I have heard it said a thousand times that “a keyboard is just a keyboard”, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. A keyboard is the direct input tool between you and the box of components that makes all the wondrous computing things happen. Without a keyboard, your PC is just a bunch of powerful electrical parts, incapable of unleashing their true power. However, your keyboard needn’t be a ridiculously expensive input tool, and the Cooler Master CK350 proves just that.
Getting right down to how well it works, the Cooler Master CK350 is an incredible budget keyboard. Cooler Master has decided to skip the gimmicky tricks for marketing purposes, keeping the necessary performance aspects, all while ensuring the cost remains low. By using Outemu Red Linear Mechanical switches rather than Cherry MX, the CK350 is able to remain performance-optimised, while lowering the impact on your wallet. The CK350 is also available in Brown and Blue switch variants (mmm, Blue switches), which Cooler Master will offer at a later stage. The keycaps are easily removed, allowing you to add customised keycaps, as well as making your job of cleaning the KB thoroughly that much easier.
Now, I am not saying that Outemu switches are as great as Cherry MX but - while I do still maintain that Cherry MX is the preferred choice of the “serious” gamer - Outemu is the next big thing. To be honest, the only real difference I have felt between authentic Cherry MX switches and the Outemu Red switches used in the CK350, is that the Outemu switches feel slightly more springy, requiring slightly more effort to depress fully. However, this doesn’t cause increased fatigue in your fingers compared to Cherry MX, and it will take a good couple of hours of typing to make your hands sore. The Outemu switches do suffer from one noticeable flaw, which is the level at which the key needs to be pressed in order to activate the signal.
Outemu switches work on a similar principle to that of Cherry MX, in that the Red Linear switches do not offer a tactile bump or audible click. Not only does this reduce noise production, but is favoured amongst gamers for the linear key press, preventing any possible resistance/cause for a failed key press attempt. However, while Cherry MX offers a “variable” input on their switches (think of the analogue triggers on console gamepads), the Outemu switches don’t seem to offer as great of functionality. However, the cost of Outemu switches are lower, and they are slowly becoming the favoured switch type of the more budget-oriented peripheral, though they do lack the same performance of the Cherry MX. That being said, they are still the next best thing to Cherry MX switches, and really, what’s wrong with second to the best switch manufacture in the world?
When it comes to gaming, the 1000Mhz/1 ms response time is exactly what you need for even the most serious and brutal competitive gaming, as well as lengthy and casual gameplay. The 1.8m fixed cable connects to a USB 2.0 port anywhere on your PC, and while some may not need to connect straight to the motherboard, I preferred to use this method as it gave me the best performance possible. Connecting to any USB 2.0 port (I mean, who really has these on a gaming PC?) will do perfectly fine, however, with an almost negligible difference between connection points. Furthermore, the N-key rollover ensures that every key press is registered and translated into movement on-screen.
Obviously, the most rigorous testing I could put the CK350 through is all-nighter comps in CS:GO and round after round of Overwatch. While other titles might be more intensive in terms of key presses, the responsiveness is what I was really after. It’s all good and well to say that a KB has a 1000 MHz response time, but the most important result comes from actual field duty. In CS:GO, the switches were so smooth that I actually started strafing without even realising that I was pressing the A/D keys. Also, moving backwards and forwards felt as though I simply needed to think about it and it happened on screen.
The movement was so smooth, in fact, that I often moved forward accidentally, causing my untimely demise; both problems that I also encountered in Overwatch. Most importantly, though, once I got used to the key presses, my movement was significantly more responsive and reactive compared to my usual mechanical-membrane keyboard, and though I wasn’t able to instantly qualify for any e-sports clans, my in-game performance was surely enhanced.
Now, not everyone will be interested in having the best response time and smoothest key presses, especially not those focused on keeping their budget low. Thankfully, Cooler Master has recognised this in their design of the CK350, as it is also an incredibly comfortable keyboard to use for extended periods of time. Playing an RPG is slower but taxes the fingers more as there are more intricate key presses involved. Switching between inventories, quick-swapping weapons, chugging consumables, and the bevy of other RPG mechanics never taxed my hand to the point where I needed to stop. Even after a full week of typing all day on the CK350, and then playing at night, my hands emerged unscatehed.
