It looks the part, and will shine on any desk
Oh,good: With the MasterKeys Pro, Cooler Master has designed a keyboard for the “brightest possible” backlighting. As marketing points go, it’s up there with the bassiest subwoofers, which means there’s definitely a market for it.
Outside of the lights—which, on the model we tested, are certainly bright, and a restrained plain white, rather than sporting millions of colors (although these are available, too)—there are some further pleasing touches. The USB cable is a removable micro-USB one, handy if you suddenly need to charge your phone but don’t need to type; while instead of plastering the thing with logos, Cooler Master has chosen to rebrand the Windows key as the Cooler Master key. Nice.
The Pro L gives the impression of having a lot of keys but not much board. The only blank spaces are above the arrow keys and to the right of Escape. Every other space is stuffed with keys, each of which has a Cherry MX Brown switch (on our model; Blues and Reds can also be fitted) beneath it. The Blue, with its loud click, still reigns as the office favorite, but the Browns are a good switch, stiffer than the “faster” Red, which feels too light under our heavy fingers. Cooler Master hasn’t cheaped-out with inferior switches beneath seldom-used keys, which is always good to see, especially considering the programmability this keyboard offers.
Above the numeric keypad (a tenkeyless “S” version of the keyboard is available), there are four P keys, while at the right of the space bar, you’ll find a Fn key very much like that found on laptops. Using this as a modifier, the F keys control every aspect of the keyboard, without needing to go into the bundled software, enabling you to alter the lighting and repeat rate, and record macros, along with switching profiles using the P keys. Holding down Fn gives a readout of the keyboard’s current settings, too, reducing the need to remember how you’ve set it up. It’s a thoughtful addition, and one that hugely speeds up any tweaks you want to make to the board, even in the middle of a game. It does mean that you’re better off sticking to simple runs of key-presses, however, as the bundled software only programs the lighting, and it’s easy to get lost when doing it on the board.
Armed forces Inside the Pro L sits an ARM Cortex M3 processor, ticking along at 72MHz. This is roughly equivalent to the P54C revision of the Intel Pentium, which had 3.3 million transistors, and was the first chip in the series designed to run at a reduced voltage of 3.3V. The Cortex M3 is a 32-bit chip, also seen as the M9 motion co-processor in the iPhone 6S. It’s not hugely powerful, but it’s enough to make the Pro L feel snappy in use, with no lag when programming.
Those large, bright LEDs come as a result of a redesigned PCB that has larger holes for them to poke through. It’s a shame, then, that the letter cutouts on top of the keys aren’t a bit bigger, because this would really show off the engineering.
As it is, they’re certainly not tiny, and no one’s going to complain about not being able to distinguish the letters, but the Fn modifiers, placed down low on the F keys in tiny type, may elude a casual glance if playing in subdued lighting.
The Pro L is well built, and looks the business with its mat-black exterior pierced by the brilliant white of its lighting, but its main problem is the competition.
It’s priced in a bracket that puts it up against keyboards from the likes of Logitech and Razer, all of which have the same switches (Razer often uses its own rather than Cherry), coupled with better software, and the Cooler Master is likely to be overlooked. –IAN EVENDEN
- Good keys; bright lights; plenty of customization.
- Up against stiff competition; software could be better.