- About the Cooler Master CK550…
- Keyboard and Utility Impressions
- End-User Experience and Conclusion
- Online Purchase Links
- View All
Disclosure: The The CK550 mechanical keyboard is loaned by Cooler Master.
The overcrowded peripherals market that sells out everything eventually…
There are way too many mechanical keyboard manufacturers with way too many switch options to suit your needs, budget, requirement, etc. Just when you thought the choices are obvious, you get analog keyboards like Wooting One, Wooting Two and even a project Cooler Master had raised funds for since it feels its requirements is a micro-niche. Eventually, a niche product seeps into the mainstream- like how mechanical switches did. Sometimes, THE best keyboard might just be get lost somewhere, even if it is from a mainstream manufacturer. Everybody makes so many peripherals simply because they are able to sell it out. Headset market is equally ridiculous. Might as well wear those RGB headsets and use it to signal left or right turns when riding a bicycle!
Now THAT is a novel RGB wireless headphone feature!
About the CK550 and Gateron browns…
This is the Cooler Master CK550 mechanical keyboard. A clean, simple name for a full-size keyboard with Gateron switch options, despite its ‘GAMING’ nomenclature. Like many manufacturers, Cooler Master is exploring other switch options. It did with the Novatouch TKL. Despite the ‘gaming’ tag on the CK550, this has a clean layout with full functions and no added features. Love it or hate it, PC gamers buy mechanical keyboards for gaming.
Packaging and Contents
The keycap puller has a shorter handle with a ring, making it easier to yank out the keycaps. These Gateron are not modular, unlike the GMMK tenkeyless keyboard.
|Model Number||CK-550-GKGM1-** (Brown Switch)
CK-550-GKGL1-** (Blue Switch)
CK-550-GKGR1-** (Red Switch)
|Plastic / Aluminum|
|1ms / 1000Hz|
|32bit ARM Cortex M3|
|Yes, for Multi-media, Macro Recording and Lighting Control|
|Fixed Rubberized 1.8m|
|Yes, through Portal|
|460*135*41 mm (L*W*H)|
Product Weight (without cable)
The Masterkeys Pro L‘s official weight is 1090 grams while the CK550 is 850 grams light. The difference in weight is very clear when you carry them each. It uses the 32-bit controller for on-the-fly RGB and other controllers with an onboard memory to record macro options. The keyboard’s aluminum can be seen as a top plate, below the keys just like the HyperX FPS Alloy FPS Pro. Such plating does not add any rigidity to the keyboard. It does look nice over Alloy Pro’s all-black finish.
Keyboard Design and Overview
Apart from the choice of the mechanical switch, the main difference is aesthetics. There’s a horizontal aluminum finish plate under the keys with rounded edges on both sides and edged corners on the Z-Axis much like CM’s logo. The cable is also permanently attached to the keyboard. The frameless design helps to give the keys that ‘floating’ look but for me personally its just much easier to clean.
You’ll also notice the edges of the keyboards protrudes outwards, much like GALAX’s Xanova Magnetar RGB mechanical keyboard. There are no additional switches dedicated for any function. There are media and other controls tethered to the keyboard’s layout.
Keycap Font Design
Unlike the old days, some keyboard brands used exotic font design to suit ‘gamers’ but thankfully that phase met with an infamous death. Some brands do have bold fonts, with an exception of some letters such as E and ‘&”. The media/LED controls on the Function keys could have been larger, just like alternate commands on the horizontal number bar. The first four digits on the horizontal num section have profile numbers written on the slope. The same could have been done for RGB/Media functions.
The issue is when the pop-out feet are pulled out and typed on since the mid-section can bend during fast typing. This can be seen only if you actuate the keys all the way to the bottom with a lot of force. The midsection does flex more than the CM MasterKeys Pro L did.. The reinforcement of full-size keyboards with pop-out feet is usually an issue, but I thought it wouldn’t be the case with Cooler Master because of the MasterKeys L Pro.
This is the second Gateron switch based keyboard I have tested. Naturally, I will like to see if it has any relation with Chery MX brown.
The Cherry MX brown has a very subtle tactile bump, giving it a little bit of an actuation sensation mid-way against Cherry MX Reds. In my opinion, those who like Cherry MX Reds will like Cherry MX Browns- and vice versa.
About the Gateron brown switches…
Gateron Browns are just like that, but for some reason, the actuation feels lighter. These switches feel closer to Cherry MX Red with a more subtle tactile bump. Even more subtle than the Cherry MX Brown, and yet it has that very subtle bump which has a more pronounced sensation if you actuate the switches very closely. They feel hardly noticeable when you’re speed typing to playing an intense match.
There’s also a habit I picked up since I am using it with and without a wrist gel- hitting the wall of the switches rather than the top. Usually border side keys such as space bar, L-SHIFT, LCTRL, TAB/ CAPS and ~ key for Overwatch’s voice chat. When you do this, typically to hit the stem against the rest of the switches’ frame. Gateron and Cherry MX are the ones have that seamless friction when you do so. There is a wobble between the stem and the body of the switch. It doesn’t affect typing performance nor it hits adjacent keycaps.
