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Cooler Master CK550 Review

Cooler Master CK550 Review

Cooler Master CK550 review gaming keyboard review The Cooler Master CK550 is one of the more affordable gaming keyboards around right now thanks to a price of $90 in the US and £65 in the UK. The Cooler Master CK550 keeps the price low by keeping its design focused on performance rather than features – and by not using CherryMX switches. Can this keyboard succeed against pricier and more feature-packed rivals? Read our Cooler Master CK550 review to discover our verdict.

Cooler Master CK550 Review – Design

The Cooler Master CK550’s affordable price means that its physical design is minimal and smart. The Cooler Master CK550’s top panel is made from dark brushed aluminium that looks smart and stylish, with no unnecessary logos or ornamentation. It looks good, to the point where it wouldn’t look out of place in an office – as well as in front of a gaming system.

The CK550’s edges flare slightly as they descend to the desk. The tapered edges start almost as soon as the buttons stop, which means no wasted space. The CK550 is 460mm wide – a conventional figure – and only weighs 850g.

Cooler Master CK550 review gaming keyboard reviewThe dimensions and the sophisticated design mean the Cooler Master CK550 doesn’t look as dominant as some of its rivals. However, that’s not a bad thing, especially if you’re after a keyboard that looks more mature, or if you need something easier to fit onto a cramped desk or in a backpack.

The £160/$130 Asus ROG Strix Flare, for instance, has a more extravagant design and bolder lights – but it’s just as large and it weighs 1.25kg. The £83/$80 Roccat Horde AIMO is packed with features, but it also weighs more than a kilo. It looks more like most gaming keyboards, with all sorts of curves and angles around its plastic construction.

The top of the Cooler Master CK550 is pared-back, and the minimal design continues elsewhere. The rubber feet on the underside of the unit keep the keyboard well-anchored, but there are no height adjustment options on the feet – other keyboards have “steps” that allow for different height levels. The Cooler Master CK550 doesn’t include a wrist-rest either – something which you do get with both of its rivals.

You get the usual cap, number and scroll lock lights at the top of the Cooler Master CK550, but there are no dedicated media buttons or keys on this unit. There are no macro buttons, either.

Cooler Master CK550 review gaming keyboard reviewThe USB cable isn’t braided and it’s not removable. And there is no channel on the underside of the CK550 to neatly route the USB cable for easier tidying.

The Cooler Master CK550 does have full RGB lighting, which is pleasing. Every key has an individual RGB LED, and the lights are not installed inside the key housing. Instead, they sit below the keys, in the gap between the keys and the base panel. That means the lights burst out from between the keyboard’s base panel and the keys themselves.

This clever design means they’re very bright – certainly brighter than the lighting on most gaming keyboards, where there’s less space for the light to emerge from between the buttons and the base.

The vivid glow looks excellent as it stretches across the CK550’s dark, brushed. The light looks just as good when it’s bursting through the crisp letters that are used on each of this keyboard’s buttons.

There are nine pre-set lighting modes that can be cycled from keys on the Function row. The buttons on the Function row can also be used to fine-tune the red, green and blue levels used on the Cooler Master CK550. The effects can be slowed, accelerated or changed direction using the arrow keys. And, finally, the Function keys can also be used to record macros – handy for gaming.

Cooler Master CK550 review gaming keyboard reviewHowever, there are limits to what can be done on the CK550 itself. There are no options on the keyboard to change the brightness of the backlighting. That’s an annoyance when the lights are extremely bright by default.

The Cooler Master Portal Windows app alters the brightness. It is, thankfully, an intuitive bit of software that offers easy access to all of the usual options. As well as brightness alterations, the Portal app has more patterns and customisation for every key. The app also serves up macro recording, key mapping and game profiles.

The CK550 has good design and RGB lighting. However, it’s worth remembering that its rivals do go further in several departments.

The Asus ROG Strix Flare has a neat Perspex panel that can be used to display your own personal logo alongside full RGB LED support. It also has a USB port, four media keys, a brightness button and a volume roller – but it is made from plastic.

The Roccat Horde AIMO is another plastic unit, but it serves up a clever scroll-wheel that can be used for all sorts of functions. It’s got loads of extra media and lighting keys, five dedicated macro keys and RGB LEDs. However, the AIMO doesn’t have USB ports.

