Posted On 08/20/2015 By In Keyboard Reviews, News, Reviews

REVIEW: Max Blackbird TKL

Page Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Typing Test
  3. Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
  4. External Build
  5. Internal Build
  6. Switches
  7. Layout and Function Keys
  8. Summary & Conclusion
  9. Full Gallery
  10. Where to Buy

Introduction

The Max Blackbird is a TKL gaming keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches and some unique case lighting. The keyboard was surprisingly sturdy and really gave me a good first impression. In a very competitive market for gaming keyboards, the Max Blackbird seemed to be a very good option upon first inspection. Did the keyboard live up to my initial impression of it after using it for 2 weeks straight? Read on to find out.

Typing Test

Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents

The packaging is about what I would expect from a gaming keyboard. There are a lot of graphics and stats on the box, most of which are actually pretty useful. The box was packed in a way that kept the keyboard very safe and secure during shipping. Still, I would like to see the actual box simplified a bit to make it stand out a little bit. I understand that Max Keyboards are optimizing their box for retail scenarios, unlike WASD, but I still think finding a balance between simplicity and information is a very good thing. Here is a list of the information on the back of the box, about 1/2 of it is very useful, and the other 1/2 could just be left for the manual:

KEYBOARD INFORMATION

  • Tenkeyless (75% keyboard) design
  • Cherry MX mechanical key switches
  • 1000Hz ultra polling rate
  • Individual backlit keys for enhanced visuals
  • Backlight settings memory
  • 4 level backlit modes (pulse move on level 4)
  • 3 level backlight modes on side panel ambient lighting
  • LED sleep mode (user defined, up to 30 mins)
  • Timer notification mode (user defined, up to 120 mins)
  • Double shot injection molded key caps
  • N-Key rollover (6 keys / N keys over USB)
  • Embedded multimedia keys
  • Built in 2 high-speed USB 2.0 hub (max 100mA each)
  • Heavy duty braided cable with routing management
  • Gold plated connectors
  • Tilt legs
  • Windows key disabled function
  • Foam wrist pad for extra comfort

Inside the box

Included with the keyboard are a foam wrist rest, a thank you note, and a manual. The wrist rest is surprisingly comfortable. I much prefer having a loose foam wrist rest over having the wrist rests that attach to the keyboard. This just keeps the desk clutter down, and lets me use the rest with other keyboards as well. I found the included wrist rest to be surprisingly comfortable. The manual is also fantastic. Everything is very organized with very clear instructions. It is a small detail, but having a good manual is a very good first impression to make on a buyer.

External Build

Case

The sturdiness of the Blackbird was probably one of the more surprising aspects of this keyboard. I must admit I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, as a lot of gaming keyboard seem to skimp on build quality to add more frills. I realized upon pulling the Blackbird out of the box that it had a significant amount of heft to it. The case handled torsional flex exceedingly well, flexing less than a WASD Code, and only slighly more than the KUL. Very high case quality indeed. The case also has a 2 port USB hub on the back. There is a warning on it though:

NOTE: Tha maximum current capacity of USB port is 100mA. Do not exceed or use it as a charging power supply.

In short, these hubs won’t charge your phone or similar devices, and are really only useful for plugging mouse or other small peripherals into. Not incredibly useful, but it did come in handy more than a few times during testing as I was able to plug my wireless mouse receiver into it and that worked perfectly.

The case also includes some unique side lighting. This is an addition that people will either love or hate, but I found it far less distracting than I originally thought it would be. It did give the keyboard a very unique look in darker settings, and the light isn’t blinding which was nice, it was more of an ambient glow.

Reverse side (rubber pads, feet, etc.)

The back of the keyboard is very simple. There is a connected USB cable that has 3 way routing. Unfortunately the cable isn’t removable, which isn’t ideal if you plan on swapping keyboards often or traveling with the Blackbird, but it is a nice high quality braided cable, which I like to see. The feet are extremely sturdy and at no point during my test did the keyboard slide on the surfaces I tested it on.

Keycaps

The keycaps are quite good. You heard right. This may be the first gaming keyboard I’ve ever tested that had good keycaps right out of the box. They are thick ABS doubleshots, and have a normal font! None of that crazy “gaming” font business. As you can see from the pictures they are very thick as well. This was quite surprising, as most keyboards come with less than stellar keycaps. Over my two weeks of testing the caps didn’t have any signs of shine or wear.

