Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
I mentioned how Cooler Master is simplifying their design when it comes to a lot of their products, and the MasterKeys Lite L keyboard takes these similar cues. Rather than any flashy edges, materials, or even surfaces, the keyboard is quite understated. It takes a lot of cues from similar ones we have seen from Cooler Master, including their Storm Quick Fire XTi. Thus we have very thin bezels on all sides and between the distinct areas of the keyboard. The entire casing is made up of a matte plastic, with a dark gray to black finish everywhere. In fact, the only place not a shade of gray is on the keycaps, where there is some translucent areas. Zero instances of Cooler Master's logo are visible here, which is a big plus to me. As for design then, I think Cooler Master has taken a good formula from their highest end keyboards, and kept it mostly the same.
As for dimensions, the keyboard is 439mm in width, 41mm in height, and 129mm in depth. In terms of mass, it is quite heavy for a membrane keyboard, weighing in at 967g. This is encroaching on mechanical switch territory for heft. Unfortunately however, this does not necessarily translate into excellent build quality. It still feels solid for a membrane keyboard, however there is noticeable bit of give and flex in the keyboard body itself. Considering its price range and competition, it still feels quite solid. It definitely is also a step above the Cooler Master Storm Devastator combination.
As usual, the layout of the keys is a pretty standard 104-key ANSI layout, similar to keyboards received here at APH Networks. As such, we have the half height Enter key and a longer forward slash key. Similar to the Cooler Master Storm Devastator, the keycaps themselves are terrible to read when the backlight is not on, as they are translucent to allow light to pass through. While this will not obstruct the lighting as much, I do not agree with this compromise, especially as it makes the keyboard almost useless without the lights being active.
Otherwise, there are a lot of secondary functions, with most of them located on the F-row of keys. F1 to F7 controls the backlighting, and I will cover this more so later. F9 and F10 let users switch between normal and turbo mode. Turbo mode decreases the pause between initial and secondary activation of the key, and the repeat rate after the secondary activation. Finally, F11 is used to lock the entire keyboard, and F12 is used to lock the Windows key. I am not completely convinced in the usefulness of the keyboard lock, but it could be useful. Thankfully, there is a visual indicator to when these are active, as there is an additional LED indicator on the right side. There is the standard Num, Caps, and Scroll lock, each indicated by an N, C, and S, respectively. The additional one is at the very end, and is marked by a G, presumably standing for gaming. This lights up red when the keyboard is locked, and blue when the Windows key is active. Media and volume keys can be found in the six keys above the arrow keys, including Play/Pause, Stop, Next, Previous, Volume Up, and Volume Down. Missing from this selection is Mute, which I actually use quite a bit.
As for key rollover, the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L offers what they call up to 26 key anti-ghosting mode over USB. In essence, this fixes ghosting issues found in cheaper and/or laptop keyboards. While ghosting is a marketing term, there are cases where keyboards will not be able to recognize more than one keystroke at a time, causing for missed keys. This can be frustrating when you are playing games, or even if you are just a very fast typist. On an aside, the original usage of ghosting in keyboards actually referred to a third key being registered when two other keys were pressed.
As noted on the initial page, the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L keyboard is a membrane one, but Cooler Master calls it a Mem-chanical keyboard. To give some background, there are three main types of keyboards in the market today. The cheapest but most common is the membrane keyboard, which is the easiest to make, but also has poor typing feel and response due to squishy keys. Next is a scissor switch keyboard. This can be thought of as an enhanced rubber dome, with two extra interlocking plastic pieces connected to the key and the keyboard. This creates a better tactile response and typing experience in comparison to the aforementioned membrane. Mechanical keyboards costs the most, because each key switch is an independent part. These switches are generally composed of a base, stem, and spring, with varying degrees of tactile and audible feedback. As for the MasterKeys Lite, Cooler Master has commented these are mem-chanical because while they are still membrane switches, they have mechanical qualities, such as better durability at twelve million actuations, higher click force of fifty grams, and reinforced housing to keep a better linear feel. In addition, this keyboard houses Cherry stems, and thus are compatible with Cherry MX keycaps. We will look at how they actually perform and feel like later in the review.
