Thermaltake is famous worldwide for their vast range of PC products including Chassis, Power Supply, Cooling solution and more and they also have 2 daughter companies known as Luxa2 which deals in mobile devices and headphones and Tt eSPORTS which deals in peripherals. This time around, we have a membrane keyboard for review from Tt eSPORTS that doesn’t really need any introduction if you keep up with the PC masterrace community.
Even though Mechanical keyboards might be the ultimate choice for competitive gaming, comfort and other kind of stuff, there’s still high margin of market for the membrane keyboard for budget gamers and Tt eSPORTS is one of those brand that has something for everyone. Coming down to review, today we have the Challenger Prime gaming membrane keyboard for review.
If I’m not mistaken then Challenger Prime was the latest introduction in the Tt eSPORTS Challenger line up and here’s what the company has to say about it.
“The CHALLENGER Prime membrane gaming keyboard packs a whole lot of features at a budget friendly price. The backlighting system features red, blue, and purple LEDs for static and pulse lighting; Brightness can further adjusted via the dial in the front center of the keyboard. As with the CHALLENGER series of keyboards, the CHALLENGER Prime also features onboard memory for setting the dedicate macro keys. In addition, there are multimedia keys, shortcut keys, repeat rate and poll rate adjustment keys.”
The specific model I have has Chinese character on the key caps along with the English characters but the functionality is the same as that of a traditional English keyboard. So let’s dig right into the unboxing of the keyboard.
The Challenger Prime as with most keyboards comes in a rectangular box. The design on the front also seems to be very attractive which is a plus point as it would be easy to detect something as fancy as that in the crowd of other keyboards. So on the front we have the keyboard facing front with blue LEDs lit up then we have the Tt eSPORTS and their logo on the top of the box while the keyboard title is present at the bottom of the box and 3 features mentioned at the left bottom of the box.
Then at the back we almost have everything we need to know about the keyboard like some of the specifications and the features of the keyboard. We also have a chart that explains the function keys. We can also see the keyboard’s front lit up in Red, Blue and Purple colors and that are the only colors the LEDs on Challenger Prime lights up in.
As you open the box, you see these two manuals placed right above the keyboard that’s covered with plastic. The little manual with the dragon logo is actually the warranty card which explains process of warranty claiming while the other one is the instruction manual explaining some features and function of the keyboard. The keyboard as compared to the box is as long as that there’s not enough space left for the keyboard to move inside which is for the better. And if you notice where the manuals are standing, it’s a cardboard cover for the USB cable so there’s not enough space to move vertically as well.
And that is how the keyboard actually looks like out of the box and plastic. As seen in the pictures, the 6x macro keys are present at the left side of the keyboard while the multimedia keys are present at the top of the keyboard while a dial in between which controls the brightness of LEDs. The keyboard has a fancy design that would look really good with a neat system with the perfect color combination. And finally at the bottom we have the wrist stand that is not detachable and has the logo in between which illuminates as well.
On the back of the keyboard, in middle we have a sticker that talks about the model no., volt etc then we have two small rubber feet at the top and two large rubber feet at the bottom. Just like any keyboard, there are two stands present at each side for a little lift to the keyboard. There are no cable channeling present at the back of the keyboard which is a let down, but isn’t a must. Also if you notice, you’ll see some drainage holes on the base, these are something TteSPORTS call Anti-Spill Design. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the keyboard is completely waterproof, as neither is it mentioned by the company, but you should be fine with a few drops of liquid on the keyboard, but I would recommend cleaning the keyboard afterwards.
Next we have the cable of the keyboard which is braided and is about 1.5 meter long. This connection side of the cable also have a inline choke while this time around the USB connector is not gold plated.
Let’s take a closer look at the keyboard. As shown above, we have the 6x macro keys at the left side of the keyboard and at the top we have 6x extra keys. M1, M2 and M3 keys are for switching through profiles while the key with PC logo is used to open My Computer. The key beside that is used to open your default browser while the home key takes you to the home page in your browser.
There are also total of 8 function keys present in the left portion of the keyboard. All the function keys are accessed by pressing Fn key and the respective function key. F1 and F2 keys are used to decrease or increase the repeat rate respectively while the F3 and F4 keys are used to decrease or increase the polling rate respectively. Then we have the calculator set on F5 while refresh button on F6 and F7 and F8 are used for previous or next button. Once again, all these functions are performed by holding down the Fn key and the respective function key.
Now on the right portion of the keyboard we have some more multimedia and function keys. The multimedia keys include the pause, forward, backward, volume up, volume down and mute keys. Talking about the function keys we have the F11 which sets the LED illumination to static while the F12 key set the illumination in pulse/breathing mode, something similar to what I demonstrated in the Tesoro Excalibur Spectrum review. Also the breathing effect is the only effect available for the keyboard. The PrcScr key is used to switch between gaming and normal mode while the Scroll key is used for switching on/off the LEDs. The Pause key is used to switch between the three (Blue, Purple and Red) colors while the last key “Windows” is used to switch the function of arrow keys with WASD keys, there’s a reason WASD is written on the arrow keys. Personally what I did was just replace the keycaps of WASD with arrows.
