Cooler Master has been in the industry for quite some time now, and while they are mostly associated with of course, cooling, they do have some good peripherals in store for gamers out there.
One of those is the Cooler Master CK530 Tenkeyless (TKL) Gaming Mechanical Keyboard, and today on Revealed, we’re giving you our full review and thoughts about it, so that you can decide by yourself if this is your next stuff.
What’s in the box?
Cooler Master’s box comes in a simple purple and black design, which would distinguish their products easily against other brands. On the front there’s a hole where you can feel the keyboard keys and its switch (in our case, Gateron Brown RGB), which is a good thing because you don’t even need to unbox it to feel if it’s your cup of tea. On the back, you’ll see some quick feature round-up of the keyboard.
Inside the box, there’s the keyboard itself covered in a protective hard plastic, which could be used later on to cover the keyboard while not in use, as well as a decent keycap puller (thank you), as well as the quick start guide, and, that’s it.
Features & Specifications*
As a tenkeyless keyboard, the CK530 is packed with features that I’ll simply describe as enough for its price. Here’s a quick round-up of it.
|Full Per-Key RGB Illumination||Key Switches: Gateron RGB Switches (Blue, Red, Brown)|
|Brushed Aluminum Design||Key Layout: 87-key US ANSI layout|
|Laser-etched ABS keycaps||Connectivity: Wired|
|Gold-plated USB Connector||Polling rate: 1000Hz|
|Game Mode (Disables WIN key)||Dimensions: 380 x 135 x 40 mm|
|Easy-to-use software||Keyboard weight: 749g / 1.65 lbs (without cable)|
|On-the-fly macro/lighting controls||Compatibility: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10|
*A full list of specifications and features could be found here.
Design and Build Impressions
To be honest, I wasn’t always a fan of tenkeyless (TKL) mechanical keyboards myself because I prefer having the numpad (because I use it a lot), but as I use the keyboard more for the purpose of this review, I started to appreciate the space-saving perk, although I have a large desk in front of me.
Our unit comes with Gateron Brown switches, covered with laser-etched print ABS keycaps, which has a decent font-print (not really a gamer-ish style but I like it). The top plate is styled with brushed aluminum, and there’s no wrist-rest on the package. The frame is really sturdy there’s no deck flex at all.
On the back, there are the height adjustment feet with rubber pads beneath it as well as on the bottom sides to keep the keyboard in place, as well as the Cooler Master logo which was embossed and some regulatory stickers, which I am sure nobody cares about.
It doesn’t come with braided cables for added durability, but it comes with a gold-plated USB connector to protect it from oxidation. In my opinion, the design is minimalistic yet simple, as expected for these kind of keyboards.
Also note that this keyboard doesn’t come with any separate light indicators for your Caps Lock and Scroll Lock keys, and instead, they will only illuminate when they are turned on (brilliant).
Talking about the RGB lighting, it’s really bright. Even when room lights are on, you can definitely see the lights glowing. There are 17 on-board light effects, excluding custom ones that you can definitely create or select in its software (Cooler Master Portal), which we’ll discuss more in detail below.
There are many functions printed on the keycaps, which gives the keyboard more on-the-fly capabilities, such as the easy-to-reach media controls which are on the navigational side of keys. The arrow keys boast light control effects as well as the function keys which combine many functions and light controls, including on-the-fly macro recording.
However, unlike my Cherry MX Brown-equipped Galax HOF Black Edition keyboard (which is my previous daily driver), this keyboard is quite a bit noisy when typing. Maybe it can be attributed to the keycaps, but perhaps an O-ring could help alleviate that.
As a long-time user of Cherry MX Browns, I really have to say that this doesn’t feel much different. Typing on it is a pleasure that I immediately opted to switch to it when I received this keyboard for review (not because I was obliged to do so), It’s tactile, and is really convenient at most, although spare me for saying there are no number keys at all, which I was always looking for when I was trying to type numbers.
Gaming-wise, the keyboard does respond very well. Its N-key rollover is great that no one could saturate its limit with just fingers.
As a typist who does several articles per day, I can say that it’s really good to type on if you prefer tactile keys. It is just a matter of taste, anyway, so this could be subjective.
On using it, I really don’t find major complaints that I can rant on in here, surprisingly.
Customization / Software
My only complaint with the software is that why in earth do I need to install another one after I downloaded the Cooler Master Portal? There’s a separate software which you’ll download through the Portal app, and apparently, this seems to be the case for every peripheral or hardware that supports the Portal app. Why not just integrate it with the Cooler Master Portal and make it a one-stop software for everything? You know, like the ROG Armoury Crate?
Complaints aside, the Cooler Master CK530 software is nice. It comes with a nice user interface to begin with (not confusing), the effects selected will instantly appear on the keyboard for a preview, but you still need to apply / save them to make changes permanently (great so that there’s no accidental loss of custom settings).
You can also create multiple profiles that would effectively restore (if saved) all of your custom settings, from LED to Macro and even custom keymaps. You can even create per-key and multiple layer light effects which are really nice.
On my research, the keyboard macro recording is capped at around 198 inputs, which is very plenty. There’s also an available SDK if you really want to customize its lighting beyond the supplied effects.
Of all the light effects, what I loved the most was the ‘Snake’ effect, giving you the chance to kill boredom playing the legendary game on your keyboard. And while I like most of the light effects, the music equalizer effect turns me off, as it looks like stuttering and slow.
The learning curve towards the software is very easy, for sure, you’ll be loving it in no time.
To wrap this review up, the Cooler Master CK530 Tenkeyless (TKL) Gaming Mechanical Keyboard is a lovely tenkeyless mechanical keyboard equipped with many features and has an aesthetically-pleasing minimalist design.
In terms of overall user experience, this keyboard is absolutely great. It is a no-brainer when it comes to customization options, so good that you can even play ‘Snake’ on it, although the music equalizer sucks – but who uses it regularly anyway?
As for the price, this keyboard could be found at Amazon for around $65 as of writing, and for that price, you’ll get an absolutely good TKL mechanical keyboard without any deal-breakers for many.
In my opinion, this is a really great keyboard, to begin with. If you really care about having a functional keyboard while saving space at the same time, this is one that I can easily recommend to you, if you have the bucks to spare. Two words: “Criminally underrated.”
With that said, Revealed is giving the Cooler Master CK530 our ‘Recommended Seal’ as well as our highest ‘Editor’s Choice Award’.