By: Aaron Lai
June 26, 2015
If you have watched Top Gear episodes produced near Christmas, you would have seen the part of the show where they pull out bad gift ideas rather than doing the news. These products they produce include anything somewhat related to motoring as a whole. Among these gifts are a multitude of basic products branded by random car manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini, like T-shirts, leather jackets, baby clothing, mugs, or spoons. Most of these products are not any better quality than their generic counterparts. Even still, the branded product ends up being a lot more expensive than the non-branded item, just because of the logo pasted on the product. In the electronics world, this kind of rebranding is not as common. Some people accuse Apple of marking up their products just purely based on their brand status. However, while I am not a fan of the fruit company, I must admit the "extra" costs on their products goes towards improving the product quality, design, and even performance, in addition to the marketing costs. This is one of the reasons why Apple products sell quite well, despite a reputation for being more expensive. Even though people may buy it to "fit in", there is no doubt in denying the quality on these computers. On an aside, the price gap between Apple laptops and Windows laptops is actually quite slim when comparing apples-to-apples, no pun intended. Thus, when companies mark a "premium" on products, I do not mind the higher costs, as long as my money goes towards an actual better product. When Turtle Beach sent us their newest foray into the PC keyboard market, the Impact 700, these questions popped into my mind. With a premium price of $200 USD at press release, this keyboard seems to take a bigger bite out of the wallet compared to its competition. Does it offer more than similar offerings from Cooler Master or Tesoro Technologies, or are we paying for Turtle Beach branding? Let us read on to find out!
Today's review sample of the Turtle Beach Impact 700 arrived via FedEx International Economy. As we have seen from all of FedEx's past shipments, they have been excellent in providing a safe journey for our products. The box is in excellent shape, with very few dents or scratches. The two exposed flaps on each side are wrapped with Turtle Beach packing tape, to ensure curious people do not get into the box. Inside the container with the Impact 700 is the Turtle Beach Grip 500 mouse, which I will review in the coming weeks. Turtle Beach's products arrived from Elmsford, New York. Elmsford is a village in New York, northeast of Manhattan and the Bronx. With an area of around 1.1 square miles, or 1.7 square km, this small place is home to less than 5000 people. Otherwise, there are some interestingly named municipalities around Elmsford, including Tarrytown, White Plains, and Sleepy Hollow.
I picked up my nearest pair of safety scissors, because safety first, and I sliced open the top flap. Inside were both the Impact 700 and the Grip 500, wrapped nicely in separate plastic bags, and cushioned by brown packing paper. A packing slip is also found inside, which gives me an inventory list of everything found inside. As it does not take a genius to realize there are only two products, I will take a closer look at the Turtle Beach Impact 700 retail packaging. As you can see in the photo above, Turtle Beach has followed a similar color trend for their packaging, with a gold and black theme, and some small highlights of red. The front displays the Impact 700 mechanical keyboard from the back left perspective, with the keyboard keys glowing red. From here, you can infer the keyboard comes with full color backlighting, but we will look into this later on. The top left side shows the name of the keyboard, in addition to a product description of "Premium Backlit Mechanical Keyboard". Turtle Beach's logo is found in the middle, and on the right is the specification of switches, which are Cherry MX manufactured. More specifically, the Impact 700 comes with Cherry MX Browns, but once again I will go into more detail later. Finally the front shows some extra accessories packaged with the Impact 700, including a keycap puller, and extra replaceable keys. On the flip side of the front are more words and pictures, describing different features and specifications of the keyboard. The top and bottom of the box are labeled with Turtle Beach's tagline, "Change Your Game".
But before continuing on, here are some of the features of the Turtle Beach Impact 700, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
- Spread Your Fingers - No fumbling with shrunken keys on compact keyboards, enjoy a full-sized 104-key keyboard with laser-engraved letters.
- Cherry MX Brown - Cherry MX Brown key switches provide a smooth responsive, tactile feel to handle quick and repeated taps.
- Glow in the Dark - Laser-engraved keycaps have adjustable soft-to-hard red backlighting and multiple illumination modes to fit your surroundings or mood.
- The Center of It All - With two USB ports that allow audio pass-through, and pink and green audio and mic jacks, you can “plug” all your gaming peripherals into the keyboard “and play”.
- Make Every Keystroke Count - Six-key rollover with full anti-ghosting means fast-moving fingers can control games without the fear of missed moves and dropped instructions.
