Cougar 700K Keyboard Review
   
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Cougar 700K Keyboard Review

November 13th, 2014 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

Following on from the excellent Cougar 700M, I now have the chance to take a look at the 700K and I have to admit after being so impressed by the 700M I’m rather looking forward to this review. The Cougar 700K is a mechanical Gaming keyboard featuring Cherry MX (Red) switches. The keyboard is also available in other MX switch types including (Black, Blue & Brown).

The Cougar 700K has an aluminium chassis and features not only Cherry MX Red switches (with full N-Key Rollover via USB), but it also has six programmable G keys (macro keys). The keyboard is also fully backlit (orange) with various operating modes and effects. In addition to this the 700K has a full set of dedicated media keys, comes with a full length wrist rest with an FPS detachable palm rest and has a USB pass-through. Finally on-board there’s a 32-BIT ARM processor and enough memory to store up to three Profiles. Of course all of this is controlled and managed via Cougar’s UIX software suite, that also integrates with the aforementioned Cougar 700M mouse.

 

Cougar 700K - box front Cougar 700K - box back

 

The Cougar 700K came in a rather large black box with a large image of the 700K on the front (looks nice too!), the front goes on to highlight the following features. Also note that ‘iF Product Design Award’ in 2014!

  • Cherry MX Switch
  • Aluminium Structure
  • Full Key Backlight
  • N-KEY Rollover
  • 32-BIT ARM Processor
  • On-board Memory
  • 1000Hz Polling Rate
  • Repeat Rate 1x/2x/4x/8x

 

Cougar 700K - box side (switch type)

 

The sides of the box highlight other features of the Cougar 700K as well as show the switch designation (in this case Cherry MX Red), while also showing the others available.

 

Cougar 700K - box open

 

Opening the box we can see that the Cougar 700K was well packaged (surrounded in soft-cell foam) and rather nicely presented.

 

Cougar 700K - box contents Cougar 700K - wallet contents

 

Within the box other than the keyboard itself we find a full length wrist rest (including its associated FPS palm rest) and a Cougar wallet. Within the wallet there’s a User Manual and a set of stickers.

At the time of writing the Cougar 700K keyboard is retailing at for approximately £110 on Amazon and comes with a 3 year warranty.

 

Specifications/Features

courtesy of Cougar

Product name

COUGAR 700K gaming keyboard

Key switch

Cherry MX mechanical

Processor

32-bit ARM Cortex-M0

N-key rollover

Yes

Full key backlight

Yes

Game type

FPS / MMORPG / MOBA / RTS

On-board memory

512KB

Polling rate

1000Hz / 1ms

Repeat rate

1X / 2X / 4X / 8X

On-board memory

Yes

Material

Aluminum / Plastic

Software

COUGAR UIX™ SYSTEM

Additional programmable G-keys

6

Palm rest

Yes

Audio jacks

Yes

USB pass-through

Yes

Interface

Golden-plated USB plug

Cable length

1.8m Braided

Dimension

230(L) X 487(W) X 40(H) mm

Weight

1.2kg

* Additional details available here

 

First Impressions

 

First impressions of the Cougar 700K are extremely good, and are along the line of; this is a good looking, real Gaming keyboard. I very much like the gold accents (to be fair, they look far better than you would think!) like the Cougar logo and the allen bolts. Looking at the sides of the Cougar 700K, we get to appreciate the keyboard’s angles, far better looking than the slab sides of regular mechanical Gaming keyboards. Looking at the far right side of the keyboard we see all those angles giving the 700K a bit of character, on this side it’s covered with brushed aluminium featuring a single gold allen bolt. The quality is here too, from the brushed aluminium chassis to the actuation and feel of those Cherry MX red key switches. It’s also surprisingly compact considering the amount of features that it packs.

 

Cougar 700K - left side Cougar 700K Cougar 700K - right side

On the left side of the 700K there are five dedicated Gaming keys (macro keys), now I’m not normally keen on this position for additional keys as your muscle memory often sees you striking the new Gaming keys instead of say Shift or Tab. These seem slightly different though as the key-caps are at an angle, this seem to help to alleviate the problem! Strange but true…

Looking at the main keyboard area; at the top left there’s a set of dedicated Profile keys (Cougar seems to call this Mode) and on the top right we find a full set of dedicated media keys. Below these keys are three volume control keys; volume up, volume down and mute. The two keys to the left of this are a Windows lock key and an illumination control key. The rest of the keyboard is a relatively standard affair with all keys sporting Cherry MX (red) switches; but just take a look at that Spacebar, or is that two spacebars!? Yes Cougar has chosen to split the spacebar, as they know that when Gaming only your thumb is likely to be resting on it. Not only does this make actuating the button easier, as the switch is less likely to rock to one side, but it also frees up the other half of the spacebar for another Gaming key. Impressive stuff, this leaves no doubt that the Cougar 700K is a very focused Gaming keyboard… 😉

 

Cougar 700K - Game keys


Cougar 700K - split spacebar

Looking at the back of the of Cougar 700K, in the far left corner (image below left) we have a simple USB pass-through, no USB hub here, I’m afraid. In addition to this there’s the usual audio ports (Headphone & Microphone).

