CM Storm QuickFire Stealth Mechanical Keyboard Review

Author: Aaron Chen
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/cm_storm_quickfire_stealth/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

With a wide variety of computer hardware products ranging from cases and fans to keyboards and mice under their belt, Cooler Master is definitely a brand well known to gamers and enthusiasts alike. The QuickFire series is Cooler Master's line of mechanical keyboards, something we’re all too familiar with here at Neoseeker. Several months ago, we reviewed the CM Storm QuickFire TK mechanical keyboard which uniquely combined the standard number pad with the navigation keys, in an implementation that made much work out of the Num Lock key. While I praised the product for its superior build quality, responsiveness, and bright lighting, the constant switching between navigation and number keys was a bother throughout the weeks I tested the keyboard.

Enter the CM Storm QuickFire Stealth, Cooler Master's next entry into its mechanical keyboard line. Slightly shorter in length than the QuickFire TK, the Stealth eschews the number pad completely for more compact dimensions. In following with the Stealth name, the top of all the keycaps are left blank, with letters printed on the front instead. Theoretically, it means the printing will last forever because it will never come in contact with the oils from your fingertips. The QuickFire Stealth also features a soft-touch finish on the surface, Cherry MX mechanical key switches, NKRO (in PS/2 mode), and a removable USB cable. As with the QuickFire TK, the modular cable design is a welcome sight as it significantly increases the portability of the keyboard. Cooler Master advertises four options for Cherry MX mechanical switches: Red, Blue, Green, and Brown. Today, we will be taking a look at the Cherry MX Blue version.

While it's refreshing to see a company take a leap forward in keyboard aesthetics, let's see if the rest of the keyboard fares just as well in our review of the CM Storm QuickFire Stealth mechanical keyboard.

Specifications:

Product Codes
SGK-4000-GKCR2 (Cherry Red)
SGK-4000-GKCL2 (Cherry Blue)
SGK-4000-GKCM2 (Cherry Brown)
SGK-4000-GKCG2 (Cherry Green)
N-key Rollover
N key in PS/2 mode
Rate Rate
1X, 2X, 4X, 8X (PS/2 mode only)
Extra Keys
6
Keycap puller
Yes
USB Cable
Removable; 1.8 m braided
Dimensions
355(L)x135(W)x35(H) mm
14(L)x5.3(W)x1.4(H) inch
Weight
940 g / 2.1 lbs
Warranty
2 years
UPC Code
884102020667: SGK-4000-GKCR2 (Red)
884102020650: SGK-4000-GKCL2 (Blue)
884102020681: SGK-4000-GKCM2 (Brown)
884102020674: SGK-4000-GKCG2 (Green)

All information courtesy of Cooler Master @ http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=10035

In keeping with Cooler Master's Storm line of products, the QuickFire Stealth comes in a black box with slick red accents. The visual design reminds me a bit of ASUS's ROG branding, though I guess there are only so many combinations of red, black, and white to use. The box is quite small for a keyboard, attesting to the short length of the keyboard itself. On the front we see a large photo of the keyboard, as well as a sticker on the bottom right corner indicating the key switch version. Cooler Master and QuickFire Stealth branding can also be found on the top left and bottom lefthand corners, respectively.

We aren't treated to any product shots after flipping the box over, just a listing of feature information including the Cherry MX Switches, 50 million keystroke lifespan, compact size, rubber coated finish, “Phantom Keycaps”, command rate adjustments (in PS/2 mode), and more. This is listed again in seven other languages. Support information can also be found on the bottom right.

There isn’t much to be found on the sides of the box; merely more branding, a link to the Cooler Master site, and the serial code.

Taking everything out of the box, we find the QuickFire Stealth wrapped snugly in a white foam bag. The box also contains a quick-start manual, a mini-USB-to-USB cable, a USB-to-PS/2 adaptor, six replacement key caps, and a key cap puller. The last tool is definitely nice to see, since it allows users to remove all the key caps for cleaning. Like the QuickFire TK, there is no included software to be found here.

With everything out of the box, let's take a closer look at the keyboard itself.

A quick look at the CM Storm Stealth and we can already see where the “Stealth” moniker comes from. From a bird’s eye view directly overhead, the keyboard is pretty much a block of grey and black. When you look at the board from the very front however, all of the expected key labels can finally be seen. Touted as "Phantom Keys" by Cooler Master, the practical purpose of this is to minimize the amount of contact between the printing and your finger oils. Otherwise, it gives the keyboard a uniquely ‘enthusiast’ look. The downside is that actual size of each letter ends up being smaller than usual.