- Built to Last - A steel-reinforced chassis with gunmetal keycap plate provides stability, durability and a distinctive backlight shine.
- Gamers’ Key Delights - For the avid gamer, the keyboard includes extra gaming keycaps with a flexible metal keycap puller so your keys stay pristine and unmarked.
Sliding the front sleeve off, I am greeted with a black cardboard box with more Turtle Beach branding and style. This box looks classy and sleek. As the important things are inside the box, I quickly opened the container. Inside, the Turtle Beach Impact 700 can be found, resting in a foam sleeve to protect the keyboard from any scratches. In addition to the keyboard, there are three things to note. One is the extra keycaps Turtle Beach has provided. These are no ordinary keycaps, with various letters and symbols engraved on the extra keys. Four of them are the standard WASD, except printed in a different fashion for users to quickly identify these commonly used letters, especially in gaming. Then there are gamer centric keys, such as "GG", "WraithLk", "InCtrl" and "NoCtrl". The rest are either Turtle Beach logos or Impact 700 branding. I have to say these are quite creative, and hilarious too. The second item to note out of the box is the metal key puller. Rather than a plastic key puller provided by companies like Cooler Master, this wire key remover is very flexible, so it can wrap around different shapes of keys. Finally, a small user manual can be found with various languages and compliance certifications listed inside. But now, I will take a closer look at the keyboard itself.
The Impact 700 is not Turtle Beach's first attempt at a keyboard per se, but it is their first full-sized keyboard. Taking a look at the Impact 700, I would describe it as a very conservative approach to a keyboard. The entire product is black in color, with only the logos and the Lock indicators printed in a silver-gray color. The keyboard is completely devoid of any fancy gizmos or doodads, and rather looks quite plain. However, the details are where the Turtle Beach really shine, and I will reveal them to you as we go on. For one, if you remember the Func MS-2 review I wrote a while back, I said if any manufacturer wraps their products in a soft-rubber, I will love the product very much. The Impact 700 does exactly so with a rubbery coating around the entire keyboard, with the exception of the keys themselves. In addition, the edges are all rounded off. Even though you probably will not be touching the side of your keyboard, the Impact 700 is just amazing to feel. On the other hand, the soft-touch coat does show some smudging and fingerprints, especially for excessively oily hands. As for the design in the end, I really cannot complain, as it is very neutral. I will not call Turtle Beach out on "playing it safe" with the design, but some may find the looks quite plain. The only thing I would suggest is to remove the huge Turtle Beach words on the top right corner, and instead keep just the logo. As this keyboard is quite stealthy, it would look much better with as little distractions as possible.
When it comes to dimensions, the Turtle Beach Impact 700 is average in size, with measurements of 446 x 153 x 45.8 mm (W x D x H). Compared to other keyboards like the Cooler Master QuickFire Pro, the Turtle Beach is slightly smaller, with the exception of the height. As for the mass, the Impact 700 is one of our heftier keyboards, tipping the scales at over 1.4kg. Despite its smaller dimensions, the Impact 700 is quite heavy, and this is due to its "full steel reinforced chassis, and gunmetal keycap plating", as Turtle Beach describes it. This means the Turtle Beach Impact 700 feels solid in the hands, and I have no issues whatsoever with the construction of the keyboard. As you know, most mechanical keyboards are built sturdily, but the Impact 700 feels even more so.
On our review unit we received a standard QWERTY 104-key American English layout. If you look at the past keyboards we reviewed recently, you will notice practically all of them have similar key sizing too. For example, the Enter key is half of its size, which allows for the backslash key to be larger than the other keys by about fifty percent. The rest of the keyboard is laid out as you would expect, but there are a few things worth noting. On the top right hand side are the lock indicators, with Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Scroll Lock from left to right. Each of these are indicated by an illuminating circular red light. The next thing are the function keys, which can execute other actions. From F1 to F7 we have Previous, Play/Pause, Stop, Next, Volume Up, Volume Down and Mute. I do have to say the orientation of all of the media keys are kind of odd, considering Previous and Next are usually beside each other, and Volume Up is usually to the right of Volume Down. It is nothing major and something to just get used to, but they are different from other keyboards. F11 and F12 are used to change the backlighting for both zones and brightness, but I will touch on this later in the review. All of these function keys can be activated by pressing Fn + the corresponding function. Otherwise, the rest of the layout is as you would expect. There are no user-programmable macro keys on the Impact 700.
