Hi everyone, this review has been cooking for a while, Kickstarter campaigns are great but can be fraught with delays. Computer peripheral manufacturers can use them however to gauge whether investment and R&D into a product is worthwhile, along with securing guaranteed orders for a product, which is exactly what Drevo has done with the Blademaster TE.
Drevo have been around a few years now, you can get keyboards and SSDs from them, while this is a limited range they do put some effort into their products to make them both attractive on price and performance.
The Blademaster is touted as the Most Funded Keyboard on Kickstarter, but that isn’t what grabbed my attention when I first heard about it, it was the design, a TKL offering with both a wired and wireless unit being created, well I have the pleasure of testing a prototype of the Blademaster TE cabled edition and am eager to get started.
- Colour : Black
- Switches : Gateron KS-9 RGB (Black/Red/Brown or Blue)
- Connection : USB
- Layouts: US/UK/DE/FR/IT/ES/KR/JP/ND
- Dimensions: 369x136x45mm
- Cable Length: 1.8m
- Weight: 940g (excluding cable)
- Operating System: Windows 7, 8, 10 / MacOs / Android / iOS / Linux / Unix
- Number of Keys: 87 (ANSI, US, KR) / 88 (ISO UK, FR, DE, IT, ES, ND) / 91 (ISO JP)
- Keycaps: ABS
- Legend: Laser Etching
- Stabilizer: Cherry Plated-Mounted
A very plain white box greeted me upon unwrapping all the bubble wrap etc. There is a reason for this however, I have been presented with an actual prototype of the keyboard, so lets make like rebels and move along.
Here we have the complete contents of the box, no manuals or extras, which I am sure will arrive with retail units, just the keyboard. For a prototype the Drevo Blademaster TE is looking particularly sweet and well built, while not completely minimalist the design doesn’t carry any massive garish chunks of metal or plastic. If you care to gaze to the left hand side you will the the rather hilariously named Genius Knob. It’s a good job this isn’t featuring in a Carry On film.
The Blademaster TE has a pretty standard profile which is great as the last thing I need is keyboards that are too flat or curiously angled. The top plating of the keyboard is actually metal even if it appears to be plastic in photos, the understated DREVO logo being machine engraved out of the plate itself. You can see the switches are not sunk into the keyboard, while this allows for less of a keyboard frame, it also has the added bonus of making swapping keycaps easier as well as that of keeping the keyboard clean.
Looking at the right hand side, I also have the rear legs up which is my preference, you can see a comfortable typing angle is presented. The stripe towards the bottom of the side plate is actually an opaque bar to allow RGB lighting to shine through. Even though the side plates are plastic Drevo have done a great job matching the colour which can sometimes be a little off when materials are mixed in construction.
The rear of the keyboard looks fine, the design is fairly minimal, we have another light bar in the middle which actually separates metal top and plastic bottom casing components. The un-braided cable exits at the centre of the rear panel.
The left side of the keyboard gets more interesting as here we have another view of the Genius Knob, this programmable switch has both a push in motion along with rotating backwards and forwards for assigned functionality. Interestingly the Genius Knob is made of metal so feels very sturdy.
Underneath the Blademaster TE we have some nice sturdy rubber tipped back legs, which bring the typing angle up just right for me. Around the board there are rubber grip pads to stop the keyboard sliding around any surface. Some dip switches for undocumented tweaks, they change the layout it seems. Finally the cable comes out of the middle but has a groove either side to slightly alter the routing out the back of the keyboard.
A branded gold plated USB connector greets us at the other end of the cable, along with a Velcro tie for wrapping up the cable in transit or to help with keeping cables together while plugged in at the PC end.
Plugging in the Drevo Blademaster TE, it provides us with a rather satisfying boot sequence where the lights scroll around the edge before the whole keyboard comes on. This is to bring the onboard electronics online as they can store functions and lighting configurations. The RGB lighting isn’t too bright giving the keyboard a great look.
The keyboard features quite a few individual LEDs which means the lighting can flow nicely even over the bars around the edges.
Quite a bit of light out of the back of the keyboard, while it isn’t massively bright it does glow on the screen in a darker room while playing dark games.
