Cooler Master SK630: sexy meaningless keyboard

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

14 Jan 2019, 20:27

TL;DR
A good looking keyboard that sacrifices everything for a sleek design. It features low profile switches but it's not really that low, the stabilizers are custom so you can't change the rather uninteresting default keycaps.... and it costs an arm and a leg.

Video at the bottom

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What's in the box
The box features a nice "Cherry MX Low profile Switch" sticker and possibly that is all what this keyboard is about. Inside you'll find a rather sexy "low profile" keyboard a keypuller and a braided USB cable.

The top frame is brushed aluminum while the bottom is unfortunately plastic. The top for some reason doesn't feel like a solid piece of metal, but I opened the keyboard and it is indeed a block of aluminum, so peace of mind.

The keycaps are pretty bulky bits of plastic. They are not low profile by any means, I guess Cooler Master had to deal with the huge Cherry MX stem but still the shape and general feel of the keycaps are... mediocre.

The keyboard is backlit so keycaps are painted black and the legend lasered over. The paint job is good and it doesn't seem easy to scratch. Still, your greasy fingers will wear off the legends sooner or later.

The legends are simple, well positioned and the typeface a bit boring but better than anything you would see on a gaming keyboard.

The branding is basically inexistent, only the FN key features a trimmed down Cooler Master logo, the design is sleek the keyboard indeed looks small but with calipers at hand the SK630 is just 4mm shorter than a standard tenkeyless.

This is certainly a keyboard that likes to be looked at. The only shortcut they took is the plastic on the bottom. It's a pity, but I can understand why they didn't go full metal jacket.

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Under the hood
Removing the keycaps you are presented with the long waited Cherry ML successor... that very originally is called "Cheery MX Low Profile".

It's a red stem, so light and linear, but it feels slightly stiffer than a regular MX Red. The travel is of course short but the stem is what we all know and love. I believe Cherry is also working on a brown low profile and possibly blue (my speculation) so I guess this year we'll see more slim boards and --who knows-- laptops.

Typing on this baby is a mixed experience. On one side the sound is good, there's no rattling or wobbling, just a nice deaf "tock"; on the other the keycaps are not very comfortable to type on. The keys are flat and close to each other. There's a very light depression in the middle but not enough to be of any use.

While typing I missed quite a few keys and pressed two letters by mistake. I'm sure that it's just a matter of getting used to the new shape, but right out of the box the experience is not the best.

Also, the keycaps are not really thin, so why not go with a more sculpted design? I feel they just wanted to do it pretty or resemble a laptop keyboard at the cost of functionality. From the few hours on the SK630 I can say that it's not a keyboard you'd want to use as a daily driver, but maybe as a small companion on that secondary workstation you use for porn... or whatever.

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Dismantling it
Of course I opened it. Inside you'll find the classic Cooler Master design with an extension cable that goes from the side panel USB to the main PCB. The USB connector on the PCB alone is 5mm tall and again I don't understand the design choice. If they put the USB-C port straight on the main board they could have spared 5mm making it a really low profile keyboard.

Maybe the purpose was to just use the new Cherry switches, maybe they wanted to do a "gaming" keyboard with very light switches with a short travel. But why bothering trying to look like a low profile keyboard then? Why designing unpractical and uncomfortable keycaps?

They would have better just built a standard tenkeyless with low profile switches, standard keycaps and standard stabilizers.

Yep, because stabilizers are custom. So if you were thinking to replace the shitty defaults with something of your own, think again. Nope, can't do. The stabilizers are very good, they don't rattle and overall they do their job egregiously, but you still have standard MX stems and you can't change the keycaps. If they were good that wouldn't be an issue, the problem is that they are definitely nothing special.

Also, they absolutely needed to add a "lightbar" all around the case. The only purpose of it is to have the backlight bleed on the sides of the keyboard and doing so they managed to have an even taller keyboard.

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Features
It's all about backlight of course. The keyboard lights up in ways you humans can't even start to fathom.

Apart from a dozen custom effects you can customize your RGBs in any way you want, directly from the keyboard or --I'm guessing because it's not available yet-- from a standard Cooler Master application.

The reflective aluminum plate and the open frame design, though, make the light bleed pretty strongly from all sides. If you like sharp and unobtrusive backlighting the SK530 is not for you.

Macros and media keys (activated with the FN key) are between the feature list. Apart from that there's nothing else to report.

Only annoyance is that the USB port slot is rather slim and it only fits small cables, I had a couple around that I couldn't actually use.

Conclusions
I must say --and I can't believe I'm going to say it-- the switches are very good. Short travel, light, rather quiet and well engineered, but Cooler Master does a terrible job at taking advantage of the great switch.

The only reason to use low profile switches is to do a low profile keyboard, but the SK630 can be barely considered low profile. They didn't go the extra mile to make it really flat when they totally could... and should.

Let's say that what they really wanted to do was a gaming keyboard. Short travel switches are always longed by gamers. Why trying to do an hybrid low-profilish keyboard with weird and not replaceable keycaps then?! Don't forget that this is a premium priced keyboard, well over today's average for a TKL. So who is this aimed to?

I feel it's a missed opportunity for Cooler Master because the keyboard is well build, solid, with a good sound and a good feel but as it is now it's just pretty, almost a proof of concept for rich trendy people who use the PC very little.


