Cooler Master SK650 Review
Cooler Master is made by a manufacturer of computer components and peripherals, that has long been known for manufacturing the efficient and inexpensive coolers of processors, a wide range of spectrum housing selection and cooling racks for laptops. Unfortunately, until recently, the market produced by Cooler Master has often not received attention from players – Razer, Corsair and HyperX dominated the market, while Cooler Master products were often pushed back to the background. However, the new keyboard series SK seems to be what Cooler Master intends to challenge for the giants that are divided by the market. The SK650 is the largest, 100% format keyboard with Cherry MX Low Profile Red buttons, adjustable RGB LED lighting, ultra-compact low profile housing, detachable braided cable and fabric bag for transportation.
Keyboard price on the market ranges from 120 to 150 euros, so the keyboard is placed in a class of more expensive, premium keyboards. Therefore, it is not surprising that the packaging is quite premium – a small purple box with clearly arranged basic features of the keyboard; it is also nice that the design of the box is minimalistic, unloaded with "playerish" accents, which often look like a cheap attempt to make a positive impression.
The keyboard and its accessories are placed in the inner box, which, due to the hole on the side, easily pulls out with the finger – a pleasant trifle that shows the manufacturer's attention to detail. The inner packaging is made of thin black corrugated cardboard; although the packaging is not particularly robust, it looks quite solid and does not give any hints to the short-term of the product.The keyboard is placed in a fabric bag, which is especially useful for transporting the keyboard without scratching it; the other accessories that are placed in the same black cardboard box are the braided USB Type C cable and keycap puller.
The keyboard connects to the computer with a 1.8 metre long braided black cable; the computer, of course, has the usual USB connection, while the keyboard – USB Type-C, which helps to reduce the amount of cables required when traveling (if the phone also uses Type-C). The cable is flexible, non-thick and there are no excessive difficulties in handling the cable mess behind the table; the small thickness is also due to the fact that the keyboard does not have additional connections (e.g. headphones or USB, which add those few unpleasant millimeters of cable) – one of the limitations of the USB Type-C connector.
The keyboard can be used even without software: both lighting and macros can be adjusted using the keyboard's secondary key functions. However, those who want to spend some time adjusting the keyboard to your taste Cooler Master recommends their software Portal. It allows you to adjust the illumination (you can choose from 21 (!) different lighting effects), create and edit macros, and change key values.
The design of the keyboard is nothing extraordinary in trying to make it look gameri-ish; on the contrary – the keyboard looks professional and does not give any thoughts about its user's passion for games. The keyboard can be used even in the most formal situations – it is only t is important to adjust the lighting properly. By the way, Cooler Master intends to release in the near future a low-profile keyboard focused not on players, but on users engaged in creative work to the computer Cooler Master SK851.
The upper part of the keyboard body is a one-way brushed light aluminum plate with glossy edges. The lower part is black, gently rough plastic. Between these parts, there is a narrow RGB diode bar covering the entire perimeter of the keyboard, the illumination of which can also be adjusted in portal application. On the bottom of the keyboard there are four rubber pads, perfectly keeping the keyboard in place. Unfortunately, the keyboard does not have adjustable angle lifters – this would normally be a big advantage for the keyboard of such a price segment, but this deficiency can be justified by equal keys, which are one of the most important parts of keyboard marketing.
One of the most advertised and focused keyboard design features is its low profile and compact design. The keyboard body is minimally small so that you don't have as little space on the table, but it has all the keys — the keyboard doesn't have any unnecessary extensions. Keyboard switches are installed at the lowest possible distance from each other – it is quite difficult for a non-empty hand to use such a keyboard. The keyboard itself is palpably thinner and lighter than other mechanical keyboards and is an attractive choice for those who like to travel and use a real, rather than semi-(e.g. Razer Ornata) mechanical keyboard.
The keyboard uses Cheery MX Low Profile RGB Red switches – from normal, players' favorite MX Red they differ in their speed (1.2mm for activation, maximum travel of 3.2mm, while in the usual MX Red these numbers are 2mm and 4mm), the same switch size and round stem. Key clicks sound is quieter than the normal MX Red, and the lower activation point allows for faster typing. Although in games, the keyboard does not give a palpable "faster" sense of click, but fast-activated switches make it easier and faster several times when in need to press the same key quickly.
All keyboard keys are individually illuminated by RGB LEDs. All diodes are built inside the transparent switch housing (SMD type), so not only the symbol at the top of the key illuminates, but also the part of the switch sticking out of the body – looking at the keyboard, it keeps giving the impression that the keys are on a strong and dense luminous flux, which is the "floating" key design mentioned on the manufacturer's website. Unpleasant detail – the indicative RGB LED above the number block shines as brightly as the diodes on the switches, but their light is not resitricted by the switch, so they slightly slit the eyes when they are set to a lighter color.
