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Cooler Master MS-121 Keyboard Review
Review By @ 04:26pm 21/11/17
Product: Cooler Master MS-121
Type: Membrane Keyboard
Price: $99.00 RRP (with mouse)
Availability: Out Now
Link: coolermaster.com/peripheral/keyboards/masterset-ms121/

Cooler Master’s new hybrid keyboard sports a modern mechanical keyboard feel and overall design aesthetic. The emphasis is all-standard, squared keys, with no significant additions around the core 104-key layout.

Look and Feel



When I first opened the packaging and tested the keys, the crispness of the ‘click feel’ and general impression from first typing was surprisingly good. I had thought that the underlying membrane nature of the board could overshadow or reduce the pleasant, tactile nature of a mechanical keyboard. I was intrigued at the even amount of pressure required to pass the ‘click’ key gate and presumably register a keystroke.

Also, if you’re a fan of shiny keyboard LEDs then you will be satisfied in that respect with the Cooler Master MS-121. Each key is individually lit with a bright LED light. Personally, I find the whole doof doof RGB aesthetic to be a bit distracting - so quickly turned it off after trying out the various settings.

Fortunately, the presets and configuration via dedicated function keys come loaded with lots of options. You should easily find a setting to suit your style and preference, from no backlight at all to psychedelic rivers flowing across the screen.

As an affordable entry, the keyboard is all-plastic, so there is inevitably some creakiness evident when even lightly twisting. Given its position in the marketplace as something of a mid-level keyboard this was a little disappointing but not unexpected.

Specs



  • Switch Type: Mem-chanical Clicky
  • LED Color: RGB
  • Polling Rate: 125 Hz
  • Cable: Wired, USB 2.0
  • Dimensions: 441(L) x 132.5(W) x 38(H) mm
  • Product Weight: 1041.5g

The MS-121 is a little unusual, in that it is neither a true mushy membrane or mechanical board.

Instead, it sports a new proprietary key-switching technology referred to by Cooler Master as ‘Mem-chanical’. This is an intriguing notion given that MX switches do tend to be on the expensive side. As I understood it from the spec sheet, Mem-chanical switches have the same membrane opposition mechanism, but also a clicky switch that is intended to provide crisp feedback when a button is pressed.

It’s worth noting that the key caps are compatible with mechanical MX keycaps. That said, if you are someone with lots of keycaps you are probably already on board with full mechanical boards anyway. Cooler Master provide a full 104-keyboard in this model, including a complete keypad. There are no dedicated media keys, but the existence of Function key-mapped alternates along the function row is adequate.

Type Cast



As mentioned, the keyboard has a full 104 key layout including keypad. While minimal in aesthetic (aside from the RGB lighting) its layout is very serviceable and easy to navigate. Key size and placement felt very natural and it was easy to adapt to.

Unfortunately, the vaunted Mem-chanical switching was plagued with issues, at least with our review board. Some keys, notably the main Enter key and the DEL key, the click fail rate was bad enough that I had to retrain myself to primarily use the number pad enter key instead. While the clicking mechanism itself felt great, the result was that the imprecise underlying mushiness of the membrane was actually amplified. This would often lead me astray as to whether a keystroke had been registered, making effective use difficult and at times frustrating.

Sadly, for the MS-121 I reviewed, it failed to perform reliably as a functional keyboard and the innovative hybrid switching felt great but performed poorly, exacerbating the vagueness of keyclick registration, the problem that mechanical keyboards should be addressing! I promised myself to stick it out for a couple of days and while I wasn’t climbing the walls I was certainly glad to pass it on in favour of a more traditional mechanical keyboard.
What we liked
Great click feel that mimics mechanical switches
Minimal and simple design
Intuitive and natural layout
What we didn't like
Membrane hybrid didn’t really perform as expected
Fail rate for keystrokes was quite high on certain keys
Del key maddeningly also maps to the alternate key for media Play/Pause!
We gave it:
5.5
OUT OF 10
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