CM Storm Quick Fire XTi Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Founded in 1992, Cooler Master is an aftermarket computer part manufacturer, with a primary manufacturing facility located in Huizhou, China. Launched in 2008, the CM Storm subsidiary of Cooler Master features products designed with the needs of PC gamers in mind, with an emphasis on performance, durability and aesthetics. Popular CM Storm products include gaming headsets, cases, mice and keyboards. Cooler Master has been successfully producing keyboards tailored towards gamers for several years under the CM Storm brand.
Just several years ago, PC gamers weren't focusing on mechanical keyboards as a viable upgrade, but now, it's almost unheard of for a high end gaming system budget to not including a provision for a mechanical keyboard. With gamers now viewing mechanical keyboards as a necessity, it's no surprise that so many manufacturers are now releasing keyboards aimed specifically towards gamers. This competition is great, as the selection for mechanical keyboards continues to rise and consumers are offered a decent amount of choices when it comes to their keyboard selection. Cooler Master, with most of their keyboard releases, have gone the minimalist route, offering solid build quality on keyboards devoid of dedicated media keys and extraneous features that are of dubious value to gamers. With the Quick Fire XTi ($145.91 shipped
), Cooler Master is offering gamers a simplistic, clean keyboard design with red and blue LED lighting effects for the first time on any of the CM Storm gaming keyboards. For competitive gamers, the 1000hz polling rate of the Quick Fire XTi ensures fast, accurate input.
For readers who have yet to try out a high quality mechanical keyboard, we implore you to try one as soon as you get an opportunity, as it may be something you've overlooked that can drastically change the enjoyment you get out of using your PC. Once you use a keyboard with proper mechanical switches, like the Quick Fire XTi we are reviewing today, it is really hard to go back to the non-responsive, inconsistent feel provided by even the best membrane keyboards.
For those of you who aren't familiar with different mechanical switch types, please visit Cooler Master University for an excellent article
on the subject. In my opinion, you should try to sample each type of switch to see which you prefer, as it is truly a matter of personal preference.
CM Storm Quick Fire XTi Specifications:
||SGK-4060-KKCL1 (Blue switch)
SGK-4060-KKCM1 (Brown switch)
SGK-4060-KKCR1 (Red switch)
|Key Switch Type
||CHERRY MX Blue/ Brown/ Red
Availability may vary by region
||NKRO (Windows only)
||ABS, grip coated, removable
||Full backlit, 35 colors, 5 settings
|Windows Key Lock
||Yes (via F keys)
||Micro USB 2.0, full speed
||1.8m braided, gold plated and removable
||43.9(L) *13(W) *4.1(H) cm
17.28(L) *5.12(W) *1.61(H) inch
||1114 g / 2.46 lbs
For this review, we were sent the Quick Fire XTi featuring Cherry MX Blue switches, model number SGK-4060-KKCL1, though Cooler Master also has models available with Cherry MX Red (SGK-4060-KKCR1) and Brown (SGK-4060-KKCM1) switches. I personally prefer the Cherry MX Red switches for gaming, as they have a low actuation weight and don't feature a tactile bump, thus allowing for double tapping better than other mechanical switches. Cherry MX Blue switches have a noticeable tactile bump in addition to a crisp click once depressed and many users will enjoy the tactile feedback they provide, as they give noticeable confirmation of key presses. Cherry MX Browns are kind of a mix of both switches, as they offer a tactile bump, but don't have the same click presented by the Cherry MX Blue switches once fully depressed. The majority of the Quick Fire XTi keyboards sold into the market are going to feature Cherry MX Blue keys, as they are traditionally the most popular key of choice among mechanical keyboard users.
Cooler Master packages the Quick Fire XTi in a matte black box with the product name printed in aluminum foil lettering. The keyboard is displayed clearly on the front of the box, with the LED lighting effects being shown off.
Because Cooler Master uses the same box for all three models of keyboard, they simply place a sticker on the box denoting which model of switch is being used. Since the keyboards have all of the same features and specifications besides different switches being used, this makes perfect sense.
Cooler Master does a good job of detailing the pertinent features of the Quick Fire XTi on the rear of the box, pointing out the Cherry MX switches and their ability to last at least 50 million keystrokes. The LED capabilities are heavily pointed out as well, along with the capability to support 4 macros that can be recorded on the fly. Overall, the packaging for the Quick Fire XTi evokes that of a quality product and does a fine job of detailing the products selling points.
The Quick Fire XTi comes packaged in a soft black cloth cover that protects it from scratches during shipping. This cover is high quality and can certainly be reused to protect the keyboard during transport. The Quick Fire XTi does carry a premium price, so it is nice to see Cooler Master packaging the keyboard so well.
Cooler Master includes a metal key puller that can be used to remove the key caps, all of which are replaceable with Cherry MX compatible keys. Also included is a Quick Start Guide along with warranty information.
