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CM and Logitech: their best mechanical keyboards

CM and Logitech: their best mechanical keyboards

Cooler Master and Logitech are well known brands in the peripheral market. They helped revive an interest in quality keyboards, though most of Logitech’s early models were advanced membrane variants. Today we’re going to look through their best mechanical keyboards, with a particular emphasis on recent releases.

I have some experience with Cooler Master and Logitech products. At one point, I owned a Cooler Master Quickfire TK. It was a sturdy, if slightly odd, keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches. Most of CM’s products use Cherry switches, which is a safe choice. The TK held up rather well, and I sold it off as I moved deeper into the mechanical keyboard hobby. Recent Cooler Master keyboards seem to be having some general longevity issues, and customer support doesn’t always seem up to the task of dealing with RMAs. I sampled Logitech’s newest switches while visiting a fellow collector in Texas. To be frank, I wasn’t impressed with their flagship offerings either.

Logitech chose to make its own line of switches, much like Razer. Instead of working with Cherry clones from Chinese companies, Romer-G switches were sourced from Omron in Japan. Enthusiast circles are familiar with Omron’s keyboard switches from the 1980s. Amber B3G-S is the most prolific. B3G-S switches are notoriously clicky and actually feel quite nice (I have some on hand, in fact). When mechanical keyboards were phased out in the late 80s and early 90s, it seems as though Omron keyboard switch production dropped significantly. Romer-G switches mark a return to the market that is interesting, but less than spectacular.

My impressions of the new switch are similar to other enthusiasts’. On the negative side, Romer-G switches impart a feeling of friction or scratchiness. They also have a weak tactile point and seem quite heavy when compared with other gaming switches. Some users liken them to less enjoyable Cherry MX Brown switches, but I would call them Cherry MY switches (which are said to have a press-feel like cardboard) with a tactile point and shorter travel distance. Oh, and you can’t put any of your aftermarket MX mount keycaps on Romer-Gs. Yuck.

Not all is negative, though. Romer-G switches have a few distinct advantages. First, they are specifically designed for LED backlighting. A translucent plastic light guide, or lens, is locked into the center of each switch. That channel allows LED lights to blend and disperse themselves against keycap bottoms without interruption. The result is bright, even backlighting with little leak and excellent color mixing in RGB implementations. Second, Romer-G switches have redundant contacts, which means that two electrical circuits are closed within the switch when it is pressed. If one contact is fouled, the other will continue sending a signal. That ensures exceptional switch life. Finally, the switches have upstroke and downstroke dampening for near-silent operation.

In short, I think Romer-G switches are interesting (just not great). Now that you have a bit of background, let’s look at the keyboards. We’ll start with Cooler Master and move on to Logitech.

CM Storm Trigger-Z

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesAsymmetric design may be off-putting
Typically quite cheapKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Macro keys, if you need themSoft touch coatings get dirty/worn

The CM Storm Trigger-Z is often the subject of serious price cuts, which are likely designed to clear out old stock. It is only sporadically available, which lines up with that theory. This model was released with little fanfare, so it doesn’t appear to have sold well in its release year (2014). Nowadays, the Trigger-Z offers a lot of bang for the buck. Backlighting, a line of macro keys, and a wrist rest put it in line with more expensive models. It appears to have a standard bottom row, so replacing its keycaps wouldn’t be impossible if you could find something to cover the macro cluster. Its only functional downside involves the soft touch coating that was popular a few years ago, as those coatings tend to wear off or look grungy with use.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

CM Storm Quickfire Rapid

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesUsers may miss backlighting
Portable tenkeyless form factorKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Removable cableSomewhat feature light

This is a reasonable budget keyboard without many frills. It does seem to have a standard bottom row, though, so aftermarket keycaps will be particularly easy to find. A removable braided cable is a nice touch, but the stock keycaps and plastic case are undesirable. It also has limited key rollover in USB, so ridiculous gaming combos won’t fly. It’s so dead simple that I’m not even going to bother with a review link. Just take a look at the Amazon reviews.

