The Cross Blade mechanical gaming keyboard is the first gaming keyboard released by Shogun Bros, a small Hong Kong-based PC peripheral maker. Can it hold its own against competing products from industry heavyweights, or should Shogun Bros just fall on their swords now?
Features & design
The Cross Blade is a small form-factor mechanical gaming keyboard that is all business. Aside from its very nice carrying case, the Cross Blade offers little beyond its portability and the firm keystrokes provided by the Cherry MX Black mechanical switches beneath its keys. Like other small form factor gaming keyboards, the Cross Blade does not have a 10-key number pad, nor does it come with a detachable wrist-rest.
Additional features include the USB to PS/2 adapter that comes with the Cross Blade and 5 purpose-dedicated keys: 3 keys for media (volume up, down, and mute), 1 key to launch your home Web page, and 1 key to launch your default email program.
The Cross Blade does what it needs to do and does it well. If you want a portable mechanical keyboard and you like Cherry MX Black keys, the Cross Blade will serve you well at a modest price point ($65) for a mechanical keyboard. I didn’t find anything to complain about in any of my gaming or general PC usage, although it did take a little time (a couple hours maybe) to re-adjust to the stiffer keys.
As with any mechanical keyboard, whether you love or hate it largely depends on whether or not you like how the keys feel (and to some degree sound) under your fingertips. Cherry MX Black switches are the stiffest switches and hence require the most force to press. This makes them feel a bit less responsive if you’re used to other switch types or just prefer a softer touch on your keyboard.
On the other hand, if you’re a firm, heavy-handed gamer/typist and like firm keys beneath your fingers that require a little more authority to press than softer keys, you’ll probably like the firm resistance offered by the Cross Blade’s Cherry MX Black mechanical switches. Personally, I prefer Cherry MX Blue (clicky) switches; my second favorite is a currently a bit of a tossup between Cherry MX Brown (softer) and Cherry MX Black (stiffer) switches.
On the whole however I gamed and used the Cross Blade extensively for several weeks and found little to complain about beyond its lack of extra features—back lighting, macro capabilities, etc. However, most keyboards in the Cross Blade’s size and price range sacrifice features to make them smaller, more portable, and also less expensive.
And though it doesn’t impact the performance of the keyboard, on a side note it would be nice to see Web sites and product documentation for the Cross Blade (and other products from outside the U.S.) better localized for the English language. I suspect more than a few potential buyers have been put off by odd-sounding English on product boxes, Web sites, documentation, etc. (For example: “Extremely Portable for Carrying Your Gears Around” is a bullet point on Cross Blade’s Amazon sales page.)
Overall: 4/5 stars
The Cross Blade offers firm keys for strong hands and comes with the best carrying case I’ve seen yet for any keyboard in any size range. And though the Cross Blade offers few extra features, it’s also among the least expensive mechanical keyboards you can buy; on average it’s about $15 less than Razer’s BlackWidow TE and around $25 less than the CM Storm Quickfire TK.
(Confession: I wanted to use the Cross Blade’s carrying case with the CM Storm Quickfire TK (because the TK has backlighting and Cherry MX Blue switches) for traveling to and from work. Alas, the sizes didn’t match.)
If you like the price and form factor but not Cherry MX Black mechanical switches, consider the CM Storm Quickfire Rapid, which comes in Cherry MX Blue and other switch types for about the same price ($65 or so).