CM Storm Quick Fire TK Stealth Review - Performance and Conclusion
Firing the TK Stealth up, our first impressions are pretty good. Installation is as easy as it gets, with no extra driver needed, indeed there isn’t even one available. The few little tricks the TK Stealth has up its sleeve it can perform all by itself.
Starting to type, the rubber feet and surprising weight of this keyboard provide a firm grip on the surface of your desk and the key action is lovely. You can pick up the TK Stealth with either Cherry MX Blue, Brown or Red switches, and we were provided with a Brown model. We like almost all the Cherry key types but were reminded just how easy a typing experience Brown switches provide. They’re lightweight yet have just the right amount of feedback for effortless touch-typing.
Somewhat exposing our need for more practice at true touch-typing, we did struggle a little with the stealth keys, especially when placing our hands to start typing and when trying to locate special keys. In particular there’s a lot to be said for dedicated multimedia controls. The whole Fn key arrangement just made for a few too many extra steps for our liking.
The main problem with this keyboard, though, is that TK layout. Whether it was the combination of the Stealth keys and the TK layout or just the TK layout alone, we’re not sure, but we suspect the problems wouldn’t be entirely solved even with clearer labelling.
Essentially, we simply couldn’t get the hang of it. In two weeks of daily use it still didn’t come naturally to be able to pick out, in particular, any of the Del, Home and End keys. Flipping to number mode we again found it just confusing enough to hamper our typing speed. Moreover, we found that it was often when typing numbers that we’d want to use the cursor keys – the joys of editing for a living.
Delving a little deeper into why we couldn’t get used to the layout, when in cursor mode we found the slightly different layout meant it didn’t feel at all natural. Normal cursor keys and Home/End keys are surrounded by a certain amount of blank space which allows you to plant your hand with assurance. Here we ended up fumbling around a lot of the time, pressing the top row of keys (Num Lock, PrintSc, Scroll lock) when meaning to press the second row (Ins, Home, PgUp).
The other issue, we suspect, is the inconsistent labelling and use of backlighting. When in cursor mode, only the cursor keys are backlit but when in number mode none of the keys are backlit and the Num Lock indicator in the top right corner is illuminated. This means it’s relatively easy to hit the cursor keys correctly but less so the other keys. Then when in numpad mode the cursor key labels are all grey (because of the backlighting construction) whereas the rest are white.
As such we wonder whether it would’ve been a better idea to have, say, all the keys backlit in cursor mode then all off in number mode, but crucially the labelling would be such that the white non-backlit labels are larger and clearer while the backlit labels are rendered almost invisible when not illuminated – the labels could even overlap potentially. Either that or just use clearer, different-coloured labels, perhaps.
Regardless, there’s a reasonable chance you could get the hang of this layout with time. We just wonder quite how much time it would take though.
Somewhat contradicting our thoughts on the backlighting, we did also find that aesthetically the smattering of backlights – and the leaked light that floods the area below the keys – does look a little messy. It seems to us it should be all or nothing, or at least the light bleed should be better controlled to maintain that stealthy look.
The CM Storm Quick Fire TK Stealth achieves what it sets out to do: it’s a compact, stealthy-looking mechanical keyboard. It’s also well-made, looks the part and is a pleasure to type on, mostly.
However, we couldn’t quite get on with the combination of the stealthed keys and the multi-purpose TK layout, with us regularly making mistakes while trying to use the combined cursor and num pad keys. Others may find they can get the hang of the layout but in two weeks of use we still found ourselves wishing for a conventional layout, such as provided by the Corsair K65 or by the also stealthy Filco Ninja MajesTouch tenkeyless.
If you think you will be able to get the hang of the typing experience, though, and like the stealth look then there’s plenty to like here, with the price at review of around £75 being very competitive for the features on offer too.