The Portal software allows you to choose from 22 different adjustable lighting effects; very attractive at first glance looks like system status mode (it on the keyboard represents the load of the processor) and equalizer. Unfortunately, these modes are only available in predefined colors, but multi-layer mode allows you to illuminate at least the rest of the keyboard in the desired color.
Media keys and Software
The keyboard does not have individual media keys due to its compact design– they are represented by functional and navigation keys with secondary values that can be used by pressing the FN key, which displays the eye-catching Cooler Master logo. Keys for music and sound control are performed by navigation keys, so unlike most keyboards, you won't have any difficulties when you try to access the function keys at the top. Again, a small and unpleasant trifle: the keyboard does not have a mute key – only for volume up and down. The keyboard also has dual game mode — FN+F9, which locks the Windows key and turns off the Alt+Tab press combination.
In the Portal software, you can record a combination of keyboard clicks and assign it to one key; not sophisticated, but useful enough for those working with programs that require many different combinations. Up to four different profiles can be stored in the memory of the keyboard — which is convenient for working with several different programs that require different macros: each program can have its own profile.
The most popular keyboard layout is QWERTY, but some prefer AZERTY, while others use their own personal schemes. In the software, you can change the key values and assign one value to another; Thanks to the flat keycaps, non-QWERTY layout users can easily lay out the keys according to the scheme used.
The software itself is convenient, maybe not too presentable, but it really performs its function. The software is downloaded from the official website of the manufacturer, in order to use it does not need to create an account. A detail that applies to owners of weaker PCs is that the keyboard also works without running software, so you can uninstall the program after setting the keyboard settings you want. And the keyboard itself offers almost full adjustment without software intervention, using secondary button functions and additional keyboard modes.
This keyboard is different from the conventional mechanical keyboards: flat key surfaces and shorter keystrokes. Many reviewers have criticised Cooler Master for these reasons – and unnecessarily, because after a week of getting used to the keys, their sensitivity and shape make using the keyboard more pleasant than usual: faster and quieter clicks make your computer even more enjoyable. By the way, Cooler Master offers free lowered OEM profile keycaps replacement set for those who can't get used to flat keys.
Unfortunately, no wrist support can be attached to the keyboard – either plastic or fabric; and for keyboards in this price segment, this is almost a standard add-on. But these decisions er may be justified – because of the lowness of the keyboard, it does not really need a support; and those who use the support for the normal keyboard will face the problem of height difference (or rather its absence), but getting used to the non-inclined keys that are almost at the support level makes using the keyboard more pleasant.
Thanks to the included sleeve, you can put keyboard in a backpack or bag without fear of scratching it. Since the keyboard is not heavy enough or in a stingy format (especially the smaller version of it), has a detachable cable, it does not cause greater difficulty when traveling to guests or LAN parties.
Conclusions and verdict | Alternatives
Cooler Master SK650 – a distinctive and not comparable keyboard. Some will be fascinated by it from the first moments, others will never say a good word; solutions chosen by the manufacturer are quite polarising. However, this keyboard shows that Cooler Master is able to develop new, innovative products that are an unexpected but welcome alternative to market-based tendence products. The SK650 could be called a great product if not for minor flaws (key smoothness, lack of folding legs and wrist support) that do not allow you to boldly call this keyboard great – but seeing the Cooler Master SK622 and SK652 low-profile keyboards shown at CES 2020 exhibition makes it clear, that the manufacturer takes feedback: the new keyboards has "decent" concave keys, a wider choice of switches and will probably have folding legs (demonstration prototypes did not have them). So you don't dare choose the SK650 to turn away from Cooler Master, but just wait until the new keyboard appears. In conclusion, SK650 is a product that is worthy of attention (especially for amateurs of innovation), which offers an exquisite design, a more compact design than other keyboards and is perfect not only for players, but also for typers.
For those for whom a number block or navigation keys are just an unnecessary, seat-on-table relic, Cooler Master also has something to offer – SK630 (TKL version of the keyboard described in the overview) and SK621 (A 60% keyboard model that can be connected not only by cable to devices, but also via Bluetooth).
However, if the design of the keys does not suit you, it is worth paying attention to HyperX Alloy Elite RGB: invidual key lighting, volume control wheel, music control keys and eye-catching LED tape above the keys.
Cooler Master SK650 keyboard could be bought here.
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