Flipping the keyboard onto its back reveals very little as one would expect. Other than the centrally mounted model details, the keyboard has four main rubber feet, with the back ones supporting an additional incline of an approximately 10-12mm.

Cougar 700K - IO Cougar 700K - back Cougar 700K - feet

The Cougar 700K comes complete with a full length wrist rest with a rather clever trick up its wrist (haha!). The wrist rest connects to the keyboard in the normal way, by way of a couple of clips, but it also has a detachable/movable FPS palm rest that can be connected to either side of the keyboard and this attaches simply by magnetism and it works well. For most of us this is likely to remain in place below the WASD keys, but, in practice it actually provides two differing heights for the wrist rest itself, which is kind of cool…

 

Cougar 700K - without wrist rest Cougar 700K - with wrist rest

Overall, at this point to say that I’m impressed with the Cougar 700K would be an understatement. This is without doubt the most Gamer centric keyboard that I have ever seen, I think I might as well go and get my wallet now… 😉

 

Hardware Installation

 

Cougar 700K - connections The Cougar 700K requires just a single USB socket for full operation of the keyboard, if you wish to use the USB pass-through then you’ll need to plug in the other USB plug. Should you wish to source your audio from the keyboard (not something we would recommend), then you’ll need to plug those 3.5mm Jack plugs (Headphone/Microphone) into your sound-card. These plugs sit at the end of a 1.8m braided cable; it’s a little heavy duty, but this is a common problem with high functionality keyboards.

 

Testing Methodology/Setup

 

Cougar 700K - Firmware update The Cougar 700K was tested on my Intel Test Rig, a fresh installation of Windows Home Premium 64bit (service pack 1) was performed prior to testing. The latest version of the Firmware and the latest version of the UIX Software was also downloaded (here) and installed, version V43 (V0184) of the Firmware was installed first as per Cougar’s website instructions and version V1.08 of the UIX software was used throughout testing.

 

The following games were used during testing:

 

Hardware Performance

 

With the Cougar 700K powered up we can take a look at its orange illumination, there are some predefined illumination modes accessible via the Illumination button (just above PRT SC (Print Screen)) on the keyboard. There are also more options to be found in the Lighting Control section of the UIX software.

 

Cougar 700K - illuminated
  • MODE 1: Off
  • MODE 2: Fully backlit (low brightness)
  • MODE 3: Fully backlit (medium brightness)
  • MODE 4: Fully backlit (full brightness)
  • MODE 5: Breathing

The key caps are slightly concave with a subtle rubberised surface and the internal illumination shines well through the caps; in fact at full brightness it’s a little too bright for me, no bad thing though as there’s three brightness settings. Through the UIX software individual keys can be illuminated also, allowing you to just have the keys you want on. This in turn can then be assigned to a Profile (or Mode) should you wish. The split spacebar is a real talking point, personally I think it’s great, and more importantly it works! It’s a simple mod that for the Gamer makes sense, but for the typist is make’s no sense. But, if you like you can of course modify the G6 key (the right-hand half of the spacebar) to act as another space bar, alleviating most of the issues a typist may have. But to be fair this is a GAMING keyboard…

 

Cherry MX (Red) The switches used in the Cougar 700K are Cherry MX Red, these I have come across before and I have to admit are probably my favourite for Gaming, as there’s no perceivable actuation point and no audible click. Not so good for typing, but great for Gaming (IMHO!).

During testing the Cherry MX Red switches aboard the Cougar 700K were great, with a low actuation force (45cN) and a short linear travel, they’re perfect for those fast paced manoeuvres. The down side is that fumbling around on a Cherry MX Red keyboard does not produce good results, obviously…

 

  • SOFTWARE
  •  

    I have seen the Cougar UIX software (during the 700M review) and it is as impressive now as it was then. Despite the fact that the software for the 700M mouse is a separate download to the keyboard, the software still integrates both together which is pretty cool, apparently it will even integrate with their Power Supplies, even cooler… 😉

     

    • SOFTWARE – (Performance / Profiles (Mode))
    Cougar 700K - UIX (Performance) Cougar 700K - UIX (Game Profile Management)

     

    The first page the software shows on loading is the Performance page. Here you can change the Polling Rate, switch between 6-Key Rollover and N-Key Rollover, change the Repeat Rate and the acceleration of that rate. You can also change the Backlight Mode, the Sleep Mode (a mode that turns on after a period of inactivity) and the amount of time to Wait. You can also enable the Mode Sync Switch that (if you have a Cougar Mouse) will switch it into the same Mode (or Profile) as the Keyboard, pretty neat stuff.

