaceable, after having a google around I couldn’t find any specific Cooler Master glide pads for this mouse but generic ones that you cut to shape could work. I thought it was a nice touch considering the budget nature of the mouse offering the possibility of a longer usage life.
Plugged in and all lit up, now there is some importance to the lighting on this mouse, the reason being when you select a DPI, the mode selected flashes a few times in a different colour for each level. Here is a rundown Flashing Red after DPI selection gives you 500 DPI, Blue 1000 DPI, Purple 2000 DPI and finally White 3500 DPI.
Right I have put up this comparison shot as a way of adding to a previous review I did on the Cougar Deathfire EX combo set. On the right we have the Cougar mouse you can see the lower arch of the shell and my main issue with the mouse which was those buttons being too low down, I feel this image illustrates my points about how that mouse could easily be improved without increasing the cost, as I said at the time the internals of the mouse are very good it was let down by the design.
Enough of that back to the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L combo review, what is it like to use?
Quality & Performance
The Masterkeys Lite L keyboard really does a great job of being like a mechanical keyboard, it has that minimalist design of many other mech’s like the Cooler Master Series or the Ducky keyboards, it feels like a nice solid build, the keycaps are smooth, which as some of you may know I don’t enjoy too much as they increase typo’s, the joy here though is that they are replaceable with Cherry compatible keycaps you literally have thousands of keycap possibilities. I found the linear style switches pleasant to use, they are louder than many of the topre-style hybrid membrane mechanical switches available at similar prices especially the spacebar which is louder than my Cherry Brown keybaord and a little rattly. This would be a downside but you can actually fit o-rings just like you would on a mech, which would stabilise and reduce bottoming out noise. O-rings can be typically bought for a couple of pounds so experimentation wouldn’t break the bank.
I found the keyboard responsive and the typing angle comfortable, no problems in games, I didn’t find any advantage to using the 8x repeat boost but I am sure there are situations where it might be useful. If I had to go membrane this would be my choice simply with the Cherry compatibility which stands out from the other similar keyboards available, there is a lot of quality competition at this price range, so it does end up being about the little things.
The Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L mouse is a fairly lightweight but solid chunk of plastic, the shell is firm and not creaky, the only downside is the slippery smooth texture of the mouse. The buttons are well located and offer no difficulty activating them when needed, it would have been nice to repeat the forward and back buttons on the right hand side of the mouse which would have made it ambidextrous, this is a shortfall for many mice, the poor left handed users left with a much smaller choice of mouse tailored to their needs.
Sliding around cloth and solid mousemats, there were no issues with the Avago sensor tracking the electronics handling multiple use scenarios with no issues. The fixed selection of DPI settings is a little bit limiting for anyone who uses a mouse with customisation software to choose their favourite DPI settings, me for example I like to have 600 in Counter Strike Global Offensive and other shooters, where this mouse gives me 500 DPI for the lowest settings, this is ok for a budget mouse though and still quite usable. I found myself switching between 1000 and 2000 DPI while using the desktop as my normal 1800 level wasn’t available. The mouse is nice and accurate the Omron switches on the main mouse buttons very reliable as always, so its not a bad offering, I would like something included to improve grip especially under gaming use.
The RGB lighting modes are a good addition and as mentioned useful for DPI level notification.
The Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L combo, a frankly fantastic offering of a near mechanical quality keyboard and decent mouse, the lighting on the mouse is used for DPI functionality as well as appearance which enables on-the-fly DPI switching rather than a physical switch on the underside, this is partly in keeping with more expensive mice. It does lack a grippy coating and a true ambidextrous setup but is well built and works well with it’s available features.
The Keyboard is definitely the star of the show here, Cherry MX compatible hybrid dome switches which are custom made and offer a Cherry Red style linear performance which could be a great budget launchpad into the world of customisable keyboards for those starting out who would eventually invest in more expensive and capable equipment. With the excelltent typing comfort offered I would certainly seriously consider this if budget were a limiting factor for me. It is still possible to get a hybrid mechanical feel keyboard with a better mouse for around the same money however you won’t get the Keycap compatibility which is the big differentiator with this keyboard. I would also say that many other backlit keyboards at this price range only offer 8 colours, whereas the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L offers 5 levels of brightness on each colour giving a bigger palette to choose from on the keyboard.
This set is getting awarded gold because the keyboard is a step above other offerings, I am also giving it editors choice with just a nod to Cooler Master to think about improving the grip on the mouse.
- Great keyboard
- Cherry compatible keycaps and stems
- Almost a mechanical keyboard
- Well proportioned mouse
- Good mouse internals
- Excellent value for money
- Mouse casing can be a bit slippery
- Spacebar a little rattly on keyboard