Tenkeyless keyboards (those lacking the standard rightmost number pad) are not necessarily the best gaming companions, but if your desk space is limited, the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless ($115 MSRP, $80-100 online) provides a nice mix of features in a compact package. Despite a few head-scratching functions, the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless keyboard combines comfortable typing and flawless gaming performance in a small, light form factor.
The QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless is small and light, measuring only 14.1 x 5.4 inches and weighing 2.05 pounds. Compare that to larger keyboards, such as the Logitech G710+, which measures 20.0 x 8.7 inches, or the Corsair Vengeance K95, which is a whopping 21.5 x 9.6 inches and can weigh up to 3 pounds. If saving space is your primary objective, it's hard to find a more compact gaming keyboard.
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Those who need to hunt for keys may also be pleased to note that the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless is backlit with a white light that ranges from eye-searing to almost nonexistent, depending on settings. You can adjust both the keyboard's brightness and its style of backlighting. The illumination options are surprisingly granular, ranging from solid, to pulsating, to lighting up only after users strike a key. We found some of the pulsing options to be grating, but the breadth of selections is impressive.
We found that the kickstands that prop up the keyboard left it at a fairly extreme, but comfortable, angle. The missing number pad was something of an annoyance to us, but its absence is the exact reason why people purchase tenkeyless keyboards.
The QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless offers a choice of just about every Cherry MX switch on the market. We reviewed the Cherry MX Brown model, which combines a springy feel with relatively quiet typing.
Whether users prefer the soft touch of the Reds, the springy feedback of the Browns, the satisfying resistance of the Blues, or the old-school typewriter feel of the Greens, there's a QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless to suit your preferences. This variety is always welcome, as it's better than being locked into one key type.
The keys themselves have a slightly matted texture and light indentations, ensuring that our fingers never went astray. However, with 3.3-millimeter key travel, we found them to be a bit cramped for our taste. Our fingers knocked together on a regular basis, and it took us some time to adjust.
That said, the peripheral is phenomenal when it comes to typing. Using the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, we knocked out 111 words per minute with a zero percent error rate, compared to the 106 words per minute and 1 percent error rate we got on our standard Dell office keyboard.
Due to the keyboard's small size, many of its keys pull double-duty. A Function button on the bottom right shifts the F1-F12 keys into alternate features, such as controlling media or fine-tuning backlighting. However, the inconvenient placement of this button made these secondary functions more trouble than they're worth most of the time.
A few of the keys, such as Caps Lock, also lack the capacity to light up. Why a handful of vital keys should stay dark when even questionably useful keys like Page Up and Page Down get illumination is not clear.
As the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless has no dedicated software and no macro functionality, it's a little light on unique features. The choice to make the peripheral as lightweight as possible was probably a good one, though; our experience with macros and software on tenkeyless keyboards tends to be that it mucks up an otherwise streamlined experience.
Some of the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless' features are actually rather baffling, even if they're not detrimental in the strictest sense of the word. Take its profiles feature, for example. Users can program four separate profiles and switch among them at will. This sounds useful, until you remember that the keyboard has no macros or software.
Profiles merely let you select which keys get illuminated, and it's hard to think of a situation in which this, by itself, could possibly be useful in more than a marginal sense.
In fact, one of the features on the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless made the device positively unusable right out of the box. By activating a repeated keystroke mode, users can set each key to repeat anywhere between two and eight times automatically.
This is useful if you're mashing the 1 and 2 buttons during a heated dungeon run in "World of Warcraft," but less so if you're trying to type. For some unfathomable reason, when we first set up our keyboard, it was set to the 8x mode. Setting it back to the 1x mode was not difficult, but we had no idea what was wrong until we read through the device's terse instructions. Although we contacted CM Storm about the issue, we did not receive a response.
Although we missed the number pad, we found that the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless performed admirably for the standard Tom's Guide battery of test games: "Titanfall," "StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm," "Watch Dogs" and "Star Wars: The Old Republic."
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The keyboard worked particularly well for "Titanfall" and "Heart of the Swarm," in which leaping around a futuristic warzone or controlling massive sci-fi armies was dependent on just a few keys and fast mouse work. In games like "Watch Dogs" and "The Old Republic," where the extra keys can often come in handy to access inventory and skill shortcuts, we felt their absence a bit more keenly.
The QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless also supports a rollover of 10 keys, meaning that you probably don't have enough fingers to press more buttons than it can handle at once.
The ironic thing about the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless is that it tries to cram in as many extra features as possible, when its most salient quality is actually its streamlined, simple design. If you can ignore the extraneous functions (and you can), the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless is a compact, workmanlike peripheral that gets the job done without any fuss.
Considering that you could spend considerably more money on a much less efficient tenkeyless keyboard, the QuickFire Rapid Tenkeyless is definitely worth a look.
Actuation: 50 g
Key Travel: 3.3 mm
In-Key Rollover: 10
Size: 14.1 x 5.4 x 1.5 inches
Weight: 2.05 pounds