Quite clicky, in fact.
For gaming keyboards, mechanical switches rule the roost these days. But those switches are expensive, so manufacturers have found ways to incorporate some of the feel of mechanical keyboards into more budget conscious “rubber dome” switches. Cooler Master’s MasterSet MS120 (See it on Amazon) is one such keyboard with “mem-chanical” switches, and as an added bonus it even includes an optical mouse.
Design and Features
Cooler Master generally does a great job of keeping desk real estate in mind while designing its keyboards, and the MS120 is no exception. This keyboard has a nice, heavy weight to it and it’s all contained in a pleasingly small footprint. Compared to the Logitech G213, for example, the MS120 looks like a dwarf. There’s no wasted space around the edges of the MS120 either, with the keycaps extending right to the keyboard’s edge.
Of course, the smaller footprint also means some compromises were made. There’s no dedicated media or volume controls on this keyboard—a bummer, particularly for adjusting volume on the fly in-game. You can control music and other media via function-key presses, but it is a hassle to find the right keys. There’s also no USB passthrough for hooking up a headset, etc. There’s a single USB 2.0 cable to hook the MS120 up to the PC, but it’s flimsy and unbraided. Braided cables have become rather standard issue on keyboards of late, and it’s a shame to think this one has the potential of wearing out a little quicker.
Cooler Master’s “mem-chanical” keys are, as the name suggests, setup to be a hybrid of a membrane keyboard and mechanical switches. This is accomplished by placing a tactile plunger and spring above the membrane, under each keycap. The results are actually impressive. Each press on the MS120 registers a nice, loud click and the response on the keys is satisfyingly tactile and responsive. By and large, the MS120 does a great job of providing the sound and feel of mechanical switches. If you’ve used legit Cherry MX Blue switches in the past, you’ll likely still be able to tell the difference. But for anyone new to mechanical switches and looking for a cheaper entry point to the experience, the MS120 does a good job imitating the real deal.
But, this is still a membrane keyboard at its core, and the result of how these less expensive keys are built leads to some rather ugly wobbling. Each key has a little give to the left and right, and larger keycaps really show their budget colors. The spacebar, for example, has so much wobble that it’s possible to flick the right and left edges and watch it vibrate—not good. The looseness of the keys is likely exacerbated by the fact the MS120 has floating style keycaps. On the plus side, this also means the RGB backlighting looks great.
RGB lighting is set via function key and while this works fine for quickly switching between presets, setting up custom lighting is a bit of a nightmare. This is made worse by the fact the MS120 doesn’t utilize any software for setting up custom lighting or macros; puzzling as Color Master now has a catch-all software portal that doesn’t appear to work with the MS120. In any case, there are a number of usual lighting presets and you can also manipulate color and effect speed via function hot keys. You can, supposedly, even set up per-key lighting but doing so will likely lead one straight to the looney bin with the lack of software.
As the MasterSet name implies, this is a combo pack including both a keyboard and mouse. The included optical mouse is a right-handed model with a rest for the ring and pinky fingers and Omron switches. Custom lighting glows through the mouse wheel, Cooler Master logo, and on the mouse’s bottom edge. Overall, the mouse is comfortable and responds well to clicks and movement. There’s four pre-set DPI levels, accessible by button under the mouse wheel, but they’re not customizable. While it’s certainly not a huge selling point for the MasterSet keyboard, the mouse works well enough as a bundled item.
The true appeal of the MS120 is the ability to play games with the tactile feel and response of a mechanical keyboard without shelling out a huge wad of cash. And by and large, the MS120 succeeds at that task with satisfyingly loud clicks and quick actuation. Playing first-person shooters like Overwatch and Battlefield 1, keys were easy to access by feel thanks to a slightly concave keycap shape. And since the keys feel quick, twitchy gameplay definitely feels right. Again, these “mem-chanical” switches are still floating over a membrane, but for the money it’s actually a decent trade-off.
If you’re looking for a macro set-up on the MS120, however, you’re pretty much out of luck. There are no dedicated macro keys, and moreover, there doesn’t even seem to be a way to activate or record macros anywhere on this keyboard. The Cooler Master Portal software I had on hand from a previous review refused to work with the MS120, so there just simply isn’t a way to set macros I could find. I’m not a huge macro user myself, but in 2018where this functionality is so omnipresent on even the most basic gaming keyboards, this seems like a big omission.
As I previously mentioned, the pack-in mouse is respectable, but I spent the bulk of my time evaluating and scoring the keyboard. The DPI settings are not customizable, but the presets of 500, 750, 1500, and 3500 are adequate, and worked well for any game type I played. The fastest DPI setting, at 3500, was ludicrously twitchy of course, but at least it’s there if you need it.
The Cooler Master MasterSet MS120 has an MSRP of $90 but is much more typically sold at $80. It very rarely dips to just under $60: