Photos and Features
When you first see the Barebones Novatouch it is a little jarring, you typically don’t see a new keyboard without any keycaps. That said the overall design sticks with the blacked out simple design that Cooler Master has been using for a while. In fact on first glance , ignoring the switches the Novatouch looks a lot like the Quickfire Rapid. This means the keyboard has the same thin bezels around all of the edges and a clean design that has no logos at all showing on the main portion of the keyboard. Think about how rare it is these days to find any product that doesn’t have a company name, product name, or some sort of logo clearly visible on it. The original Quickfire designs used to have a small CM Storm logo above the direction pad but that was dropped on future Quickfires. The overall finish doesn’t feel like the same rubber finish of the Quickfires but there is still a little bit of a grip, it is possible that Cooler Master has changed the formula to avoid the pealing issues or they have gone with a completely different finish all together. The Novatouch currently only comes in a TenKeyLess design (aka TKL) meaning the keyboard has a standard layout but does not have a number pad over on the far right. This opens up desk space and is great for people wanting a cleaner desk or in my case I love using TKL or smaller keyboards to take with me for LANs.
While the case is sharp, seeing that is is very similar to the Quickfire Rapid this isn’t the reason for the new Novatouch name. The reason is because the Novatouch moves from the standard Cherry MX switches to a Hybrid Capacitive design that is normally known as a Topre switch. Topre’s are best described as a mixture of a mechanical switch and a membrane switch. The design works similar to a membrane design but it has a cone shaped spring inside. A standard Cherry MX switch would use the spring to give resistance and the slider design to give the tactile feel. Well for Topre’s everything is the opposite. The coned spring is what actuates the switch, In other words when the spring compresses it creates the circuit. The rubber dome over the switch is what gives most of the resistance and feel to the switch. The Novatouch gives a 45g resistance, you will sometimes fine other Topre boards in a 55g or a mix of the two as well. Topre’s are preferred by some because they give the quality and life of a mechanical switch while not having a coarse or “mechanical” feel.
So I mentioned earlier that the Novatouch is unique even when compared to other Topre keyboards. A normal Topre switch has a round slider on top that the keycaps snap into. Well the Novatouch uses a unique design that drops that support for the cross pattern that Cherry MX’s use. This allows it to use any standard MX switch keycaps, something that are MUCH more available. To put it into perspective, I have had a Topre Realforce keyboard for a few years now that I don’t use because the legends are black on dark grey keycaps, I’ve been looking for a set of keycaps to swap onto it to use it all this time and all you can find are highly marked up sets that haven’t been made or sold in years by Realforce. On the other hand, new custom keycaps sets are designed and produced every few weeks for MX switches.
The simple clean design of the Novatouch’s case does have a bit of style when you look at the side profile. Its not much but just enough to make it unique.
Around on the back of the keyboard that same styling works around the first few inches of the back and is the only place you will find a visible logo on the Novatouch and you won’t even see it when typing. Over on the left side of the back we have the plug for the detachable Micro USB cable. I’m used to seeing this plug hidden up under the keyboard with complicated tracks to run the cable out different sides. Having it right on the back makes running custom cables easier as the thicker connections on custom cables rarely fit under the keyboards properly. It also makes it quick and easy to plug and unplug the Novatouch. For some they might prefer a slightly cleaner design but I like the easy access as I normally use smaller keyboards like this for LANs where I will be setting up and cleaning up quickly over the weekend.
It isn’t until we get on the bottom of the Novatouch before we even see the product name or a Cooler Master logo. Those are both on the sticker on the bottom along with the model number and serial number. They also include all of the FCC and CE logos from the various certifications. For feet the Novatouch has four inch wide rubber feet, none of them are particularly big but they are about the average size you will find on other mechanical keyboards. Near the back rubber feet there are also flip out plastic feet to angle the board up. Each has a small rubber bit on the end as well to make sure we don’t lose to much traction when using them.
I couldn’t very well test a barebones Novatouch without installing a set of keycaps right? Well I just happened to have a set of keycaps come in from Massdrop from their Jukebox keycap set so I figured I would go with them. They are designed by LivingSpeedBump and manufactured by Signature Plastics. The caps are in an sculpted SA profile, this is taller profile keycap that is reminiscent of the older typwriter keycaps and the sculpted part means each row is a little different unlike the DSA caps that I use on a few of my other keyboards. The main portion of the set came in a big bag along with a few smaller bags for things like the spacebar and a few special caps.
Remember earlier I mentioned the round spring that came with the Novatouch, well it goes under the spacebar to help keep the spring pressure the same between the heavier spacebar and the other keys. Installing the spacebar was very easy, the Novatouch doesn’t have any hard to work with stabilizer bars that need to be installed on long keys so it was basically me just pushing each cap into place.
The set came with a few options and I also have an optional set that gives me more options. So when it came to the escape button, the bottom row, and even the tilde button I could change the look of the keyboard with different colored caps as well as a few different 50’s themed logos.
I had to go with the red escape button of course but I slipped a few more red keycaps to give contrast to the rest of the keyboard.
With everything installed we can also get a better look at the overall profile that the sculpted SA’s give us. The top two rows are especially profiled and all of the caps are taller than your everyday keycaps.
I slipped in the Massdrop key because they did hook me up with the keyset after having problems with something else. The set also has caps to show off for a few of the Keyboard focused communities like Geekhack and r/MK.
Overall I think it came out looking good. The clean styling of the Novatouch will go with just about anything really.