CM Storm Octane Review

Manufacturer: CM Storm
UK price (as reviewed): £39.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $54.99 {ex TAX)

There will always be a place for membrane keyboards - at least until mechanical key switches become either cheaper or much quieter. The former issue isn't so much of a problem as you can pick up half-decent mechanical keyboards for less that £50, with some costing even less.

Noise-wise, we've tried quite a few methods of reducing the decibels with mechanical keyboards and both o-rings, foam dampener pads and even expensive Topre switches fail to even get close to the low noise levels of decent membrane keyboards. For some, this is a non-issue. For others, there's still a very real need for membranes, but the CM Storm Octane attempts to solve both issues. Not only does this bundle include a backlit membrane keyboard, but it also throws a gaming mouse in for good measure. At £40, this is ridiculously cheap for a complete gaming keyboard and mouse setup.

The Keyboard

Starting with the keyboard, there are no macro keys or even shortcuts, but thankfully you do get media controls - playback on the upper left and volume buttons on the right. Physically, there's not too much flex in the keyboard shell with the main downside being it just looks a tad cheap and there are quite a few rough edges too, although thankfully none of these should bother you while typing.

CM Storm Octane Review CM Storm Octane Review
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The wrist rest is about an inch short of actually being useful, but that's hardly an issue only the Octane suffers from. The level of height adjustment is also mediocre, but again, we're only speaking from our experience of hundreds of keyboards, most of which are far more expensive. The keys themselves aren't glossy but have a slightly soft coating that's relatively pleasant to touch.

CM Storm Octane Review CM Storm Octane Review
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The whole of the main keyset is backlit, and can cycle between seven colours with three brightness levels as well as off, by using function keys. In addition, you can also set pulsing modes, which cycle between colours, although this is, of course, more of a gimmick. Multicolour adjustable backlighting is certainly welcome on a keyboard at this price, but as the entire membrane panel is backlit, there's a lot of bleed between the keys.

CM Storm Octane Review CM Storm Octane Review
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The keys themselves, which sport 19-key anti-ghosting, are actually quite tricky to read in daylight too, with the characters not being particularly clear - a number of other similar keyboards manage to offer better contrast here, but we certainly felt the need to have the backlighting on most of the time just to give that extra visibility to the characters. Touch typists won't have this issue of course.

CM Storm Octane Review CM Storm Octane Review
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Now for the all important bit; what's it like to type on? If anything membrane keyboards vary considerably more than mechanical keyboards, for the simple reason that Cherry MX switches of a particular colour are all pretty much identical. Membrane keyboards, on the other hand, vary quite a bit in feel and responsiveness.

There's the unmistakable soft bottom-out from the rubber dome and there's a somewhat more positive feel than some of the good membrane keyboards of old such as the Saitek Cyborg V5 too. However, the keys are fairly rattly and are noticeably louder than most of the quieter membrane keyboards we've tried too, with the keys visible shaking in their alcoves if you lift the keyboard up and move it from side to side. That said, once we were used to it, typing was error-free.
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