Hardware, Reviews

Review: CM Storm QuickFire Stealth Keyboard

Today we are taking a look at the CM (Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Stealth. The Stealth is one of the latest in Cooler Master?s mechanical keyboard line. For this review, we will be trying out a new format that will be significantly different from our previous reviews. We will be focusing on describing the user experience and personal experience of the author with product. In order to facilitate this, some portions of the review will be written in the first person.

I?ve had experience with a few other Cooler Master keyboards: the QuickFire TK and the Trigger (though I was not the reviewer for the Trigger).

The QuickFire Stealth at first glance seems like a standard 87 key (Ten Keyless) keyboard with one difference plainly visible. Rather than have the characters printed on the tops of the keys, the Stealth has the letters printed on the side of the keys facing the user – the advantage of this being that the characters on the keys will never fade or smudge to due repeated use. Since people keep their keyboards out in front of them, the front printed characters are easily identified, and cause no issues when attempting to locate a particular key.

Other key features include a function (FN) key that allows user to do a variety of things using the F keys at the top of the keyboard. The most obvious functions are media keys, volume +/-, mute, and Windows Key Lock. The less obvious functions have the F1-F4 keys labeled as 1X, 2X, 4X, 8X. A quick look at the manual provides the explanation that these are key repeat rate adjusters that are only available when the keyboard is plugged in using the provided PS/2 adapter. What it allows the user to do is to change how quickly a key press is registered by the computer while that key is being held down. The example provided was that holding down the ?A? key for a second on a low repeat rate would print ?AAA?, whereas holding down the ?A? key for a second using a high repeat rate would yield ?AAAAAAAAAAAA?. This could be potentially useful in a variety of games in which repeated actions would provide the player benefits from a higher rate of key press.

A nice touch on the keyboard is that the Caps Lock, Scroll Lock, and Windows Key Lock keys light up when on, so the user does not have to check the upper corner of the keyboard to see if they are enabled or not. Also, the material on the outside of the keyboard chassis looks and feels quite nice. It is a matte surface that thus far has been extremely resistant to fingerprints, continually keeping the keyboard looking almost brand new. The keyboard also comes with a detachable braided miniUSB to USB cable, as well as a USB to PS/2 adapter we mentioned earlier. This attention to detail adds to the high quality feel of the keyboard. The Stealth also included four red colored keys that can replace the WASD or Arrow keys, as well two keys with Cooler Master logos printed on that can be used replace the Windows Key. A key puller was also included for easy key removal.

The bottom of the keyboard has routing grooves for the USB cable, allowing the user to have it go straight out from the middle of the keyboard, out to the left, or out to the right of the keyboard. The rubber feet on the bottom of the keyboard prevent it from sliding around, and there are fold out hinges for changing the keyboard?s angle on a desk. However, the hinges are simple plastic without stabilizers, and it would have been a nice touch to have put a rubber surface on the bottom of the hinges as well to prevent slipping.

My typing experience on the QuickFire Stealth was highly enjoyable. Our version came with Cherry MX Blue switches, creating a tactile and audible click with each keypress. I particularly like Blue switches for typing as I find myself typing faster and more accurately with them. For a more detailed description of Cherry MX switch types, Cooler Master provides a handy guide to the most popular Cherry MX switch types here. Given a choice, my preference would be the MX Green switch types, as they operate just like the MX Blue switches, but with more spring resistance. This provides more push-back from the keys so that your fingers recover more quickly from key presses than with MX Blue switches. Luckily, the QuickFire Stealth comes with MX Green switches as an option, though the supply is lower than that of other switches due to the fact that historically, Cherry produced approximately 1 MX Green switch for every 100 MX Blue switches since the purpose of MX Greens was to be used only for the Spacebar key on MX Blue switch keyboards.

Overall, I really enjoy using the QuickFire Stealth. The front printed keycaps give it a unique and sleek appearance, and the form factor is great for my office desk; it provides me more space for my mouse, and I don?t find myself missing the Numpad all that much. I actually prefer this design over that of the QuickFire TK, as it is less convoluted/crowded. I really like the rubberized surface of the keyboard; the coating keeps it nice and clean as mentioned earlier. The braided USB cable adds to the high quality aesthetic of the keyboard, and the PS/2 adapter is a handy option for those of us that prefer a hardware interrupt over USB?s polling rate. If it were up to me, I would have added on discrete media keys and a volume roller rather than using FN keys, even at the expense of a slightly larger keyboard. However, I realize that?s a personal preference, and Cooler Master clearly believes there?s a larger market for a smaller keyboard that utilizes FN keys.

At a street price of $89.99 on Amazon, the Stealth has a fairly medium price point for mechanical keyboards geared towards enthusiast. Considering the QuickFire TK is selling at $5-10 more, the Stealth seems like an obvious choice. However, keep in mind that not all Stealth editions cost the same: the MX Green switch version is currently selling at $116 on Amazon, though the value the Green switches provide might be worth the extra expense based on personal preference. Given that we awarded the QuickFire TK an Innovation award for Prosumers/Enthusiasts, we feel that the Stealth is a significant enough QuickFire revision with a number of improvements that warrant it receiving the same title. For the reasons mentioned in the above paragraph, we award Cooler Master yet again with the Innovation Award for Prosumers/Enthusiasts for the CM Storm QuickFire Stealth.