CM Storm QuickFire TK Keyboard in Linux

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 25, 2012

When one says mechanical keyboard you think gamers, at least I did. Gamers prefer mechanical keyboards because the physical act of typing is more precise. That's it in a nutshell, the feedback provided by mechanical keyboards gives gamers another edge over the game and opponents. So, one may think Windows, because gaming in Linux is rarely as competitive. But I'm here to tell you a Linux user, not even an avid gamer, can and does love her new CM Storm QuickFire TK.

"Mechanical Keyboards utilize a switch underneath each key. Depending on the type of switch, these keyboards can have a variety of response and travel times, which make them attractive to gamers and heavy typists," so explains www.daskeyboard.com.

Initial Observations

The first thing I noticed upon opening the box was that the QuickFire TK was smaller than most other keyboards. This is because Cooler Master has combined the functions of the middle arrow and the Del, Page, and Home keys with the numberpad. A Numlock toggle sets the functions. At first I thought that would be pain until I realized that I rarely use the numbers when typing text, so I leave it on arrows and Del group. That has worked well for me.

The second thing is the LED lights. I chose red keys, but it comes in blue and white too. The lights have several modes which are pretty cool. By depressing the Fn key and F1 you can turn the backlights on and off. Fn and F4 sets the mode. There are three basic modes (or four if you count "off.") Naturally, there's "on." Another is what I call "gamers" mode. It lights up just the WASD and arrow keys. That would probably be helpful and save gamers a few milliseconds. The most interesting is what I call "pulse" or "breathing" mode. It's where the key lights increase and decrease in intensity or brightness creating a pulse-like effect. I suppose that would add to the creepiness of scary games with the ambient light low. I haven't actually used that mode very much. Additionally, while the key backlights are on, the Fn + F2 decreases the light level of the keys and Fn + F3 increases it.

Personally, as one who spends most of her computer time typing text, I find the lighted keys much more helpful than I originally imagined. With my aging eyesight, those lighted keys help me find those lesser used combinations and return to the home keys much quicker.


The Keys and Deeper

The most important part of any mechanical keyboard is the keys, or more precisely, the switches underneath the keys. It turns out there's a whole technology sector complete with enthusiasts surrounding keyboards and those switches. Cherry is the brand most spoken of in these circles and they make several varieties to meet differing typing styles and needs. The three available on the QuickFire TK are differentiated by color: Cherry MX Brown, Red, and Blue.

Cherry MX Blue switches are possibly the "best switch for typing because they have a "clicky" tactile bump when the activation point is hit," according to www.daskeyboard.com. They say gamers enjoy these switches too because they're a bit harder to double tap and help avoid those type of mistakes.

The Cherry MX Red switches "are non-tactile. They require less force to actuate than the Cherry MX Blacks. Most people do not like these switches for typing or gaming because it is so easy to accidentally press keys and make typing errors." Although www.daskeyboard.com states these are rarely used now because nobody likes them, it is one of the three offerings by CM Storm. In fact, it is on many of their keyboards.

I chose the third option, brown. It's kind of in the middle of the two previously described. Let's just quote daskeyboard.com again, "The Cherry Brown switches are about halfway between a typing and a gaming switch. Some people prefer them for gaming since it enables you to double tap faster. Unlike the black switches, the browns have a soft, tactile bump about half way through the key press. The MX Brown switches have a softer click when depressed and require less force to actuate than the blue switches." The backlight colors and steelplate coatings come in red, blue, and white.

The keys themselves look like they're made from a translucent white plastic and the black is molded over or painted on to form the characters and the colored LEDs on the switches give the keys their color. It's kind of a rubbery coating that doesn't look like it'll start flaking off any time soon. This process may be common in the high-end keyboard world but to me, who's only seen painted characters fade away, it seems quite sophisticated.

Additional Features

There is such a thing as N-Key Rollover over USB. This feature allows that many keys can be depressed and register at exactly the same millisecond. I understand avid gamers can sometimes create elaborate key combinations to exact their damage. CM Storms register up to six if memory serves. It's rarely something a typist needs to that advanced degree.

The QuickFire TK comes with some multimedia functions on the F5 through F11 keys. KDE and GNOME actually do pick up on the volume features, but the media playback control keys didn't work out of the box in Linux. Otherwise, no software or drivers are needed to enjoy the keyboard in Linux.

Since my keyboard will live on my desktop, I will rarely think about the flexibility of the braided USB cable. Gamers, especially those who pack up and tote around their equipment, might appreciate things like the detachable cable and the three-way routing grooves. My whitebox came with a ring-type key puller and the retail box ships with a User Guide as well. The QuickFire TK has a two year warranty.

Probably one of the best things about this particular keyboard is the price. The MSRP is $99.99, which is quite a bit less than many others I priced; yet it seems to have similar features and the same quality construction of its older brothers. It just seems to make typing a bit more fun.