- Typing Test
- Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
- External Build
- Internal Build
- Layout and Function Keys
- Summary & Conclusion
- Full Gallery
- Where to Buy
The Cooler Master Quickfire XTi is a brand new full-size keyboard that is set to have a global release sometime before September. The MSRP is $149, meaning street price will probably be ~$139. The XTi features dual color backligting (red and blue) that can be blended together for a total combination of 35 colors. The XTi also features numerous lighting modes and 4 user banks that allow for per-key lighting settings. With its resourceful use of colored backlighing and clean looks, the XTi has a huge amount of potential, though there will still be stiff direct competition with the Ducky Shine 4. Does it live up to it’s full potential? Let’s find out.
Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
I can honestly say I was genuinely surprised at how good the packaging and presentation of the product was as a whole. The box itself is a bit flashy, but it definitely matches the personality of the keyboard inside. The back of the box highlights some of the XTi’s prominent features:
- Genuine Cherry MX switches – quality guaranteed to endure at least 50 million keystrokes
- Mixable dual color buue and red LED backlight – for up to 35 LED backlight colors per keys
- ActiveLite per key illumination – multiple LED preset lighting Modes, 4 profiles and brightness options
- Macro support – on the fly 4 profile macro support
- Repeat rate adjustments – up to 8x speed over USB
Upon opening the box I saw the keyboard was packaged nicely in a cloth bag, with no other visible branding or writing inside the box, giving it a very ominous feel. Under a cardboard duct at the back was a nice braided USB micro cable and key puller, with the manual being under the keyboard itself.
Inside the box
The keyboard came wrapped in a cloth cover that can be reused as a dust cover when the keyboard is not in use. The wire key puller is nothing special, though it is better than the plastic alternatives, and the USB micro cable is a very high quality braided cloth cable. The braided cable is a very nice touch that Cooler Master has been doing for quite a while, and something I really wish other brands would start doing. I feel like most of the cables I end up using are either custom cables, or Cooler Master cables due to the fact that they truly are very high quality and look nice.
The case on the XTi is the first of its kind from Cooler Master. Unlike other keyboards of theirs I’ve had, the seam between the top and bottom halves of the case runs right along the bottom of the keyboard. This gives the keyboard an extremely sleek and professional look. Without the backlighting on the XTi would fit in just fine in any professional setting. Further maintaining the clean look, there is no visible branding anywhere on the keyboard except for on the bottom of the case, a feature that I am extremely fond of. WASD is another brand that has adopted this minimalist approach to branding on their keyboards. The case has a slightly textured matte finish to it that does show finger prints, though I am much more fond of the current texture than the older rubberized one. Despite being a long full size keyboard, it was very resistant to flexing when I twisted the case. The thick case and quality plate are what make it such a sturdy keyboard.
Reverse side (rubber pads, feet, etc.)
The bottom of the keyboard looks extremely clean due to the fact that the Cooler Master logo is engraved into the case, instead of being on a sticker like many keyboards. There are 4 stationary rubber pads for when the keyboard is flat, and 2 extendable legs with thick rubber feet on the end. The keyboard was extremely stable and resistant to slipping, sitting flat and with the legs extended.
As mentioned earlier, the XTi uses a USB micro connection instead of the normal USB mini connection that most keyboards use. I still prefer the mini simply because it makes things easier for me when I want to swap keyboards or travel with multiple keyboards (yes, I actually do this). But that is all personal preference. Unlike the Novatouch, that comes with a right angle USB micro cable that just dangles off the back, the XTi features a more standard recessed plug on the back of the keyboard, with 3 cable tracks (left, center, right) that hold the cable securely in place. I like this design much, much better than the free hanging cable design on the Novatouch.
The first thing I noticed about the keycaps was that the font was much more normal looking than some of the past fonts Cooler Master has used. Thank you for listening Cooler Master, thank you. The keycaps themselves are UV coated ABS, and like most standard keycaps, they aren’t exceptional in any way. They did show fingerprints fairly easily, but seemed a bit more resistant to shining than most stock keycaps, including WASD’s and KBP’s. They are backlight compatible and show off the XTi’s many lighting options well.
The internal components of the XTi were all very solid. Getting into the case was definitely not as easy as past CM keyboards though. Cooler Master keyboards are often heavily modified, and being able to get into the case is an important detail. There is even an entire forum on GeekHack just about modifying CM Storm cases. The new style case doesn’t allow you to pop the tabs holding the halves of the case together with a single credit card or flathead screwdriver any longer. To open the case I found the best way was to start with a very small flathead screwdriver and wedge it between the two cases in the slot for the cable. After that I slowly used 4 or 5 credit cards, library cards, and grocery store cards to slide around the case and slowly pop the clips open.
Once I manged to get into the case of the XTi I was quite pleased with what I saw. The soldering was very clean, and there were no loose parts or solder beads shaking around the case like quite a few other keyboards I’ve received in the past, notably my first POK3R. The PCB is connected to the bottom case with 4 small screws and the USB is connected to the bottom case via a cable that can be disconnected. If you do need to disconnect the PCB from the bottom case make sure to be careful when removing the clip, pull evenly from both sides of the clip, don’t pull on the cable itself.