Also if you notice, there’s a dragon a little dragon logo present just beside the NumLock LED indicator, though it does not illuminate like the logo present on the wrist stand.
Let’s have a look at the software where all the magic happens. So as you open the software, you’ll land on main control where you can see a image of the keyboard and several options. There are options like create, load, save, edit profiles and the gaming and 3 different profiles.
From the main control, you can change or I can say reassign the key characters to others. When you click on any key, a popup appears on the screen telling you to input a single key to be registered over it which replaces the original key. This function is limited to only one key and is not like setting macro, also the same can’t be done with the multimedia and macro keys. I couldn’t take the picture by pressing the PrtScr key because it will keep registering that without the function so had to use the mobile camera.
From the main control, when you press the create profile button, a popup appears asking you to name the profile and add an a path to .exe file so that whenever you load the program, the keyboard will automatically change to the profile set for that exe. You can set up to 1 path to executable for each profile.
Just beside the main control is the macro setting tabs, and as you can judge by the name, all the stuff related to macro keys happen here. If you notice at the bottom left corner, there’s a button named “Macro Manager”. What it does is open the macro manager where you can instantly record any macro combination and then later on assign the macro on the macro keys from the macro setting tab.
Now coming back to the macro setting tab, here you also have a list of pre-defined macro functions that you can select from the dropdown menu. This includes some multimedia and windows functions, you can also create shortcuts in the shortcut option or once again, just go to the macro manager and create your own macro combination.
Then finally we have the Advance setting tab where you can set the polling rate (125Hz-1000Hz) and the response time (1ms-8ms) of the keyboard. We also have the option of setting the three different LED colors of the keyboard and their brightness in this tab as well, although it can also be done by the keyboard function key and dial on it.
Concluding the software part, I didn’t had any trouble at all using or going through the tabs and it’s build pretty neatly and is easy to access.
These the are three LED colors the Challenger Prime offers.
Coming down the keys, the Challenger Prime as mentioned above is a membrane keyboard aimed at budget gamers. I really liked the soft feeling of the keys just like something you’d feel on laptops with flat keyboard though here you have to press a little bit more towards the base for registering the keys.
The Challenger Prime itself is only available in black color while it has three different LED colors, namely Red, Blue and Purple. And I think most people including me only sticks with Blue or Red colors so that’s there. A little bit of letdown was the there’s only one lighting effect present for the keyboard which is pulsing or breathing effect. A few more effects would have made the keyboard a little bit cooler.
Talking about the keyboard design/build, it really did took me a while to get adjusted to the macro keys on the left as I would often press macro keys instead of the desired keys “usually Ctrl or TAB or shift”. After two weeks of use, I can say I’m finally adjusted to the keyboard and it feels comfortable while gaming and using the macro keys, the wrist stand does a good job there as well. The keyboard also feels a little bulky for being a membrane keyboard and when considering the length of keyboard, it is quite troublesome for me, that might not be the same with others. I have a rather small table and the keyboard takes up to almost 4/6th of the space on the table and eventually while intense gaming sessions, I would slam my mouse into the keyboard. Though if you have big desk and are used to larger space, it’s not a problem you should be worried about it.
There are certain things I didn’t like about the keyboard, as nothing is perfect and we rarely get to see something that deserves the 5 stars. There’s an odd issue with the profile switch through the path to executable option. When you run the program you’ve listed in that option, the keyboard will switch to the respective profile but sometimes it would make random swaps through the profile and will leave the keyboard idle as in no keys would work until the right profile has been achieved. This is really odd having facing something that would’ve just worked right out of the box. The problem seems to be with either the software or the onboard memory of the keyboard. Whatever the case is, it is there.
Secondly, there’s no mic/headphone or USB ports on the keyboard. The design can be the reason for not including those ports as there doesn’t seems to be a perfect place to install the mic/headphone and/or USB ports, though changes could be made if they really wanted to install any. And lastly, there wasn’t any cable management option at the back of the keyboard. Though it’s not a necessary part of the review, but just something that should be mentioned.
The Challenger Prime is available for only $35 on Amazon and when considering the price verses functionality, I think the keyboard is well priced but if it was even lower, they could’ve stirred up the competition with it more. You are getting 6×3 macro keys and multiple multimedia keys with a dial in between that looks great and also have a wrist stand for comfort at the bottom, I don’t think you can go wrong with this one.
Tt eSPORTS provided us with the Challenger Prime keyboard so we could do a showcase and share thoughts on the product. All opinions are 100% mine and mine alone.