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