- Packaging and Specification
- Closer Look
- User Experience and Conclusion
- Online Purchase Links
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CM Storm hardware made a very good impression- from its performance to its built quality. I’ll be honest, CM Storm tend to be under-rated products, hidden away below piles of similar products made by other brands. CM made an impression that they listen to people’s feedback. That’s the impression that I’ve got from Rapid-i mechanical keyboard.
…and then comes CM Storm Novatouch TKL.
CM states that this keyboard will provide the ultimate typing experience. These keyboards don’t use mechanical keys, rather something that CM calls it as ‘exclusive hybrid capacitive switches’. The exact words are:
“The actuation force is precision-tuned to the strength of your fingers, while an ultra smooth, tactile key process makes NovaTouch the best feeling keyboard on the market”.
An impressive presentation can be seen at CM Storm Novatouch TKL product page. But how good is this keyboard? And if its worth the cost?
CM pitches NovaTouch TKL towards heavy-duty typists, but it should be noted that couple of marketing slides showed that NovaTouch is also aimed towards gamers. Not surprisingly, this keyboard comes with NKRO and repeat rate.
Another best part is that these keys are backward compatible with Cherry MX keycaps. There are companies who do make aftermarket keycaps, so should you really decide to swap the default keys for something else that’s made originally for the Cherry MX mechanical switches, you do not have to worry.
If you’re using the word “heavy-duty” typists, a lot of people come under it. Anything from those who type a lot of content like me to even software engineers. That being said, there are many who can easily find the different between low-cost membrane keyboards with mechanical switch keyboards. The feel, response, the tactile feedback- Cherry MX offers many types of keys that entertain many types of users. My preference is either Cherry MX Red, brown and blue.
CM Novatouch TKL is Tenkeyless design, just like CM Storm Rapid-i. No numpads. Apart from the switch, the rest of the keyboard is a plain-Jane-with-no-extra-buttons keyboard (ignore the USB cable on the board, CM bundles it with right-angled cables. No backlit, unfortunately. But it does offer certain featured in CM Storm keyboards. CM probably did this to use this keyboard to check if users would be interested to such keyboards with switches.
Speaking of switches:
These switches are made by Topre. They have a patent for the keys. What would differentiate between the topre switch based keyboards from each other is the feature on the Novatouch TKL.
The main feature of the actual switch as per what CM said that its meant to avoid finger fatigue. The switches are topre switches with MX compatible stem and 45g actuation. As you can see from the illustration mentioned above, each switch has many layers. Below the stem that stays on the keyboard is an electrostatic layer and conical spring. CM uses steel-plated PCB. This ensures that you get a solid feel once you actuate all the way to the bottom of the keyboard. A lot of typists should be able to feel the “rigid” towards the base as soon as one actuates the key. At least I did. This keyboard also supports NKRO, unlike many other topre switch keyboards that support up to 6KRO (depending on what you’re buying).
Moving on with the rest of the review…
Minimum details. no illustrations. CM Novatouch TKL with CM branding on the top. Towards the underbelly of the box is where a small image of the keyboard’s layout is put up, along with its features mentioned in more than one language.
Once you open the box, you’ll find that the keyboard is nicely protected by a thick layer of foam. Under the keyboard, you’ll find the gold-plated right-angled USB cable, a key cap puller (a better one) and a pack of O-rings.
Coolermaster bundles a pack of O-rings, a 1.8 metre braided gold-plated USB cable and a wire keycap puller- a better one in comparison to the plastic alternative.
There’s also a four-page quick start guide and just like the Rapid-i. This keyboard has few gaming features such as repeat rate, windows key lock and the media keys with a Fn button to toggle the commands.
The specifications are as follows:
|Key switch||Hybrid Capacitive|
|Key Rollover||NKRO (Windows Only)|
|Polling Rate||1000 Hz/1 ms|
|Interface||Micro USB 2.0, Full Speed|
|Windows Key Lock||Yes|
|Media Keys||Yes (via FN Combos)|
|USB Cable||1.8m braided, 18k gold plated and removable|
|Dimensions||35.9(L) x 13.8(W) x 3.9(H) cm
14.1(L) x 5.4(W) x 1.5(H) inch
|Weight||895g / 1.97 lbs|
The actual casing of the CM Storm Novatouch TKL is pretty much the same as another Tenkeyless keyboard from Coolermaster: Rapid-i. There is no LED light, however. The keycaps are lettered/numbered using print pad method with simple, bold fonts.
What I also liked is the keycap remover.
The keys are very easy to remove with this wire keycap remover. You’ll need this to remove the keycaps properly since the keys are tightly secured over the stem. Its easier to remove these keys on a mechanical switch compared to this.
All keys are cross-type purple-coloured topre switch (Hybrid Capacitive Switch, as CM says it). Just like few CM mechanical keyboards, they do not use metal balancers. Note that if you do plan to change the keycaps and switch them with an aftermarket type, make sure you get compatible ones for certain keys like SHIFT, Enter and Space. Note that the space bar switch has an external spring as well.
The obvious con over here is that it doesn’t have any LED backlit and that’s strange to see that for a CM gaming motherboard which is made to attract the typing enthusiasts.
