Turtle Beach Impact 700 Mechanical Keyboard Review: The Sweet Spot?

Introduction And Specifications

We recently reviewed the Turtle Beach Impact 500 mechanical keyboard, a stripped-down, simple tenkeyless device that eschewed any backlighting or features such as passthrough ports. Its bigger brother, the 104-key Impact 700, shares some of the minimalist design ideas but caters to a much wider swathe of users. In some ways, for those looking for a fully-featured and fun--but not too fun--mechanical keyboard, the Impact 700 may be the sweet spot.

That is, in terms of features and design. The price is a big sticking point; at almost $200, there are some feature omissions here that are problematic.

Those sound like two kind of contradictory statements, don't they? Let us explain and elaborate in the following pages. But first, the specs.

Specifications

Note: There are several specifications that Turtle Beach has not published, and my questions to company representatives regarding those details have gone unanswered.

MORE: How We Test Mechanical Keyboards
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Product Tour

As a 104-key device, it’s no surprise that the Impact 700 has a little more in the bezel department than the compact TKL Impact 500. Indeed, there's slightly more chassis protruding from the front, back and sides of the former, although it's still minimal enough that you won't be resting any part of your hands on it.

Like its sibling, the Impact 700 has a bowl design, with the keys set inside the chassis somewhat, and there's a steel backplate underneath that has a "gunmetal" finish. Unlike the simpler Impact 500, this keyboard offers two USB 2.0 and two 3.5 mm audio passthrough ports. Because the passthrough ports require thicker cabling, the Impact 700's braided cable is not removable.

The passthrough ports are located on the rear of the chassis, on the right side. This keeps the ports themselves neatly out of sight. My sole complaint (and it's a small one) is that when I plug in a headset here, the cable is in the way. You have to drape it across the keyboard, route it around the right side (where it's in the way of your mouse), or run it along the back of the keyboard and around the left (which leaves you little slack to work with).

I would by no means categorize the key caps as "soft touch," but they are softer and smoother than those on the Impact 500, and they complement the look of the rubberized soft finish of the chassis nicely. The keys are all LED-backlit, although the only color you get is red.

In an effort to smooth out the lighting, Turtle Beach used a glittering, silver-colored backplate. For the most part, it does indeed seem to help nicely distribute the light--but only in the middle keys. If you look closely, the red light doesn't extend all the way to the edges, and you instead see the silver color of the backplate. Perhaps a red-colored backplate would serve the purpose slightly better.

One thing to note about the key cap lettering is that the secondary functions on the F keys and number keys  have tiny lettering. It's almost impossible to see at a glance which one does what. On one hand, this is annoying. On the other hand, it's not exactly difficult to remember which secondary characters are on the numbers, and you can easily enough memorize the media and lighting controls on the F keys.

From left to right, starting with F1, they are: back, play/pause, stop, forward, volume up, volume down and mute. Using F11, you can turn off all the lighting, or you can leave on just WASD and directional keys, or just the WASD and number keys (1-6). F12 cycles through the various lighting options, which consists of three levels of brightness, a breathing effect, and a pulsing effect.

When the lights are all off, the Impact 700 looks downright cool. The lettering is laser etched, so it's not bright white, and when there's no backlighting, the overall look is as all-black as you can get and still read the key cap letters. (The silver backplate peeks through a little, too.)

Speaking of key caps, the Impact 700 comes with 11 replacements and a key puller. Points for Turtle Beach for having a sense of humor: The extra caps include "NoCtrl," "InCtrl" and "WrathLk," as well as "GG" as a substitute Esc key.

Teardown

After (technically) breaking the Impact 500 to get the top panel off, I was prepared to do similar battle with the top panel of the Impact 700. First, I found two screws hiding under the flip-out feet on the bottom of the keyboard and removed them, and then I went about cracking off the top panel.

The score was Me = 1, slightly damaged keyboard = 0, when I finally figured that there was a screw holding the panel on. It was hidden underneath a "Do not remove" sticker. (This is when I realized that I'd made the same error with the Impact 500.)

So it goes.

Otherwise, the teardown was easy. The PCB/backplate combo came out with a bit of leverage. The PCB is actually somewhat translucent, so you can see the trace paths on both sides when you hold it up to a light, but make no mistake--the assembly is rock solid thanks to the steel backplate. It appears that the sparkly steel finish covers both sides of the plate, and although it's approximately only 1mm or so thick, it's heavy and sturdy.

Instead of mounting the MCU directly onto the PCB bearing the switches, Turtle Beach stuck it, the lighting controller, and the passthrough ports controller on a separate PCB. The two PCBs interface via a 44-pin connector. I noticed a small amount of leftover solder dotting the larger PCB here and there.

Two screws hold the smaller PCB snugly to the back of the chassis, which means that the passthrough ports won't become loose over time. The thick cable has a hard rubber bumper design that should prevent any undue wear on the wires extending from the PCB, too.