As for key rollover, the Turtle Beach Impact 700 offers 6KRO mode over USB. From my review of the Cooler Master Storm QuickFire Pro, you will know KRO is abbreviated for key rollover. This refers to the number of keys which are independently scanned by the hardware. The larger the number, the more key presses detected regardless of other keys being pressed at the same time. In essence, this fixes ghosting issues found in cheaper and/or laptop keyboards. While ghosting is a bit of misnomer, and at times a marketing term, there are cases where keyboards will not be able to recognize more than one keystroke at a time, which can cause for missed keys. This can be extremely frustrating when you are playing games, or even if you are just a very fast typist. Generally, 6KRO is more than enough, as it allows users to press six keys at a time, and the keyboard will recognize all six independent strokes. Other keyboards offer NKRO, which could mean any number of independent strokes larger than six, but most of those keyboards recognize around twenty different key presses.
Before continuing on, one of the best part of the Turtle Beach Impact 700 is its mechanical key switches. This section has been adapted from Jonathan’s Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS Meka G-Unit review in October 2011. 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 key switch 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 Impact 700 costs the most, because each key switch is an independent part.
The Turtle Beach Impact 700 features Cherry MX Brown mechanical switches, which are becoming quite popular nowadays. This is the only switch available. These keys are rated to last up to fifty million keystrokes, just like other Cherry MX switches. Brown switches are what I would call a hybrid switch that accommodate both gamers and typists. These switches feature low resistance to typing, have a low actuation force to trigger them, but do not produce an audible ‘click’ on every key press. However, they feature a non-linear travel, with a tactile bump in the middle to tell you when the key has been actuated. To sum it up, the Cherry MX Brown switch is the silent version of the MX Blue switch. Preference of which keys will come down to consumer opinion.
When I first tried this keyboard, I had some expectations in mind, considering this was not my first Cherry MX Brown keyboard. My daily driver, the Cooler Master QuickFire Ultimate, is a Cherry MX Brown. Prior to that keyboard, I have tried various mechanical switches, from Cherry MX Reds to Blues to Blacks. After using the QuickFire Ultimate and now the Turtle Beach Impact 700, I really like the Cherry MX Brown switches under the hood. It does take a while to switch between the flavors of mechanical switches, but you can get used to it. While there is no clicky feedback from the Brown switches, typing still is a joy on this keyboard, especially with the slight bump. For gaming, it produces a tad louder noise in comparison to the Cherry MX Reds. Of course, these are still loud when compared to other types of keyboards. As for overall quality of the Cherry MX Brown switch, these are pretty much as I expect from any Cherry switch.
Looking at the backside of the Turtle Beach Impact 700, you will see some more connections. Starting from the left, there are two USB 2.0 ports, a microphone jack, and a headphone jack. This is very handy because it makes commonly used ports easy to access. Unlike the Durandal Ultimate's USB ports, these ports should be able to drive 500mA, as there is a second USB plug to the computer with the sole purpose of powering the hub. The USB ports are thus useful for charging devices, in addition to quickly plugging in thumb drives for file transfers. It would be nice to see the newer USB 3.0 interface here, but I am not complaining. The headphone and microphone 3.5mm inputs are a pass-through option, as the keyboard requires you to plug the corresponding audio jacks into your computer. It would be interesting to see a built in USB audio driver in a keyboard, although this is quite unnecessary. Next to the inputs is a fixed braided cord, which measures around 160cm in length. On the other end of the cable are the gold-plated USB connectors, plus some gold plated audio and microphone cables. As you know by now, the gold plating does not do anything for the USB port other than to make it look fancy, and is purely a marketing feature. These four plugs split off from one other about 4/5ths down the cord. I will say the cord is oddly stiff despite it being braided. I would have liked to see a bit more flexibility in the cable, just to make it easier to maneuver.
Underneath the Impact 700, we can see the base of the keyboard fully exposed. As you can see, even the underside is completely covered with the soft-rubber material, which is once again a joy to see. I know most users will not be feeling up the bottom of the keyboard, but it adds a premium look and feel. Anyway, the Impact 700 has everything you would expect, with four rubberized pads on the bottom. The extension legs are also rubber tipped to keep the keyboard in place when the height is increased. These rubber bottoms, in combination with the hefty board, means the Impact 700 is literally here to stay. It would take a massive table flip to really throw the Turtle Beach Impact 700 off its rockers. One thing to note are two strange holes found near the front of the base. It seems like a wrist rest is intended to fit into these slots, but unfortunately the Impact 700 does not come with one. At this price tag for a keyboard, I expect a wrist rest, since it aids in the users' comfort.
