The Pint-Sized Flagship
We check out the tenkeyless version of the MK750
In November 2017, Cooler Master released their flagship keyboard, the MasterKeys MK750. With its successor, the MK850, just around the corner, they’ve released its little brother, the MK730. It’s a tenkeyless version of the original, but when I saw that, one, it was only $119.99, and two, we’d never reviewed the original MK750, I knew that we had to take a look. Is this the small form factor keyboard you’ve been waiting for? Let’s dig in and find out.
- Switch Type: CHERRY MX Red, Blue (reviewed), Brown
- Material: Plastic / Aluminum / PU Leather
- Color: Smoky Gunmetal Aluminum Brush
- LED Color: RGB, 16.7 million colors
- Polling Rate: 1000Hz
- Response Rate: 1ms / 1000Hz
- MCU: 32bit ARM Cortex M3
- On board Memory: 512KB
- On-the-fly system: Yes, for Multimedia, Macro Recording and Lighting Control
- Multi-media Keys: Through Function (FN) Key
- Smart cable manager: Yes, 3 Ways
- Wrist rest: Removable magnetic with soft PU Leather
- Cable: Detachable braided USB Type-C
- Software Support: Yes, Portal
- Connector Cable: USB 2.0
- Cable Length: 1.8m
- Dimensions: 360 x 192 x 41.5 mm, 360 x 183.5 x 41.5 mm (Without Wrist Rest)
- Product Weight (without cable): 698g
- Warranty: 2 years
- Current Pricing: $119.99, Amazon.com
Starting with packaging, we find the usual purple and grey aesthetic with beautiful product shot Cooler Master has been running with for some time. It’s eye-catching, and around the back they do a good job of breaking down the key features. As you’d expect from a high-end keyboard in 2019, we have per-key backlighting, an aluminum top plate, and more programmability than most of us will ever use. The MK730 also features the excellent on-the-fly macro and lighting recording Cooler Master has become so well known for.
Inside the box, the keyboard arrives inside a nice fabric sleeve to keep it safe and dust-free while traveling. Shipping the board inside its sleeve goes a long way to making it feel high-end and luxurious. It sounds silly, but it’s a bit like opening a jewelry box, pulling away that velvety sleeve.
Looking a little more closely at the keyboard, we see that it features a very traditional 87-key layout – a standard keyboard without the number pad. A couple of things stand out right away, though. First: the smoky gunmetal aluminum finish looks very slick. I really like the darker overall look over the keyboard and how it isolates the under-key lighting just a touch more than a more reflective finish.Second, this keyboard is rife with secondary functions.
The function row essentially doubles as a programming row. Along the left side, F1-F8 control all of your lighting effects. F2-F4 act as an onboard palette mixer with ten levels of brightness for each hue. F5 cycles through nearly 20 pre-programmed animations and effects, just about half of which are color customizable. F6 and F7 allow you to set the hue for the foreground and background lighting (for example, a static hue that changes when you press a key), and F8 puts the keyboard into a Demo mode. In the picture above, you can also see some of the side-legends placed on keys 1-4 which control which profile you’re currently on.
On the right side of the keyboard we have our macro and LED programming, as well as out media controls. Programming a macro is quick and easy and doesn’t require software. There’s also plentiful onboard memory; each profile is store 20 separate macros, mapped to any key. This also makes it easy to swap key placements, so if you’re a fan of alternative layouts like DVORAK, you can set that up fairly easy; not as easy as an enthusiast board with a good set of DIP switches, but it’s still doable. Removing a macro or resetting the whole keyboard to default settings is also easy only requires a quick FN combo.
The model we tested uses Cherry MX Blue switches. The keyboard is also available in Red and Brown varieties. As expected, they feel great. Cherry MX Blues have an audible click to them which is great if you do a lot of writing. They have a lifespan of 50 million clicks, so should outlast virtually every other part of the keyboard, and have a light actuation force of 50cN, so they’re light to the touch. Since they’re genuine Cherry switches, you know the typing experience will be uniform and reliable across every key.
