keyboard spotlight: the Masterkeys S

way back when - almost a decade ago - i bought a Corsair K95 RGB LED keyboard after seeing a video where someone synced their own keyboard up to their music. although i came for the RGB, i stayed for the keyboard itself - my first experience with Cherry MX keys.

since then, i've been really fascinated with keyboards. but that's not what i am covering in this post - i'm not sure i could cover it in any single post. all you need to know, contextually, is that i've bought and used many a keyboard over the years and i enjoy talking about them.

the best kind of generic

i'm not sure what sort of images are evoked when someone says they are a keyboard enthusiast. if you're imagining someone spending thousands of dollars on alien-looking devices that look at home in a cyberpunk novel... i'm not quite at that level. for me, it's pretty simple: i do alot of work on the computer. i need something that:

perhaps as importantly for the reader is what i did not consider important:

if I had to describe my perfect entry-level keyboard, it would be the now-discontinued CoolerMaster Masterkeys S. none of the keyboards i have used since managed to be this feature-complete, and few of them could match the ~$90 price point.

one of the earliest images i have of my MasterKeys S. i sure do miss it!

stylewise, it was nice and simple. no loud logos, no 'gamer' style molded plastic greebling, nothing like that. it was a 'high profile' style, as opposed to alot of newer models with the 'floating'/'island' style layouts. the USB cable was removable, which made tossing it in a bag and taking it with you even easier.

the keys were extra thick... better quality than some hundred-dollar keycaps i've used.

the firmware was was a labor of love. when you plugged it in for the first time, it wasn't another 'Generic USB Keyboard' device... it identified by its product model name. it worked across all operating systems, and to help with this it had one of the coolest features i've ever seen in a keyboard: pressing shift+fn+W/M/L would set the keyboard to Windows, Mac, or Linux keys. 'Mac' mode would treat the Win/Alt keys like Cmd and Opt. 'Linux' mode would swap CapsLock with LCtrl.

probably the coolest feature, for a few extra bucks, was a special version of their Cherry MX Blue board. besides the clicky blues, they upgraded the modifier keys with Cherry MX Green switches - clicky like the Blues, but with a slightly heavier resistance that served to let you feel the difference.

my MasterKeys, with SA Dolch keycaps

but there's a reason i talk about this board in the past tense... i started doing my own modifications on it, long before i should have done so. at the time, my only experience with soldering had been centered on raspberry pi GPIO pins. between that and the fact that i was modifying a board that wasn't intended for customization, it simply did not hold up and over time i wound up breaking a connection somewhere that resulted in some keys dying.

unfortunately, i got carried away with the 'custom switches' idea...

by the time this happened... CoolerMaster had shifted gears, and introduced a 'revamped' line of keyboards. i won't spend too much time judging them here... i haven't used them. frankly i don't find them nearly as appealing visually, and while that's definitely subjective, that doesn't mean it's not important. (if anything, it makes it very important - since it's me who has to look at it!)

thanks for all the memories!

anyways, that's it i guess. the story of a keyboard and the experience i had with it. i don't think it will be remembered in the way folks talk about the Model M or anything, but in my opinion it deserves to be remembered. right in the middle of all these hundred-dollar leopolds, and duckys, and rgb-leg-gamer boards... CoolerMaster was cranking out a trusty-pickup-truck of a board for right under a hundred bucks, that punched way above its weight and looked fantastic in a spartan kind of way.