CM Storm Mech Keyboard Review
Here we have the last peripheral in the current line-up for the CM Storm Aluminium Gaming Series by Cooler Master. The CM Storm Mech (SGK-7000-MBCL1-ND). This review is a first for me, having neither reviewed a keyboard before and having very little experience with mechanical keyboards (I had a Commodore 64 and Amiga 500 many moons ago if that counts!?).
The CM Storm Mech is a fully mechanical gaming keyboard featuring Cherry MX switches, available in Red, Brown or Blue (our review sample features Cherry MX Blue), detachable USB 3 cable (approx 1500mm), customizable aluminium face-plate, an integrated I/O hub featuring two USB 3 ports, micro USB, microphone and audio ports, white LED backlighting (offering three different modes), hardware macro playback, macro keys and finally a carry handle (really?).
Or perhaps in the better words of CM Storm –
‘The MECH keyboard comes housed in a premium aluminum shell while being equipped with a quick travel handle. Users can choose from four of the most popular Cherry MX switches. It is built to be fast and can even store up to 75 macros and 5 profiles. USB3.0 super speed ports and audio / microphone ports allow for convenient device expansion and charging. 64 key roll over makes every command you strike register. Equipped with the latest tech, MECH is the choice for gamers looking at the ultimate representation of performance, durability, and style.’
The CM Storm Mech arrived in a predominately black and rather large box (covers over half the side of my Corsair 800D… It’s huge!). The front features an artistic impression of the Mech, the keyboard name, Cooler Master and CM Storm logo’s embossed in silver print, a red sticker telling us about the Cherry MX Blue switches (low resistance, Force Feedback (click)), another red sticker with English keyboard layout and a brief highlight of the CM Storm Mech’s main features:
- Aluminum and Steel Reinforced Gaming Keyboard
- Professional Cherry MX switches with LED Backlight
- Fully Programmable – 5 Profiles and 75 Macros
The back of the box features another artistic impression of the CM Storm Mech keyboard and highlights the following:
- 2 USB 3.0 Super Speed ports for Gaming Gear or Phone/Tablet charging
- Powerful 32 bit 72Mhz Rapid Fire Engine for quick hardware Macro playback
- Removable Aluminum cover – for easy cleaning
- Embedded Steel plate and Aluminum cover for maximum stability and durability
It then goes on to show the full feature list below.
CM STORM MECH
– All mechanical Cherry MX Keyboard – Guaranteed 50 million + keystrokes.
– Powerful 32 bit 72 Mhz Rapid Fire Engine for quick hardware Macro playback.
– Fully programmable! Store up to 5 Profiles and 75 Macros on the keyboard.
– 2 USB 3.0 Super Speed ports for Gaming Gear or Phone/Tablet charging.
– Full LED backlight – 3 modes and 5 brightness levels.
– Multimedia and Win-key-lock shortcuts
– Embedded Steel plate and Aluminum cover for maximum stability and durability
– 64 KRO – 64 simultaneous key presses
The right side of the box shows the Cooler Master and CM Storm logos, again embossed in silver.
The left has the MECH name embossed in silver and model number.
The bottom has an artistic rear profile picture of the CM Storm Mech displaying the I/O panel.
The top briefly describes the ‘Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – MECH’, then directs us to the CM STORM website for more information and support.
Inside the box and packed inside some pretty heavy duty foam padding (a possible alternative to safety headgear maybe??? EDIT – we cannot possibly endorse such speculation and know very little (nothing) to do with the health & safety regulations surrounding safety wear.), the CM Storm Mech aluminium gaming keyboard, a user manual, feature list, specifications (see below), technical support information, warranty information (2years), key puller, hex key and a USB 3.0 (type b) dedicated cable.
At the time of review the CM Storm Mech is retailing for approximately £130.00 and comes with the standard 2 year warranty.
courtesy of CM Storm
|Model Number||SGK-7000-MBCL1-language (Blue switch)
SGK-7000-MBCM1-language (Brown switch)
SGK-7000-MBCR1-language (Red switch)
Ah… Was my initial response when seeing the boxed CM Storm Mech (625(L) x 330(W) x 75(D)mm!). Then a very large sigh of relief upon opening. The CM Storm Mech is one big (553(L) x 267(W) x 43(H)mm) and very well packaged keyboard. Upon seeing the carry handle I have to admit that I was a little mystified (has anyone put into production a handled keyboard?), then I picked it up… 1686g (that’s very nearly 2 bags of sugar!), a little more hefty than my day to day keyboard, a Logitech K800 at 750g (I’ll certainly not be wanting to drop the CM Storm Mech on my bare feet!). Lifting the keyboard from the box (using the handle of course), I had a closer look.