No lighting on the Genius Knob itself but that would likely be overdoing it.
Supplied as a separate download the Drevo Power Console is their answer to what many manufacturers are doing by creating unified software that supports multiple devices from the same brand. The software is very light installing at around 11Mb. On launching the software for the first time, it immediately discovers the keyboard and goes online to find a firmware update, it is quite a quick process and I am back at the software screen after the keyboard does a quick reboot of itself. Just one device from the four spaces is available with selectable squares underneath for Profile selection, Macro editing, Batch commands, and an unusual device statistics section. Store, Website and Feedback buttons fill the remainder giving us quite a plain yet easy to navigate main menu.
Selecting the keyboard from the top row brings us to the customisation screen. The first tab gives us a repeat of those four squares in yellow and smaller, so we can again go straight into Profile, Macro, Batch and Statistics. Selecting a key on the keyboard images brings a drop down menu with lots more options, although some appear to be more repeats of previously mentioned functionality.
Whichever profile option you select, from the available menus in the software, you end up here in the profile manager, where you can create, delete, upload and offload profiles to the keyboard, to the right you have three quick profile loading options, using FN and the G keys (which live on F1 , F2 and F3) you can quickly load up to three different saved profiles. Pretty good if you create different setups for games or other software.
The macro manager gives us the usual functionality to record and manipulate macros. This is great for those repetitive tasks or special combinations of functions.
Batch Manager is a little strange for a gaming keyboard to me, it allows you to manage batch files which can be executed. Files are in the normal .bat format so previously created batch files should function just fine.
Something I haven’t seen before is a Statistics recording system on a peripheral. You have to add apps to monitor by selecting the executable from your drive, then the software will record data from keystrokes and time used with a particular piece of software. Apart from keeping track of game time maybe it is a way of highlighting frequent key combinations that could be mapped into a macro.
Back in the keyboard configuration menu we have the Genius-Knob configuration menu, here you can program the Genius-Knob to do just about anything, it’s like a programmable mouse wheel, it steps like one but clicks in instead of down. This could be useful for all sorts of things like changing the view in racing games or weapon selection in a shooter. Other uses could be moving through layers in an image editing application or selecting Macros in a Spreadsheet. Lots of functionality here and it doesn’t interfere with normal typing.
The next tab on the menu is Radi-RGB, this is a pleasant comprehensive lighting control system with lots of themes including a customisation option where you can create your own effects. Many of the usual themes are there including Rainbow, Breathing and Marquee. There is plenty here to keep RGB fans happy, and if you’re not a fan well, you can turn it all off too and still enjoy the rest of the functionality the Blademaster TE offers.
The final tab on the menu is the Settings tab. Here there are several operational options for the keyboard, starting with a Game mode which disables the Windows keys. You can also disable Alt + Tab and Alt + F4, which is excellent if you accidentally trigger those functions at the wrong time. The keyboard has a sleep function which I would presume just works on the Wireless version as mine has not yet gone to sleep, there is a slider to set the Wireless Sleep off Time. Finally at the bottom you can change the report rate of the keyboard, now this to me is normally measured in Hz, here there are four settings so not sure about the rating there, it would be best to try them and see which suits you best.
Performance and Testing
Due to production delays I have had this prototype for quite some time, it has remained as my main keyboard throughout.
For everyday tasks I find a mechanical keyboard best suits my requirements, the Drevo Blademaster TE has the same 87 key TKL configuration that I use so was very easy to get going with. Typing in Windows applications on the Gateron Brown switches is fine, although I do find that they bottom out a little too easily which increases usage noise. The switches handled actuation accuracy just fine and everything feels stable.
The keycaps are smooth which is not generally my preference as I like a more grippy surface, this can of course be rectified by swapping out the MX compatible keycaps with another set. The legends on the keys are clear and use a more normal font than some of the more ‘gamey’ keyboards out there. The back-lighting shines through the keycaps clearly with no colour distortion.
On many default colour settings I found that the Caps Lock, Scroll Lock and when deactivated the Windows key are white, further highlighting their current state, which is quite useful.
