Drevo is a new name in the PC market. Slowly but steadily they are making their way through. DREVO was founded in 2016, headquartered in Beijing with branches in the US and Europe with a specialty in competitive R&D capability and rich experiences in manufacturing. DREVO is keen on powering the global PC gaming community with unprecedented offerings. The ascension to the ranks of a glorious gaming warrior is more affordable than ever with DREVO. The R&D team at DREVO does not just design products, they design experiences. Each and every detail is crafted after some well-designed research based on user requirements. Their aim is to come up with products that have an identity in the market. Their main product lines are Keyboards, Storage drives, and accessories.

We have earlier reviewed their Tyrfing V2 and absolutely loved the design and experience. Drevo announced the Kickstarter funding for their new concept design of BladeMaster with rich features and Genious Knob concept which got the attention of many, particularly on Reddit as Drevo has informed that over 10,000 community members had shown their interest in buying this keyboard. The BladeMaster comes in two flavors the TE version and the Pro version. TE version is the wired one whereas the Pro version is the wireless. Another key differentiating feature of these versions is the type of switch. The Pro is using Geman excellent in the form of MX Cherry switches whereas the TE is using Gateron switches. These keyboards are available in 9 Layouts – US/UK/IT/DE/FR/ES(SP)/JP/KR/NORDIC. Both versions follow the TKL (Ten Key Less) design to make them compact so as not to occupy more space on the working top/table. Drevo has not forgotten the Industry’s trend and equipped these keyboards with RGB backlighting per key. The sample we have received is TE version with Brown switches. The TE version comes in Gateron RGB Black/Blue/Brown/Red switches. There was a total of 9 prototypes with Drevo and we are among the 9 media who got their hands on the prototype for the thorough testing and the review. With these keyboards, Drevo is focusing on enthusiast and mainstream gamers. Since I have been testing the TE version, I will be focused on it alone. If you are interested in the Pro version then check other media sites, please.

  • Item:                    BladeMaster TE
  • Manufacturer:        Drevo
  • Price:                    $99.9 [At the time of the Review]

Specifications

Packaging and Unboxing

Since this was a prototype version of the keyboard, it did not come in a retail packing but in a simple white color cardboard box without any accessory. I am sorry if you were looking for packing information. Hopefully, you will get to see that in the latest reviews with actual retail boxes. As mentioned on their website, the following will be included in the box:

  • 1x Keyboard
  • 1x Keycap puller
  • Small brusher
  • Operating Manual
  • After Sale Service card
  • Drevo Sticker

Design and Features

Before I dig into the design elements of this keyboard, let’s discuss the background and announced features of the keyboard that gain interest by the community. 3559 backers have so far backed up the BladeMaster concept from Drevo and pledged $435,476 to make this happen. Why crowdfunding has been a question on mind for quite some time and came about some statements from the company over this decision. Here, I am reproducing some lines from them. “BladeMaster is a public project from the community since the first day the idea was created. To meet the requests from our early supporters, we’ve decided to keep making everything of BladeMaster clear continually. Launching a crowdfunding project is a good way that we can keep frequent and direct engagements with our supporters. Plus, as a new brand keen on innovative peripherals, DREVO really needs a great chance to use the platform of Kickstarter to turn the target audience into our real users.” The bold line gives me the answer, I was looking for. Let’s talk about some features.

Genius Knob

This idea really kicked me when I heard it for the time and being a gamer and a writer, it appeared to me like a perfect solution. Both versions of the BladeMaster are equipped with the programmable Genius Knob. Implementation of this button has been quite challenging for the Drevo, particularly its physical placement on the final product and related internal circuitry. This added more to the equation given that it was implemented vertically. In a nutshell, this single button has multiple functions. It is going to take over what was previously possible with the keys combination. The user can now access the same functionality with just rolling the button forward/backward or single/double clicking. It is obvious that one would need software support to avail this functionality. Where it has pros, cons are also there. I will mention them later in the content. The position of the knob on the left side of the keyboard makes more sense as the majority of the gamers are using their left hand to use WASD keys for gaming. Users can quickly tune themselves to learn and adapt this addition of the knob in the left-hand operations and without even worrying about looking at the keyboard to press certain key combinations for the desired action in the game, they can have all this functionality coming from the knob. This knob is not fine-tuned to the gamers but it has implications in the multimedia control and desktop applications like MS Word etc as well. The 4 default commands of the Genius-knob are PageUp, PageDown, Home, and End. By entering “Key Settings”, you can assign any operation to the knob.

Connectivity Options and Flashlink

There are in total three modes of connection in the BladeMaster (depending upon the version).

  • USB based wired connection [Type-C for Pro]
  • 2.4 GHz Wireless connection
  • 4.0 Bluetooth connection

Please, note that TE version has only wired USB 2.0 based connectivity. The Pro version has all three connection possibilities better yet the wired one is following the Type-C format. This combination of the connectivity options as allowed for true RGB backlighting implementation on the Pro version as well.

