Let’s start off with some of the features and specs of this keyboard.
Features and Specifications
- 104 Keys
- Hybrid Mechanical
- 6KRO/ANTI-Ghosting keys (26 Keys)
- 3 Color Backlighted Keys
- 125~1000Hz Polling Rate
- 10 Programmable Keys
- On-board Memory
- Anti-Slip Rubber Feet
- Cougar UIX System Software (Drivers)
- 7 Multi-Media Keys
- Splash Proof
- 8Meter (5.9 feet) USB Cable
Ok, so let’s check out what this keyboard comes with
Right off the bat in the unboxing you will notice 2 things, the keyboard is plastic and the cable is rubber, not braided, but if you think about it,… does the keyboard need to be metal and does the cable really need to be braided. Don’t get me wrong, both are nice, but both make keyboards cost more, and this one is at a great price, but let’s move on.
The USB connection, comes with the Cougar branding
Aside from the keyboard, the box brings an instruction manual. It goes over the keys and what they do, how to install it and that’s about it.
Even though that is all the box brings, it doesn’t stop just there; there are a few nice features on this keyboard.
It has 104 keys, but those are just the physical keys, there are functions to them as well.
On the right side of the keyboard, you will find the Windows key, then a lock with it and next to it the properties keys. The windows key of course brings up the start button and the properties keys is like right clicking on a file.
Along the top right you have the Multi-media keys, from left to right: Mute, Lower Volume, Raise Volume, Play/Pause, Stop, Rewind and Fast Forward, these are aside from the obvious F9~F12, Print Screen, Scroll Lock and Pause/Break keys.
To the right of those keys you have the Polling Rate keys; these keys allow you to change the polling rate on the keyboard, from 125Hz to 1000Hz to improve the response rate of the keyboard. I usually kept it at 1000Hz, though did not really notice a difference between 125 and 1000Hz.
To the left of those, you have the F1/M1~F3/M3 keys and the F4/brightness Keys. M1 ~ M3 will change the color of the keyboard, M1 = Red, M2 = Green and M3 = Yellow. F4/Brightness allows you to change the lighting functions of the keys. The 1st function of F4 is to turn the lights on low, 2nd function is Medium, 3rd is High, 4th has the lights breath, slowly getting brighter till it turns off cycles this continuously and the 5th and final function is to turn off the lights.
Of course to use any of these extra function keys, you need a function key, here it is on the bottom left hand corner of the keyboard.
Notice, they have removed the standard Windows key there, might be good for some.
With all this talk about lighting, let’s see firsthand what they look like.
Pretty nice, and some may like the fact that even at its highest it’s not overbearingly bright to bug you during the day and overwhelm everything at night.
At night, we usually have to keep quiet to not wake people up, your parents, wife, sister, brother, girlfriend, kids or anyone because if they are awake that means less gaming time for you. I am mentioning that because while mechanical keyboards are usually meant to be loud with all the clickety clacking sounds, this one is actually pretty quiet. That’s because while it is called a mechanical keyboard, it’s more specifically called a “Hybrid Mechanical” keyboard.
This keyboard brings you the comfortable and accurate tactile feedback of a fully mechanical keyboard but the underlying membrane is activated not directly by pressing the keys, but by the fixed mechanism located under each key. What does this mean, it means that this keyboard is not truly mechanical, it really does feel like it is and it does not cost as much as a mechanical keyboard. Well, let’s first hear how quiet it is.
A standard mechanical switch looks like this.
The Hybrid Mechanical membrane looks like this.
The elevated walls means you’re not pushing down on a plastic plus, you are pushing down on the entire key, so it feels a bit more solid. Since the walls are not a solid color, they allow for the light to shine a little better.
Instead of just shinning from a little bulb, the entire enclosure appears lit.
The elevated wall also protects against accidental liquid spilling onto the keyboard. Rather than me talk to you about it though, let’s see what actually happens.
Yeah, I was a bit scared that I would have ruined the keyboard, but nope, it all worked perfectly well.