Finally, flipping over the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L Combo RGB keyboard over shows not a whole lot else. A Cooler Master logo is engraved in the middle, hidden from daily viewing. There are a total of four rubber pads, with two rectangles located on the bottom of the keyboard, while two are integrated into the flip feet. Thankfully, this means the rubber grip is always on the surface at all times, whether the feet are extended or not. Due to this, I never found the keyboard to accidentally shuffle around and it stayed in place like I would have expected. At the back near the middle is a USB cable, and it goes out measuring approximately 180cm in length. While this is about 20cm shorter than some other keyboard cables, this is definitely long enough. The cable is not braided, but I would be surprised if it was at this price point.
Moving onto the mouse, again it is quite simple in design. The coating is a hard gritty plastic, which generally is decent in keeping a grip on this input device. Unfortunately this does mean fingerprints and other oily stains will appear after a short period. Otherwise, there is not much else to speak of in terms of styling. The scroll wheel had a nice rubber grip around the wheel, with translucent sides to allow light to shine through. The bottom also has a translucent strip which makes for a subtle but good looking finish, especially when plugged in. Finally, a very faint Cooler Master logo can be seen on the mouse, though it is quite hidden.
As for the mouse itself, it is ambidextrous in shape, with only the side buttons not being mirrored on both sides. Pulling out my measuring tape, the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L Combo RGB mouse has dimensions of 114 x 64 x 39mm (L x W x H). The peak of the mouse occurs near the middle, but more biased towards the back. By comparison, the Fnatic Gear Flick G1 is 2mm higher. However, the Flick G1 peaked in the middle, meaning the drop-off at the back is much more gradual. The result is the fact the MasterKeys Lite L mouse is meant for more of a claw to palm-claw hybrid grip. While a full palm grip is possible, the low height makes it hard to use comfortably in this configuration. Of course, mouse fit is based on person to person, so your mileage may vary. The only other thing I should note is the wire protruding out of the front of the mouse. This connection point is rubber and fixed to the device. The cord measures in a length of 180cm approximately, the same as the keyboard. Again, it would be nice to see a braided wire as it can handle more friction, but this absence is understandable.
As for the button layout, you have the two standard left and right buttons, with Omron 10M switches underneath, for a lifespan of approximately ten million clicks. As usual with Omron, these feel clicky and nice. One thing I did not like was how easy it was to click both of these buttons, as I would often unintentionally click them. This is not helped by the fact the mouse is kind of difficulty to grip, translating into greater force applied to the mouse to hold it. Even so, I think Cooler Master should add a bit more resistance to the buttons themselves. In between the main buttons is the scroll wheel. It offers a notched feedback, making for a decent feel when scrolling. Clicking the wheel provides an adequate amount of resistance. Underneath is a DPI switch button, and it cycles through four levels of sensitivity, including 500, 1000, 2000 and 3500 DPI. Finally there are two more thumb buttons, and they are set to backward and forward. The feedback on these buttons are average but not great, and feel a bit lacking compared to the Omron switches.
Here we can get a peek under the skirt of the Cooler Master MasterKeys Lite L Combo RGB mouse, and the findings are not too surprising. There are three Teflon feet, one at the front and two at the back, for a smooth glide overall. Again, a Cooler Master logo is found here. Finally, in the middle, we have an opening for the optical Avago 3050 sensor. Unsurprisingly, this is the same sensor as the MS2K mouse found with the Devastator. As mentioned previously, there is four DPI settings of 500, 1000, 2000, and 3500. While the specification sheet says the sensor maxes out at 2000 dpi, manufacturers are often able to "overclock" the DPI in a sense to raise the sensitivity, albeit sacrificing the performance at times. We will see how all of this fares when we put this mouse, and the keyboard, to the test.
Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, we have no software to speak of. I think it would have been nice to see such a thing, especially to help with adjusting the lighting or change the default key bindings on either the mouse or the keyboard. It also would have been nice to see some macro recording capability here, but it is not a huge deal.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
3. Subjective Performance Tests