For the last year, Cooler Master has effectively changed direction in the way they produce and market their products. Their “maker” range is aimed at the section of the market who loves product customisation and as current market trends would have it, customisation is a big factor in purchasing; it’s better to have a versatile product which can be changed at a moment’s notice.
Touching on another new range of Cooler Master products, their Master products have been designed for the enthusiast wanting top performing, top quality products, but without a ridiculous price tag. Today, I will be taking a look at the Cooler Master Masterkeys Pro M mechanical keyboard which has many features, functions and comes with a choice of 3 different Cherry MX switch types (brown, blue and red), it aims to take the mid-range mechanical keyboard market by storm. Can the Masterkeys M punch above its pay grade of £79.99? Let’s find out…
|Model Number||SGK-4080-KKCM1-US (Brown Switch)||SGK-4080-KKCL1-US (Blue Switch)||SGK-4080-KKCR1-US (Red Switch)|
|Switch Type||CHERRY MX|
|Material||Plastic / Metal|
|Polling Rate||1000 Hz|
|Repeat Rate||1x / 2x / 4x / 8x|
|MCU||32bit ARM Cortex M0|
|On board Memory||512KB|
|On-the-fly system||Macro Record and Lighting|
|Smart cable manager||180 degree|
|Cable||Detachable with Micro-USB|
|Connector Cable||USB 2.0|
|Cable Length||1.5 Meters|
|Dimensions||38.01 x 14.38 x 4.24 cm / 14.96 x 5.66 x 1.67″|
|Product Weight (without cable)||1025 g|
Starting off with an overview of the Masterkeys Pro M, it’s easy to see the M stands for; medium. What this means is that the Masterkeys Pro M is average in terms of size, especially for a mechanical keyboard. With a very thought out and very simplistic design, Cooler Master have refrained from adding macro keys and other specific extra keys for functions. Instead, Cooler Master have included a dedicated function key with various front faced legends determining the location of each of the board’s sub-functions.
The position of the Numpad has left minimal space between the Numpad keys and the main set of keys; this is one of the main space saving factors and thanks to this implementation, it makes the total width of the Masterkeys Pro M 14.96” wide (38cm).
Taking a closer look at the keycaps and Cooler Masters implementation of function keys, I really do like how neat, tidy and uniformed the Masterkeys Pro M is. The F1-F4 keys allow for customisation of the white LED lighting with multiple options available; you can cycle through them by holding down the FN key and pressing F4. One very interesting thing about the Masterkeys Pro keyboards is the ability to create your own custom lighting effects via Cooler Masters downloadable SDK (software development kit). Those with simple knowledge of C++ coding should be able to create some pretty interesting effects and for those who are unaware about C++, this gives you an excuse to learn the basics!
At the top right of the Masterkeys Pro M, we have some LED indicators which appear to have an embedded inlayed design. I’m not sure I like this and I feel a more simplistic approach would have probably looked a little better here. It reminds me a little of previous iterations of mechanical keyboards from Cooler Master – Check out our CM Storm Quickfire TK Stealth review for comparison.
In addition to the F1-F4 keys doubling up as function keys, F5 to F8 also do the same; these however allow for the adjustment of the keyboard’s repeat rate. F9 to F12 have functions for locking the Windows key, lighting and macro recording. These can be changed on the fly during operation, so while mid game, you can switch between different profiles you have set; pretty sweet right?
Although a Cooler Master has done virtually everything to make this medium sized keyboard contain as many features, keys and functions as physically possible, there is one slight inconstancy in the formula. The Masterkeys Pro M is rather chunky, but as I found out, this personally eliminated the need for me to use a wrist rest; normally I need one, but because it’s further off the desk than a regular keyboard, my wrists actually feel pretty weightless in the air while typing; consistent use of the Masterkeys Pro M was very comfortable indeed I suffered no wrist cramping or pains.
The rear of the Masterkeys Pro M features good quality rubber grips as well as solid flipable stands for better positioning and for some, these will provide a little more grips and for better ergonomically positioned keys. There is also a channel designed for a mid-mounted detachable micro USB cable, which I find to be very useful and when travelling, ensures the cable doesn’t over flex, thus eliminating potential damage.