Speaking of keys,
The main feature of this keyboard is the actual keys. The MX-type stem on the keyboard allows you to swap the keycaps for a aftermarket cherry MX compatible keycap. Not sure how a lot of people would like this, but there are many keycap makers, and considering that a lot of brands are making cherry MX based mechanical keys, its appreciated at the very least. O-rings are provided with this keyboard. For those who don’t know, there is an aftermarket product called O-rings that are made to attach itself on the keycap’s inner ring. This helps to reduce the noise for keyboards known to make noise. It also provides a ‘cushioning’ effect during actuation before bottoming out.
For typists, usually they prefer bottoming out. O-rings in my case didn’t really do anything. The keyboard is silent when you’re using the keys. This implementation is something that you’d like to see with Cherry MX Blue.
The keycap remover is a very handy tool, and much better than the ring type key puller. All the keys can be easily removed, and the best part is that there are no metal balancers. In the case of switches with a lesser feedback, I always felt that metal balancers ruins the experience. CM ditched it in place of plastic support alternatives for at least couple of their CM Storm motherboards, and the rest was good. Same case with the Novatouch TKL.
The underbelly of the keyboard is the same old story as with previous tenkeyless CM keyboards. There 4 rubber feet with 2 rubberised angle feet.
Just like in Rapid-i, first F keys increases the speed of the key’s repeat rate (beneficial for gamers who need super-human in-game action when they simply need to hold the key). The second F-keys keys are media keys, while F9’s function turns off the windows key.
They keys have very good feel and it is a boon for typists, even in comparison with Cherry MX blue keys and Cherry MX red. When I shifted from membrane to mechanical, it took a while for me to appreciate mechanical key’s feedback. But it didn’t take me anymore than an hour to truly appreciate the keyboard. I felt that the response was quicker, or at least, the feedback gave me that sensation. Even when bottoming out, the keyboard felt solid. The construction of CM’s keyboards is a real thing and its brilliant! If I as a user have to pick something, I will choose Novatouch TKL in a heartbeat. I went crazy with that keyboard.
The feedback from actuation is very different from the mechanical. Its hard to explain since this is the first topre-switch based keyboard I am ever trying, but it should ever suffice to say that the bounce-back effect is much better than mechanical’s counterpart. I was sceptical at first since (by the looks of it) it looked like a membrane with a spring below it. But this keyboard proved it wrong- every word of it.
When you bring the cost of the product into this discussion, everything changes. Like many users would, you’ll take a step back- and think really hard if you REALLY want it in comparison to Cherry MX mechanical counterparts. This is the test for true love!
There’s also NKRO support which isn’t usually found in topre-based keyboards that offer 6 key roll-over. There’s also the fact that its Cherry MX keycaps compatible. Guys like WASD Keyboards sell such keycap sets. There’s also the function to turn off the windows key. You wouldn’t mind tenkeyless unless you need numpads. But then, there’s no LED backlit. As a counter-point, do typists and typing elites need backlit considering that many of such users prefer blank keycaps. But I am sure they would like to have a rubberized-feel keycaps.
Besides, the mechanical switch’s casing allows keyboard manufacturers to install a LED. Either this topre key manufacturer has to come up with a similar idea- or CM need to find another way to implement it. I am assuming that CM would be encouraged to have another variant such this topre switches.
Those who want numpads will ignore the keyboard. Its a preference. But CM could have priced this in a way that more wider users could pick up this keyboard just like how many users ditched membrane for the mechanical switches. The absence of LED indicator for Caps and Scroll Lock is just weird.
One can easily conclude that CM aimed this keyboard towards people who love typing a lot with few features that other topre-type keyboards don’t usually offer. That’s the best thing about topre switches. Rest of it is a cherry on the top feature that you’ll like at some point. In all fairness, CM went ahead to reach to a very specific niche. Judging by their previous keyboards, I am sure they don’t need to be told about the annoying part of the lack of backlit LED and the price. CM is testing ‘unchartered territory’ with this special topre switch keyboard. Maybe CM could have ignored the gaming-centric features and concentrated on finding a solution to implement backlit?
People will love CM Storm Novatouch TKL keyboard once they have tried it. But when you know the price, you start to squeal- not because its expensive- but because you love the keyboard that would make a big hole for an average gaming/PC enthusiast Joe. Few will pass through this intense fire of love, buy this keyboard, maybe even change the keycaps and they will never ever look back.
- Solid Built Quality
- Switch perfect for typing
- Few gamin features: Rapid Rate, NKRO, Windows Lock Key
- Compatible with Cherry MX aftermarket keycaps
- 2 Years Warranty
- Mediocre keycaps
- No Caps Lock and Scroll Lock Indicator (weird)
- O-ring is more useful for mechanical rather than for Novatouch TKL
That’s what I love about the Rapid-i. It is a perfect tenkeyless keyboard even with a premium price but will attract a broader set of enthusiasts- gaming and PC. It has everything you need. The built quality is so solid that it could be used as a melee weapon (not suggesting that you should). LAN gamers will appreciate it more because it can take a good beating when bottoming out because of the built quality.