- Typing Test
- Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
- External Build
- Internal Build
- Layout and Function Keys
- Summary & Conclusion
- Full Gallery
- Where to Buy
The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro series of keyboards are the new RGB keyboards from Cooler Master. In a market that is becoming increasingly competitive for RGB boards, finding out how the MasterKeys line stood up to the competition was quite a task. As the first true RGB from Cooler Master, was it able to stand up to or even surpass the RGB veterans like Corsair? Read on to find out!
I had the opportunity to get hands on with both the MasterKeys Pro L, a full size keyboard, and the MasterKeys Pro S, the TKL. After extensive testing of both I found them to be identical in almost every way, and throughout the review will simply refer to them both as the Masterkeys keyboard. I have however made sure to note any differences worth mentioning between the two during the review.
Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
The packaging is fairly standard for Cooler Master, but there is nothing wrong with that. The front of the box actually had a lot of useful information, including the layout (ANSI or ISO), switch type, and backlighting info. The back has a single graphic that is actually quite nice, showing the internal construction of the keyboard. Bullet points on the back included:
- Brilliant RGB lighting with 16.7 million colors – Exclusive design makes each LED pop and shine.
- Multiple lighting modes – Change and customize colors with or without software. Presets include Color Wave, Breathing, and responsive effects.
- Cherry MX Switches – Guaranteed to endure at least 50 million keystrokes.
- On-the-fly macro and profile support – On-board processor and profile keys let you save macros and backlighting settings without hassle
- 100% anti-ghosting with N-key rollover – Ensure each keypress is correctly detected regardless how many other keys are being pressed
- Detachable cable – Durable, 1.5m detachable USB cable for easy transportation
Inside the box
The MasterKeys keyboards came wrapped in a nice cloth dust cover, and included a manual, wire keycap puller and a thick high quality woven cable. The MasterKeys S came with a Micro USB cable with a right angle plug, while the MasterKeys L came with a straight Micro USB cable. The manual, while good, doesn’t explain the lighting much. It does a great job of explaining how to program macros, and what all the shortcuts for the keyboard are. More on that in the layout section though.
The case is very much the same as the Rapid-i and Novatouch. I like the slight angles on the sides and back quite a bit actually. The keyboard doesn’t look terribly plain, but it definitely doesn’t look like a crazy gaming keyboard either. Should you put a nicer set of keycaps on it, or just use some understated backlight setting the MasterKeys would look right at home in a professional setting (just don’t let your boss catch you playing snake via the built in lighting modes should you take it to work!).
Reverse side (rubber pads, feet, etc.)
The MasterKeys Pro L uses a Micro USB connection on the underside of the keyboard, which is why it came with a straight USB cable. It has 3 routing channels that securely hold on to the cable while in use. The MasterKeys Pro S has a Micro USB connection on the back right of the keyboard, much like the Rapid-i and Novatouch both have. It came with the 90 degree Micro USB cable. Personally I do like that the Pro L is a bit more secure, but really I just wish the Pro S came with a straight USB cable as well. I never really understood why an angled cable was included, it looks a little odd and can pull out at odd angles which isn’t great for the keyboard.
The feet on the other hand are perfect. there are 4 sturdy rubber feet on the underside of the keyboard, and the flip-out feet also have nice rubber ends to prevent the keyboard from moving around during use. Even with heavy gaming, this keyboard stayed grounded on my desk.
The keycaps are laser etched ABS. While relatively thin, they didn’t fade during the month I tested them, though they certainly will over time. The font is actually pretty good and nothing crazy like past CM fonts. They do a great job of allowing the lighting to shine though, which is their main purpose for this keyboard.
Opening up the Pro S was actually quite a task. I had to wedge tiny flat head screwdrivers in every side of the keyboard and then unscrew 4 screws on the back (there is a hidden screw behind the label!). Once inside I was indeed pleased with what I found. The solder work was immaculate and there were no bits rattling around inside like I’ve had on quite a few keyboards in the past. Nothing internally gave me any concern on the longevity of the keyboard.
At launch the MasterKeys will be available with Cherry MX Brown switches, with more inevitably coming in the future. The sample units I had both came with MX Red switches. These light linear switches are often prefered by gamers. Cherry switches are industry proven with decades of use and a very low failure rate. The quality of the switches is not something you should ever have to worry about with the MasterKey keyboards. The LEDS are also in switch, and do shine through the clear top switch housing very well as advertised.
The keyboards both used Cherry stabilizers as well, making removing and changing keycaps an ease. Cherry stabs can often feel mushy, but they felt fine on both of the keyboards I tested. There was a slight rattle that is common with Cherry stabs, but nothing too loud or abnormal by any means.
Layout and Function Keys
Both keyboards use standard ANSI layouts unlike many gaming keyboards, so they will also fit just about any aftermarket keycap set. There are no DIP switches or ways to change the layout on the keyboard itself though, you will need 3rd party software if you need to make any layout changes.
Now I’m sure you want to see what the lighting modes are capable of. I made a brief video demo and cycled through many of the modes via the software. Check it out:
The included software is extremely easy to use and didn’t interfere with any games or other programs that I had running at the time, something I’ve had trouble with in the past with other keyboards. Here is what the GUI looks like:
It could almost be more complex, but personally I really enjoyed how easy to use it was. I wish you were able to program your macros from the software GUI though. I will dig into the software and make a guide on using it later on though, there could be a few hidden features I’ve yet to find.
The shortcut keys differ for the Pro S and the Pro L, though both have the same capabilities. Here are some images from Cooler Master showing the shortcuts and capabilities of both keyboards:
I do like how the keycaps also have the shortcuts engraved making them easy to find and utilize right out of the box.
Summary & Conclusion
The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S and Pro L are both very good keyboards. The best part about these keyboards is definitely the easy to use GUI software for utilizing the lighting. I’ve found trying to program any custom modes on keybaords via built-in shortcuts is often more of a pain than it is worth. Unlike Razer and Corsair keyboards, the MasterKeys also both have a standard layout which is hugely important to the enthusiast/modding communities since they can easily swap out keycap sets with almost any set in production.
- Price is moderately competitive. Pro S retail is $139 and Pro L retail is $169.
- The lighting cycles extremely smoothly.
- The GUI Software is incredibly easy to use, making the lighting easy to get full use out of.
- The keyboard has nice lines and a very understated look, not like most gaming keyboards.
- Standard Layout.
- I wish the Pro S came with a straight Micro USB cable.
- I wish you could set macro’s via the software.
Where to Buy
Disclaimer: The same keyboard was provided courtesy of Cooler Master, and is in no way a paid review/advertisement.