When Cougar decided to join the PC peripheral market, it was met with some mixed reactions, but the most resounding is their new products are strikingly unique in presentation and to an extent, many of those that had the experience of holding these products first-hand during their reveal a few months back know that they are exceptionally well-made also which is the reason why many were really surprised at how much a leap Cougar has taken from their normal offerings of chassis, power supplies and cooling accessories.
We’ve already taken a look at the Cougar 600M Gaming Mouse and now we’re back once again with not one but two keyboards from Cougar’s new peripheral line: the Cougar 500K and the Cougar 600K. The Cougar 500K is the company’s most high-end membrane keyboard intended for high-performance gamers who don’t require a mechanical keyboard but want all the bells and whistles of the Cougar’s high-end Cougar 700K mechanical offering. That said, for those that want a more streamlined version of the Cougar 700K, the Cougar 600K mechanical keyboard is a slightly reduced option but still offers the same striking design as the Cougar 700K.
Today we’ll take a look at both the Cougar 500K and 600K to see what they offer. For this review we’ll have the Cougar 500K in the microscope and you can view our Cougar 600K review here.
FULL KEY BACKLIGHT
5-step brightness adjustment by the backlight key
ON-THE-FLY MACRO RECORDING KEY
Convenient one-touch to start recording a new macro on the fly
ON-THE-FLY MODE SWITCH KEY
Convenient one-touch to switch your profiles (Mode 1~Mode3) on the keyboard
Convenient one-touch to access multi-media commands
WINDOWS LOCK KEY
Quickly disable the Windows key with one touch
DETACHABLE PALM REST
Relieve palm discomfort and keeping your palm in an ergonomic typing position
NON-SLIP RUBBER FOOT
Base remains stable in the intense gaming sessions
BRAIDED CABLE & GOLDEN-PLATED CONNECTORS
Sturdy and durable solutions for gaming
Cougar packages the 500K in a full-colored cardboard packaging. A full layout view of the keyboard is presented on front with the model name printed in big, bold text on the lower left and marketing icons on the lower right. Flipping over to the back we see the feature highlights and a breakdown of the keyboard including its multiple capabilities. Opening up the box we see an exquisitely packed product safeguarded from travel bumps with multiple foam lining the packaging.
Inside the packaging we have the detachable wrist rest, product guide and some Cougar stickers! Comes in 3 colors.
The Cougar 500K uses a tightly woven braided cable with a split dual-USB head. One is for the keyboard itself and the other is for the USB passthrough port.
Here we have the bare Cougar 500K. Unlike the mechanical 600K and 700K, the Cougar 500K has an all plastic construction with the metal baseplate from the mechanical variants absent hence the black keyboard base. The layout is standard but a few things stick out mainly the space bar which is split in half to add the extra G6 key. The tightly grouped G-keys on the left are also of different color from the rest of the keyboard and the multitude of extra keys lining the top give the 500K a really decked-out look.
On the underside of the keyboard nothing much is going on. So we move on.
Attaching the wrist rest is where the Cougar 500K really starts looking really bold. The wrist rest adds some serious length to the keyboard and adds an aggressive look to the design.
Here’s a look at the sides with the feet lifted.
Single USB passthrough on the right corner of the keyboard.
Here are the various extra keys across the Cougar 500K.
Removing one of the key caps, we get a peek of the illuminated domes of the Couga 500K.
We’ve taken a look at the Cougar UIX customization software before and noted how its designed as a unified system for customizing your Cougar peripherals. Nice forward thinking from Cougar there going along with the modern approach that other leading manufacturers are using. For the Cougar 500K, the UIX system allows customization of extra keys as well per key customization. Performance can be tailored to the users needs including polling rate, sleep modes (how the keyboard acts when idle), backlighting. etc. Macros are also present and offers a traditional macro recording and editing feature which can be assigned to any of the extra G keys. You can save up to 3 profiles and switch realtime via the mode switch on top.
User Experience & Conclusion
It has been a while since we’ve reviewed a membrane keyboard here and that’s mainly because most of the manufacturers have shifted their attention to offering more and more mechanical keyboards for the market. While it can’t be denied that mechanical keyboards offer a much better experience in terms of responsiveness compared to membrane keyboards, there is and will always be a market for people who don’t need such a feature. And these are people that are fine with the feel of a membrane keyboard. The Cougar 500K is an example of a decked-out membrane keyboard tailored for such gamers; those that need extra functionality but don’t require the actuation advantage of a mechanical one.
In terms of feel, the Cougar 500K keys offers top-notch quality with their keys. Again, barring comparison against mechanical switches, Cougar’s dome design isn’t anything revolutionary but it isn’t a slouch either. Its tactile, smooth and offers a soft spring to it. For anyone who’s into MMORPGs, single player games, or other such games that don’t require precision timing and responses on their keypresses, the Cougar 500K does well.
For the most part, its feature set isn’t anything special and comes standard in any high-end gaming keyboard. Multimedia keys make it easy to toggle volume levels, control music etc. and the software configuration offers much flexibility for those looking to extend their experience. What makes the Cougar 500K stand-out is its construction. Its sleek body and bold design, uniform to the Cougar 700K, gives it a daring look and a really good feel. The FPS palm rest is a good choice but isn’t as optimized for all palm types as it digs in the wrist of those that prefer to curve their fingers on the WASD cluster, but that’s minor considering that Cougar was smart enough to have it removable.
Extras like full lighting and NKRO make the Cougar 500K a really premium offer and the NKRO isn’t that common on membrane keyboards. At $74.99 though the Cougar 500K sits dangerously close to mechanical keyboard pricing territory where TKL models and vanilla Kailh variants sit. This is where the decision to go with feature or feel becomes crucial and if you’re really considering a mechanical keyboard but is really looking at the Cougar 600K/700K because of the design, then we suggest saving up to get that. However, if you don’t bother with the hype surrounding mechanical switches and you’re more inclined with fully-backlit keyboard which is highly configurable then the Cougar 500K should be for your consideration. Its primary rival in this price point is the Logitech G510s and to a certain degree, the Corsair Raptor K40.
We can’t really fault anything in the Cougar 500K. Its a well made design that sees itself across the product line and offers the features of the high-end 700K at a more affordable price sans the mechanical switches. In closing, the Cougar 500K is a well-made keyboard featuring an exciting design and solid construction enough for gamers that don’t demand the feel of a mechanical keyboard but want the flexibility and customization option that a high-end product offers.
Cougar backs the Cougar 500K with a 1 year warranty. We give it our B2G Value Award and B2G Bronze Award.