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Cooler Master CK550 Review – Performance

Cooler Master CK550 review gaming keyboard reviewThe unit in our Cooler Master CK550 review is one of several recent keyboards that have abandoned the CherryMX switch hardware that had previously been used in the vast majority of mechanical units.

Instead of relying on CherryMX switches, Cooler Master has deployed Gateron Red hardware.

As the name suggests, the Gateron Red switches are designed to mimic CherryMX Red hardware. That means they’ve got a linear keypress design with no noticeable bump in the middle of their typing action. That’s just the same as CherryMX Red switches.

Just like those switches, the Gateron Red design requires a 45g actuation force – the amount of force required to make each button register. That’s a moderate amount that falls in the middle of the market. And, just like CherryMX red, you get a 4mm travel distance and a 2mm actuation point.

Elsewhere, the Cooler Master CK550 has full anti-ghosting and n-key rollover. Those are features that we expect to find on any gaming keyboard. Cooler Master includes a key-removal tool in the box, which helps with cleaning – but no extra keys.

Cooler Master CK550 review gaming keyboard reviewThe Gateron Red hardware does an excellent job of mimicking CherryMX Red switches. The buttons are fast and responsive – helped by the lack of bump in the middle of their typing action. The rock-solid base supports the fast typing action.

The build quality extends to the buttons themselves, which don’t wobble at all. They press down firmly and quickly, with reassuring speed and consistency.

The Gateron Red switches do feel a tiny, tiny bit lighter than CherryMX Red switches. However, the difference is so slight that virtually no gamers will notice the difference. And, if you do, the extra lightness will increase the speed of gaming – so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Asus ROG Strix Flare was the last keyboard we saw that did have CherryMX hardware. As expected, those buttons were fast, consistent and responsive. There’s basically no difference between the Cooler Master and the Asus unit.

The CK550’s Gateron hardware is easily better than the “membranical” buttons deployed in the Roccat Horde Aimo. That unit has membrane hardware with an awkward bump, a shorter typing action and an absence of the speed and lightness of the CK550. The Cooler Master CK550 is better for pure typing.

The Cooler Master CK550 that we’ve reviewed has the Gateron Red switches, but that’s not the only model available. One version is available with Gateron Brown switches. These mimic CherryMX Brown hardware, which means you get a noticeable bump in the typing action. The Gateron Blue switches in Cooler Master’s third variant give you a heavier, louder typing action.

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Cooler Master CK550 Review – Conclusion

Cooler Master CK550 review gaming keyboard reviewOur Cooler Master CK550 review shows that this is one of the most affordable mechanical keyboards around. Its US and UK prices of $90 and £65 see it undercut every rival – sometimes significantly.

The low price does mean that the CK550 has a cut-back design. The Gateron Red switches are near-indistinguishable from CherryMX hardware, the RGB LEDs are good and the brushed metal base panel looks attractive. However, you miss out on media and macro buttons, USB pass-through, and numerous other features that you will find elsewhere.

The Roccat Horde Aimo has a reasonable price and has plenty of features, but the typing experience is disappointing. The Asus ROG Strix Flare has CherryMX hardware and some extra features, but it’s far more expensive than the Cooler Master CK550. Because of that high price, the Asus is only worth a purchase if money is no object.

Impressively, the Cooler Master CK550 delivers almost all of the performance and features of the Asus while costing much less. That makes it a great option if you’re on a tighter budget – or if you just want a sturdy, smart and effective mechanical keyboard without extraneous features and a high price.

The Cooler Master CK550 costs £65 in the UK and $90 in the US.  Discuss our Cooler Master CK550 review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading the Cooler Master CK550 review, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!

The GoodRecommended Award

  • Excellent Gateron Red switches
  • Full RGB LED lighting
  • Smart metal design

The Bad

  • No wrist-rest
  • No extra on-board buttons
  • Few extra features

The Specs

Gateron Red mechanical switches
100% anti-ghosting
Full-size QWERTY layout with numberpad
Macro recording
RGB LEDs
460 x 135 x 41mm (WxDxH)
850g

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Cooler Master CK550

About Author

Mike Jennings

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