Having seen numerous mechanical keyboards from Cooler Master over the last 12 months, it’s probably of no surprise that we have 2 of their brand new, just launched Masterkeys models in our possession… but unlike most mechanical keyboard manufacturers/brands, Cooler Master have an added trick up their sleeve to enhance user experience and further improve on their quality. Today I present to you the new Cooler Master Masterkeys PBT S & L Mechanical keyboards which feature higher quality PBT keycaps and come in full-size and TKL variations.
What are PBT Keycaps?
PBT stands for Polybutylene Terephthalate and is a form of durable plastic which are designed to stand the test of time. Aside from being resistant to solvents, the keycaps generally don’t develop that shine ABS keycaps do and aside from that, ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene tend to be lower quality, cheaper and of course, aren’t resistant to solvents. PBT keycaps can also survive in temperatures of up to 150c, although unless you have lava coated fingers, you’re not going to run into many issues.
In relative terms, PBT keycaps are better quality than ABS keycaps, but they do cost more, but tend to last a lot longer.
Masterkeys PBT S
Masterkeys PBT L
Before we look at the Masterkeys S and Masterkeys L individually, I thought it would be a better idea to show what’s on offer in both keyboards in terms of packaging and accessories. Both the mechanical keyboards come in good looking and retail friendly boxes with the L obviously being the larger model and the S being somewhat smaller due to the TKL or TenKeyLess design.
After removing both keyboards from their respective boxes, we can clearly see the L is distinctively longer than the S model. The L model has dimensions of 440x137x28mm and the S model has a smaller desktop footprint of 356x135x33mm; the S is ever so slightly thicker, but it is also 84mm shorter in overall length.
Aside from the keyboards, Cooler Master have included a detachable USB cable in the box to connect them to your device (PC, Laptop, HTPC etc). As well as the cables, both keyboards feature a set of red gaming themed keycaps to replace your QWERASD keys with and a keycap puller to help you do this.
Before we take a look at the Masterkeys keyboards individually, both keyboards feature adjustable backrests to allow for angling of the keyboard to match your preference. Both also feature rubber pads in each corner to help keep your keyboard affixed to whatever surface you are using, but these also double up to prevent scratches to said surface too… small, but cool!
Cooler Master Masterkeys PBT L Closer Look
Starting off with the larger full-size model, the Masterkeys L is classed as a full size mechanical keyboard and from first glance, it looks rather ‘plain’. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I actually favour and like the minimalistic style Cooler Master have gone with. For those looking for lashings of RGB LEDs, you’re not going to find them with either the Masterkeys L or S models unfortunately and you may wish to look at the Masterkeys Pro RGB models we reviewed previously.
Although our samples do feature Cherry MX Green switches, the Masterkeys PBT L will only be available in Cherry MX Browns at launch in the UK (US and other regions may differ), but I do speculate here that Cherry MX red, blue, silver and green models will all be available in the UK soon (hopefully).
The Masterkeys L PBT features all the usual features you would expect to find in a modern day mechanical keyboard such as N-Key rollover, a 1ms response rate, customisable repeat rates of 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x and of course, Function keys across the top row of the keyboard.
Differentiating between the L and S models, the Masterkeys PBT L has a numpad which is of course usual for a full-size keyboard to have. A full set of arrow keys are also present between the main body of keys and the numpad which is useful for gaming, spreadsheets and other tasks… WASD all the way for me while gaming though, just thought I would make that clear!
As previously mentioned, the samples currently at Play3r HQ feature Cherry MX Green switches which are heavier and stiffer than their blue brothers, but still keep that clicky sound which blue switches are famous for. They require more actuation to activate a key press than the likes of red and brown switches, but this is mainly due to their stiff design.
Cooler Master Masterkeys PBT S Closer Look
Now it’s time to take a look at the shorter and questionably cuter Masterkeys PBT S model; this particular model has a shorter TKL (tenkeyless) design and is more suitable for those looking to take their keyboard with them, or to save valuable desk space… OR BOTH!