The second most important aspect of a gaming-focused keyboard (and to some, the most important) is how the KB looks on your desk and fits in well with your ecosystem. While some may not really pay attention to the lighting and how well it all fits in and compliments your current build, the CK350 will probably change your mind.
The brushed aluminium finish gives the budget KB a premium look, with the per-key RGB lighting glinting off the gunmetal black finish giving off a minimalist, yet stunning, aesthetic. The customisable patterns, colours, and effects - all customisable without needing software for on-the-fly adjustment - not only exaggerates your play mood, it determines it. Personally, my favourite colour configuration has been a sort-of per-key rainbow effect, making the CK350 look like a vibrant, colourful mosaic, gleaming off of my desk.
The CK350 comes in at 440mm x 1400mm x 45mm, including the numpad, which is almost the perfect size for a KB. The keys are perfectly spaced to reach for typing, and for gaming as well. The CK350 has tons of functionality packed in, with lighting effects, patterns, brightness, and media tools all accessible by pressing the Cooler Master logo button. Also, there are set programmes that you can access and store for quick loading directly from the keyboard. Finally, there is a three-way cable management system, allowing you to route your KB cable to the left, right, or right down the middle. While a small feature, I feel that this is something incredibly important to the aesthetic of your set-up, and I am so happy that Cooler Master included it in the CK350.
Honestly, I could babble on and on about the Cooler Master CK350 but, overall, it’s a fairly simple conclusion. The CK350 Gaming Mechanical Keyboard is a low-frill keyboard that chooses function and versatility over flashy marketing tools. The pin-point accuracy and enhanced responsiveness of the keys, combined with the on-the-fly controls for media and performance, as well as the brushed gunmetal aluminium finish, make the CK350 not only one of the best budget KB’s around, but a good contender against the premiere alternatives.
The Masterkeys MK750 keyboard is a straightforward, minimalist peripheral designed for performance with just a sprinkling of flair. The slim profile with the red, floating Cherry MX switches makes it both sleek and alluring in its elegance. A quintessential keyboard for those looking to get something that shows, rather than tells.
The Masterkeys MK750 has a very minimalistic approach to design. It replaced gaudy, sharp lines with a sleek, single piece of anodised aluminium. The streamlined design is complemented by a full-size number pad, but lacks the vast array of macro keys that one would expect to be littered across these keyboards. Instead, you are greeted with the subtle presence of programmable keys, hidden within the number row, on the left side of a keyboard.
Setting up the keyboard was easy - simply plug in the MK750's braided USB-C cable into the back of the keyboard, and then into your computer. Adjusting the colours is as simple as holding down the “FN” button and then picking a preset of your choosing through a key combination. Fun fact: I never read the booklet provided at first, leaving me to decipher exactly how the colour combinations work by myself.
It isn’t exactly the simplest set of combinations to learn but, after just a few hours of use, you will be tuning the RGB to your needs with ease. There are over 20 different modes, including the rather welcomed ability to play snake on your keyboard. Honestly, what Cooler Master has done just using RGB lighting in unique ways is amazing. You can tune it to specifically match the design of your PC or use it for fully functional purposes, such as highlighting software-specific function keys. Anything from the gaming mode that allows you to focus your key presses on specific RGB-lit keys, to the ability to display your CPU usage on the keyboard itself.
The RGB keys sit atop a selection of Cherry MX switches, which perfectly suit your gaming needs and gives enough feedback for those who spend their days typing. Key spacing is fairly standard for a mechanical keyboard of this size and typing feels very natural. Once I got used to the floating switches, typing became a breeze. There is a rather nifty set of media keys resting just above the keypad of the MK750, and are recessed to avoid accidental pushes. The media keys are devoid of a dedicated volume button, but access to the quick toggle function is relatively easy and could be done without even looking.
The MK750 is paired with a magnetic, leather palm rest. People with normal-sized hands should have no problem reaching any key without hassle. Compared to the competition, the Masterkeys MK750’s wrist rest has a small form factor, is very comfortable, and easy-to-clean. What I did find bizarre, was the fact that the wrist rest conceals the RGB branding found at the base of the keyboard. Cooler Master has placed lighting accents on all sides that provide an ambient glow, which coincides with the desktop colour scheme. However, placing the wrist rest over it completely obscures the light, which is a rather odd choice. That being said, you will want to keep the wrist rest attached because it offers premium comfort and you would be doing a disservice for not equipping it.
