Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mechanical Keyboard Review: Cooler Master CM Storm Novatouch

While it looks like any of a legion of mechanical keyboards on the market today, Cooler Master's Novatouch is a landmark keyboard in several respects.  It is the first keyboard available in U.S. retail stores to use Topre's electrostatic capacitive key switches, and the first 'board anywhere to offer those switches with Cherry MX compatible stems.  That compatibility opens up typists who prefer Topre switches to a world of key cap customization previously reserved for fans of Cherry MX switches.

My Novatouch customized with two tones of blue ABS doubleshot key caps, and translucent space bar & escape key.

Beyond its unique key switch offering, the Novatouch is a bare-bones tenkeyless 'board, so minimalist that it doesn't even include LED indicators for Caps or Scroll Lock.  If you're a fan of the numpad or LEDs - functional or decorative - this may be a downside, but if you're a minimalist who prefers the typing experience of Topre switches over the various flavors of Cherry MXs, this may very well be the keyboard you've been waiting for.  The 45g-weighted keys feel slightly heavier than feather-light Cherry MX Reds, and provide a tactile "thock" that seems like a cross between the clacking of a trusty IBM buckling spring and the crumpling rubber feel of ordinary membrane keyboards.  For those who like their keys with a light touch, responsiveness, and definite tactility, it's hard to top Topre, and Cooler Master has a quality and versatile offering in the Novatouch.

Cooler Master's decision to go with a micro USB connector is inline with the widespread use of the connector for smartphones, and feels as equally robust as the mini USB connector used in previous CM Storm keyboards.  The keyboard itself feels more solidly constructed than previous CMs like the Rapid, placing the build quality roughly on par with Topre's own Realforce series and Leopold's FC660C, and arguably more robust than the legendary Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2.

While its $200 MSRP may place it squarely in the gaming and keyboard enthusiast bracket, it's actually a rather fair value proposition when compared with other Topre switch keyboard models from Topre itself (the Realforce series), Leopold (FC660C), and Fujitsu (the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2, or HHKB Pro 2, for short).  If you're a Topre fan who has been chomping at the bit for a chance to tap into the plethora of customization options available for Cherry MX 'boards, the Novatouch is your dream come true.

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