There’s also a Rapid-i version with per-key backlighting, but I think it’s dramatically overpriced.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

CM Storm Quickfire XT

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesUsers may miss backlighting
Standard bottom rowKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Removable cableSomewhat feature light

This is another exceptionally simple keyboard. A removable braided cable is its only real claim to fame. This shares the limited NKRO over USB of its smaller relative. Pad printed keycaps mean that replacements are in order, and that is very possible thanks to a standard bottom row. I suppose the Cherry MX Blue version is fairly cheap compared to its competition, which is good.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

CM Masterkeys Pro M (or M RGB)

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesPricing is barely competitive
Standard bottom rowKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Unique form factorNumpad will annoy some

Cooler Master did a very good thing by listening to the community and amending their Quickfire TK, which you absolutely should not buy unless you’re strapped for cash, into this nifty product. The Pro M slots into a form factor between tenkeyless and full size keyboards that, interestingly enough, was prototyped in the venerable IBM F AT keyboard. Pressing the num lock key opens access to arrow keys and a few tenkeyless holdovers. Some people find that functionality extremely annoying, but others adapt quickly and enjoy the slightly smaller form factor. If you don’t like the caps, replace them. Consider the fact that you might get lost in the numpad, though.

I suppose my only real gripe about this keyboard is that it is priced so closely to other excellent full size options that really aren’t much larger, such as the STRAFE. If you desperately need the extra two inches that this keyboard manages to shave off, go for it.

You can find the Masterkeys Pro M RGB at this link or the white backlit version using the buttons below.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

CM Masterkeys Pro L (or L RGB)

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesPlain design may deter gamers
Standard bottom rowKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
A few macro keysMacro keycaps may be tough to replace

This is a well thought out keyboard with a few macro keys thrown in as a bonus. It is beautifully minimal, uses a standard bottom row, and doesn’t sport blinding LED lock indicators. With Cooler Master’s generally-solid build quality, this keyboard is a solid contender in the budget (but definitely not cheap) market segment. I think that the branded modifier keys ruin the aesthetic slightly, but that is the worst complaint I have about the design overall. Tasteful gamers, office workers, and everyone else should appreciate that a company is simplifying things.

You can find the Masterkeys Pro L RGB at this link or the white backlit version using the buttons below.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

CM Masterkeys Pro S (or S RGB)

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesPlain design may deter gamers
Standard bottom rowKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Tenkeyless = portableSome users might miss the numpad

It’s small. It’s sleek. It has a removable cable. Even the pricing is sane. There is little to dislike here besides the UV coated caps, which can be replaced due to the keyboard’s standard bottom row. Users who like minimalist designs might turn away, but that doesn’t really concern me. If you aren’t ready to downsize this far, the Pro M could provide an interesting alternative.

You can find the Masterkeys Pro S RGB at this link or the white backlit version using the buttons below.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Logitech G610

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesKeycaps can cause sticking
Media keys and volume rollerKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Nice white backlightingNonstandard bottom row

This keyboard offers many features from the Corsair K70, notably media keys and a volume roller, in a cheaper (and less metallic) package. Its nonstandard bottom row and painted or UV coated keycaps aren’t all that interesting, but for casual users they won’t raise eyebrows. The only issue I see cropping up on a regular basis involves the keycaps (and it may have been fixed by now), which can catch on the top row’s Cherry switch shells. That results in sticking. Overall, the G610 is a subtle keyboard that gets my stamp of approval.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Logitech G710+

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesAging plastic chassis
Media buttons and volume rollerKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Macro keys, if you need themNonstandard bottom row

The G710+ has been a mainstay recommendation at GoMK because it packs a ton of features into a budget keyboard. The G710 with blue switches is less appealing, as its price tends to trend higher. A volume roller, media buttons, Cherry switches, and macro keys surround the center of the keyboard. It’s worth noting that the model is starting to age, so you won’t be on the cutting edge. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that — mechanical keyboards from 30 years ago are still doing their job. It will, however, be difficult or impossible to find replacement keycaps for this keyboard.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum

ProsCons
Switches are meant for gamingRomer-G switches are hit or miss
Tenkeyless (but large)Keycaps aren’t doubleshot
Excellent backlightingKeycaps aren’t MX compatible

This is the first RGB keyboard in the Romer-G keyboard line. It offers a slightly smaller horizontal footprint than its fellow keyboards, but its depth isn’t quite as compact. An asymmetrical peninsula sticks out on the left hand side of the keyboard. It’s probably meant to be a palm rest, but it’s much too flat and stubby to be of use. Its RGB blending and lighting are excellent, but there is little else to promote about this keyboard. The protrusion and a rather large bezel make it less portable than other tenkeyless designs, so it’s probably best to leave on your desk at all times. It also throws in a smartphone dock, but I haven’t heard excellent things about that feature.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Logitech G413

