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Cooler Master Devastator II Review

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Author: Peter Henderson / Aidan
Date: April 14, 2016
Product Name: Devastator II
Part Number: SGB-3030-KKMF1
Warranty: 1 Year

Mechanical keyboards and purpose-designed mice are a staple of any quality gaming machine, but the price of such specialized components can put them out of reach for many customers. Cooler Master’s original Devastator mouse and keyboard were popular because they split the difference, offering solid components at a lower price point. The keyboard’s membrane switches were a compromise, but $30 for both a mouse and keyboard designed for gaming was a good deal. Now the company is refreshing the product line, bringing new keyboard switches and other improvements to the new Devastator II combo.

First up is the Devastator II mouse, which isn’t all that different from its predecessor. The materials here aren’t premium but are well chosen. The plastic is executed well, though it isn’t quite as nice as a soft touch finish. The sharp angles are reasonably comfortable, and the soft rubber on the sides is nice. The primary buttons use Cooler Master’s fairly good in-house switch, though the side browser buttons are a bit mushy. The LED illumination on the mouse looks good, but it lacks a way to toggle it on and off.

The mouse has an optical sensor with 1000, 1600 and 2000 DPI levels, meaning those who use lower sensitivities in-game may find it too sensitive. The choice to go optical is a nice touch over a simpler laser-based design. The company advertises the Devastator II’s low lift-off distance, and overall sensor performance was been pretty good in our testing. The mouse does have some issues with extremely fast movements, but for 95 per cent of use the Devastator mouse holds up pretty well. It’s competitive with many mice in the $25 to $30 category, a deal considering the bundle.

The Devastator II keyboard is where Cooler Master is focusing its attention since the mouse doesn’t get all that much of an upgrade from the previous version. It’s a full-sized board with a plastic construction. The exterior is similar to the keyboard it replaces, with the same textured plastic, etched angular lines and reflective plastic accents. Those accents are fingerprint magnets, and having one just below the spacebar means it gets dirty rather quickly. The build quality isn’t exceptional and the keyboard has some flex, but that’s acceptable at this price.

The Devastator II keyboard has only single-colour backlighting in blue, red, or green depending on the model, and only has a single brightness setting. While the LEDs aren’t that bright, the board’s illumination is still very useful thanks to the white undercoat on the keyboard tray. One problem with the board is its lack of built-in memory, meaning you have to re-enable the backlight every time your PC is turned on or rebooted. But again, these compromises seem to be designed to get the board as inexpensive as possible.

While this backlighting is great, the keycaps aren’t nearly as usable when the backlight is turned off. Because the keys are transparent, not etched white like most other keyboards, it’s hard to see the character markings at a glance. The good news is that Cooler Master’s new “mem-chanical” switches are actually Cherry MX compatible, so users can customize the board with their own keycaps. The only problem is that those keycaps cost more than the board itself.

Cooler Master says its new switches use a rubber dome with a plunger that allows for a more mechanical feel, with 4mm of travel. They’re not as good as mechanical switches, to be frank, without the satisfactory actuation and response of Cherry MX boards. Still, they’re quiet and accurate. And when compared to other membrane switches, they really shine. The Devastator II has better travel distance, more satisfying actuation and an overall better switch experience compared to the membrane switches on our reviewer’s Logitech G15. The membrane switches feel far mushier and the Devastator feels much better overall. You’ll be able to tell that they’re not mechanical, but the “mem-chanical” switches are much better than typical membrane switches and make for a nice middle ground.

Overall, this combo seems to offer good value, with a very competitive keyboard with satisfying switches, great lighting and custom keycap compatibility, and a solid accompanying mouse without any major flaws. For the price, the Devastator II combo is a solid refresh to an already popular lineup and is well deserving of the Hardware Canucks damn good value award.

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