The XTi used Cherry stabilizers, which I personally enjoy more than Costar stabilizers. Cherry stabilizers are occasionally criticized for feeling mushy, which can be the case sometimes, but they felt just fine on the XTi. The switches were all mounted on a very nice white plate, a detail that really amplifies the great backlighting effects. The LED’s are housed at the back of the switches, which is just something to keep in mind if you shop for aftermarket keycaps. Any keycaps that have front printed legends that are also backlight compatible won’t show up very well when used on the XTi. A small detail, but one to be aware of. I found no issues at all with the internal build quality of either XTi keyboards that I was sent.
Cooler Master sent me out two sample units with Cherry MX Green switches, though MX Greens are only going to in the sample keyboards. I was told by Cooler Master that the initial run would only include Cherry MX Red, Blue, and Brown switches. The Cherry MX Green switches are a slightly heavier offering, with an actuation force of 80g. Personally, I am a huge fan of MX Green switches and hope Cooler Master eventually releases retail versions of the XTi with Greens as an option. As a heavy typist I tend to gravitate more towards switches with higher actuation forces. Because genuine Cherry switches are used, the actual quality of the switches is not something that I would ever worry about. It is a bit of a shame that more switch options like MX Greens or the ever popular MX Clears won’t be available in the initial run, but there is always hope they will be added in future runs.
Layout and Function Keys
The Cooler Master XTi features a completely standard ANSI layout, meaning any standard aftermarket keycap set should fit on the XTi without any issues. Unlike some of the big competition in terms of gaming keyboards (Corsair, Razer, I’m looking at you), the standard bottom row lets the XTi be utilized by a much wider audience. The benefits of having a standard bottom row are that almost all aftermarket keycap sets will fit on the keyboard. Personally, I won’t buy a keyboard that doesn’t have a standard bottom row unless I’m buying it for a very specific reason or keycap set.
One of the biggest selling features of the XTi will inevitably be its wide variety of backlighting options. Unlike some keyboards that require software to edit the lighting, the XTi’s lighting is all controlled by the keyboard hardware itself, much like the extremely popular Ducky Shine keyboards. In some ways, programming things like lighting profiles and macros from the keyboard itself are a little trickier and more time consuming than using software, but at the same time you don’t have to deal with annoying, and often intrusive software. If the XTi was RGB I feel like software would be needed, but as it stands I think the hardware programming is a superior choice. I also tested the XTi with Windows, OS X, and Ubuntu, it worked perfectly with each operating system.
Here is a list of the full function layer:
Lighting Options and Functions
- FN + ESC = Revert back to Default Profile
- FN + F1 [Blue+] = Blue Color Levels (0-5)
- FN + F2 [Red+] = Red Color Levels (0-5)
- FN + F3 = LED Lighting Modes
- FN + F4 = Windows Lock (aka Gaming Mode)
- FN + F5 = Repeat Rate 1x
- FN + F6 = Repeat Rate 2x
- FN + F6 = Repeat Rate 4x
- FN + F7 = Repeat Rate 8x
Macro and Programming Functions
- FN + F9 = Record Macro
- FN + F10 = Delete Macro
- FN + PRT SC = Repeat Macro
- FN + SCR LOCK = LED Play
- FN + Paule = Record LED Backlight
Lighting Profile Selection
- FN + P1 = Switch to Profile 1
- FN + P2 = Switch to Profile 2
- FN + P3 = Switch to Profile 3
- FN + P4 = Switch to Profile 4
- FN + Ins = Play/Pause
- FN + Home = Next Track
- FN + Page UP = Volume Up
Here is a video of the different lighting modes and colors in action:
Note: Caps Lock, F4: Windows Lock, Scroll Lock, and NumLock all illuminate when active, like a normal keyboard. If the are active they will react to whatever lighting effect is active. If they are not active, like the video, they will not light up with the active lighting.
Summary & Conclusion
The new Cooler Master XTi is an exceptional keyboard. I will admit I was quite surprised by this keyboard, as I normally associate Cooler Master with budget keyboards. Lately though, Cooler Master has really started pumping out higher end keyboards, starting with the Novatouch. The XTi definitely isn’t a budget keyboard with a list price of $149, but compared to other keyboards in the same price range you still get a lot of bang for your buck, which is something Cooler Master has always been good at. Details like the new font on the keycaps and the surprising lack of branding on the case really show that Cooler Master is actually listening to customer/fan feedback, which often isn’t the case with companies as big as Cooler Master. Cooler Master has also found a better line than most other brands in appealing to gamers, professionals, and enthusiasts alike. The XTi is a prime example of this. The keyboard features the ability to program macros and per-key lighting profiles, features definitely aimed at gamers, but also has a standard bottom row and very clean looks, features that enthusiasts and professional alike can enjoy. I don’t have any real gripes with the XTi, and wouldn’t hesitant recommending this keyboard to anyone.
- Genuine Cherry MX Switches
- Fantastic backlighting options
- Very clean look
- New font is much better than past fonts
- Build quality
- USB Micro cable (personal preference)
- Case shows fingerprints fairly easily
- Opening the case is quite tricky
- Not RBG
- Could use more switch options
Final score: 8.8/10
Where to Buy
- The XTi is currently not available to purchase. After it is released I will update this section with buying options.