The Mech is a striking and incredibly solid keyboard (so solid in fact, I believe I could rage quit a game and go on a merry bludgeoning spree. Would be re-naming it the Hatchet be a bad thing??). The four most prominent things you’ll notice on the CM Storm Mech, are the matt silver aluminium plate, the black plastic body with fixed palm rest and carry handle and the keyboard layout.
The great looking matt silver aluminium plate combines nicely with the matt and partially gloss black palm rest. Towards the front bottom left of the keyboard you can see the CM Storm logo half on the plate and half on the rest which I think is a really nice touch.
The main keyboard itself is of the QWERTY variety, oddly with acute alternatives for the e(é),u(ú),i(í),o(ó) and a(á). On the far left we have five dedicated macro keys (on paper seemingly pretty easy to programme! More on this later…), at the top of the keyboard we have your typical F keys that with the aid of the right FN key allow you to use the media keys, keyboard illumination, volume controls and Windows lock key (this lights up white when on and very handy to have as the left FN key doubles up as the Windows key). The back-light (white) has a simple on/off function, four levels of brightness and three different modes. One of these is simply full back-light, followed by breathe (a kinda cool looking slow pulse effect) and gaming (lit keys include up, down, left and right on the directional keypad, all five Macro keys and of course everyone’s favourite’s WASD.
To the top right, the aluminium plate shows the order of the rear I/O, which will come in handy.
To the lower right side we have the numeric keypad with illuminated LED’s (white while on) for caps lock, scroll lock and number lock. These are all actually underneath the aluminium plate and rather nicely reflected off the glossy black plastic.
The rear of the CM Storm Mech has it’s own I/O panel. This features audio, microphone, two USB 3.0 ports and a micro USB. Then just around the side is the USB 3.0 type b to feed the keyboard power (out of shot), which is the attached via the included USB 3.0 straight to your rig.
Beneath the keyboard is pretty sparse as you’d expect, with CM STORM and an angled cross moulded to the underside. We also have four rubber non-slip feet, with height adjusters (15mm) at the back of the keyboard. Less notably there is also a sticker with the CM Storm logo, Mech name, serial and model number.
Upon removing the aluminium plate with the provided hex key (naked Mech??) with the earthing strap in the top right corner.
Utilising the supplied key puller, we can now see the Cherry MX Blue switches and LEDs. For more information on Cherry MX switches and their types check out this LINK.
Pretty straightforward. One end of the USB cable to the rear I/O panel of my gaming rig, the other to the CM Storm Mech.
I tested the CM Storm Mech on my gaming rig, running Windows 7 64bit (service pack 1). No additional software is supplied in-box, but is available from the CM Storm website. So sadly (for me at least :() a fresh install of Windows was required and performed.
The following games and utilities were used during testing:
- Battlefield 4
- Civilisation V
- Blacklight Retribution
- iTunes (media key test)
- VLC Media Player (media key test)
This is my first mechanical gaming keyboard so this should prove to be a good test (are they really as good as others would have you believe?), read on to find out.
Initially I found the Cherry Blue MX switches to be highly annoying (blue being of the clicky variety). After a day or so of use, I actually started to find them oddly satisfying to use. Then a little further into my first week, not even notice the noise at all (sadly my partner would not agree to this at 4am in the morning!).
Is a mechanical gaming keyboard the miracle I need to make me the ultimate gamer? Unfortunately for me, the answer is no. The CM Storm Mech is a joy to type on, but being a lazy typer and gamer, I tend to have my hands flat against the keyboard (surely if I’m closer I’ll respond faster giving me an edge?), with the Cherry MX switch keys having a slightly smaller fingerprint (is that the right description?), I found myself often slipping between keys (no mean feet given my sausage fingers!) causing dual key presses. This I found to be annoying at first, but I eventually did adapt to a less lazy ‘hammer on’ wrist posture.