Keycaps aren’t something most gamers worry about but the number of customers who do care is clearly rising. On the right are the stock, single-shot UV coated keycaps that come pre-installed on the keyboard. They’re exactly the same as most mainstream keyboards and are made from ABS plastic. Over time, they develop the telltale “shine” from normal wear. On the left we can see one of the optional PBT caps included in the box. It’s double-shot and much thicker, plus looks nice when installed too. I’ll still hold out hope we see full sets of these become the norm. There’s not really enough here to get a sense for how much nicer they feel to type on but the standard layout means that changing to a full PBT set should be easy.
The MK730 adopts the common “floating key” design which exposes the switch-tops underneath each key. As expected, it looks great fully illuminated. It allows for a lot of light spill (though not so much as you’d expect thanks to the top plate’s finish) but becomes a selling point in a design like this.
The picture above also shows us the nicely braided and detachable USB-C cable. You can also see cut-outs on the near and far sides where the cable can be routed to line up with your desk setup. I would have liked to see a USB passthrough but at this price point, the trade-off is a thinner, easier to manage cable.
The left and right sides, as well as the foot of the keyboard, all feature illuminated and fully customizable light bars. I had hoped that Cooler Master would have updated the plastic to remove the dark tint on the foot but unfortunately it remains the same dark finish as on the MK750. On one hand, the dark, glossy finish looks nice, but it also drastically dims the bar to almost pointless levels. I had to dig around in the software to realize that the picture above was at full brightness and it just pales in comparison to the rest of the board.
It’s disappointing but perhaps not the biggest loss since the magnetic wrist rest completely covers this surface. Still, as someone who doesn’t use the admittedly very nice wrist rest, I would preferred the most visible bar to be a little more striking than what’s delivered here.
Software and Programmability
If you’ve used a Cooler Master keyboard before, then you have a good idea of what to expect here. Without ever downloading a piece of software, you can swap between and customize a large array of preset effects, including your usual rainbow waves, breathes, and other expected effects, as well as a few unique ones like the lighting strike-like Crosshair. Likewise, you can set your own static lighting layouts using the built-in RGB mixer. Macros can also be easily recorded using a quick key set of key combinations. All of this is also customizable inside Cooler Master’s Portal software.
The capabilities here are nearly identical to the low profile SK630 we reviewed last week. We won’t go over everything again here and encourage you to go back and read that review for a full rundown, but suffice it to say that CM’s onboard tools are some of the best in the business. Their software, while not the most in-depth, is full-featured, user friendly, and allows you to accomplish the vast majority of your programming needs with little time and a modicum of effort.
Usage Impressions and Conclusion
As a smaller version of a keyboard I very much enjoyed when it released in 2017, the TKL lives up to my expectations. Nothing has been lost in the shift to TKL and, in fact, for gaming the form factor is even better. The smaller footprint leaves more room for the mouse hand, which frees up low sensitivity gamers for the sweeping mouse movements common to games like CS:GO.
For typing and productivity, I did miss the numpad at times but loved the feel of the Cherry MX Blue switches. Compared to the linear red switches or ultra-sensitive speed switches so common on gaming keyboards, blues feel much more comfortable under my fingers and result in far fewer typos and editing work. The solid build also minimizes extra key noise from noisy, wobbly keycaps and reverberation from hollow points inside the body.
As of today, Cooler Master has also released a new flagship with the MK850 making this a smaller version of what’s now a last generation keyboard. Given those points, I would really like to have seen this priced at $99.99 or less.
Taken as a whole, the MK730 is a very good keyboard that should satisfy gamers both hardcore and casual. For office use, it’s a bit too flashy to not raise eyebrows, but if you don’t mind the eye candy, the TKL size and included case make it a good option to carry between work and home.
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