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Review: Thermaltake’s Tt eSports Challenger Keyboard

by Steven Williamson on 16 August 2010, 16:08 3.5

Tags: Thermaltake (3540.TWO)

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The keyboard

In the box
Alongside the keyboard and the software CD, you get a small black pouch that houses a key removal tool and two Windows Dummy keys. You also get two cooler fan hole dust-free covers, just in case you lose the ones that are already supplied on the keyboard.

The Keyboard
Note: The keyboard we reviewed was the cheaper of the two Challenger models. If you’re after fancy back-lighting, more internal Ram, the ability to program more Macros and think an extra USB port would be handy you should opt for the Challenger Pro.

Having used the Logitech G110 keyboard for everything gaming over the past few months, the first thing I noticed was how slim and lightweight the Challenger was in comparison, making it easy to cart around to LAN events, competitions or friend’s houses. The keyboard is wired and the braided 2m cable is extremely robust, so shouldn’t get tangled up and is designed to stand the test of time.

Aesthetically, it's a nice looking keyboard with blood red vertical strips that run down the left and right sides of its body standing out impressively against the contrast of the jet black finish of the body. Similarly, the Tt logo at the base gives off a subtle, but pleasant, red glow when your PC is turned on, though you can switch this off. There are no rounded edges on the Challenger; instead the corners are cut off and have sharp, defined, but smooth, edges. Overall, the Challenger doesn't have the "wow" factor, but it’s a stylish design nevertheless.

On the upper edge of the keyboard is a slot that houses the fan. You can remove it and clip it back in easily if you need to move the keyboard around without damaging the fan. There's a rubber bung on both the top left and the top right side of the keyboard face which you can remove and then slot the fan in so it cools the hand of your choice. You can also adjust its direction and angle depending on where you want the air to flow.

The fan makes little noise and gives off a subtle cooling effect that feels rather like someone blowing lightly on fingertips. When I heard about the fan on the Challenger, I imagined a gamer frenetically tapping on the keyboard so fast that his fingertips were on fire and in need of desperate cooling. In reality though, despite it being a neat idea, only the most hardcore of gamers with the sweatiest of palms will really see it as a necessity. It was pleasant having it whirring away on a hot summer's day, but I can't see how it improved my performance in any way – but then I don’t have sweaty hands.

There’s one USB 2.0 slot on the back of the keyboard (the Challenger Pro has two,) which I used to power my mouse, and on the base of the keyboard there's four rubber pads to keep it stable and two legs that you can flip to elevate it. The Challenger sports a classic layout and also has a function key to activate seven multimedia controls, which you can also use to disable windows keys and switch between three game profiles.

The keyboard is off the "clicky" mechanical variety. That means it makes a louder, more audible click when you press a key than most standard keyboards. It also takes a bit of getting used to if you're moving from a non-clicky keyboard to the Challenger as you've already trained your fingers to type and play a certain way. You get a heavier feedback from the keys on the Challenger and you can feel the tactility of the switch. Having used the Challenger for the past few weeks for gaming, I really like the feel of the keys but found that for every day use I’ve preferred to switch back to my Logitech keyboard for faster typing.

The Challenger also has an anti-ghosting feature, common to gaming keyboards, and it works very well allowing up to 20 keys to be pressed and registered at one time. This could be a life saver while playing some games. Overall, I’ve found the Challenger to be a very good keyboard to use for gaming with just the right amount of features.

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