The CMStorm Trigger (by Coolermaster) is a full-sized, 104-key mechanical-switch keyboard that has been designed for gaming. The review model I looked at features Cherry MX Blue switches for the keys, which sport a tactile and "clicky" keystroke. They do create a bit of a racket in the ears of some, but for gamers who wear headphones this won't be an issue — the sound may bother housemates during all-nighters though.
The construction of the CMStorm Trigger is solid, and it's certainly a weighty piece of kit at just under 1.3kg. It will happily stick to your desk during even the most intense deathmatches, thanks to its non-slip rubber base, yet it can also be easily transported to LANs thanks to its removable, braided USB cable and its rigid, scratch-resistant construction. The key switches are rated to handle 50 million presses each, so it'll take some serious effort to wear them down. A two-port USB 2.0 hub lets you charge devices without running extra cables to your rig, but it does require an external power input. While the Trigger has a full-sized, 104-key layout, if you're looking for a more compact, tenkeyless model, the CMStorm QuickFire Rapid keyboard is an alternative, albeit without macro shortcuts.
The keyboard is girded with a black, scratch-resistant TPE-like plastic and has a gunmetal grey faceplate. Its design harks back to older "clicky" keyboards with its angular looks and high keycaps, but it definitely has a gamer touch to it. It fits right in with the matte black/gunmetal designs of my Logitech G9x Laser gaming mouse and ASUS G53 notebook.
The LED lighting on all the keys is a deep red that didn't distract me from the screen, and keys could be easily found during hails of gunfire. It has a few modes: off, steady lowlight, on with pulse, and FPS mode, which lights up only the macro, WASD and cursor key groups. The shifted characters (such as the @ symbol and the semi-colon) are pretty dim though.
Not just for gaming
Despite this hardware being designed for gamers, I started using this keyboard for programming while at the office; I enjoyed the feel of older mechanical keyboards such as the IBM Model M and the Apple Extended Keyboard so I was excited to try out a newer model. It got me some attention from my team, who could hear me clacking away at the board, though we're no strangers to "clicky" keyboards — I sit next to a testing machine equipped with an SGI keyboard. One thing became obvious very early on, however: I found that some of the modifier keys such as the backspace and shift keys were spongy, with a slower rebound compared to the alpha keys on the board. I suspect that with more use these will wear-in.
Gaming: what it does best
The board works just fine without any drivers installed, though you can install the Trigger App (most recent version at 1.1 from the CMStorm website. I used this keyboard to play Diablo III, but with that being more of a mouse-reliant game I moved on to Starcraft II instead. I found that I didn't have the same tendency to spam keys like I do on a laptop or rubber-dome keyboards — on the Trigger, I knew exactly when I had hit a hotkey. It's no wonder professional gamers like these keyboards. Many livestreamers use them despite viewer complaints, though you can always opt for one of the quieter MX Black or Brown models.
I really like the travel and click of each keystroke on the CMStorm Trigger — it makes typing a real joy. For anyone without a mechanical keyboard, I'd recommend this one or its little brother from the Quick Fire Rapid range (if you want a more compact layout without the macro support). It is competitively priced against existing mechanical gaming keyboards, and the only thing I can fault it for is the spongy modifier keys.
Price: $ 130 (AUD)