Cougar tosses their 700K mechanical gaming keyboard into the ring and shows they definitely have some claws to hang with the ‘big boys’. With an aluminum chassis, good driver software and a few nice extras, the Cougar 700K is well worth a look.
Similar to Corsair’s high-end keyboard offerings (like the Corsair K95 RGB), the Cougar 700K sports an aluminum chassis and raised mechanical keys. The 700K also sports per-key illumination so you can illuminate some, any, all, or no keys on the keyboard in orange with 4 brightness levels.
The 700K also features 5 dedicated macro keys along the left-hand edge of the keyboard, and on-the-fly repeat rate adjustment so you can switch between 1x, 2x, 4x, and 8x key repeat rates by pressing FN+F1 through F4. This is a pretty handy feature for games requiring a lot of button-mashing (i.e. quick-time events).
Onboard memory can store 3 different keyboard profiles, and all of it is powered by a 32-bit ARM processor to ensure none of it places the slightest hint of drag on your CPU. (Not it really could, but someone has to do something with all those cheap 32-bit ARM processors sitting in landfills, so they might as well make for a bullet point feature on a keyboard box.)
Rounding out the 700K’s major features is a single USB pass-through connector and stereo/mic connectors.
Note that the review unit came with Cherry MX Black switches, but the 700K is available with other switches as well (Cherry MX Blue, Brown, or Red).
Cougar 700K features and specifications
- 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0
- Cherry MX mechanical keys (available in blue, black, red, brown)
- N-key rollover
- Full key backlighting (orange)
- On-board memory for 3 profiles
- 1000Hz / 1ms polling rate
- 1X / 2X / 4X / 8X repeat rate ‘quick keys’
- Aluminum / Plastic
- 6 programmable G-keys
- 1x USB pass through
- Stereo/Mic pass through
- 1.8m Braided cable
- Dimensions: 230(L) X 487(W) X 40(H) mm
- Weight: 1.2kg
Comfort and design
The Cougar 700K includes an exceptionally nice wrist rest with textured rubber for your left hand. They call it an ‘FPS wrist rest’. I call it a nice wrist rest, and it’s certainly a cut above the one that doesn’t come with the Razer Blackwidow, and the cheap plastic one included with the Logitech G900 Orion Spark.
Cherry MX Black switches are probably my least favorite mechanical switch, but that is just a personal preference. If you’re new to mechanical keyboards or haven’t developed a preference for a particular switch-type, then know that Cherry MX Black switches require higher actuation force (i.e. they are the stiffest and hardest to press) and they have powerful springs for fast rebounds.
In short, they are stiffer and ‘bouncier’ than other mechanical switches such as Cherry MX Blue/Brown, Razer Green (found in the Blackwidow Chroma) and Logitech’s Romer-G (found in the G910 Orion Spark). Generally these are the switches I’d tend to recommend to most gamers that haven’t yet developed a preference for one.
Aside from what’s under the hood, the overall design and layout of the Cougar 700K is similar to most of the keyboards in its class. Most manufacturers seem to have honed in on a fairly optimal design that is increasingly common–which is placing the dedicated macro keys on the left edge of the keyboard and/or near the space bar.)
The Cougar 700K largely follows this standard, with a slight twist: It splits the spacebar into two separate halves, the right side of which also serves as a dedicated macro (G6) key.
Unfortunately, Cougar makes the mistake of not defaulting the G6 key to function as the spacebar, which quickly annoyed me when typing. Thankfully, you can easily program the G6 key to simply function as a space bar in the Cougar 700k driver software – but it really should come that way out of the box.
The profile-switching, macro recording, and other controls are all large and generally well-placed within easy reach of your left hand. The media keys take up the right corner of the keyboard. The volume control buttons are unnecessarily stiff. You’ll tire your fingers just turning up your tunes.
As stated previously, the Cougar 700K ‘black switch’ variety is less than optimal for typing, but only because of the underlying switch type. If you like to really hammer on your keys, you may like it more than I do. Otherwise, the overall design and layout of the keyboard work well for gaming, and the driver software is intuitive and easy to use. While it doesn’t boast quite as many of features as some of the competition in its price range (such as cloud-based profile storage, or the ability to assign a macro to any and every key, or game-activated profiles), the Cougar 700K covers the essentials well.
The Cougar software does enable you to assign macros to up to 10 additional keyboard keys, and the software supports ‘cross talking’ with other Cougar devices (such as a mouse) if you have them installed, similar to Logitech and Razer’s driver software.
On a side note, I actually used the 700K and several macros to help plow through a number of tedious tasks at work and discovered that its macro recorder is quite flexible and capable – although it capped out at 100 actions (which should still be more than enough for typical game macros).
The Cougar 700K gaming keyboard is a solid choice among mechanical keyboards with a fairly standard layout that covers the essentials well. If you’re considering one, I’d recommend a version based upon a different switch type (unless of course you prefer Cherry MX Black switches).