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Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid & QuickFire Pro Review

AkG

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All too often, enthusiasts focus their attention upon the performance of their systems and forget about two of the most integral devices of any gaming experience: the mouse and keyboard. While gaming mice do have an entrenched following and are quite popular, the keyboard end of the equation tends to fall by the wayside. This is a shame as the right keyboard selection is just as important - and can have just as great an impact on your gaming enjoyment – as the right mouse. Like gaming mice, the design and features of keyboards vary wildly from one product to the next and no one keyboard is going to be right for everyone. It is with this thought in mind that Cooler Master created both the Storm QuickFire Rapid and the Storm QuickFire Pro.

While both keyboards are part of Cooler Master’s Gaming centric Storm lineup, this is about all they share in common. The QuickFire Pro is a mid-sized unit which is designed to be a packed with features while still having a fairly typical footprint. By comparison, the QuickFire Rapid is a small form factor keyboard designed to be easily transportable, but without sacrificing quality or performance.

Equally vital as the overall design philosophy of these two keyboards is the Cherry switches Cooler Master has opted for. Different Cherry MX switches provide different characteristics and provide totally different experiences. The QuickFire Pro is a Cherry MX Brown based keyboard and has been designed for maximum comfort in gaming and non-gaming scenarios alike. However, the smaller QuickFire Rapid relies upon Cherry Blues which are designed for lightning quick typing response rather than gaming orientated scenarios. As we already mentioned, these keyboards couldn’t be any more different from one another.

With online averages of $100 for the Pro and $80 for the Rapid, Cooler Master obviously hasn’t designed these to be the most expensive mechanical keyboards on the market, but they will still have to prove their worth if there’s any hope to gaining a loyal customer following.

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AkG

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories



Much like the Storm Trigger, the Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Pro and Rapid’s packaging has received the deluxe treatment. While the size difference between the two QuickFire models is extreme, the amount of information covering both boxes is still substantial. They’re also quite eye-catching.


When it comes to the accessories which accompany these two new keyboards, the list has also received a significant overhaul from previous designs. While you lose the wrist rest from the Storm Trigger, there is also a key puller and -in the case of the QuickFire Rapid- replacement red keys which are more gaming oriented.

Unfortunately, neither model comes with or makes use of a software enhancement suite. In practical terms this means a lack of dedicated macro keys and an inability to create, store or even execute any macros without resorting to third party software. This is a significant reduction in capabilities compared to the Storm Trigger which not only has macro options aplenty but can carry them out via its onboard processor. As we have said in the past, gaming keyboards live and die by their extra features, and for most gaming enthusiasts macros and custom key remapping are significant features that will certainly be missed. Granted, we can’t expect miracles from any sub-$100 keyboard but a minimal software suite isn’t too much to ask.


On the positive side, while these QuickFire keyboards may not have any additional USB ports, the replaceable USB cable from other Storm designs has been carried over. As an added benefit, the location of the mini-USB 2.0 cable port has been moved from the easy to damage rear to the underside with three cable channels built in to allow for rear, left and right cable orientations.
 
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AkG

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QuickFire Rapid Impressions

QuickFire Rapid Impressions


Please note that there are FOUR versions of the QuickFire Rapid. The one reviewed here today is the one using Cherry Blue switches. The versions are as follows. Be sure to pay attention to the product numbers before making a purchasing decision.

SGK-4000-GKCL1-US (Blue Switch)
SGK-4000-GKCC1-US (Black Switch)
SGK-4000-GKCM1-US (Brown Switch)
SGK-4000-GKCR1-US (Red Switch)


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The QuickFire Rapid has been created to fulfill the perceived needs of consumers in the market for an ultra portable, ultra durable keyboard. While this silver and black device may be surprisingly heavy, its rather miniscule footprint allows the QuickFire to pull off its goals. More importantly, even though the Rapid may be small in stature it still is a full-sized keyboard which doesn’t feel all that cramped. As with the other Storm keyboards, the QuickFire Rapid also makes use of Cherry MX switches which are rated for 50 million activations.

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In order to squeeze a full-sized QWERTY keyboard into such a small space, Cooler Master opted to remove every key associated with tertiary features like multi-media shortcuts and macro functionality. The number pad has also gone under the executioner’s axe but luckily, gamers don’t typically use these keys while in-game. In keeping with the Rapid’s extremely minimalist design and entry level price, Cooler Master naturally see the need for additional USB ports, a wrist rest or even backlighting.

For a gaming keyboard which prizes portability above all else, most of these missing features won’t be missed but the lack of key remapping and macro execution do significantly handicap it in games.