As a gaming-focused mechanical keyboard, Cooler Master has opted for on-the-fly macro mapping option. Pressing the function key allows you to record macros based on your exact needs. I found the system rather intuitive and felt it came in handy when I need to get an edge on my foes. For example, I was playing Battlefield V to test the keyboard and found I needed a better button for healing. Simply assigning the macro mid-game got me back into the action without the need to exit the title completely and rebind keys. That level of functionality is where the Cooler Master MK750 excels. While there is a software option available for remapping, Cooler Master has done an amazing job of ensuring you never have to go beyond a few key presses to get something done.
That no-nonsense approach reflects Cooler Masters’ idea of what the type of gamer this keyboard was meant for. Someone who wants to just plug the keyboard into their PC, customise the buttons and lighting to their needs, and get on with it.
Realistically, we don’t look at keyboards just for their features, but also comfortable and intuitive they are to use. In that regard, the Cooler Master MK750 is perfect for the gamer who needs to balance work, aesthetics, and gaming performance. The red Cherry MX switches that came with our review sample were an ideal option for gaming and typing on a daily basis. I didn’t feel the need to change the keyboard once, and I’m actually going to be sad when I have to send this unit back. The MK750 does a phenomenal job of blending into your lifestyle without the need for hardcore adjustments. For years, I have stayed away from mechanical keyboards because I thought they were only for the hardcore gamer, but Cooler Master has proven that there is more to their keyboard than meets the eye.
These features come at a reasonable price of R2150, with the closest competition circling around the R3K mark. That is why I can safely recommend the Cooler Master Masterkeys MK750 as a keyboard of choice for those who want to see what the premium mechanical keyboard market has in store for them.
Cooler Master has made amazing strides over the past few years with their products. This keyboard is for those who want solid build quality, amazing performance in gaming and productivity, and a price that justifies its functionality.
Motherboards are often left as an afterthought when it comes to building a PC, with CPUs and GPUs, even RAM, taking presidence. However, a motherboard is actually one of the most critical components in a PC, as it acts as the central communication platform between parts, kind of like the Central Nervous System in your body. The MSi X470 AMD Gaming Plus is a fantastic way for you to get the most of your components, and is a fantastic CNS for your computer.
Out the box
Unboxing a motherboard is one of the single greatest things about unboxing PC parts, because it’s like staring at the naked skeleton of your new system. You look at the empty CPU socket that’s about to be filled with the glorious brain that is your chip; you see the four DRAM slots next to that, with red and black colouring; the incredible matte heatsinks with cuts of red colouring; the sleek design of capacitors scattered throughout the board; angled SATA ports for beautiful cable management; finally, the reinforced PCIe 3.0 x16 slot for the biggest graphics cards out there.
If you didn’t catch the sensual tale happening there, the MSI X470 Gaming Plus is a truly good-looking motherboard. The ATX form factor board offers an AM4 socket, which houses any AMD Ryzen chip (including 1st gen), but was mainly built to house the X-series Ryzen chips, due the overclocking support the board provides. The 4-slot, dual-channel RAM slots are cross-coloured black and red, to fit the ‘gaming’ aesthetic. The steel-plated PCIe 3.0 X16 slot keeps graphic cards firmly in place, reducing the risk of your card dropping and ensuring optimal connection with the board. Furthermore, there are three PCIe x1 slots for network cards and additional USB hubs.
The 4-slot, dual-channel DIMMs on the X470 Gaming Plus are cross-coloured black and red, to fit the ‘gaming’ aesthetic, and supports up to 64GB total RAM capacity, at 3466MHz memory frequency, if overclocked. You won’t need to worry too much about SSD/HDD ports as the X470 Gaming Plus offers six angled SATA 6gbps ports to choose from. All of this is powered by an 11-phase power design, which is what provides the wonderful stability.
Speaking of, MSi has a running idea that this is a ‘gaming’ BIOS. Essentially, the BIOS has been specifically catered for gamers, in that the BIOS has been optimised to enhance overclocking support and stability. The BIOS offers an Easy and Advanced mode, allowing newcomers to the PC scene an easy way to navigate the BIOS, as well as full functionality for overclocking enthusiasts.