The included bundle doesn't include textured keys, which is something we've seen from Corsair and other manufacturers with their premium keyboard offerings, though a Cooler Master branded key cap is included.
The Quick Fire XTi connects to the computer via a removable USB 2.0 cable that comes in at just under six feet long, which should be long enough for most users. The included cable is braided, has gold plated ends and it should hold up just fine over years of use. It is nice to have the option to replace the cable with another one if there is a mishap, or if you simply want to customize the cable to your needs by picking a specific color, or a different length.
On the next page, we'll take a closer look at the Quick Fire XTi keyboard.
Looking Around the CM Storm Quick Fire XTi Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
The Quick Fire XTi has a streamlined, simplistic style and the frame is a standard size, devoid of any unnecessary materials, coming in at 17.28(L) *5.12(W) *1.61(H) inch. The Quick Fire XTi has a look reminiscent of a legacy Filco keyboard, which I think is a great thing. The Quick Fire XTi lacks any CM branding on the visible portion of the keyboard, though a Cooler Master key cap to replace the FN or Windows key is included, should users wish to do so. The frame is made of solid plastic and feels very sturdy, with no flex or creak present. We feel confident in the durability of the Quick Fire XTi after using it and putting it through its paces and Cooler Master tends to make pretty durable products.
The Quick Fire XTi features a 108 Key US ANSI layout and is devoid of any dedicated media controls. The only non-standard keys are the P1, P2, P3, P4 profile selection keys on the upper right corner of the board. The layout of the Quick Fire XTi lends itself to immediate familiarity for users of standard keyboards, as it has a standard layout and spacing. The 'F' and 'J' keys have raises on them so that you can find the keys more easily in the dark if the LED effects are disabled. The Quick Fire XTi features NKRO, so there is no limit to the amount of keys that can be pressed simultaneously. NKRO is a Windows-only feature on the Quick Fire XTi and will largely go unnoticed by most users, but it is a welcome, important feature.
The smaller size of the Quick Fire XTi, due to its standard layout devoid of extra keys or media controls, lends itself well to use on desks where space is a limitation.
While there is a lack of dedicated media controls, there are media controls mapped to the keys above the arrow pad that can be accessed by holding down the FN key. For example, Page Up and Page Down toggle into Volume Up and Volume Down keys, respectively, when the FN key is being pressed.
Cooler Master is using high quality ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) key caps with a UV coating on the Quick Fire XTi. These key caps have a very soft feel to them thanks to the UV coating that Cooler Master has applied and should hold up very well over time. Cooler Master has gone with a standard font on the keys, rather than the more bold font seen on previous units, such as the QuickFire Rapid-I. The font is designed to allow the LED lighting to shine through and works quite well in this regard.
Removing the key caps with the included puller is easily done and reveals the Cherry MX Blue switches, with LED lights on each key. The Cherry MX Blues are the most popular mechanical switches on the market and they are known for their tactile feedback and audible click, in addition to being extremely consistent, reliable switches.
Lighting effects are controlled by pressing the FN key and using the F1, F2 and F3 keys to control Blue Balance, Red Balance and the lighting mode, respectively. Since there aren't a lot of LED options to begin with, software isn't necessary, as you can cycle through every color manually in a matter of seconds.
The micro USB 2.0 port on the underside of the Quick Fire XTi faces the rear of the keyboard.
The cable can be routed through the rear, or to the left or right side of the keyboard, depending on whichever provides the most optimal cable management scenario.
There are rubber feet on the bottom of the Quick Fire XTi to help keep it steady on surfaces and hold it in place. These rubber pads worked very well in holding the keyboard secure on my glass desk surface, while providing proper stability and vibration reduction. There are also two adjustable feet that can be used to elevate the rear of the keyboard to give it an upward slope, which should lend to reduced hand movement and fatigue.
The underside of the keyboard is also the only place we find any Cooler Master branding on the Quick Fire XTi, unless the Cooler Master key cap has been installed. I appreciate the lack of obnoxious branding on the face of the keyboard, as it lends to a cleaner look. Another benefit is that it is easy to disable the LED lighting and make the Quick Fire XTi look like a standard workstation keyboard.
Once I plugged the keyboard into my system and booted it up, I downloaded the latest firmware update program for the Cooler Master XTi, from Cooler Master's website. Updating the firmware is done from within Windows and is as simple as opening the update program and clicking the 'OK' button.
The latest firmware update adds additional lighting modes to the Quick Fire XTi that weren't available on the stock firmware, including the Snake mode. The LED options on the Quick Fire XTi look great and the effects aren't overbearing. The LED brightness is balanced perfectly and the keyboard looks amazing when running in Rainbow transition mode, as pictured above.