The other rather controversial design feature which further handicaps the QuickFire Rapid’s gaming abilities is the type of Cherry MX switches Cooler Master has opted to use. Instead of gaming orientated Black or even the jack of all trade Browns, the QuickFire Rapid uses Cherry MX Blue switches. Due to their loud clicking noise and the fact that each key’s release point is much higher than the point of actuation, these switches are considered to be suited for typing rather than gaming. Trying to key float with Blues is extremely difficult which in turn makes double tapping slower than other types of Cherry MX switches. The loud clicking sound –which cannot be overcome via proper key actuation like it can with Browns – should be considered less than optimal for gaming and can be very annoying to people around you while the QuickFire Rapid is used.

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The inclusion of Cherry Blue switches would lead one to believe that typing and more general purpose scenarios are what the QuickFire Rapid was designed for. This is only partially correct. While this small keyboard does indeed typist oriented switches, the lack of dedicated multimedia keys and missing number pad will quickly become a nuisance to some. The keys themselves are also very similar in size (small), shape (narrow) and design (deeply concave) to the Storm Trigger key caps. The end result of all these design “features” is somewhat hard to recommend unless you absolutely need the smallest keyboard possible or don’t have space to spare within your LAN party kit. Unfortunately, the Rapid is neither optimal for gaming nor typing and fares rather poorly at both.

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AkG

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QuickFire Pro Impressions

QuickFire Pro Impressions


Before we get too far into this section, please note that there are FOUR versions of the QuickFire Pro. The one reviewed here today is the one using Cherry Brown switches. The other four are as follows. Be sure to pay attention to the product numbers before making a purchasing decision.

SGK-4010-GKCC1 (CHERRY Black)
SGK-4010-GKCL1 (CHERRY Blue)
SGK-4010-GKCM1 (CHERRY Brown)
SGK-4010-GKCR1 (CHERRY Red)


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Turning our attention to the QuickFire Pro you can instantly see that unlike the Rapid, it is a typical-sized keyboard and boasts a design which has been heavily influenced by the Storm Trigger. In some crucial areas, the QuickFire Pro can be considered a refinement on the Storm Trigger but it does tend to lack some features. While it does eschew the use of dedicated multimedia keys, there is a handy dedicated lock key to ensure the Windows button can’t be engaged while in the middle of a gaming session.

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There are also four ‘on the fly’ polling response rate keys which allow changing of the polling rate from 1ms (1000Hz) to 2ms (500Hz), 4 (250Hz) or even 8ms (125Hz). However, for gamers the most important feature of the Pro is its n-key rollover feature which allows its onboard hardware to continually scan each individual key. This allows for an extremely high degree of accuracy in every situation.

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Much like the Storm Trigger, the QuickFire Pro also has variable backlight options and while the entire keyboard can’t be lit up like a red Christmas tree, Cooler Master has included an FPS centric lighting option. This was absolutely perfect during testing as it allowed us to find the right keys with a high degree of accuracy in even the darkest of environments.

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The laser engraved keys themselves are also very similar in appearance to those on the Storm Trigger. Unfortunately, this means all the issues we ran into with the Trigger’ typing abilities are alive and well with this model. Simply put, the key caps themselves are small – both narrow in depth and width – and extremely concave. This combination leads to a severe degree of typing inaccuracy due to either slippage or fingers hitting between keys. Within a few hours we did learn to overcome this issue by slowing down and approaching typing with a much more deliberate approach. However, for anyone used to rubber dome keyboards or other mechanical units, the Pro will pose a rather steep learning curve.
 
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AkG

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QuickFire Pro Impressions (pg.2)

QuickFire Pro Impressions (pg.2)


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Like the Storm Trigger –and unlike the Rapid – this version of the QuickFire Pro relies upon Cherry Brown switches rather than the Red units available in the “Cherry Red” edition. These ‘middle of the road’ switches are neither great nor terrible at gaming or typing orientated tasks and can be likened to a Swiss Army knife as they can accomplish many different tasks but don’t excel at any. Brown switches may not be our first choice for a gaming keyboard, but for first time users who don’t know precisely what they want these are a great solution.

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Unfortunately, just like the QuickFire Rapid, Cooler Master has seen fit to remove the macro keys and macro creation abilities from this keyboard. This double whammy will either not matter to you at all or will be a deal breaker. In whichever camp you fall into, both abilities were sorely missed and quite noticeable by their absence throughout our testing. A gaming keyboard should be first and foremost a macro laden device which gives gamers an edge in the titles they play. It should be a tool which gives anyone a large advantage over the competition but sadly this is an advantage that Cooler Master hasn’t necessarily offered with this model. Instead, there are some technological features here that can lead to quicker responses but many of the fundamental expectations we have for gaming keyboards are missing from this model.