Similar to the QuickFire TK, Cooler Master has decided not to significantly change the layout of the main typing portion of the QuickFire Stealth. We do not see short SHIFT keys or strange “ergonomic” letter placements. The only additional key is the "FN" key near the bottom right. Holding it down unlocks the secondary functions of the "F" keys at the top.

These include media keys (F5-F8), the Windows Lock key (F9), and volume keys (F10-F12). Most unique is the secondary function on the F1-F4 keys, with labels that read “1X, 2X, 4X, 8X”. When the keyboard is connected using the included USB-to-PS/2 adaptor, these keys will change the Repeat Rate of each key press. When you hold down a key, a faster rate will yield more repeated key inputs in the same span of time. If that sounds confusing, open up Notepad and hold down the G key for a couple seconds. The number of Gs that show up will be indicative of the number of key inputs from your keyboard at 1X Repeat Rate. We will test the actual usefulness of this feature in a bit.

Physically, the QuickFire Stealth is much shorter in length than other keyboards on the market. Measuring in at 14(L)x5.3(W)x1.4(H) inches, the Stealth is essentially a standard full size keyboard with the number pad portion chopped off.

There is a nice rubberized soft-touch finish that covers the surface of the keyboard. This leaves a nice high quality feel while preventing most fingerprints from showing up. Unfortunately, the keycaps are not treated with the same finish and use standard hard black plastic. Thankfully, the surface of the keycaps maintains a smooth texture and concave curvature for extra grip.

Rotating the keyboard, we find the stylish CM Storm logo.

Turning the Stealth over, we spot the standard four rubber feet and two kickstands near the top. Unfortunately, the kickstands are not rubberized.

Our rundown of QuickFire Stealth's features continues on the following page!

Using the included key puller to remove the keycaps, we catch a glimpse of the Cherry MX Blue mechanical key switches. The switches rest on a black steel plate that gives the unit quite a hefty weight and durable feel, especially in conjunction with the block-like shape mentioned earlier. With the unit weighing a tad above 2 lbs., it can almost be considered a weapon.

The QuickFire Stealth comes with six additional keycaps. Four of them are red and printed with arrows to replace the stock WASD keys. Because you can remove any keycap on the keyboard however, these can technically replace any key. The remaining two replacement keycaps are black in color and merely have “Cooler Master” printed on top. Due to their size, they can only replace the CTRL, ALT, FN, and Windows keys lined up on the bottom row of the keyboard.

These keys are the same height and texture as the stock keycaps. In the heat of gaming, you would probably not even realize they were installed.

Connecting the keyboard involves attaching the included mini-USB cable underneath the keyboard. I must commend Cooler Master for sticking to a fairly common connection, as it opens up the possibility of using other USB cables when in a hurry (such as a LAN party).

Like the QuickFire TK, the QuickFire Stealth features several grooves to route your cable out of the left, right, or back of the keyboard.

Unfortunately, I had a very difficult time actually keeping the cable within the grooves. On the QuickFire TK, there were small notches that essentially “trapped” the cable once it was fully inserted into the grooves. Here, we find small vertical “ribs” that don’t do nearly as well a job. It’s a bit difficult to explain, so here are some comparison shots that should help visualize this; the QuickFire TK first, then the QuickFire Stealth.

The cable itself is nicely braided, with gold plating on both ends.

Plugging the keyboard in, we don’t see any real indicator that it’s powered on at least until you press either the Caps Lock, FN+F9, or Scroll Lock keys, which have red indicator LEDs. Lit up, they provide a subtle accent to the rather plain styling of the keyboard.

With everything powered up, let’s take the QuickFire Stealth on a typing experience and put it to the test!

During my time with the CM Storm QuickFire Stealth, I have been putting the keyboard through its paces with a variety of tasks such as typing up papers (including this review), coding, gaming, and general daily use. To give you a better idea of my thoughts, I will distinguish my results into several defining characteristics: Comfort, Typing/General Usage Experience, and Gaming. 