Just like the Gateron Red, Gateron Brown exudes confidence in typing.
The added functions bound in the traditional keyboard aren’t anything out of the ordinary. It ranges from LED controls/brightness levels, Macro recorder and the media keys. There are no macro keys. The only way to do this is by assigning any one of the keys with the macro functions. The only way to go to the normal button mode is by switching to an empty profile mode. Since the profile buttons are hotkeys with the existing layout, there is no active profile LED indicator, nor that particular key’s light changes.
Cooler Master, you really need to add an audio mute function.
You’ll notice a diffused housing the for LED lights. Many keyboards use SMD LEDs which have flat mounted LEDs on the PCB which then reflects on the clear housing of every switch. Glorious PC Master Race GMMK, Motospeed CK108 and the Xanova Magnetar RGB Keyboard are such examples.
Because of the horizontal brushed aluminum plate, the illumination and the way its LED’s illumination is spread around is very balanced. This is great for keys like the 1-to-4 on-the-fly profile swap options.
Cooler Master allows you to install its ‘Cooler Master Portal’ which then detects what Cooler Master detectable hardware is connected and highlights the products and option to download its utility. The lack of user sign-up/sign Like Razer Synapse is what makes CM’s portal more palatable.
After the download, it requires you to update the firmware before the CK550 utility can be installed.
This keyboard uses the utility made for the CK500/ CK550/ CK552. It does leave another icon on the desktop, but CM could have chosen a better default filename other than ‘CK500_CK552′.
The keyboard allows you to store up to four profiles which contain information for your custom LED, macro and key mapping. These are same controls as you will get with the on-the-fly functions. The difference is the ease of making the settings and reviewing the macro keys. You can also save profiles in your system or reset them. You can custom colour change as per your desires under the LED section.
If you map the keys, you do not have additional switches and therefore assign to one of the keys. As said before, if you want to move to a default keymap option, you’ll just have to keep one profile without the remapped keys.
Functions, functions functions…
While this is a preference, Cooler Master CK550 has too many LED controls. While keyboards like TteSports Meka Pro and even GALAX’s Xanova Magnetar RGB has a hotkey for a Calculator, My Computer, Web Browser and even a mute function. The only way to mute via this keyboard is to reduce the volume entirely. If you look at hotkey function on the HyperX Alloy FPS Pro, its done conservatively keeping the keys F1-F5 to spare, which would have been populated with RGB controls (since HyperX Alloy FPS Pro I reviewed is a red only LED model).
The keyboard is intended to aim towards gamers but people use their PCs other than for games. It is also essential for mid-section of the keyboards to have a strong backbone to reduce flexing with the pop-out feet.
Why the fixed cable?
I am also not sure why Cooler Master chose the permanent cable. So far, the MasterKeys Pro L is the only full-size keyboard I’ve tested so far with a removable cable option, with others being tenkeyless. I asked the reason why. I didn’t get any response for that. Mechanical keyboards last very long, and it would be a shame if the only issue (when it arrives) is going to be the cable.
Cooler Master Master Keys Pro L is a great keyboard, with the only way to make it a little better is to have floating keycap design and probably add those hotkey functions. Both of these keyboards are full sized. Pro L is Cherry MX. CK550 is a Gateron variant.
I love Gateron switches. Many have recommended these in the same rank or even higher than Cherry MX switches. Even with that Linear tactile bump, the keyboard does not make the same click just Kailh and Cherry MX Blue. Its quieter than the Kailh LP switch based Havit HV-KB390L. The only advantage keyboards like KB390 have is the actuation type, which doesn’t exactly cater to the same audience.
Keyboard Actuation Recording
Just like the actuation sensation, the subtle tactile bump doesn’t generate noise anything equivalent to Cherry MX Blue/Kailh Blue or equivalent switches.
Should you buy it?
All the pros and cons with two years warranty translate into pricing. Keeping everything in mind, the Cooler Master CK500 mechanical is a very good keyboard. Cooler Master has done a wise decision switching to Gateron since they do actuate better than Cherry MX depending on your preference. Sure, there are keyboards like the Motospeed CK108 and even the domestic Indian brands that are made by similar Chinese-based domestic brands. Kailh switches eventually develop a sharp springy feel most likely due to the quality of lubrication. Brands like Razer gets custom quality switches, as it did with its own. The other keyboards that I use for preparing articles still work like a champ.
At the time of writing, CM India quoted the street price of Rs. 6,399/-. You are getting a full-size Gateron switch based mechanical keyboard at a price of a numkeyless Cherry MX switch based counterparts. The cons may look less pointy, depending on the end user’s need budget and requirements.
- Gateron switch options
- Too many on-the-fly RGB controls
- Two-years warranty
- Permanently attached cable
- Flexing when keyboard stands on the pop-out feet
- Some function keys could have been assigned for other functions
— Hardware BBQ (@HardwareBBQ) December 16, 2018