    The Profiles page can be accessed by clicking on the Game Profile Management button, this allows you to not only create and edit Profiles (Modes), but also assign images and executable files too. The top three ‘Modes’ are effectively shortcuts to your favourite three Profiles.

     

    • SOFTWARE – (Key Assignment / Macros / Lighting Control)
    Cougar 700K - UIX (Key Assignment) Cougar 700K - UIX (Macros) Cougar 700K - UIX (Lighting Control)

     

    The Key Assignment page allows you to assign functions to those six Gaming keys. Simple key presses can be used, a combination of key presses or you can even drag ‘n drop a inbuilt Function or a Macro onto the key in question. If you happen to also have a Cougar mouse then the UIX software for the keyboard allows you to directly control functions on the mouse. Now that is cool, nice one Cougar… 😉

    The Macros section allows you to create (New), Edit, Import, Export Copy and Delete Macros. Macros can be recorded in real-time or can be recorded with a set delay. Mouse clicks and keyboard presses can be recorded at the same time, a function that’s sometimes found to be missing from other manufacturer’s keyboards.

    Finally we get to the Lighting Control, there’s less here than you might imagine (or even desire), but it’s because some of the lighting control seems to be in the Performance section. You can control illumination down to the individual key level here, which is always good to see and you can also enable/disable the Backlighting Key Settings. This allows you to effectively enable and disable certain backlighting modes.

    Overall I have to admit I’m really impressed with the Cougar UIX software, it looks good, it’s easy to use and offers a wealth of functionality. If you have a Cougar mouse (like the 700M) you’re going to love it…

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    When I was talking to pcG Mike about the Cougar 700K and I was trying to explain to him why I liked the keyboard so much I used an theory (a crazy theory, that I made up!) and I would like to share it with you…

    The theory was that it would appear that when Cougar were thinking of building the Ultimate Gaming keyboard they went to their Management with an idea that they didn’t want to borrow/steal another design, they wanted to build their own Gaming keyboard, start from scratch. Of course this would take time and a good deal of money, so they asked for a budget. Well (what I think happened was), Cougar granted them their budget and their time-scale and then they doubled it! Cougar’s designers now had all of the budget and all of the time they needed to produce the best Gaming keyboard on the planet. Gladly it’s obvious to me today that both their time and money wasn’t wasted and that they have undeniably achieved their goal! 😉

    The Cougar 700K came nicely packaged and well protected in a large box. On opening the box you can’t help but feel a little pleased with yourself as the 700K is a striking looking keyboard, if there was ever a keyboard that was a Gamers keyboard, then I reckon this is it.

    Taking a tour around the Cougar 700K allows me to point out some (not all) of its features. We have a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches (the best switches for Gaming IMHO), we have N-Key Rollover, we have full key backlighting (with the ability to choose individual keys), there’s dedicated Gaming keys, there’s Profile switching and a set of dedicated Media controls; on top of this we have a full length wrist rest (with optional FPS palm rest), volume controls, a USB pass-through and audio ports. Then we have that oh so clever split Spacebar, that really proves that this is a fully focused Gaming keyboard. All of this is then backed up by the excellent UIX software, with full integration with other Cougar products should you have them (and you will want them, believe me!).

    Performance wise of course we’re dealing with a Cherry MX (red) based mechanical keyboard, therefore the performance of those low actuation, low force key switches is a given. The rigid aluminium chassis of the 700K supports the main board well having very little flex, allowing you to hammer the keys during those frantic moments in Game and still come out on top.

    I could go on and on about why I think this is such a great Gaming keyboard, but to be honest there’s no point; if you’ve been reading then you’ll probably already know. Needless to say the Cougar 700K is a damn good Gaming keyboard, probably the best I have ever tested. Never have we seen such a focused Gaming keyboard here at pcG, and I take my hat off to Cougar for this. It might be expensive at approximately £110, but personally I think it’s worth every penny.

     

    Verdict

    Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…



    Where possible we always use Amazon’s price for Value…
     

    Design/Quality pcGameware awards the Cougar 700K a Platinum
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

     

    Many thanks to Cougar for providing this sample for review

     


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