Unfortunately, white is not available, as this is not an RGB keyboard. This is important to keep in mind, as many users may expect that a white LED mode is available given the specifications of the board, but it simply is not possible.
I really like that the Quick Fire XTi offers such a simplistic design. The build quality is excellent and the lack of branding and ability to turn off the LED lighting means that PC gamers can bring their keyboard with them to a desk job, as the Quick Fire XTi looks all business with the LED lighting disabled. The Quick Fire XTi design is very streamlined and minimalist, while offering excellent performance and still having features designed with gamers in mind, like macro support.
Using the Quick Fire XTi for day to day use, including typing, was an excellent experience. One often overlooked criteria in gaming keyboards is comfort and typing ability. I am pleased to say that the Quick Fire XTi is a very comfortable keyboard to use, with a slight natural curve being present for ergonomics. The lack of a wrist pad is a let down, as other manufacturers do include wristpads and they help with long term fatigue. The keyboard recorded all inputs properly and was excellent when it came to typing accuracy. Gaming scenarios were excellent, as the tactile feedback provided by the Cherry MX Blue switches was reliable, as expected. The frame of the Quick Fire XTi was very strong and there was no flex to speak of. The coating on the key caps made using the keyboard more enjoyable, as our fingers glided effortlessly from key to key.
CM Storm Quick Fire XTi Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Conclusion
Cooler Master listened to consumer feedback, made some tweaks to their already proven keyboard design elements, added colored lighting effects and ended up with the Quick Fire XTi. The simplistic design will appeal to mature gamers and enthusiasts, while the colored LED effect will appeal to those who appreciate a little bling. Everything is done with class and the LED effects of the Quick Fire XTi look really clean, without any bleeding or color inconsistency. Solid build quality doesn't lead to sacrificed comfort, as the Quick Fire XTi was a joy to type on for long sessions. It's tough to beat Cherry Blue MX switches when it comes to overall mechanical switch quality and Cooler Master has implemented them as well as I've seen any manufacturer do. I like that the USB 2.0 cable is removable and that Cooler Master integrated cable routing slots on the underside of the keyboard, it was a thoughtful touch. The Quick Fire XTi is well built, with a solid frame and excellent key caps that seem like they will stand the test of time. As a complete package, it's one of the best keyboard I've ever used.
While Cooler Master has certainly produced a great mechanical keyboard, there are some areas where they faltered. The lighting capabilities of the keyboard were done very well, with even tones across all of the keys, but missing out on true RGB functionality is a bit of a let down. Less troubling is the lack of software to control lighting modes, though the ability to customize lighting via software would be very welcome. I am also turned off by what is just a two year warranty, as most manufacturers are offering longer warranties for their keyboards. Two years of warranty coverage just seems a bit short for a $150 keyboard. These are small gripes, but issues that Cooler Master can certainly address in the future. I especially think considerations of a longer warranty cab entice users to purchase this keyboard, as I don't think a three or even five year warranty on a product that should be designed with that kind of longevity in mind is unreasonable.
Currently available for $145.91 shipped on Amazon
at Newegg, the Quick Fire XTi is priced competitively with Corsair's Strafe RGB, its closest competitor in terms of build quality and feature set. While the Corsair unit offers a wrist rest and RGB control via Corsair's CUE software, the Cooler Master Quick Fire XTi offers better overall build quality and a subjectively cleaner, more professional look. The thing about the Quick Fire XTi is that it does everything well and doesn't have any major weaknesses to point out, just minor gripes. It is a comfortable keyboard that I can easily recommend to an editor as much as I can a gamer. Thanks to solid build quality and a great overall design, the Quick Fire XTi is a welcome addition to what is becoming a very competitive, crowded mechanical keyboard market. If Cooler Master can work to lower the price of the Quick Fire XTi to around the $129.99 mark, it would become a better value in the face of competition, but we still wholeheartedly recommend the Quick Fire XTi, even at its current price point.
For users who are looking for a mechanical keyboard that is similar to the Quick Fire XTi, but in a compact, tenkeyless factor, Cooler Master offers the Quick Fire Rapid-i at a lower price than the Quick Fire XTi. The Rapid-i is the little brother of the Quick Fire XTi and offers similar build quality in addition to per-key back lighting, though it has white backlighting instead of colored LED lighting. You can read our review of the CM Storm Quick Fire Rapid-i mechanical keyboard here
to get an idea of the differences between both keyboards. The Rapid-i with Cherry MX Blue switches is currently available at Amazon for $123.13
Legit Bottom Line:
If you're looking for a well-built, simplistic mechanical keyboard with a little added flare, the Quick Fire XTi is one of the best out there and should definitely be on your short list this holiday season. Users looking for a compact version of the Quick Fire XTi should definitely check out its little brother, the Quick Fire Rapid-i.