As for the typing experience, in comparison to the QuickFire Ultimate, the Turtle Beach Impact 700 seemed to offer a bit more resistance on all of the key presses. It felt like there was a dampener of sorts, which was felt before the key completely bottomed out. However, upon physical inspection, there was no rubber ring we have seen on Logitech mechanical keyboards. This is not really a quip on the Impact 700 itself, as Turtle Beach may have intended for this. It might just take some time getting used to it. The keys with stabilizer bars, such as the space key and the backspace key were also a bit louder than the other keys. This is due to the stabilizer bars making contact with the key. I prefer a more consistent feel and sound with all keys, as I have with the QuickFire Ultimate. Otherwise, the typing experience here was similar to other keyboards with Cherry MX Browns. I have not found a defect yet, as keys did not stick, which is good to see. As I wrote majority of the review with the Impact 700, it was definitely comfortable enough to use for typing daily. Gaming was also a breeze on this keyboard, whether for multiplayer online battle arenas, or massively multiplayer online role playing games.
When it comes to the illumination, there are several customization options. As I have mentioned before, these are cycled through by using the Function key + F11/F12, each with their own options. F11 controls the zone of lighting, whether it is the full keyboard, just the WASD keys, or the WASD and numbers 1 to 6. You can also cycle it off with this key combination. These zones are obviously meant for gamers in mind, with many RPGs using the WASD and number keys for different combinations of moves and attacks. I know an MMO I have mentioned before, Dragon Nest, utilizes these keys for movement and special attacks, so the illumination option is understandable. F12 controls the brightness of illumination. This cycles through three levels of lighting of low, medium, and high, and also moves into two different breathing modes. One is a slower breathing mode we have seen on other keyboards like the Cooler Master QuickFire Ultimate, and one is a faster pulse. Having the different levels of brightness as well as a breathing mode is quite standard nowadays, but the faster pulse is interesting to say the least. As for the quality of lighting, the keys are generally well lit with even lighting throughout. Even with a single LED underneath each printed key, the lighting seems spread out. The only key where this single source is a problem is the Caps Lock, as the outer letters are not as bright. One other thing I think is missing from the Turtle Beach Impact 700 is the lack of RGB customizing. For a keyboard at this price point, I think RGB backlighting is necessary to keep this product competitive. As we have seen with the Tesoro Lobera Spectrum, RGB backlighting is becoming more and more common these days, and I really would have want the Impact 700 to have this feature.
When Turtle Beach sent us the Impact 700, I knew they would make an excellent keyboard, and I have not been disappointed. The keyboard is well designed, with the rubber touch I have enjoyed, and fanboy-ed over for too many reviews. It is built like a rock with its metal backplate, which is also revealed when you pluck any of the keys off. Seriously, the build quality is second to none. The included key-remover and extra keys are also great to see. The red backlighting is also implemented well with little bleed, but adequate intensity to shine in even broad daylight. Seeing audio pass-through and a USB hub is also nice. The real problem I have with the Impact 700 is not going to be found on the product itself, but rather the sticker shock when you see this is a $200 mechanical keyboard. Even with its excellent design and build quality, the price is pretty high. We have said the same about the excellent Func KB-460 Red and Func KB-460 Blue in the past, and the KB-460 was actually cheaper, and has programmable macro keys. For this wallet emptier, I would expect additional features, such as full customizable RGB backlighting, a removable wrist rest, and programmable macro keys for gamers. These options have almost become standard on competitor keyboards at similar pricepoints. Otherwise, I also noted the slight inconsistency in feel and noise, between stabilized and non-stabilized keys. I would like to see a more consistent experience with all key presses. Finally, this is not really a quip on the Impact 700, but some users may find the appearance of the Impact 700 to be quite generic. Turtle Beach has shown some character with the additional keys, but they can throw a bit more inspiration into their design work, even though functionally it is adequate. All in all, Turtle Beach's Impact 700 is a starting step for a mechanical keyboard, and the company has done an impressive job at making a truly top quality keyboard. But whether they decrease the price or increase its features, it needs some refinement to be more competitive in the market today.
Turtle Beach provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
6/10 means A product with its advantages, but drawbacks should not be ignored before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 6.3/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The Turtle Beach Impact 700 is a down-to-earth, well-built keyboard, with a hefty weight and an even heftier price.
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