Introduction And Specifications
It's not an insult to say that there's nothing extraordinary about Turtle Beach's Impact 500 mechanical keyboard. In fact, it's almost as if it was designed that way. The all-black tenkeyless Impact 500 features no backlit keys and has a simple and compact rectangular design, almost as if the Das Keyboard 4C Professional and Nixeus Moda v2 got together and had a baby.
Also, yes, Turtle Beach makes keyboards. Like many companies these days, Turtle Beach is testing the waters of gaming peripherals, and the Impact 500 and the higher-end Impact 700 are among the company's early efforts. (There's also a non-mechanical-switch Impact 100 keyboard and two gaming mice from the company.)
With the Impact 500, Turtle Beach took the approach that many tenkeyless customers prefer not just a more compact keyboard, but also a more staid design. As I mentioned at the top of this article, the simplicity of the Impact 500 reminds me of the Nixeus Moda v2, with the primary difference being that the Impact 500 has its keys set into a rather deep "bowl," whereas the Moda v2 has them mounted directly on top of a backplate.
There are pros and cons to both design ideas. A bowl design is harder to clean, for sure, and it's not as striking, but the Impact 500 hides all the "business" of the switches, so the resulting visual is a sort of all-black effect. The keys are black, and so is the chassis, so the sense you get is that the Impact 500 is this solid, brick-like rectangle.
The surface of the chassis has an attractive, slightly rubberized soft-touch look. Usually, as with some of Razer's keyboards, you quickly besmudge that pretty finish with hand and finger grease, but Turtle Beach obviates this issue to an extent by keeping the surface area so minimal that there isn't much room for your grease stains to show up.
There are no additional ports on the Impact 500; the sides and back are smooth. The only aberrations are three tiny notches—one each on the left side, right side and back side—to accommodate the cable. It's a design element for which Turtle Beach should be lauded, as it's the same T-groove routing for the cable that we saw on the Nixeus Moda v2. You can route the cable directly out the back of the keyboard or run it out the left or right sides, depending on your desk setup and preferences. The only issue I see is that there isn't much clearance for the cable in the notched-out area, so if you run it left or right, I worry that there's undue stress on the connector.
The cable is detachable (it has a mini-USB connector) for better portability, and it sports a black braided design with red accents.
There are no lights on the Impact 500 save for the Caps Lock, Scroll Lock and Windows indicators. The Windows indicator light is on the F9 key, and you can activate it with Fn+F9. The other two are mounted below the PrtSc, ScrLk and Pause Break keys. All three light up in red to match the red highlights in the cable.
Turtle Beach eschewed any dedicated media buttons in favor of compactness, instead forcing some of the F keys into double duty. F5, F6, F7 and F8 offer play/pause, stop, backward and forward controls, respectively, and the F10, F11 and F12 keys give you volume controls.
I do not have full details on the key caps (per my note above explaining that Turtle Beach has not confirmed several specs). From simple observation, though, the caps are plastic with printed lettering.
The chassis is almost exactly the same width and height as the Nixeus Moda V2, although the Impact 500 is a few millimeters thicker.
(Update, 5/10/16, 8:45am PT: Fixed typo.)
Taking the Impact 500 apart requires a bit of elbow grease, and to be abundantly clear, do not try this at home unless you want scuff marks from prying tools along the edge of the chassis. You could very well break something (on the keyboard, not on your person).
As you can see from the photos, I managed to scuff and scrape part of the backplate wrestling the top panel off. There were no screws holding it on, but a single plastic post held everything together. Seeing no other options, I eventually just snapped the post.
It wasn't until much later that I realized there was, actually, a screw inside that plastic post. It was on the bottom of the keyboard, hidden under a sticker that ominously read "Do not remove." I should have questioned the sticker and ripped it off, saving myself the bruised fingertips and slightly damaged keyboard. (There's a lesson in there somewhere, kids.)
Anyway, once I cracked the top panel off, removing the PCB required only a slight amount of leverage to jiggle it out from the plastic back of the chassis. Although the top panel and bottom chassis are plastic, the backplate upon which the switches rest is steel and provides rigidity to the Impact 500.
The interior is clean and has tidy welds. The MCU is the Sonix SN8f2288fg, a 12-bit USB 2.0 chip with 12k x 16 bits ROM and 512 x 8 bits RAM.
For the sake of keeping dust out of the inside of the chassis, Turtle Beach designed its backplate with few openings around the main keys. However, there's a huge opening near the arrow keys, and although it's covered by the top panel, it is a means by which dirt and dust can slide inside the chassis.
One other small issue I noticed is that some of the keys appear to be seated slightly higher than others. The difference is miniscule, but it's enough of an aberration that I spotted it.
Tests And Performance
The Impact 500 offers 6KRO, plus the modifier keys, and we can confirm that spec. As to why Turtle Beach opted for 6KRO instead of 10KRO or NKRO, this ensures a baseline for all users: Whether you're on a new PC, old PC or a Mac, the 6KRO will work.
Something Turtle Beach should be commended for is the fact that there are few extraneous noises when you're typing. With many keyboard designs, you'll hear an extra "ping" when you strike the keys, or the spring noise may be noticeable (as in the case of the Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum). You do get a bit of "ping" at times, but I noticed it only when I banged the keys especially hard, and sometimes on some of the larger keys.
Certainly the deep "bowl" design of the Impact 500 aids this noise reduction, and the already-loud clicky Blue keys help by masking whatever noise it does produce. That is to say, in terms of sound, the Impact 500 provides a relatively clean typing experience.
With Cherry MX Blue switches on board, you can certainly use the Impact 500 as a gaming peripheral, although it almost begs you to use it primarily as a typer. I was perfectly happy gaming with the Impact 500 under my fingers, and the typing experience ended up being excellent, too, for the most part. At first, I noticed that some of the keys seemed to stick a little, but after many days of use, they all loosened up.
One issue I have with the Impact 500, though, is the Costar-like stabilizers on the larger keys. Allowing that there's a certain amount of subjectivity here, and that those types of stabs do have some fans, I dislike them. Objectively, they're difficult to remove for cleaning (without breaking the tiny plastic inserts), which alone is enough for me to avoid them. However, I also find that they have too much rattle and movement, and if you screw them up at all when removing a key cap, the stabilization can be wrecked such that you have to strike the key in the exact center to ensure optimal performance. Indeed, on the Impact 500 I noticed some ineffective actuation when I struck some the larger keys off-center.
(And yes, I know that you can mod Costar-style stabs somewhat, but I don't believe that having to modify a product to achieve optimal performance is acceptable.)
What many readers are no doubt pondering at this point is why one would purchase this particular keyboard over any other. The answer is a thin one, although it's what many company reps tell me is the reason they launched their peripherals line to begin with: brand loyalty/fandom. If you're a fan of Turtle Beach headsets, you might want to complete the set with a Turtle Beach mouse and keyboard.
However, if you're especially particular about your keyboard, the Impact 500 is an option with very clear and specific design sensibilities. It's compact, simple and austere, and the boxy black look grew on me over time. It has loud, clicky Cherry MX Blue switches for typers, with relatively clean typing sounds. The steel backplate and high-quality plastic (the soft-touch top and shiny undercarriage look nice, and both are durable) afford the Impact 500 solid build quality (Costar stabs notwithstanding.)
It does cost $130, though. That's a pretty penny for a keyboard with no frills, but it's not ludicrous considering some of the competition; the Das Keyboard 4C Pro, for example, costs $143. (On the other hand, the stripped-down Nixeus Moda v2 severely undercuts both at a mere $70.)