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Helping to somewhat mitigate the lack of advanced features is the QuickFire’s aforementioned N key rollover abilities. NKRO however only really shines when used in ultra complex macros and the Pro lacks those anyways. This means that using NKRO here will simply mean that more keys you did not mean to hit will be recognized as valid input commands.

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Overall, the abilities and design of Cooler Master’s QuickFire Pro makes it a merely decent gaming keyboard rather than a great option for demanding enthusiasts. The lack of software and dedicated macro keys really are the Achilles’ Heel of what is otherwise a very good product. It may be a good –if quirky - mechanical keyboard, but one that we simply cannot in all good faith call a gaming peripheral.
 
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AkG

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Conclusions

QuickFire Pro Conclusion


After reading this review, some may be convinced that Cooler Master’s QuickFire Pro is a poor choice for gamers but that is only partially true. The Pro comes in many different versions from a gamer-grade version with Cherry Red switches to the one we reviewed today with more pedestrian Brown switches. Unfortunately, there is very little to no visual differentiation between the models. This will not only cause a fair amount of confusion (pay special attention to the product number before buying!) but there are QuickFire Pro models that just aren’t geared towards gaming. Hence our somewhat lackluster experience with the Cherry Brown-equipped unit we received.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the QuickFire Pro is a cut down and more frugally priced version of the Storm Trigger. Both products may share the same Cherry MX Brown switches, use a very similar overall design and exhibit the same keycap quirks but the QuickFire Pro provides an almost entirely different experience. To be perfectly candid, the Storm Trigger is first and foremost a gaming keyboard whereas the Pro feels more like a general purpose unit that can also satisfy light gaming requirements.

Essentially, Cooler Master’s new keyboard line focuses upon a pure, unhindered input experience without the frills (or price) normally associated with expensive gaming devices. But the fact still remains that major cuts had to be made in order for it to meet a lower price point. There are no macros, no built in software, no wrist rest, no extra USB ports and a lack of general illumination options. The end result is a straightforward creation that can be considered a very decent general purpose keyboard, but one that shouldn’t necessarily be marketed as a gaming device. For gaming purists, Cooler Master has the QuickFire Pro Red to pick up from where the Brown leaves off. And there is a very large gap indeed since the choice of Brown switches and an oddball keycap design makes for a keyboard which can’t be considered a great choice for typists either.

This situation does leave potential consumers in a rather large quandary. One hand we have a keyboard which is missing many of the features gaming devices are normally associated with. However, there is a large market for straight up gaming devices without the unnecessary frills which many gaming purists tend to detest. The only issues with this particular version of the QuickFire Pro is its lack of they very items which typically make a mechanical keyboard great for typing on. The saving grace is its portability, durability, a sensible layout of backlighting options and a very reasonable price. What we have here is a keyboard series that is tailor made for anyone who “knows their switches” and has a particular set of unique needs rather than a one size fits all gaming solution.


QuickFire Rapid Conclusion


When compared against the QuickFire Pro and Trigger models, the QuickFire Rapid doesn’t exactly shine in all scenarios. It is another narrowly targeted keyboard that will surely appeal a niche market yet be derided by anyone who wants a feature rich peripheral. Unlike the other models, it seems like the QuickFire Rapid wasn’t designed with any hard goals in mind besides being the smallest mechanical keyboard around. If this was Cooler Master’s only achievable benchmark, then they succeeded admirably well.

Unfortunately, while the Rapid is small and very compact, the switch type and overall weight of this design will annoy even gamers who are primarily concerned with ease of transport. Conversely, while the Cherry Blues give it great potential for typing, the small footprint necessitated the trimming of critical features necessary for day to day use. This design by committee mishmash results in a keyboard which tries to be all things to all consumers and fails miserably at almost everything. Once again we recommend serious gamers or anyone that wants quick response feedback in a compact form look towards the Cherry Red-equipped Rapid which goes for $10 more.

If by some strange turn of events you need an ultra small keyboard for a lot of typing and don’t mind a reduced feature set, then this QuickFirewill be tailor made for your needs. For everyone else, the quirks of this keyboard will make it a sub-par choice and the additional twenty dollars spent on the QuickFire Pro or another manufacture’s keyboard will be money well spent.
 
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