The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the well-established brand Cooler Master are the peripherals and components that keep your PC from exploding or having a total hardware meltdown (kind of like a Samsung phone).
Beyond that, Cooler
Master has a few other goods that have the potential to give competitors a run
for their money. Among these products is the Taiwan-based company's new
mechanical keyboard, the Cooler Master
MasterKeys Pro M.
The MasterKeys lineup is made up of three keyboards; the MasterKeys Pro L (full layout), MasterKeys Pro S (tenkeyless), and the MasterKeys Pro M (90%). As mentioned, I'll be taking a look at the MasterKeys Pro M.
But what does
90% mean? Basically, it's a balance between a full layout and a tenkeyless
keyboard. The navigation cluster has been integrated to the number pad. This
means that you get the space-saving form of a tenkeyless keyboard with the
functionalities of a full layout keyboard.
The packaging of the MasterKeys Pro M is straightforward. Aside from the keyboard, you get a 1.5m detachable braided microUSB cable, a wire keycap puller, and a manual.
The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro M is solidly built due to its plastic and steel construction. It does not give too much flex with force. Located at the bottom are four rubber feet and two rubberized kickstands. You can also see that the micro USB cable can be attached at the bottom. You can also route the cable through three cable routing channels that Cooler Master has provided.
The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro M is equipped with Cherry MX switches (Brown, Red, and Blue). The particular unit that we have today is armed with Cherry MX Brown switches.
Software is not required when using the MasterKeys Pro M. The keyboard's functions and lighting effects are controlled by its on-board 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 processor.
Pressing the "FN" key on the right-hand side of the keyboard opens up a myriad of options.
To control the LED backlight, you'll need to press FN + F1 (On/Off), F2 (decrease brightness), F3 (increase brightness), F10 (record LED backlight), F4 (switch LED modes), 2 or up (speed up lighting effects), 00 or down (slow down lighting effects), 0 or left/.or left (switch on-the-fly alternate cycle keys).
Repeat rate of the keys can be changed by pressing FN + F5 (1x), F6 (2x), F7 (4x), and F8 (8x).
Macro recording can be controlled by pressing FN + F11 (Record Macro), F12 (Delete Macro), PRT SC (Single Macro Loop), SCR LK (Repeat Macro), and PAUSE (Infinite Macro Loop). Windows lock can also be toggled with FN + F9.
Cooler Master has also included media controls with the MasterKeys Pro M. You can access them by pressing FN + INS (Play/Pause), DEL (Stop), HOME (Next Track), END (Previous Track), Page Up (Volume Up), and Page Down (Volume Down).
Aside from the default state of the keyboard, the MasterKeys Pro M can hold four profiles within the keyboard. These can be accessed using FN + 1 - 4. You can return to the previous state of the profile by pressing FN + R. You can also return all the profiles to their default state by pressing FN + E.
Armed with white LEDs and a white backplate, the backlight of the MasterKeys Pro M is clean and crisp. Here are several examples of what lighting effects the keyboard has to offer:
If you're not satisfied with the options Cooler Master has given,
you can also program your own lighting effects through their Software
The unit I have is equipped with Cherry MX Browns. They require 45cN of force to actuate. It also has a tactile feedback or a bump once the switch is activated so the user notices when they register.
The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro M uses Cherry Stabilizers instead of Costar Stabilizers. In my test, the stabilizers did a good job of supporting the larger keys and did not have any noticeable rattle.
The LED is situated above the switch. The housing is not transparent, unfortunately. Due to this, the light can only completely permeate through the upper characters of the keys while the bottom half is only partially lit. Still, the light is still white, unlike RGB keyboards which have a bluish tinge to their supposed "white light".
I've used several mechanical keyboards, ranging from Cherry MX, Gaterons, and Kailh. Typing with the Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro M is an experience on par with most high-end keyboards such as the Das Keyboard 4 Professional. The tactile experience of the Cherry MX Browns was crisp. I also didn't feel any difference in the force actuation of the keys, which is a testament to Cherry MX switches' quality compared to other Cherry clones in the market.
Its 90% form factor did make gaming more comfortable, as it enabled me to place my arms closer together. This resulted in longer gaming sessions. Although an inch longer than most tenkeyless keyboards, I believe that it's an okay trade-off in order to preserve the functionality of the numpad.
Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro M. It's strongly built, its white LEDs give off a crisp and clean backlight, and the switches are genuine Cherry MX (which is a plus). Despite integrating the navigation cluster in its numpad, I believe that the MasterKeys Pro M is the perfect middle ground between full functionality of a full layout keyboard and the ergonomics of a tenkeyless design.Â