ProsCons
Switches are meant for gamingRomer-G switches are hit or miss
Minimalist designKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Excellent backlighting evennessKeycaps aren’t MX compatible

This is meant to be the cheapest Romer-G switch keyboard in Logitech’s lineup. In practice, prices vary. I’m not particularly fond of its switches, but the keyboard isn’t flashy. That’s a plus. It’s also silent, well-backlit, and tuned for gaming. A USB pass through port rounds out its feature set nicely. Otherwise, the keyboard isn’t particularly feature rich. The keycaps are a real sticking point for me, as they don’t use MX mount keycaps. Logitech’s stock caps allow better light penetration, but it would have been nice if MX keycap adapters were developed alongside the new switches.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum

ProsCons
Switches are meant for gamingRomer-G switches are hit or miss
Minimalist designKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Excellent backlightingKeycaps aren’t MX compatible

The G810 exhibits Romer-G switches in their best light (in a literal sense). RGB lighting and gaming are the two things that they’re good at, and that shows in this keyboard. It has a volume roller, media buttons, and cylindrical keycaps. Unfortunately, those caps aren’t MX compatible. That essentially cuts out the enthusiast market until adapters are made, as most of those folks (I’m lumped in with the lot) have spare keycap sets lying about that they would prefer to use.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Logitech G910 Orion Spark

ProsCons
Switches are meant for gamingRomer-G switches are hit or miss
Dedicated macro keysKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Excellent backlightingAsymmetrical, which may bother some

Adding a gamer aesthetic and a few dedicated macro keys to earlier RGB ‘boards in Logitech’s lineup results in the G910. It shares all of the upsides and downsides of gaming oriented Romer-G keyboards. Non-MX keycaps, excellent backlighting, and some extra media controls are present. This is only worth shelling out for if you need macro keys, as its features aren’t extensive enough to merit an upgrade from base models.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Logitech G Pro

ProsCons
Switches are meant for gamingRomer-G switches are hit or miss
Portable form factorKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Excellent backlightingIs currently sold at MSRP

This is simply a trimmed down version of the 410. It’s much smaller, so portability will increase significantly. It almost certainly offers the best RGB backlighting in any tenkeyless keyboard on the market, but the price is high for such luxury. At the time this article was written, the keyboard is still selling at MSRP. It could trend downwards over time, but that doesn’t exactly leave an enticing deal on the table when considering a number of options.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

Logitech G910 Orion Spectrum

ProsCons
Switches are meant for gamingRomer-G switches are hit or miss
Portable form factorKeycaps aren’t doubleshot
Excellent backlightingIs usually expensive

This is essentially the 910 Spark with different keycaps and a less asymmetric design. For the privilege of having a less bulbous (read: less ugly) keyboard, you will probably pay significantly more. I legitimately think that the Spectrum variant is less offensive than the Spark, but that doesn’t save it from any of the shortcomings inherent in the Romer-G line. If you don’t mind the switch feel, its other benefits (such as excellent RGB lighting and high activation) could prove valuable for you.

Buy on Amazon   Read user reviews

The best CM and Logitech keyboards

I think that the Cooler Master Pro L (with white backlighting) and Logitech G610 offer the best value from each brand. They’re minimal, functional, and have the vital features that all keyboard users need to excel. There are a few other compelling keyboards, such as the G710+ and Pro S RGB, but most of the remnants ask too high a price for their features (with a few nearing gimmick territory).

I am absolutely trying to steer people away from Romer-G switches. Cherry switches aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but in my opinion they still outperform Romer-Gs by a long shot. I’d like to see Logitech’s switch line improve and succeed, but without a massive marketing budget like Razer I don’t expect their custom Omrons to hang on. The fact that their Cherry keyboards offer a great feature set and undercut some of their Romer-G models won’t help in the least.

Please leave your thoughts with us in the comment section or via social media!

Buy the CM Masterkeys Pro L   Buy the Logitech G610

Image credits: Massdrop | Cooler Master | Bit-tech | Nuno Agonia | Gizmodo AU | Anandtech | Featured: Gamecrate

 

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About The Author
Alec DeVries
The siren song of mechanical keyboards drew me in some time ago. Now I'm an active user on Deskthority and a writer here at GoMK.

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