As previously mentioned, the Cooler Master Masterkeys Pro M is available in brown, blue and red Cherry MX switches, although the particular switch type on the keyboard I have been testing features Browns.
To demonstrated the different LED modes featured, I have included a short, but concise video which should hopefully show you the stock modes, but if you purchase this keyboard, you can download custom profiles created by “makers” from around the world. Some of these not only look fantastic, but you can even build your own via the Cooler Master website MakerHub – Go to this link for more information – http://makerhub.coolermaster.com/custom-lighting/
Having used the Masterkeys Pro M with white LEDs for the past couple of weeks, I feel I have had enough time to give a just and concise verdict based on my personal experience; not just with the Masterkeys Pro M, but with many other keyboards previously.
I have to admit, I do feel a lot more comfortable using/owning keyboards which feature Cherry MX switches and although not exactly biased, I personally believe Cherry MX switches to be superior. Although Kaihl and other cheaper Cherry MX clones to come relatively close, I can actually reliably tell the different between the clones and Cherry MX; that must be a good sign, right? Obviously, I do get it wrong sometimes, it’s not really often and this usually comes down to the keycaps themselves. Cheaper manufactures tend to use cheaper keycaps and can be the difference between good, comfortable and distinguished key presses…and lacklustre, cheap feeling and nasty, you get my drift!
The Cooler Masterkeys Pro M certainly doesn’t fit into the above latter category as I really believe the Pro M to not only feel great, look sweet and perform well, but everything from the space saving implementations, all the way to the funky LED customisable lighting, it makes this Cherry MX touting mechanical keyboard something very special; especially for the price point it sits at.
Cooler Master hasn’t only gone all out in terms of putting full-size features into a medium sized keyboard, but they have ARMed the Cooler Master (pun intended) Masterkeys Pro M with a 32-bit Cortex MSERIES processor. This allows for instant power up when plugged into your system and allows to use your macros instantly thanks to its ability to store your commands and profiles.
Coming in at a very svelte price (for a good quality mechanical keyboard) £79.99, I believe this to be one of the best value mechanical keyboards on the market currently, at least for 2016. Value doesn’t really have to mean cheap because let me tell you, the Masterkeys Pro M has absolutely nothing in common with being cheap other than the pricing point. The keycaps are solid, Cherry MX brown switches offer the best versatility as they are suitable for gaming as well as typing and the quality of this keyboard due to the thickness is superb.
The only thing that is a personal annoyance to me and others may not find this a fault, but the front facing legends on the Numpad actually put me off as the arrow keys are built into the Numpad; if you have num lock active, the arrow keys 2nd functions become active and can cause a little hindrance. While gaming, I suggest you turn the Numpad off (unless the arrow keys are a working component of the games mechanics).
I can’t physically fault the Masterkeys Pro M and it offers a fantastic balance between quality, pricing and features; the Makerhub and ability to create your own light settings is a unique feature and Cooler Master deserve a round of applause for adding this function into their already feature packed Masterkeys range. This mechanical keyboard punches well above its weight and for those looking for a simplistic and stylish gaming keyboard, the Masterkeys range from Cooler Master has an option for you; just be prepared to pay through the nose for the models which feature RGB.
Huge thanks to Cooler Master for sending the Masterkeys Pro M in for review.
Check out our last 5 previous mechanical keyboard reviews (click on the name to open the desired review in a new window)
- Exceptional value; offers a huge feature set which makes £79.99 a bargain
- Cooler Master have made the most of the limited width
- Thick chunky keyboard offers good build quality and stability
- Available in Cherry MX brown, red and blue switch types
- Makerhub makes this one of the most customisable keyboards on the market; for a keyboard with white LEDs
- All regular mechanical keyboard functions are present such as NKRO, anti-ghosting and features different key layouts for different world regions
- num lock/caps lock and scroll lock indicator section does not fit with the rest of the Masterkeys overall aesthetic