The CM Storm has white LED backlighting with five different brightness settings ranging from very dim, to comfortably bright. Three different modes being full, WASD and breathing (a slow pulse pulse effect, which looks kinda cool), and of course on/off. I must admit I have a thing about bright sparkly things (ED: Don’t we all!) and although I was a little disappointed that the CM Storm Mech didn’t have a larger colour range, the white LEDs look really good on the stylish (if slightly odd shaped) silver and black keyboard.
One thing I did find odd was after removing a random key with the key puller (handily packaged with the CM Storm Mech), is that the keys are clear plastic painted black? I’m sure the paint is pretty hard wearing, but after one years solid gaming, surely my sweaty mitts may rub it off??
The palm rest certainly does the job. It is fixed, which makes sense given the height of the keyboard. Of course being a lazy typer and obviously a Gamer, the hard plastic of the rest gave me wrist ache. Something padded or softer would be nice, but this is just me being a little picky.
I thought the CM Storm Mech integrated I/O panel was a great idea. Handily the two USB 3.0 ports and audio ports, complement the CM Storm Pulse-R (audio and USB) and CM Storm Reaper (USB), which is great for anyone who wants the full co-ordinated aluminium set (even more so if you go down the route of customization). Although after having attached the Pulse-R to the Mech, I found that having the Pulse-R USB lead plugged in caused interference (many of you will have noticed a similar problem when plugging in your headsets into your case front I/O panel. Also worth noting is that the USB cable is USB 3.0 (sadly not braided), if plugged into a non -USB 3.0 port on your rig, you’ll find your microphone doesn’t work!
Although not available in-box, the CM Storm Mech software is available from the CM Storm site (here). It looks good and is simple enough to use. Using the Mech suite, you can not only re-map your keyboard (single key function), keep them vanilla (default key), re-map your media keys (advanced), launch programs (launch programme), turn them off completely (no function), but also to programme key combination’s with delay where necessary (Macro Studio). Then save an entire keyboard’s worth in one of five available Profiles. You can go on to re-name the Profiles for ease of use and even add an image. This is something I’m sure all you MMO and RTS fans would love if indeed you don’t already.
This came as a bit of a surprise to me; I had assumed the audio in and microphone sockets were just pass-through sockets. Instead it turned out that the CM Storm Mech has an in-built soundcard (Xear 3D)! This is not mentioned anywhere on or in the box or even the CM Storm website!? This of course needs another software (Driver) download from CM Storm. The software allows 7.1 virtual surround, selection of system input, output mode, volume mixer with monitoring, equalizer, environment sound effects and environment size. As far as these features go, I was actually quite impressed.
Although in the past I’ve not been entirely convinced with virtual surround sound, the audio sounded pretty good. Have I been convinced of it’s merits? No. It hasn’t given me Daredevil like spatial awareness, especially in Battlefield 4, where at times I’ve no idea from where I’m being shot at (or obviously I’m that good it takes a team to take me down?!?).
Is this the write type of keyboard for you? (terrible I know….). Personally I really liked the CM Storm Mech and think it’s a great looking keyboard. Granted it looks slightly odd with the carry handle, but you can’t argue that it has it’s own unique style which will get noticed at LAN parties (even more so if you customize it).
The Cherry Blue MX switches were a joy to try for the first time and the white LED lighting looks great. My first Macro experience was nice and easy given the MECH’s software suite. The rear I/O audio ports are a welcome addition (I’m lazy at the best of times, why scramble blindly behind my rig to plug in audio when I can use my keyboard?), but when used with the CM Storm Pulse-R (if you want the headset lit up via USB), the interference is for me very annoying and shouldn’t be there. This is only likely to effect a few of you of course. Then there is the surprise/hidden soundcard, this to me is a big selling point and I don’t understand why CM Storm have failed to mention this anywhere!?
So would I buy the CM Storm Mech? Ultimately the gaming keyboard market is pretty competitive. My biggest concern with the CM Storm Mech was the price (£130.00 at the time of review), which I feel is pretty steep for any keyboard. Now having used and lived with it for two weeks and despite a few niggles, I think I just might. I think the CM Storm has carved it’s own little niche in the gaming world and is going to be quite popular…
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Many thanks to CM Storm for providing this sample for review