To dry it off, I had to remove all the keys, its very time consuming but you would do it too if course if this happens. I used water, so I didn’t have to clean it incredibly well, but if you spilled a soda or a beer, make sure you get everything perfectly, if not everything would be sticky… no fault of the keyboard of course.
After this was said and done, I decided to give the keyboard another whirl and do a typing test.
Still goes by quickly without a hitch after some water dropped on it, I disassembled it and put it back together wouldn’t you think?
I figured after putting it back together how did it stay so dry on the inside at least and not ruin the electronics, so I first checked out the back of the keyboard.
First off, the back is almost totally flat; the only things on the back are the Cougar 450K sticker with serial number.
And the rubber feet and pads.
Most keyboards that tout the splash proof have holes through them and through the PCB inside to allow the water to flow through the keyboard, not this one.
The reason this keyboard is splash proof is because the walls of the membranes are so high.
Then you notice that the keys themselves protect as a hood of sorts over they membranes. Here is the inside of the key.
Just a basic cap, simple yet very effective.
The base of the keyboard itself, exposes nothing, you cannot see a single hole that is not covered one the keys are in place. To expand over the PCB of the keyboard not being exposed, since the walls are so high, nothing is getting without a fight.
Last thing is the software, it does not include any software in the package but it is available for download off of Cougars website
The special features the software provides is the ability to set Macro’s to the M keys,
Access the lighting controls; adjust the polling rate (though this part was German).
Assigning keys also lets you manage the lighting, so when you use their “On-The-Fly” switching mode to select up to 3 different profiles with different keyboard layouts and lighting. This also lets you know which profile you are on.
Now normally I would have looked down on the fact that you had to install software for a keyboard, since potentially other peripherals require their own software/driver set slowing down your start up and potentially overall performance but Cougar’s UIX System software is a bit different.
Cougar seems to not like to install software for every peripheral, so their UIX software fixes that. With this piece of software, if you were to buy this keyboard and one of their mice, one piece of software would rule them both. UIX System allows you to control the keyboard and mouse all without the software, no extra piece of software is required. The software also allows you to update the firmware of the device during installation, a nice feature though since this keyboard is still very new, it did not update my firmware.
I think Cougar did a great job releasing such a feature rich keyboard for such a low price, it is not perfect, but only for reasons you may not have figured. The keyboard includes everything, though I think the polling rate option is a bit gimmicky, I can’t see any reason why anyone would chose a polling rate below 1000Hz, please correct me if I am wrong. 3 things I found wrong with the keyboard are, no USB hub, no support for 3.5mm headphones and no Apple support.
Mostly all peripherals released today are USB, that being said, there is a finite supply of USB ports on the back of a PC. Supplying a USB hub on the back of this keyboard will allow for the USB port taken up by the keyboard to be renewed but it would also potentially provide an add-on sale to one of their mice, I mean, that’s what I think anyway, though I am sure that will not significantly increase or decrease their sales.
The headphone jack, while the need for a 3.5mm headphone and microphone jack might be dwindling every day in favor, surely it would not hurt to have it. It might make it cost more, but surely not much and see, maybe you don’t have a 3.5mm headphone, you might have a USB one, there’s another need for an additional USB port.
Lastly, I myself do not own any Apple products, though my wife owns an iPhone 5C I feel like they are losing many potential sales leaving Apple users in the dark. Mind you, they would have to employee an Apple developer to write the drivers, but this would allow them to expand their portfolio to include more products for a wider audience.
- Reasonably priced
- High quality components
- Splash Proof
- Backlighting (though it does not include blue)
- Very nice tactile feel and not mechanical (helps in price allowing them not to pay royalties)
- Programmable Keys
- Thoughtful Software/Driver Suite (Though it does not require the software to be installed to function and use many of its features)
- Multi-Media keys (If your headphones don’t already have them)
- No USB Hub
- No 3.5mm Headphone/Microphone jack
- No Apple Support
- USB Cable is not braided
My final results on this keyboard, is that this is a recommended buy and even though the USB cable is not braided I don’t think it should have an impact on the overall score. Normally, I would remove a star for the fact that it does not have a USB Hub or a 3.5mm jack, but since the price is great I will only take away half a star. I give this keyboard 4.5 out of 5 Stars.