On a few of the key caps, I found little nibs left over from where they attached to a sheet. It's not particularly noticeable, but it's worth noting.

The Impact 500 and 700 have the same openings in the backplate: Mostly there are small openings here and there, but there is a large one around the arrow keys that will invite much dust and dirt in the space between the backplate and PCB. They also share the same MCU, the Sonix SN8f2288fg.


Tests And Performance

Key Rollover

The Impact 700 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.

Audio

In describing the auditory experience of the Impact 700, I would almost copy and paste my description of the Impact 500--that is, you get very little extra noise when typing on this keyboard. There is roughly the same amount of "ping" here as there is on the Impact 500. The Impact 500 has clickier Blue switches, which masks the ping more than the Impact 700's quieter Browns, but even so, you won't hear it too much unless you're typing somewhat forcefully. Again, the bowl design likely helps out here.

Turtle Beach Impact 700 Audio Test

Performance Notes

Like the Impact 500, the Impact 700 employs Costar-like stabilizers under the larger keys, and I will offer the same criticism: I personally do not like their stability, and I feel as though they create too much wobble. They also sound noisier to me than Cherry-style stabs. They are certainly more difficult to remove, and they're all too easy to break when you feel the need to pop one off for cleaning.

In selecting the Cherry MX Brown switches, though, Turtle Beach was spot on. Browns are a sort of average of smooth, linear Red switches and clicky, tactile Blues. Many typers like Browns because they offer some tactility but are still fairly smooth for gaming. (That is not to say that Blues aren't good for gaming.)

Thus, like many Brown switch-equipped keyboards, the Impact 700 is as appropriate in the office as it is in the gaming lair. This jibes with the overall design of the Impact 700, which can be either inconspicuous, with no lighting and a simpler all-black design, or a little more fun and ostentatious with the red backlighting kicked on.

Conclusion

At the top of this review, I stated that the Impact 700 could be a sweet spot for many users in terms of design and features and also that the price was troublesome considering certain feature omissions. What I mean by that is that if you forget about the price for a moment, the Impact 700 is a fine balance of more refined "mature" design sensibilities and fun stuff like glowing lights.

Many users don't care to trick out their keyboards with the equivalent of rave lighting, with complicated game-specific profiles and layered effects and pulsations, but they may still enjoy a little backlighting. The Impact 700 has, simply, all-red lighting with a couple of effects available on the device itself. (And you can turn the lights off entirely.) One knock on the lighting, though, is the inconsistency around the edges of the key areas.

Those same users often don't want a flashy keyboard that looks like something Master Chief would game on, and thus the chilled-out, simple, all-black rectangle chassis design (against which that red lighting really pops) is appealing. Further, many of those users spend as much time typing up reports and spreadsheets as they do blasting their way through Call of Duty (probably more, actually), so the Cherry MX Brown switches are ideal, as they offer more-quiet performance than Blues (for an office setting) but still give you some semblance of the smoother action of Reds.

There's no software to mess with, either; you just plug the thing in and get going. With the passthrough ports, that gives you a quick plug-and-play experience for your keyboard, mouse, headphones and so on.


Further, the build quality is excellent, thanks largely to the steel backplate.

But...at some point you have to look at the price tag and wonder where your dollars are going. The Impact 700 costs nearly $200--an "impact" on your wallet, indeed. To put that in perspective, that's pricier than anything Razer or Corsair make, and you don't get those choice value-adds like RGB lighting, software to program lights and macros, game profiles, or an extra bank of macro keys.  

By no means am I suggesting that you need any of those features to have a great gaming keyboard, but at this price point, one expects the moon.

Further, fairly or not, Turtle Beach does not have the gravitas as a keyboard maker to demand such a premium. The Impact 700 is a fine product, but the price needs to be sliced in half.

Seth Colaner is the News Director for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter @SethColaner. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

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36 comments
    Your comment
  • tom10167
    2016, the year of $200 keyboards
  • Indrasil
    200$ and no RGB? Turtle Beach lived to its expectations...
  • Gam3r01
    I dont care if it dosent have RGB or the works, but 200 bucks? TB at it once again.
  • DookieDraws
    Yeah, $200 for a keyboard is outrageous. I am sure it's a nice keyboard, but how in the world can they justify such a high price? Does that price include a free date with Daisy Ridley? :P
  • kschang77
    And only an 8-bit controller? Everybody else uses 32-bit ARM CPUs...
  • vaughn2k
    I thought it comes with a modular power supply :D
  • NBL khalifa
    MIONIX ZIBAL ripoff ? or same oem ?
  • NBL khalifa
    also mionix zibal is much more cheaper
  • WyomingKnott
    Hey, does anybody make a decent ergonomic keyboard with good switches? I'm still using the Microsoft Natural membrane keyboard because it makes my hands feel SO GOOD.
  • blackmagnum
    Wouldn't you rather use that money to get a Radeon R9 380? Poor pricing of keyboard!
  • geekguy
    This keyboard looks to me a lot like an old IBM one (in it's design) with PS/2 connector, that we had in a lab for a Novell network with a 386 server. Back then they used to make real sturdy things...
  • livingspeedbump
    Quote:
    This keyboard looks to me a lot like an old IBM one (in it's design) with PS/2 connector, that we had in a lab for a Novell network with a 386 server. Back then they used to make real sturdy things...