Internal Build

Getting the case apart was a simple combination of screws and clips, like most keyboards. The clips weren’t as difficult to unlatch as a lot of keyboards though, which was nice. The PCB was nice and thick, and the soldering was pretty clean. There was a good bit of residue on the keyboard, but that won’t affect performance at all, it really just looks slightly messy. Slightly off topic, the side pannels LEDs are unfortunately going to be very difficult for modders to swap out the LEDs in, but it was something I checked.

Switches

Max Keyboards only uses Genuine Cherry MX switches, so long switch life is a given. Unlike a lot of brands that are using clones, it’s nice to see that Max Keyboards is offering up the real deal in their products. The PCB, while not the neatest in the world, left me with no reason to believe there would be any issues with the switch soldering, and the switches themselves are very high quality. Cherry MX Red switches are fairly light linear switches. They are idea for gaming, but less than comfortable to type on for extended sessions.

Layout and Function Keys

There is a good amount of customization that can be done to the keyboard lighting with the Fn layer as well as accessing the traditional media keys. The Blackbird also uses a standard ANSI layout, which is fantastic. Unlike so many gaming based brands that use funky bottom row layouts, Corsair and Razer to name a few, the Blackbird is completely standard. This means should you ever want to replace the keycaps, just about every aftermarket set out there will fit on the Blackbird without any issues.

Here is a list of what you can do with the FN layer:

FUNCTION DESCRIPTIONCOMBINATION KEYSNOTE
Keyboard backlight level upFN+PgUp0:off, 1:low, 2:medium, 3:high, 4:pulse mode
keyboard backlight level downFN+PgDn0:off, 1:low, 2:medium, 3:high, 4:pulse mode
Side panel backlight (cycle)FN+Pause Break0:off, 1:low, 2:medium, 3:high
LED sleep modeFN+Scroll LockOff, 5 mins, 15 mins, 30 mins
Timer notification cycleFN+EscOff, Set up to 120 mins
Custom mode setting recording/savingFN+Print ScreenTo create your own custom LED light settings, press FN+PrSc. Once activated, the 3 indicators will be flashing. Press the keys you would like the LED to be on/off then press FN+PrSc again to save those settings. The recording session will be terminated if no changes are made within 30 mins.
Full backlight modeFN+Ins
Custom backlight modeFN+DeletePreset WASD and Arrow keys.
6-KROFN+home6 key+modifier key rollover on USB
N-KROFN+endInfinite key rollover on USB
G ModeFN+F12Disable/Enable windows key
Multimedia muteFN+F1mute
Multimedia Volume downFN+F2Volume down
Multimedia Volume Up FN+F3
Volume up
Multimedia Play/PauseFN+F4Play/Pause
Multimedia PreviousFN+F5
Next track
Multimedia Next FN+F6Previous track

Summary & Conclusion

Overall I was extremely impressed with the Blackbird. Sure there were a few things I would change. Having a removable cable would probably be first on my wish list. Having slightly more elegant packaging would really help the keyboard feel a bit more like a premium product, which I would consider it to be. Other than that though, the keyboard performed excellently and looked quite nice in the process. My favorite part was unquestionably the build quality though. It reminded me a lot of the KUL with how sturdy it was, which came as a huge surprise. Quite frankly I’m a little bit surprised I don’t see more people using these. The fact that it also uses a standard layout is also a huge deal to me, and a reason in itself that I would recommend this over the competition, but combined with the build quality this really is one very good keyboard. The price, when compared to other gaming keyboards, is a little bit on the more expensive side of things, but the build quality along with the Cherry switches warrants the price in my opinion.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Comes with a wrist rest
  • Genuine Cherry MX switches
  • Cool side case ambient lighting
  • Very nice doubleshot keycaps
  • USB hub on keyboard
  • Standard ANSI layout

Cons

  • Non removable cable
  • Packaging is forgettable
  • Pricey
  • USB hub isn’t very powerful
  • Could have a few extra modes for backlighting

Final score:8.4/10

 

Full Gallery

Where to Buy

Max Keyboard Blackbird on Amazon

Disclaimer: The same keyboard was provided courtesy of Max Keyboards, and is in no way a paid review/advertisement. 

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