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Thermaltake ditches mechanical keys to build an affordable, feature-packed keyboard

Tt eSPORTS, a division of Thermaltake, launched a new keyboard on Tuesday for PC gamers on a budget. At first glance, the new Challenger Edge looks to be a sturdy mechanical keyboard that’s backed by the Tt eSPORTS brand, but that’s not the case at all: it’s a gaming keyboard that supplies membrane keys instead of mechanical ones. The keycaps are also floating, which could turn away PC gamers who like the feel of keys making contact with a solid “click.”

So what’s the difference? Membrane keys often feel mushy, as resistance is provided by a rubber layer (the membrane). With mechanical keys, the strokes feel more direct because each key is connected to a metal, mechanical switch.

As a result, mechanical keyboards provide better tactile feedback and generally last longer than membrane keyboards. But the difference has more to do with feel than function, and not every gamer is willing to pay the premium.

Thermaltake’s new Tt eSPORTS Challenger Edge keyboard is just $40. That’s a lot less than mechanical keyboards, which start around $60 and rapidly go up from there. It’s clear the Challenger is meant to appeal to gamers who find mechanical keyboards a challenge to afford, without sacrificing all the other features desired.

Related: Brighten up your day – and gaming PC – with Thermaltake’s new RGB LED liquid cooler

The TT eSPORTS membrane switches used in this new keyboard have a lifespan of 20 million clicks, whereas mechanical switches can last up to 50 million clicks. But what Thermaltake is aiming for with the Challenger Edge is the budget gamer looking for a solution packed with features, and this new keyboard does just that for a reasonable price.

According to Thermaltake, the floating keycaps design provides better backlighting illumination, spilling light between the keys and the peripheral’s black brushed aluminum faceplate. There are eight colors to choose from, and four lighting effects to dazzle your friends: Static, Pulse, Pulse Jumping, and Spectrum Running. The colors can be customized as well as the speed of the effects.

While this new keyboard does not provide macro keys, game profile storage, on-board memory, or a graphical user interface, it does come with anti-ghosting technology so that gamers can hit a combination of keys simultaneously when performing special commands. The keyboard also allows the user to lock the Windows key so that it’s not accidentally pressed in heated gameplay and interrupting the session.

Thermaltake’s new keyboard doesn’t require installed software, but instead enables users to make changes and manage multimedia on the fly by way of shortcut keys, lighting keys, seven multimedia keys, and a function key. Overall, each key supposedly has a fast response time thanks to membrane switches that have a very short travel distance to actuation (key press registration). The keyboard’s polling rate is 125Hz.

Finally, the Challenger Edge comes with a wrist rest to make the gaming session more comfortable. It does not have any additional USB ports, no on-board audio jacks, and no built-in cable management. However, it connects to a desktop or laptop by way of a rather lengthy six-foot USB cable (a lot of keyboards offer only a three-foot cable).