As with any peripheral review, a lot of the results may be very subjective. For example, while I may prefer a certain type of key switch, you may prefer another. Be sure to keep this in mind as you read through the next page.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Keyboards:

 

Comfort:

Coming from the Razer Blackwidow and CM Storm QuickFire TK, I had fairly high expectations from the QuickFire Stealth, especially as it stands with a similar price tag to both. Fortunately I can say that it is above average in comfort. Although a soft-touch finish does encompass the surface of the keyboard, it does not expand to the actual keycaps. The concave shape of the caps does help keep an accurate typing experience, but it’s no match for the rubberized keycaps found on the QuickFire TK. I would have also liked to see some kind of wrist rest here, specifically a removable one to maintain the portability of the keyboard.

Typing/General Usage Experience:

One of the main focus points when reviewing the Stealth was the significance of having key printing on the sides of the keycaps rather than the top. In my several weeks of testing the keyboard, I can say that side printing is like having no printing at all. When typing, my fingers would block all the labels and LED indicators, meaning I needed to physically stop typing if I wanted to check whether Caps Lock was on. Normally, I don’t look at my keys when typing, but the LED issue was particularly irritating. It got to the point where I stopped looking at the Caps Lock LED completely and made corrections when I had long chains of capital letters written out because it was simply faster than stopping completely to check the light.

It was nice to see plug-and-play here, but it comes at the cost of macro functionality. The lack of a number pad wasn’t a huge deal when typing, but made spreadsheets and number crunching impossible. I wanted to go back to the Razer Blackwidow on several occasions when writing lab reports (with equations) just for this reason. The lack of rubber material on the kickstands also allowed the keyboard to move around fairly often during heavy typing. Thankfully, the four rubber feet do a good job if you decide against using the kickstands.

Gaming Experience:

Gaming on the QuickFire Stealth was a fairly standard affair before diving into extra features. In both USB and PS/2 mode, I did not experience any kind of ghosting. Despite the 6KRO limitation of USB, I detected no missing keystrokes. In PS/2 mode, we get NKRO and the ability to control the Repeat Rate of the keyboard.

Boosting the Repeat Rate from 1X up to 8X the normal speed offered no real difference in games such as Left 4 Dead 2 and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Usually, games are programmed to take the initial key press input from your keyboard and translate it to an in-game animation. After the animation reaches completion, the game takes another input. Therefore having the keyboard repeat the same key at 2, 4, or 8 times the speed of one keypress made no appreciable difference in gameplay. The only difference was in driving games such as Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, where multiple key presses would affect car handling. However, all it did was make the game unplayable because a gentle click would turn the vehicle almost uncontrollably. Menus and chat boxes were also impossible to control with 4X or 8X rates, since these actually record every single input from your keyboard. Clicking the ESC button to pull up pause menus had them open and close several times before staying in place. Actually navigating the menus with the arrow keys was also pretty much impossible.

It’s a bit difficult to rate the CM Storm QuickFire Stealth after some thorough testing with the unit. In keeping with other CM Storm products, the Stealth arrives with the expected high build quality, NKRO capability, and outstanding features such as modular cabling and compact size. The front-printed keycaps are very unique and have a nice purpose that serves more than a simple gimmick.

Using the keyboard, my hands would actually block majority of the printing and indicator LEDs from the line of sight. I was practically typing blind, which isn’t a big deal for someone who is familiar with the layout on a standard keyboard, but may serve to be a huge problem for those who aren’t. The lack of a number pad also limits the amount of real “work” that can be done on the Stealth. The grooves for cabling are nice, but I find it strange to see the departure from the “notch” design that worked almost perfectly for the QuickFire TK. The same can be said for the lack of soft-touch material on the keycaps. Then there’s the ability to adjust the Repeat Rate of the keys, which served no purpose other than to aggravate me when navigating menus and typing.

The CM Storm QuickFire Stealth is by no means a bad keyboard, but at the current price of $99.99, there are definitely better options considering the QuickFire TK is around the same price. If you can look past the cool front printing on the keys, the latter will net you full backlit lighting, a number pad, soft-touch keys, and a cable routing system that actually works. Otherwise, jump for the original QuickFire Rapid, as it offers most of the features on the Stealth minus the useless Repeat Rate toggling and rubberized finish on the body, at a cheaper price to boot. If the prospect of fading keys is your only reasoning behind purchasing the Stealth, it may be in your interest to find a keyboard with laser-etched printing as well. In the end, the QuickFire Stealth is more of a niche product than anything else and stands at the border between function and form.

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