The MSi X470 Gaming Plus boasts Turbo M.2 for both NVMe drive slots, with the top slot being a PCIe 3.0 x4 and the bottom a PCIe 2.0, providing significantly higher read/write speeds, as well as Audio Boost to enhance the sound quality through 192kHz 24-bit output. DDR4 Boost provides up to 1.5x the performance from your DDR4 memory, and MSi have boosted their USB 3.1 GEN2 slots on the I/O to almost double the transfer speeds. Thankfully, MSi have included EZ DEBUG LEDs on the X470 Gaming Plus, for you to see which component is causing post errors or boot loops.
Another nifty feature that MSi has included is a Clear CMOS button, which overclockers love because it offers a quick and easy way for us to reset the CMOS without needing to remove the battery each time. However, a feature that I have seen make a frequent occurrence, especially on the MSi boards, is the CMOS self-reset. Basically, if you have overclocked various parts of your rig, and they happen to fail during boot, the motherboard will automatically clear the CMOS for you after the fourth failed boot attempt. This saves you the hassle of having to hit the Clear CMOS button, if you have already put your side panel back on, and it just adds further convenience.
For the full list of specs, you can visit MSi’s website.
Overclocking is where the MSi X470 really shines. I set off to push my Ryzen 7 2700 to the max, and after establishing the baseline performance in games, I jumped into the BIOS. I tweaked and tinkered in the firmware for a good couple of hours, running into the boot issues (totally on purpose, to test the self-clearing CMOS, you know) I finally managed to push the chip to a whopping 4.4GHz … or so I thought. Booting into Windows was just not happening, and after I dropped the frequency down, Aida64 crashed time and time again.
However, I discovered it was my RAM holding me back, and after I set the memory to 2666MHz, the chip stabilised at 4.0GHz, with a voltage of 1.408. These seemed to be the optimal settings for my overclocking on the board, and I was seriously impressed with it, considering the 2nd Gen Ryzen CPUs have a reputation for not having much OC headroom, so to squeeze an extra 800MHz from the 3.2GHz base chip was incredible.
After running a couple more Aida64 stability runs, I decided to take it into the one area that matters the most: gaming. I tested a hosted of different titles, varying from graphical intensity, rig cripplers, and CPU hogs, including: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, The Witcher 3, Overwatch, Battelfield V, Crysis 3, Agents of Mayhem, and Fallout: New Vegas. The parameters of this test include: Ryzen 7 2700, Nvidia GTX 1080ti Gaming X Trio, 8GB RAM, and, of course, the X470 Gaming Plus.
First, Deus Ex absolutely annihilated the system, sitting at an average of 30-40fps on Ultra settings at 2160 x 1440p. Reducing the resolution didn’t really change much, staying relatively on par with the 1440p performance at 1080p. The overclocked CPU, which was stable thanks to the clocking support from the X470, sped some NPC rendering up a good deal, and ensured that when I was getting shot at, my frames didn’t dip. The enhanced communication through the motherboard from the CPU to the GPU also meant that my game, while crippling in framerate, didn’t stutter or crash.
Next was The Witcher 3. Thankfully, while GPU intense, the Witcher 3 isn’t a system crippling game, so I was able to get a good reading. The Witcher 3 averaged 60-80fps on Ultra settings, with HairWorks on, and never once gave any problem. Overwatch was my e-sports title to test with, and remained in the 150fps range, with settings maxed out. Battlefield V was similar to The Witcher 3 in its performance, and although I would have liked to see better frame rates, the game was incredibly stable, and the same can be said for Agents of Mayhem. Fallout: New Vegas was my chosen ‘Old but Gold’ title to test with, and thanks to the massive expansive world, I could see what the OC chip could really do as well. Fallout averaged at around 100fps, with all settings cranked to max, and once again, it was phenomenally stable.
I only have two complaints, and they are minor at best, and that is the lack of M.2 drive heatsinks to assist with heat transfer off of the sticks. This would be phenomenally helpful if you are setting up the drives for RAID support, however, RAID isn’t as common for those outside of server and NAS building. The second is a seriously subjective con, and that is increased RGB customisation through Mystic Light. Currently, there are only seven colours to choose from with seven effects. The effects were perfect for me, but I would have appreciated true ARGB customisation. Again, this is only really a wish more than a con, and it has no effect on my opinion on the performance of the board.
