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In the recent weeks and months, I have personally seen more and more mechanical keyboards with PBT keycaps in the market. Cooler Master is one of them who hopped onto the bandwagon quick enough with their brand new MasterKeys S PBT.

If you don’t already know what PBT is all about, it’s essentially a different type of material that is used to make the keycaps. Also, PBT keycaps are thicker than the usual ABS plastic keycaps, too. Though, PBT keycaps has a tradeoff – they are opaque and light cannot shine though. PBT keycaps on backlit or RGB keyboards will only create side glows, unless the PBT keycaps are doubleshot.

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Let’s see what’s different with the MasterKeys S PBT compared with other mechanical keyboards from Cooler Master and the rest of the competitors.

Unboxing

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

The box of the MasterKeys S PBT is actually pretty simple. The box design itself is consistently the same since Cooler Master’s rebranding to the Master-something naming scheme. It has a grey box with the keyboard’s image printed at the front, alongside with a few feature highlights at the bottom row.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

Of course, the main highlight here is the superior PBT keycaps. We get it – it’s even in the name itself.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

Opening up the box reveals two compartments – one to accommodate the keyboard itself that’s wrapped in a bag, and another compartment to hold all the accessories.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

Digging out everything reveals quite a bit of surprise. You get a very tightly braided micro USB cable, a plastic keycap puller, a user manual, and also some extra ABS keycaps in red color.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

To be honest, I didn’t expect extra keycaps to be included in the box, but glad that Cooler Master didn’t skimp out on that. Though, I doubt anyone would use these keycaps.

Design

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

In terms of design, I found out that Cooler Master used another body for the MasterKeys S PBT. It’s totally different from the MasterKeys Pro series of keyboards.

However, some of the features are retained here – like the trough junction for cable management.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

Even the little rubber feet and the keyboard feet are the same as the MasterKeys Pro series.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

The MasterKeys S PBT’s case is locked in place with clips. I can assure you that the MasterKeys S PBT’s build quality is top notch, and I can’t flex it even when I tried. Furthermore, the plastic case is closed shut to the point where I can’t find a place to really fit in a spudger to pry it apart.

Though, the material used to make the plastic case is worrying as it can be scratched quite easily with just fingernails.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

In terms of design, there’s really nothing much to talk about the MasterKeys S PBT. Cooler Master did remove the “gamer” look that is found in the MasterKeys Pro series. It’s now all flat and actually uses the same design language as the MasterKeys Pro L keyboard. No more fancy design around the LED indicators for the scroll lock, caps lock, and pause break.

Features

Let me highlight this first – the MasterKeys S PBT does not have any software controls. It’s purely plug-and-plug, much like how the Ducky One that we reviewed here, here, and here, work.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

The MasterKeys S PBT don’t really have other features other than a few functions that are printed on the keycaps themselves. One thing I wish Cooler Master implemented is the option to change the Fn key to the context menu button – much like how Ducky gives an option to toggle what the button does by a flick of the DIP switch that is found behind the keyboard.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

Another feature worth highlighting on the MasterKeys S PBT is that the keyboard has built-in layout switcher – where you can toggle between QWERTY, Dvorak, and Workman layouts with a simple press of two buttons.

Using the MasterKeys S PBT

In terms of typing comfort, the MasterKeys S PBT has a thick body indeed, and personally, I find that a wrist rest does improve comfort by a longshot. Perhaps you can pair the MasterKeys S PBT with a MasterAccessory Wrist Rest from StoreUni? That wrist rest is meant to match the thickness of Cooler Master’s keyboards, by the way.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT

The PBT keycaps that the MasterKeys S PBT is rather smooth, so if you prefer a smooth keycap, then it is definitely worth to consider this for your next keyboard. Ducky’s PBT keycaps, however, are a little rougher on the surface.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT
No LEDs as the PBT keycaps are not backlit-compatible anyway.
Would be cool to get a side glow, though.

The MasterKeys S PBT that we have here is in Cherry MX Green switch flavor, which is also known as “heavy blues”. It’s definitely not meant for everyone, but fret not as the MasterKeys S PBT is available in Cherry MX Blue switch for now. Not sure when is the Cherry MX Red variant coming to the market, though.

It’s also nice to see Cooler Master including a few extra keycaps in the box itself – though they’re ABS. I doubt anyone would ever use them, though. Here’s also a quick comparison of the MasterKey S PBT’s keycap together with the extra set of red ABS keycap alongside with HyperX Alloy FPS Pro’s ABS keycap.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT
Left: Extra ABS keycap
Center: MasterKeys S PBT keycap
Right: HyperX Alloy FPS Pro ABS keycap

By the way – the MasterKeys S PBT uses Costar stabilizers!

Wrapping up the MasterKeys S PBT review

For all I can say, the MasterKeys S PBT is a simple keyboard with no frills. It’s meant for a specific niche market segment of customers who want to spend a minimal amount of money for a good keyboard with PBT keycaps. Of course, it doesn’t have backlight too. In terms of features, the MasterKeys S PBT can indeed save and replay macros and has multimedia keys through the function modifier key.

Cooler Master MasterKeys S PBT
Thick PBT keycaps really do make a difference in the typing experience.

With that said, the price of RM349 for the MasterKeys S PBT, it’s actually a really good price. If you want a keyboard with long-lasting feel-good keycaps and great build quality yet has an affordable price tag, then the MasterKeys S PBT is definitely worth considering.

Personally, I’m still waiting for the Cherry MX Red switch version of the MasterKeys S PBT.

  • Pros
    • PBT keycaps
    • Affordable price
    • Comes with extra 7 ABS keycaps
    • Costar stabilizers
  • Cons
    • Only available in Cherry MX Blue for now

Where to buy?


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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design
10
Build Quality
9
Comfort and typing experience
9
Features
9
Value
10
The enthusiastic nanoelectronic engineer who found his way into simplifying the world of tech for everyone. Introverted, but noisy. Nice to meet you!