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Cougar 700K review

Tom Morgan
20 Mar 2015
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
90
inc VAT

A superb first attempt at a gaming keyboard, but the Cougar 700K's fiddly software holds it back

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Specifications

Keyboard shape: Standard, Number pad: Yes, Connection: USB, Warranty: Three years RTB

As one of the newest names to enter the competitive world of PC gaming peripherals, Cougar has a lot to prove with its first keyboard. Right off the bat, the 700K ticks a lot of boxes, with mechanical key switches, per-key backlighting, dedicated macro keys and an integrated wrist rest, but does it have what it takes to challenge the mainstream brands like Razer, Steelseries and Corsair? We’ve given it a thorough workout to find out.

The 700K isn’t the first keyboard we’ve seen with an aluminium frame, but it’s certainly thinner, lighter and takes up less desk space than the gargantuan Cooler Master CM Storm Mech. Even clipping on the palm rest doesn’t add a great deal to the board’s footprint, and at 1.2kg it doesn’t weigh a great deal - mainly thanks to the plastic construction underneath the aluminium exterior. 

We appreciated the additional removable wrist rest, which is ideal for FPS gaming. It clips onto the standard palm rest with magnets, meaning it’s quick to remove when you need to get some work done, and the padded rubber finish is comfortable for long play sessions.

There’s room for plenty of shortcut keys on the left side and top edge of the board. Five G keys, for assigning shortcuts and macros to, are in easy reach on the left, while a bank of four macro keys at the top let you switch between three saved presets and record new macros on the fly. Multimedia and volume controls on the top right round off the list.

The first four function keys also double as toggles for key repeat speed; holding down the Fn key (which replaces the left Windows key) and pressing F1-F4 will switch repeat speed from 1x up to 8x - this could be useful for spamming abilities in MMOs or rapid-firing semiautomatic weapons in shooters, but we didn’t find much use for it during our testing.

Cougar has even managed to squeeze in a sixth shortcut key by splitting the space bar into two separate keys. We found this irritating when typing during the day, as the right side is unbound out of the box. We bound both sides to the space bar for typing, then set up a second profile for games to have an extra shortcut within reach of our thumb.

At the back of the board, you get a single USB passthrough port and 3.5mm audio jacks for headphones and microphone. To use them, you’ll need to plug the keyboard’s two USB ports and relevant audio cables into your motherboard. It’s a great addition for anyone that uses headphones with a short cable, or if your gaming headset is also your go-to pair of headphones for listening on the move.

With N-Key rollover, you’ll be able to mash as many keys at once as you can physically reach and each one will be registered as an input. You can also set the USB polling rate to 1,000Hz to minimise delay between keypress and onscreen action. These are both must-have features for a gaming keyboard, so it’s great to see them on Cougar’s first attempt.

The 700K is available with a range of different Cherry MX mechanical key switches; our review unit had Red switches, but there are models with Black, Blue or Brown switches if you have a personal preference. We loved the low 45cN actuation force that meant we barely had to apply any pressure to register a keypress, and the fact they are considerably quieter than other switches meant we could use the 700K at work without irritating our colleagues.

The entire keyboard is backlit with orange LEDs, which can be enabled on a per-key basis. That means you can highlight only the keys you’ll need for a particular game, or just the letter and punctuation keys if you’re working on a document. The entire keyboard tray animates in one of three set patterns if you haven’t typed anything for a few minutes, which is either a nice touch or rather irritating depending on your point of view. We were a little disappointed that the number and punctuation keys weren’t fully illuminated - a side effect of embedding each LED above the switch rather than directly inside it. The 700K isn’t the only keyboard to suffer from this, but now that Corsair’s K70 RGB has effectively found a way around this we’re expecting others to soon follow suit.

Cougar’s UIX software suite is fine for the basics, letting you customise lighting, performance and polling rate with a few clicks, but the macro and shortcut editor is a little fiddly compared to other keyboards we’ve used. You can’t edit shortcuts once you’ve created them, and it’s annoying to have to drag icons around the interface. We would have preferred context-sensitive menus. It is at least quick to save changes to the keyboard, taking around 5 seconds.

There’s an awful lot to like about the 700K. It’s comfortable to use, has plenty of gamer-friendly features and looks the part, although there are a few stumbling blocks. Lighting control isn’t quite as advanced as other gaming keyboards, and it’s still early days for the software - if you’re macro mad than you could find it a little cumbersome. At £90 it’s not crazy expensive for a gaming keyboard, but there are more complete options from rival manufacturers that we would choose over this. If you don’t need the extra keys and can live without audio ports, the Func KB-460 is a slightly cheaper alternative, while anyone after serious customisation should consider the Corsair Vengeance K90.

SPECIFICATIONS
Keyboard shapeStandard
Number padYes
ConnectionUSB
WarrantyThree years RTB
Detailswww.cougar-world.com
Part code700k

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