    From the side, due to the rounded case it does look a bit like the old IBM design from their Model F's or Beam Spring keyboards. Now an F AT or Beam Spring...I'd have no hesitation dropping $200 on.
  • ubercake
    I could see paying $200 only if this keyboard had an Apple symbol on it, but not for any other reason.

    There's just too much competition and too many better keyboards out there for less money.
  • jimmysmitty
    299576 said:
    I could see paying $200 only if this keyboard had an Apple symbol on it, but not for any other reason. There's just too much competition and too many better keyboards out there for less money.


    They are obviously trying to play on their name with their headphone lines because I paid $165 for my K95 RGB and I feel it is probably a vastly better keyboard than this.
  • logainofhades
    $200 for a keyboard? I think I'll pass.
  • beoir
    Corsair called, They'd like their IP back.
  • Brandon_29
    I'll stick with my G910 that I paid 95 bucks for on black friday. Better keyboard and way cheaper.
  • ubercake
    149725 said:
    ... They are obviously trying to play on their name with their headphone lines because I paid $165 for my K95 RGB and I feel it is probably a vastly better keyboard than this.

    Right? There are too many great keyboards by great manufacturers already out there - manufacturers with even better reputations than Turtle Beach such as Corsair - for Turtle Beach to successfully enter the market at a $200 price point. Does Turtle Beach really have that great of a rep? The only thing I've known them for is good-quality headphones for gaming consoles. That's my impression of that company.

    I'd see them gaining traction at around a more realistic $120 for what the article shows here. They need to be able to compete with a solid company like Logitech before they think they can price themselves above high-end Corsair.

    If this keyboard allowed you to turn off the tilde key in the BF4 or SWBF profile (why isn't this part of the software for keyboards anyway?), it might be a different story. Just maybe.
  • jimmysmitty
    299576 said:
    149725 said:
    ... They are obviously trying to play on their name with their headphone lines because I paid $165 for my K95 RGB and I feel it is probably a vastly better keyboard than this.
    Right? There are too many great keyboards by great manufacturers already out there - manufacturers with even better reputations than Turtle Beach such as Corsair - for Turtle Beach to successfully enter the market at a $200 price point. Does Turtle Beach really have that great of a rep? The only thing I've known them for is good-quality headphones for gaming consoles. That's my impression of that company. I'd see them gaining traction at around a more realistic $120 for what the article shows here. They need to be able to compete with a solid company like Logitech before they think they can price themselves above high-end Corsair. If this keyboard allowed you to turn off the tilde key in the BF4 or SWBF profile (why isn't this part of the software for keyboards anyway?), it might be a different story. Just maybe.


    To be fair Corsair gained their reputation through memory and slowly released other good products.

    That said, their headphones are OK. I mean if I were to buy headphones I wouldn't buy them but for normal console gamers they work decently.

    Even competing with Logitech will be hard. I love Corsairs keyboards but I still love Logitechs mice and even their keyboards are decent enough. Maybe not in my taste design wise but good quality.

    They will sell though. Any console noob moving into PC gaming will see the name and remember the headphones thinking it is the better quality brand when it is meh. It is like Beats. Just because Dre owns the name and uses his name people buy them because they think "he makes music he knows how to make headphones". I can tell you my Creative 2.1 set from almost 10 years ago pounds any Beats speaker or headphone set in quality.

    Ahhh the easily tricked mind of the common man.
  • Nailli
    This board is absolutely hideous and the build quality is atrocious. If I'm going to spend $200+ on a board then I'd get a Happy Hacking:

    https://elitekeyboards.com/products.php?sub=pfu_keyboards,hhkbpro2&pid=pdkb400b
  • gondo
    Turtle beach was known for Sound Cards not headsets. Now they are known for headsets, and not very good ones at that.

    I pitty the fool that buys this over a Steelseries.
  • zthomas
    over priced ya think??

    I got a pair of turtle beach headphones.. gotta say.. they got style.. and well made
  • gondo
    1415492 said:
    over priced ya think?? I got a pair of turtle beach headphones.. gotta say.. they got style.. and well made


    Turtle Beach doesn't make headphones. They make headsets, there is a difference.
  • zthomas
    ha.. mine is a headset.. thought I needed to chat while gaming.. the setup is kinda redundant.. with my soundblaster z, both want to power the mike.. thing is the sound is better through my speakers.. than the phones.. a few war type games you do need a headset.. I had found .. your kinda a dork not being able to chat..