Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
The Cooler Master SK621 is a very minimalist compact 60% Bluetooth 4.0 wireless keyboard. At first glance, it looks pretty much exactly the same as the SK621 I reviewed last year. We got a silver SK622 compared to the gunmetal SK621; I will point out the hardware differences in just a moment. You can pair the SK622 with up to three devices, and it is compatible with pretty much anything Bluetooth that supports keyboard inputs including your iPhone. The SK622, just like the SK621, is one of the cleanest looking keyboards I have seen along; very classical Apple. With straight edges, no dedicated macro keys, and a reference layout, you will have to look pretty closely, and in a sense, figuratively, to see what makes the SK622 special. Indeed, there is nothing that really sets it apart other than the fact this is a mechanical keyboard with full RGB LED backlighting. There is no integrated wrist rest and there is no specially designed OEM accessory for it. Meanwhile, the exposed silver-colored brushed aluminum backplate is great to look at. It even hides fingerprints well. The sides and bottom are all made out of quality plastic. Overall, I am a big fan of the looks, but the aluminum backplate flexes slightly under heavy load. It would be nice if it was stronger, but it is not a major concern.
The Cooler Master SK622 measures in at 293mm width, 103mm depth, and 30.28mm height. This is about as compact as a compact 60% QWERTY keyboard will go. To go along with its low profile, the keyboard weighs about 446g without the cable according to the manufacturer. This is exceptionally light for a wireless mechanical keyboard.
Once you turn off the lights, turn on the keyboard by a slider switch on the left and activate the Cooler Master SK622's RGB backlit keys, the keyboard really shines -- no pun intended. The font is large and easy to read. The SK622 features full independent key RGB backlighting, but you are better off doing that in software even though you do not have to use it. Meanwhile, an LED ring runs along the perimeter of the keyboard for some additional style. The RGB backlight and macros can be programmed or adjusted on-the-fly without software as outlined in the user manual. A dedicated ARM Cortex M3 is inside to run complex lighting effects like the built-in snake game.
I am a big fan of fully backlit keyboards and I am happy Cooler Master designed the SK622 with this feature. The Cooler Master SK622's key illumination distribution is reasonably even for the most part, but there is a bit of backlight leak through the rear USB port. The area between the keys are also backlit thanks to the reflection of the LEDs, and I like it. One thing to point out, for keys with more than one line of text label, you will notice the top half is significantly brighter than the bottom half. This is due to physical design limitations of mechanical switch stems, as you can see in our photo above.
Hitting the Function key along with the labeled Tab through Y, Caps Lock, and arrow keys allow you to do things like cycling through different lighting effects or adjusting the effect speed. One strange omission is the backlight intensity cannot be adjusted on the fly directly. The closest thing you can do is to reduce the intensity of each RGB channel, but this is not an intuitive method. In Windows mode, Fn in combination with S to H are for macros. The J, K, L, ",", ".", and "/" keys double as your multimedia keys with Fn held down, which is a minor key assignment change compared to the SK621. You can even switch profiles, stored on the keyboard's 512KB internal memory, by going through Fn in concert with V to M. Fn in combination with right shift key toggles Win Lock on or off. Win Lock is an important feature in any gaming keyboard, because let us face it: How many times have you tried to duck in your favorite FPS while engaging an enemy, only to be killed instantly, because you missed the "Ctrl" key and your game was minimized? For the Mac users among us, holding down Fn and Del will allow you to toggle between operating systems for specific Mac OS features like screen brightness, Mission Control, Launchpad, and multimedia keys along the top row. Fn + Backspace is also the eject function.
The extra-flat acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic keycaps are of average quality. They are smooth and feels nice on the fingers despite the tendency to show oily marks in the long run. A big change on the SK622 from the SK621 is standard low profile keycaps instead of flat keycaps. Many users complained flat keycaps required some time to get used to due to spacing differences, so this is a welcomed changed in my opinion. That said, polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) keycaps such as the ones found on the Cooler Master MasterKeys L PBT are stiffer, harder, and has better color retention.
Almost everything here is pretty standard in terms of layout with a few additions. I prefer the single row Enter key layout as present on our US QWERTY Cooler Master SK622. Keyboards with a double row Enter key usually means the "\" button is moved to the left side of the right "Shift" key; reducing the size of the latter. I am more used to having a full width Shift on the right and a half height Enter. Obviously, this is more or less personal preference, but having a half height Enter key makes a lot more sense to me.
The Cooler Master SK622 has no dedicated lock indicator LEDs. Instead, the LED backlight for the caps lock button will turn on and off depending on the current lock status. A small LED located on the caps lock button is used for indicating battery status, which will change flashing pattern and/or color depending on remaining battery percentage or charge status. One omission I noticed is the backlight for the Windows key will not turn off when Windows lock is activated. Instead, the backspace key will change color when you hold down Fn.
