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Cooler Master's CK552 mechanical gaming keyboard reviewed

Bright lights for a low price

I'm a mechanical keyboard nerd from way back. I learned to type on TRS-80s and IBM Model Fs. However, my very first Cherry MX-style mechanical keyboard was a Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid tenkeyless model equipped with red switches. That was a good while ago—in 2011 or thereabouts—and so it's well past time that I checked in with CM to see what's going on. As it happens, the company recently released the first keyboards in its new CK series. Let's have a look at the Cooler Master CK552 mechanical gaming keyboard.

Much like the mouse I just took a look at, Cooler Master's CK552 is perhaps better defined by the features it doesn't have. This is a beautifully basic mechanical gaming keyboard that doesn't have a pile of extra macro buttons, gimmicky detachable sections, or a built-in wrist rest. What it does offer is a typing experience slick as motor oil along with some of the most beautiful RGB LED lighting I've ever seen.

Cooler Master CK552 Keyboard
Interface USB
Polling Rate 1 KHz
Keyswitch Mfr. Gateron
Keyswitch Type Red (Linear, silent)
Layout Standard 104-key
Built-in lighting Per-key configurable RGB
Cable 1.8m rubberized
key rollover
On-board memory yes

Now, the keyboard we're looking at today is the CK552. However, I want to note that it has some cousins to which it is very closely related. The CK550 series is functionally the same keyboard with a gunmetal grey face and your choice of Gateron blue, brown, or red switches. The CK552 only comes with Gateron red switches, and it's exclusive to Best Buy, Staples Canada, and EB Games stores. Dedicated typists may prefer the brown switches' tactile feedback or the blue switches' audible click, but red switches' linear motion and relative silence are arguably the best-suited for gaming. This keyboard is among the quieter mechanical keyboards I've used, too.

Like I already hinted at, the switches on these keyboards are manufactured by Gateron rather than Cherry, but as a long-time user of products with both companies' hardware inside, I can tell you that the Gateron switches are at least the equal of Cherry's. The Apex M750's QX2 switches were also built by Gateron, and I quite liked those, too. It should be no surprise then, when I tell you that the CK552 is absolutely lovely to type on. All 104 keys in its mostly-standard layout have Gateron switches underneath. 

I say "mostly-standard" because, while all of the keys are the standard size and spacing (meaning that keycap sets will fit on just fine), Cooler Master has elected to replace the right-hand Menu key with a CM logo key that is used to access the vast array of second-layer functions. Just like the RK-9000V2 RGB keyboard that I reviewed, the CK552 can be configured entirely using logo-key shortcuts. That includes not only the lighting but also the macro and profile functions.

This isn't the "quick start guide", which is even less informative.

The image above is taken from the one-page "manual" for the keyboard, and lists the available hotkeys. The media and volume controls are smartly placed on the editing block, so they're easily accessible while holding the CM logo key with a thumb. Most of the rest of the controls will require two hands, but aside from using logo+numeral to toggle profiles you'll probably want to use Cooler Master's software to manage those bits. Still, it's very cool that you can completely configure the keyboard without using CM's software.