User avatar
TheInverseKey

14 Jan 2019, 22:13

How is the bottom out feel? As a person that types like a 200 pound gorilla this is something to take into consideration.

Also is it possible to have a spring comparison to regular reds?

User avatar
Muirium
µ

14 Jan 2019, 23:08

matt3o wrote:
14 Jan 2019, 20:27
From the few hours on the SK630 I can say that it's not a keyboard you'd want to use as a daily driver, but maybe as a small companion on that secondary workstation you use for porn... or whatever.
A wankstation!?!

It's nice that CM is cool with your 100% honest reviews. What would be much better for them, and for us, is if they let us opinionated outsiders give feedback earlier in their development process. The mistakes you've highlighted with this board could have all been fixed along the way.

Any chance Cherry will dampen these switches like they have with MX silents? Those would be intriguing for low profile / quiet travel custom keyboards. Especially if they're MX PCB compatible and normal stabs will still work.

<Looks at your PCB shot> Oh… guess not.

EthanCoe

14 Jan 2019, 23:25

Great review, matt3o.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

14 Jan 2019, 23:40

TheInverseKey wrote:
14 Jan 2019, 22:13
How is the bottom out feel?
they are really good switches, with a nice force up and down. I could see myself typing on them no problem.
TheInverseKey wrote:
14 Jan 2019, 22:13
Also is it possible to have a spring comparison to regular reds?
I'll certainly do that.
Muirium wrote:
14 Jan 2019, 23:08
It's nice that CM is cool with your 100% honest reviews. What would be much better for them, and for us, is if they let us opinionated outsiders give feedback earlier in their development process. The mistakes you've highlighted with this board could have all been fixed along the way.
they don't listen, they have their own dynamics and when a product is lined up there's nothing you can do about it. That's my opinion after having worked with them a little. But they learn and try to do better the following year. Cooler Master keyboards after all are nice all around keyboards.

User avatar
Darkshado

15 Jan 2019, 04:48

Are the inserts and their position compatible with Costar stabs by any chance?

User avatar
stratokaster

15 Jan 2019, 09:27

Thanks for the excellent review, Matt3o!

I actually like pretty much everything about this keyboard: the slim form-factor, the looks and the USB-C connector. Shame about the keycaps though...

Findecanor

15 Jan 2019, 23:58

Not counting the stabilisers, how is the fit of standard 1×1 Cherry MX keycaps on those switches?
It looks like the switch housing is a bit wider than Cherry MX and I have been afraid that regular keycap's "skirts" would collide with them.

I'm especially interested in how thick-walled Cherry profile would do, and if Cherry G80-3800/3850 keycaps would work: the latter having relatively thin-walled skirts straight down near the bottom so maybe they would fit better?
matt3o wrote:
14 Jan 2019, 20:27
From the few hours on the SK630 I can say that it's not a keyboard you'd want to use as a daily driver, but maybe as a small companion on that secondary workstation you use for porn... or whatever.
Those flat key tops sure look like they are easy to wipe clean. :P

I must say that I like the idea of some of the Kailh low-profile keyboards having low-profile sculpted keycaps. The angling looks a bit less than full-travel keys but still...
I've heard the Cherry MX-LP would feel better than the Kailh. Hopefully some other manufacturer will release a more interesting low-profile Cherry MX-LP keyboard than this.

Weird that they didn't make the USB-Type C socket flush with the case: then the connector's thickness would not matter.

User avatar
Hlogooo

16 Jan 2019, 06:31

I just wonder if the G20 keycaps can be used on the low profile switches?

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

16 Jan 2019, 08:05

Darkshado wrote:
15 Jan 2019, 04:48
Are the inserts and their position compatible with Costar stabs by any chance?
no they aren't
Findecanor wrote:
15 Jan 2019, 23:58
Not counting the stabilisers, how is the fit of standard 1×1 Cherry MX keycaps on those switches?
It looks like the switch housing is a bit wider than Cherry MX and I have been afraid that regular keycap's "skirts" would collide with them.
I haven't tried many, but the few keycaps I tried worked just fine.
Findecanor wrote:
15 Jan 2019, 23:58
Weird that they didn't make the USB-Type C socket flush with the case: then the connector's thickness would not matter.
They probably wanted to make the USB stronger, but they didn't think to make the socket wider for better compatibility.

LeslieAnn

18 Jan 2019, 06:14

Attaching the USB port to the PCB creates stress on the connector, I see in laptops all the time, give it enough tugs and the solder joints break. It's MUCH more reliable long term to put the port on an extension. This not only allows for give and removes the stress from the board, but also means replacing it is easy if there ever is a problem.

Findecanor

27 Mar 2019, 22:51

Edit: I found a footprint for the Cherry MX Low Profile on Keebio's github.

Findecanor

04 Jun 2019, 09:17

I heard in a video that Cooler Master would have said at some time that they had planned this keyboard to be wireless.
That explains why this keyboard is higher than it needs to be: there is space in the bottom for flat batteries! You can see rectangular brackets for them in Matt3o's video at the 5:18 mark.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

04 Jun 2019, 09:33

Findecanor wrote:
04 Jun 2019, 09:17
I heard in a video that Cooler Master would have said at some time that they had planned this keyboard to be wireless.
That explains why this keyboard is higher than it needs to be: there is space in the bottom for flat batteries! You can see rectangular brackets for them in Matt3o's video at the 5:18 mark.
yes Cooler Master confirmed that to me.

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