Known for their coolers and cases, Thermaltake began investing in the gaming market with the Tt eSports brand. The line spawned the Challenger Pro, a keyboard with ten programmable keys, two USB ports, detachable cloth-wrapped cable and a feature that drew our attention: a 30 mm fan to cool the user’s hand. But is it too much for show or not? We’ll see throughout the test.
At first we noticed that the Challenger Pro has a top-notch presentation: it comes with a cloth-wrapped detachable cable (with a huge Thermaltake logo on the USB plug) inside a small bag; eight spare keys (WASD cluster and arrow keys) plus two “dead” ones to replace the Windows keys (and so preventing them to be hit while gaming); a key removal tool; and the hand cooling fan to be attached to the keyboard.
The Challenger features five programmable keys (T1 to T5) vertically set on the left side and other five (T6 to T10) on the other side. You can attach the hand cooling fan to either upper corner. On the right upper side there are the multimedia keys and the button to cycle through the user profiles (it’s possible to create up to four, indicated by the colors red, green, blue and purple).
On the upper border, the user finds the two USB ports, the detachable cable plug and a slot to store the hand fan when it’s not being used. On the underside there are four rubber feet, two foldout feet and a cable router.
[nextpage title=”Installing the Challenger Pro”]
The keyboard works without having to install any software, but only through the application from Thermaltake you can program the ten new keys and control the intensity of the illumination.
The software is pretty straightforward. It suggests some typical functions for each key (cut, copy, paste, print, save etc) and allows the creation of more elaborate macros according to each game and user taste. Since it’s possible to create up to four different profiles, the Challenger Pro can store 40 configuration options. A timer is included to time your gaming sessions – a somewhat depressing feature once you discover how much time you’ve been playing World of Warcraft. Sometimes ignorance is bliss…
[nextpage title=”Using the Challenger Pro”]
Before the fun of testing the keyboard playing games, we went through some mundane actions like typing, writing e-mails etc. Well, we thought the keys were very close together, which made us hit the Caps Lock key pretty much all the time we were aiming for the letter A. The result was several phrases turning to all caps and having to be deleted and re-typed more carefully, delaying work and online chats. The problem raised its ugly head in gaming sessions also, as we opened chat boxes with other players in World of Warcraft and Call of Duty Black Ops. It was very annoying.
The regular function keys, Print Screen and ESC keys are also tiny and close togheter. Sometimes we hit the T1 programmable key instead of ESC because both are really close. In the thing that matters the most for a keyboard – the keys themselves – the Challenger Pro left much to be desired.
The hand fan is useless. Even if it really helped cool your hand, it would still be superfluous, but as it is the fan doesn’t circulate air enough. We left it on without noticing any actual benefit and soon it was stored into the assigned slot.
The feature the Challenger got right was the illumination: the light doesn’t only shine in the middle of the letters/numbers/symbols, but from behind the entire bed of keys – it’s a nice effect, great for work and gaming.
It would be best if the wrist rest was removable, but it doesn’t make the keyboard look huge and we didn’t feel the need to remove it.
While gaming, we only had a major complain concerning key proximity. We missed the ESC a couple of times, hitting the T1 instead, and Caps Lock always seemed to get in the way of typing A in a chat box. At least the programmable buttons keep a healthy distance among themselves and there was no confusion hitting them. The overall sturdiness of the keys made for some nice gaming.
While trying to create a not-so-big gaming keyboard, Thermaltake made a mistake concerning the dimensions of the keys. Perhaps if they were not so concerned creating a superfluous gimmick like the hand cooling fan and instead focused on other aspects, it would result in a better product. We keep our praises only to the deluxe presentation and the simple and effective configuration software.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Thermaltake Challenger Pro keyboard include:
- USB gaming-grade keyboard
- 10 programmable keys
- Six multimedia keys
- Two 2.0 USB ports
- 6.5-foot (2 m) cloth-wrapped cable
- Dimensions: 19.8 x 7.6 x 1 inches (505 x 195 x 27 mm)
- More information: http://www.ttesports.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 69.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
Below you can see a summary of our impressions about the Thermaltake Challenger Pro.
- Top-notch presentation
- Spare keys with key removal tool
- Illumination with intensity control
- 40 configuration options
- Easy and simple software
- Keys too close to each others and badly placed hinder typing and even gaming-grade
- Hand cooling fan is useless