Overall, the MSi X470 Gaming Plus is an affordable (R 2999,00) premium motherboard, packed with features and support for the ultimate gaming set up. With the amazing overclocking support and space for up to six SATA 6Gbps drives, 2 M.2 drives, and a reinforced PCIe 3.0 x16 slot – as well as the customisable RGB support – the X470 Gaming Plus is an excellent choice, no matter what you are looking for.
There has been a lot of speculation regarding the PlayStation 5, and we even have a good idea as to what games one could expect coming to the future console. However, there are a few patents that indicate the console may be looking to be a next-generation hybrid model.
This may come off as ironic, but Sony - the company responsible for pioneering the compact disc - is working on a new cartridge format for storing video games. According to TechTastic, Sony has already patented the new storage format.
The patent was done via the official South Korea channels last year and was published by the Korea Intellectual Property Right Information Service (KIPRIS) earlier this month. Sony didn't file the patent with much information on the new product, but there is rather descriptive imagery included.
The patent is titled as an "Electronic Game Cartridge" and shows something that looks like a PlayStation 2 memory card and a Nintendo Switch game cartridge. The hole cut out is an unusual shape, so we can't assume that Sony is heading towards USB Type-C. It looks more like an HDMI or an old 40-pin iPhone port, and will most likely be used to transfer data between the game cartridge and the console.
Back to the future of gaming
This coincides with the fact that Red Dead Redemption 2 came with two discs, and Sony may be trying to future-proof their next console. There was also a patent that was for a device that has a screen with a controller setup on both sides of the screen. The patent serves as a visual representation of the recently described PlayStation 5 controller.
If this patent seems to be true, Sony's next console may be competing with Nintendo's market. There's no way of confirming if Sony will act on these patents, but a patent described the PlayStation 5 controller down to the screen in the patent.
The description was as follows:
“A controller for interfacing wirelessly with a computing device is provided, including the following: a housing defined by a main body, a first extension extending from a first end of the main body, and a second extension extending from a second end of the main body, the first extension and the second extension for holding by a first hand and a second hand of a user, respectively; a touchscreen defined along the top surface of the main body between the first extension and the second extension; a first set of buttons disposed on the top surface of the main body proximate to the first extension and on a first side of the touchscreen; and a second set of buttons disposed on the top surface of the main body proximate to the second extension and on a second side of the touchscreen.”
Sony is switching it up
Connecting the dots between Sony's patents gives us a picture of what the PlayStation 5 might be like. In the past, Sony has only partially delved into the mobile console market, but they haven't delved into the hybrid market before. The recent success of the Nintendo Switch may have caused Sony to pursue that option.
In a patent filed by Sony in 2017, sheet 5 showcases what looks like a three-part system that could potentially show the hybrid console at work. What makes this interesting, is the fact that the "Graphics Source" connects to a "Streaming Server (Host System)" that uses a network source to link the "Client Device". This means that Sony is possibly working on a console that will stream to the aforementioned controller.
Bringing the new cartridge format into play gives us reason to believe that the controller may be where the cartridges will be housed.
So, does this mean the next console will be a direct departure from the PS4? Well, no. This may be a variant of the PlayStation 5, as most of this tech is sure to be expensive. Sony could be using the patents for something to come way in the future. These patents seem to suggest that Sony is seeing how far they can push the next-generation console. Keep in mind that Sony may never use these patents and the PlayStation 5 could just be an upgrade of the PS4 Pro.
We know that 4K gaming is not yet fully accessible to most gamers, but finding new ways to improve 1080p gaming is a very smart idea. Bringing in 1080p at 60fps on a mobile screen will be a justifiable evolution of the console. It does coincide with the Japanese market of mobile gaming, which the Switch has created a lot of interest for.
If this turns out to be the case, it will be interesting to see how Sony aims to tackle the competition presented by both Microsoft and Nintendo. Then again, Sony may be one of the few companies that are capable of doing so.
We are currently taking this up with Sony to see if we can get an official statement regarding our theory, and will update you with progress accordingly.