Having virtually all of the same features as the L version, the S model does away with the numpad altogether, but it does keep those handy Ins/Home/Del/Page Up/Page Down/End keys etc, as well as the arrow keys.
As you can expect with doing away with an entire section of keyboard, you may think you’re going to lose functionality and as an avid user of the numpad when doing the accounts and graphs for testing components, it can take a little time to get used to switching from full-size to TKL, but it’s one that feels just as natural as the other.
You generally find that TKL keyboards are featured heavily at LAN events due to their small compact size and with this, comes increased portability which a lot of gamers actually like these days… although I personally do favour full-size models primarily for their inclusion of a numpad.
It’s very apparent that I’m a big fan of the PBT keycaps and both the Masterkeys PBT S and L both come with very much the same features in the way of function keys, quality and of course, overall design, but how do they stand up to being used for a while and do they tick all the right boxes? Let’s find out…
As both models on review/test today feature the same feature set, specifications and keycaps/switches, I will be concluding both together as the only real difference is the removal of the numpad on the S model and the size to fit into the TKL sizing range. I will say now that both keyboards have felt very similar when dismissing the numpad from the equation and both feel identical in usage.
Performance & Design
Having used the Masterkeys PBT S and L for the last couple of weeks, it’s been a delightful pleasure mainly thanks to the PBT keycaps Cooler Master have included. These not only feel much nicer to type on than regular ABS keycaps, but these usually do come with an extra cost associated due to the cost of the PBT material to make them. Out of both models on test, I personally favour the L, but only because I often use the numpad and have gotten used to having it over the years. If I was looking for a smaller sized TKL model though, the S would certainly be on my radar and both feel absolutely fabulous to use and type with. The difference between both really comes down to the size and lack/inclusion of a numpad, with everything else being nearly identical.
One slight caveat I did notice, if you’re like me and spend most of your day clicking and clacking at your PC, PBT will eventually garner the shine and I could notice small tiny parts of shine coming through. The plus side is that if these models had been using ABS, I would have clearly been able to notice the shine and it can make the keys look a little ‘overused’.
Of course, you could take your regular ABS equipped keyboard and purchase a set of PBT keycaps from manufacturers such as Tai-Hao, but they do cost upwards of £30 per set depending on your style and of course, favoured design. What I do like about the Masterkeys PBT range is the keycaps look good, fit the minimalistic style of the boards and most importantly, feel really good to use… Overall pretty good keyboards in terms of usage!
The mechanical keyboard market of late has absolutely boomed and manufacturers have been trying to keep their designs unique and most importantly, functional. With this, the market itself has been getting more and more difficult to become competitive with other brands, but with solid launch pricing from Cooler Master, the Masterkeys PBT S and L should fit in very nicely. The full-size version (L) can be had for £89.99 at retailers and the TKL (S) for £79.99 at launch which as mentioned above, is very competitive and with the inclusion of higher quality PBT keycaps, it should make these models more desirable to an avid mechanical user or an alternative to those looking for a sleeker, more stylish and minimalistic mechanical keyboard instead of all the RGBs that companies seem to be throwing down people’s throats of late!
If you’re looking for a basic, but good quality alternative with a subtle, but stylish design, then the Cooler Master Masterkeys PBT keyboards might just be the range you should be considering the most. Most similar styled keyboards range from £100 upwards and for a little less, you can have one of these without sacrificing much in terms of overall quality and with a 2-year warranty provided by Cooler Master, I would expect them to last the test of time, hopefully! I will be using the L model as my full-time keyboard in the office, which is a huge compliment to the overall quality, design and performance…
Huge thanks to Cooler Master for sending both the Masterkeys PBT S and Masterkeys PBT L in for review.
- PBT keycaps feel great and are more durable than basic ABS keycaps
- Both models have a very svelte, stylish and minimalistic design (which I like!)
- Will be available with Cherry MX Blues, Reds, Browns, Silver, and Green switch variants (when all models eventually launch)
- Comes with a 2-year warranty
- Competitively priced
- Only launching in the UK with Cherry MX Browns (best switch type for gamers in my personal opinion anyway)