MasterKeys Pro S mechanical keyboard review
+ Compact, no frills design
+ TKL layout is more ergonomic than full length layout
+ Original Cherry MX RGB switches
+ Extensive RGB illumination modes
+ Easy to use on-keyboard macro recording and lighting options
+ Standard keys ensure compatibility with third party keycaps
- L-shaped microUSB connector limits cable routing options
- Driver software forgets about the macro capabilities of this keyboard
I have reviewed the MasterKeys Pro L by Cooler Master, and it was a very decent keyboard. Sadly my review sample was marred by a small issue, causing me not to love it to the fullest. It was also a full length keyboard, which means it features a numpad that did not see much use. Hence, we have today’s keyboard in question, the MasterKeys Pro S, which is essentially the MasterKeys Pro L, with the numpad lobbed off. Let’s begin.
It is as if Cooler Master just shrunk the box of the MasterKeys Pro L. We get the same grey theme that Cooler Master is using across most of its product packaging. Cooler Master is also very proud of the RGB lighting that the MasterKeys Pro S sports. Aside from the product image which already shows a RGB spectrum across the keyboard, Cooler Master highlighted the RGB in the product description, and also did not forget to put a little label touting the 16.7 million color RGB backlighting. Oh well.
Over on the back we have a short list of highlighted features as well as an exploded view of the MasterKeys Pro S. Once again, pretty similar to the MasterKeys Pro L.
Inside the packaging we find the keyboard which is wrapped in a reusable fabric sleeve, the microUSB cable, user manual and also a wire keycap puller. The microUSB cable features a L-shaped connector at the keyboard’s end. Not really a big issue though, as microUSB cables are plentiful in the market, including premium ones like iCable i10 Power Series microUSB cables which offer a lifetime warranty.
The MasterKeys Pro S crams all the available space with keys, which is great for reducing the footprint. A matte plastic frame surrounding the keys is quite classic, but is seemingly becoming a rarity with more and more mechanical keyboards going for an exposed metal plate design.
Underneath the MasterKeys Pro S lies four rubber feet, with single stage flip out feet to raise the top edge for a more comfortable tilt. Notably different from the MasterKeys Pro L is the absence of cable routing channels, as the MasterKeys Pro S has its microUSB connector over on the top edge.
The MasterKeys Pro S is quite thick, but the cutout corner where the top half meshes with the lower half allows it to look more interesting than the MasterKeys Pro L.
|Body material||Plastic, with metal backplate|
|Keycap||Laser etched ABS keycaps|
|USB report rate||1000 Hz|
|Switch type||Cherry MX RGB Brown|
|Microprocessor||32bit ARM Cortex M3|
|Cable||1.5m, detachable, sleeved, microUSB connector|
|Included accessories||Quick start guide, wire keycap puller, reusable fabric sleeve|
The first niggle I had with this keyboard was the L-shaped connector is bent towards the left of the keyboard. Depending on how you route your cables, this may or may not be ideal. I replaced it with my own microUSB cable with a straight connector, which is a lot more comfortable to route around because my system is located on my right, and routing the cables all the way from the right edge of the keyboard, all the way back to the left of the keyboard seems quite silly. Which is also why microUSB connectors should be the standard. Third party cables are so much easier to get, as compared to miniUSB cables. Or even better, USB Type-C, which would be great for L-shaped connectors to go either way.
The flip out feet here are similar to the MasterKeys Pro L’s, and they prove very stable in use.
No dedicated multimedia keys here, but you do get to use them by pressing Fn key with the hotkeys above the arrow keys. I rarely use the media keys on my keyboard, but those who rely on them might find pressing the Fn key and a hotkey together to be quite troublesome.
RGB is like the must have feature of every respectable mechanical keyboard, and the MasterKeys Pro S is sure not to miss out on it. The translucent keycaps let through the light from the large SMD RGB LEDs, while the white backplate allows the illumination to diffuse around the keys.
A driver software allows you to manage the comprehensive RGB lighting modes. Similar to the MasterKeys Pro L, the most glaring omission is the missing macro manager. For some reason, Cooler Master thinks that you should record and manage your macros on the keyboard itself, while the driver software is to be used only for managing the RGB effects.
Cherry MX RGB Brown switches are the ones in the MasterKeys Pro S I am testing. Apparently Brown switches are really popular, and they can be in shortage right now. Well for a good reason. If you have never felt a Cherry MX Brown switch, you owe it to yourself to try it. The tactile feedback that Brown switches offer is the reason why they are my favorite switches. But Cherry MX RGB switches do tend to feel slightly different from their non-RGB counterparts, so you have that to live with that too in case you are coming from a Cherry MX Brown keyboard.
Essentially, using the MasterKeys Pro S is a bliss. The TKL layout is definitely more ergonomic than full length keyboards as you get to keep your arms closer together, so there is that. The only thing I could ask for to improve the overall experience with this keyboard is PBT keycaps, but that might raise the price to beyond what most consumers are willing to pay for a pretty standard RGB keyboard. However if you are inclined to go get some PBT keycaps, do know that the MasterKeys Pro S has standard sized keys, which means that almost any third party keycaps will fit. You can easily source custom keycaps to Make It Yours.
If you want a keyboard that looks good without going for unnecessary gimmick and questionable design decisions, the MasterKeys Pro S is a good bet. The only complaint I have regarding this keyboard is the driver software which omits the macro manager for some reason. Aside from that, there is really nothing in the way of getting this keyboard. The SRP is RM599 but searching on Lelong.my revealed a few cheaper deals. The MasterKeys Pro S is a great keyboard with excellent build quality, extensive RGB lighting effects, and macro programming, although for the latter you will need to do it all on the keyboard itself. For that, I believe it deserves our Silver Pokdeward.