The Thermaltake Challenger Ultimate keyboard is a full LED-backlighted, membrane-type keyboard that comes with macro keys, multimedia shortcut keys, two USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks plus a “hand cooling fan.”
Backlighting – The keyboard can be customized to display 5 distinct colors for each profile (more on profiles later). Using the accompanying software however, you can choose from any of 256 colors predefined in its palette. In addition, it also has three brightness levels which can conveniently be cycled through at the press of a key.
Macro Keys – 10 macro keys, 5 each on either side of the keyboard, are made available to enhance gaming experience or simply make your daily word processing or graphics editing tasks more bearable. Aside from these, the keyboard’s software lets you designate up to 4 additional keys as macro keys.
Additional Key Caps – 10 more red key caps come out of the box. The problem most gamers complain about is hitting the Windows key while in the middle of an exciting game. 2 of the aforementioned keycaps are designed to solve this problem by helping replace and disable the Windows keys. The 8 other keys replace the directional arrows and WASD to help you hit the correct key while playing your favorite shooting or RPG game. A keycap puller is also available.
Profiles – Up to 5 keyboard profiles can be saved to the Ultimate Challenger’s 64KB memory. This feature essentially allows you to set up to 70 macros.
Multimedia keys – 6 Multimedia keys let you control your chosen multimedia player.
USB Ports and Jacks – The Ultimate Challenger uses two USB ports: one to power the keyboard, and another to power the LED keyboard bed backlight. In return however, it comes with its own 2-port USB hub which you could use to plug in your mouse or other low-power consuming USB device. A microphone and headphone jack have also been included for convenience.
Cable routing – This has been included to ensure that the 2-meter braided USB power cable does not get disconnected easily.
Cooling Fan – This can be attached to either side of the keyboard to presumably cool off sweaty hands if not prevent them. If not needed, it can be snapped into a specially designed slot for it on the keyboard itself.
Wrist rest and foldable feet – Included for your convenience.
Thermaltake’s Ultimate Challenger is surprisingly comfortable to use. If you are using it in the dark to, you don’t have to worry about waking a sleeping roommate because, like other modern keyboards, this is not too noisy. Plus, the backlight is a very big help.
The macro keys are also great for gaming and, would you believe it, for work. You can customize them to not only execute key combinations while playing your favorite MMO or fighting game, you can also use them to launch specific applications or do keyboard shortcuts. For example, I have a few macro keys that let me copy, paste, and execute 7 tab key presses (don’t ask).
The extra key caps are also a boon, especially to those who are not touch typists. I have the W, A, S, D keys replaced with the arrow keys for example.
Lastly, the price is reasonable for an entry-level gaming keyboard with LED backlighting.
First, if you are used to having a big “Enter” key, it will take some time to adjust to the Ultimate Challenger’s smaller version.
Second, the key bed is the one that is backlighted, not the individual keys. Furthermore, aside from color customization, there are no “custom effects” you can use “to wow” your friends and make them buy it.
Third, the cooling fan is not strong enough… But then again, not everyone is going to buy this peripheral because of it, even if this is the first gaming keyboard that comes with a hand cooling fan.
Finally, the macro keys could have been better located at the top. Most people are used to hitting the function keys so putting the macro shortcut keys on either side makes them difficult to press quickly – especially the right-hand side keys! Conversely, if you use the number keys while gaming, then it’s the T1 – T5 keys that are challenging to press.
The Thermaltake Ultimate Challenger is highly recommended as an entry-level gaming keyboard. For $89.99 (based on the manufacturer’s site as of this writing), this is good enough for casual gamers or for those who simply want a LED backlit keyboard with macro functionality.
Update 01/04/2016: After more than a year, I am happy to report that this keyboard is still functioning perfectly.