The Genius Knob is a neat little addition although I didn’t find a regular use for it, this is most likely more down to my preferences, I don’t even use many keyboard shortcuts. When it was configured to a task it performed flawlessly and I am sure there are those out there that would put it to creative uses considering that it can be configured for just about any task.
Macros work perfectly fine and can again be assigned to just about any task.
Playing games on this board has been a pleasure, be it first person shooters, or strategy titles there were no issues with key actuation. The bottoming out of the Gateron switches was again almost blue switch level on noise, so I would if possible select a different switch as they become available.
The back-lighting was a great help especially in a darkened room at LAN as I usually keep the light on at home, the many configurations of the RGB system also lend themselves to a little wow factor.
The keyboard has been sturdy throughout which for a prototype is testament to the build quality being used on these boards, this is a big improvement over previous Drevo products.
This is a solid gaming tenkeyless keyboard aimed at the mid-range market. Drevo are looking to improve their offerings with products like this and by using Kickstarter they managed to gauge interest and gather pre-orders.
Comparing the Blademaster TE to previous offerings the build quality is definitely an improvement, a solid and weighty construction with a metal top plate creates an impression of quality from the get go.
The use of Gateron switches may please some but I was a little underwhelmed, I understand more choice may be available on the horizon. They did however perform admirably and as with any switch choice, it is recommended to try before you buy if possible.
Keycaps are nice and solid, the smooth texture is a little slippery but as they are interchangeable with MX standard keycaps it is more down to choice.
The lighting system in the keyboard covers every area very well, the raised mounting of the keycaps does allow the light to bleed around the keyboard and some people do like the light to be restricted to the tops of the keys, but this would require a larger keyboard casing.
The rear feet are sturdy and tilt the keyboard to a comfortable angle. The cable is hardwired in and I would have much preferred a removable cable so that it can be changed if necessary.
Drevo’s Power Console is an impressive piece of software especially considering it is still in development. It is a little disappointing that you have to create an account and sign in every time you use the program, such configuration software should remain offline where possible.
The software supports multiple products and has an impressive array of features. The layout of the various areas is clear and the menus make good sense.
The Statistical recording feature is something you don’t see everyday in software such as this and it could be very useful for a variety of things such as monitoring time spent in an application to measure productivity or even help bill for time spent on a project. It could also be used to monitor time spent in games helping you manage your free time better.
With a couple of tweaks, especially removing the online login requirement, this software could be spot on.
I am a big fan of TKL keyboard, not just for looks but for ergonomics, having the mouse closer has become quite important to me.
The casing for the keyboard is minimalist to save desk space, even so Drevo have managed to bring an eye catching design to the table, from the embossed logo in the metal to the LED’s around the edges for a little stylish illumination.
The biggest eye draw is the Genius Knob, an extra set of functionality which gives this keyboard a little bit of an edge over the competition which it comes to features.
All in all it’s a tidy looking keyboard which I would be happy to have on my desk at home or away.
The mechanical keyboard market has really heated up in the last three to five years, I remember when getting one for a cheaper price meant purchasing directly from China. These days everyone wants in on the Gaming Keyboard market so the choice is immense.
At the time of writing the Drevo Blademaster TE was available on Amazon for around £80, this puts the keyboard in the company of some other excellent keyboards such as the Fnatic MiniStreak which comes with Cherry switches. The Drevo does however come with many extra features including the Genius Knob which should be taken into consideration when choosing.
It has taken Drevo longer than expected to get the Blademaster TE out of the door and we are still awaiting the launch of the Wireless PRO variant. The wait may very well have been worth it however as this keyboard is a very solid offering with some excellent extra functionality.
The build quality is excellent, the software is shaping up to be very good indeed and the Genius Knob and Statistics recording functionality is new and exciting.
For the money this board should definitely be among your top choices, with so much going on not only does the solid build and stability warrant a Play3r Gold Award but Drevo can tick a Design Award off alongside it.
A big thank you to Drevo for entrusting me with a prototype of their Blademaster TE keyboard of which a full production version is available direct using this link to Amazon.