The battery can last up to 15 hours with the backlight on and 4 to 5 months with it off. We cannot verify the backlight off battery life estimate, but the backlight on battery life estimate is about right. Of course, your mileage will vary based on your usage habits, LED brightness, and lighting effect used. The SK622 will enter into power saving mode after 15 minutes by default by turning off the backlight. The timeout can be changed in software. Charging the keyboard will take a few hours.
If you do not know what a mechanical keyboard is, there are three main types of keyboards in the market today. The cheapest is the membrane keyboard, which is the easiest to make, but also has poor typing feel and response due to squishy keys. A scissor switch keyboard has its own independent keyswitch mechanism for each key, which delivers improved tactile response and typing experience. Modern scissor switch keyboards can be very good for everyday office use. Mechanical keyboards such as the Cooler Master SK622 costs the most because each keyswitch is an independent part.
The SK622 features TTC KS32 low profile mechanical switches. It seems to me Cooler Master intentionally tried to obscure the switch OEM compared to the SK621, where the Cherry MX Low Profile switches were heavily advertised. Cherry MX switches are generally seen as higher end units as they are the original design from Germany, while TTC mechanical switches are imitation units from China.
Our particular model has blue-type switches, but the SK622 is also available in red and brown. If you enjoy blue-type switches, these low profile TTC switches feel great in operation. The TTC KS32 blue's maximum key travel distance is 3.2mm with actuation at 1.3mm. With an actuation force of 45cN with a tactile and audible click, generally speaking, the Cooler Master SK622 will feel very different than other non-mechanical keyboards, but not as drastic as going to linear switches since you still have the bump. Being a blue-type switch, the SK622 is clicky and loud, so if you are concerned about noise, it is best to avoid this variant. The TTC KS32 is rated for fifty million operations like genuine Cherry MX switches. The base is strong as aforementioned, but there is some keyboard flex under heavy loads, but it is not a major concern.
The Cooler Master SK622 is a full NKRO keyboard in wired mode and 6KRO in wireless mode. NKRO stands for N-key rollover. If you have used keyboards with limited NKRO capabilities, you may have experienced ghosting issues in the past. When too many keys are pressed at the same time, your system will be unable to register any more strokes. A full NKRO keyboard like the Cooler Master SK622 overcomes this by independently polling each key, making all inputs detectable by the hardware regardless of how many other keys are activated at the same time. This mean in the event you have every other key on your keyboard depressed, it will still register the last stroke. This keyboard will only register up to six simultaneous keys in wireless mode to save battery. This is an acceptable compromise in my opinion, since you have only ten fingers.
At the back of the Cooler Master SK622 is the USB Type-C cable lead out. It comes out in the center and is used for charging the keyboard's internal battery or using it as a wired keyboard if you desire. This braided cable is of average thickness and extends 1.8m in length to connect to your computer via one standard, gold-plated USB Type-A connector. When we bring about the question of whether gold plated connectors are actually useful or not, let us just say if it was the actual pins, then there is a possibility since gold offers better conductivity than other metals. This theoretically establishes a better connection with your computer, but on a digital signal level, we must understand it is a discrete one or zero; if anyone tells you they can tell the difference, you can definitely defeat their theory with a double blinded test. Additionally, if you are referring to the gold part of the connector you see on the plug, I would like to point out it is only used as ground. In other words, it is nice to have and it is pretty to look at, but it is not anything significant on a practical level. The gold-plated USB connector will not have any performance impact on the Cooler Master SK622, not to mention the SK622 is a Bluetooth keyboard and is designed to be used wirelessly.
At the bottom are four small rubber pads to help the SK622 stay in place during intense gaming sessions. The keyboard itself is pretty lightweight, so it might shift a bit if your table does not have a lot of grip. he two rubber lined flip-out risers at the front tilts the keyboard up for those who prefer it. What you will not find are keyboard drain holes, so it is advisable to keep your Mountain Dew at a distance.
The Cooler Master SK622 works along with a version of Cooler Master MasterPlus+, which is a 219MB download from the company's website at press time. This program unifies many Cooler Master peripherals into one application, but check the website first for compatibility. Functionally, it is identical to Cooler Master Portal. Once the program opens, it will immediately detect the products you own. All settings are stored on the keyboard's 512KB internal memory for up to four profiles.
The main configuration window is separated into five tabs, as shown in our screenshot above. The first tab, wireless, allows you to configure settings like timeout and LED brightness. The second tab, Lighting, allows you to select RGB lighting effects and colors. Key Map shows a picture of the keyboard, where you can select individual keys and change their functions. The Macro tab allows you to program macros. Profiles is where you can import and export the four profiles stored on the keyboard's internal memory. Overall, I found Cooler Master MasterPlus+ to be basic, but it is very straightforward and easy to use. It is certainly not as powerful as Corsair's iCUE or SteelSeries' Engine. In fact, you can do most of the things directly on the keyboard without software, but my overall experience was positive.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software