Mainly positioned as an ultimate gaming keyboard, BladeMaster PRO features a self-developed connecting tech called FlashLink. By adopting frequency-hopping tech and achieving a report rate of 1000Hz, FlashLink allows gamers to game in the 2.4GHz wireless mode just as same as via USB wired connection with equivalent report rate and stability. To enjoy the FlashLink tech in wireless mode, one needs to use the USB receiver that is included in BladeMaster PRO’s package. You can simply access the fast wireless connection instantly after getting the receiver inserted into your computer and you have no need for any other operation. In addition, users can use 2.4GHz wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB wired connection to connect three different devices, let’s say, USB to the desktop, 2.4GHz wireless to the notebook, Bluetooth to the mobile phone. Also, hot-swapping can be performed between these three devices with the combination of FN + PRTSC/SCRLK/PAUSE. Particularly suitable for the office scenario: 2 computers and 1 mobile phone.

Cloud and Onboard Storage

Besides the cloud software that can help you save your settings, BladeMaster PRO & TE both have a 16MB onboard storage which can store three of your custom configurations including lighting effect, key customization, and macro. With it, you will be able to freely to attend any offline activities and enjoy your personal settings at once even with no need to download the DPC software. The DPC software lets the user do almost everything to control the functionality of this keyboard to reap the true benefits of this design. It can also give you the much-needed edge over your competitors during gaming contests. Besides, battery status and special key lighting combo sets are available for games such as CS:GO, Overwatch, MOBA, etc. Everything is at your disposal through the software. When you are playing popular games, the software can even automatically recognize your game and assign certain command settings accordingly to the smart knob for your advanced operation.

Design Concept

Every successful product in the market has a reason. The inspiration for the exterior design of the BladeMaster is a culmination of the designers’ consolidated work, which includes elements from various fields such as electronics, arms, biology, fashion, and automobile. To sum up, the BladeMaster’s appearance is a harmony of several things that in your daily life but not one, which will make it a fabulous keyboard. The design concepts that Drevo has concluded from the elements are humility, dynamic, sharp, lightsaber, and shield. You will notice that the intricate details in the appearance are a concrete explanation of the abstract design concept.

Comparison with other options

Drevo has provided a comparison picture for each of their BladeMaster version for the referencing purpose from various parameters. Here it is:

Closer Look

The Drevo BladeMaster TE is a wired version of the series. It is a compact mechanical gaming keyboard enabled with RGB backlighting. This keyboard has all the features that the Pro version of the BladeMaster has but it with two major differences which are wired connectivity and Gateron RGB switches as compared to the triple connectivity options and Cherry MX switches in the Pro version.  I have already mentioned some key features of the BladeMaster above. It is time to take a closer look at the keyboard.

This keyboard is 87-key TKL (Ten Key Less) design. Kindly note that there are different keys versions in different regions subject to the layout. The 87-key is using ANSI for the US, KR, whereas the 88-key is using ISO for UK FR, DE, IT, SP, ND, and 91 keys version, is using ISO for JP. It is compact build but without any compromise on the build quality. For our readers who are not well versed with TKL concept, this keyboard does not have a numpad. Hence it has less surface area making its design to be more compact but not as lightweight as Tyrfing V2 is. The dimension of the keyboard is 369x136x45mm with a weight of 940gm without cable. The keycaps are made of ABS material. Make sure to check out the regional layouts available before buying the keyboard. There are 13 keys that work in combination with the Fn to give the stated outcome. Pressing them without the Fn key would give their normal output. The keys are almost in the same order as we see on any other standard mechanical keyboard except where the difference comes from the UK layout in particular. This keyboard has RGB LED lighting and I have found the lighting effects on this keyboard subtle and pleasing to eyes. Light is diffused very well across the keys and they don’t spread over. This keyboard has 16MB of built-in storage capacity to house the user’s saved settings making the keyboard ready for on-the-go.

This keyboard does not have dedicated media keys as there is no need for any much thanks to the Genius Knob. The user can experience the multimedia using the genius knob for which they will need to activate the multimedia functionality on the knob by pressing the Fn and Pg Up keys combination. Fn is a major key on this keyboard controlling the aspects of defining/accessing Macros, changing lighting effects as well as creating new lighting effects from scratch, locking the Windows Start key. As soon as you press the Fn key the combination keys got to light up in the white LED regardless of the current lighting effect. This is definitely a handy feature giving the user a visual aid. The below mentioned table is showing the combination keys and their stated outcome when pressed along with Fn key.

Key Combination Output
Fn+Win Locks/Unlocks the Windows key
Fn+Ctrl+F1 Loads the on-board memory profile
Fn+ Ctrl+F2
Fn+ Ctrl+F3
Fn+Insert Activates the switching between different lighting effects
Fn+Home Activates the speed control for the dynamic lighting effects
Fn+Pg Up Activates the Multimedia control
Fn+Del Activates the brightness control
Fn+End Activates the switching between the static colors. Please, note that you will need to select the static mode first using the Fn+Ins
Fn+Pg Dn Activates the custom settings that are predefined in the software.
Fn+Ctrl+Esc Pressing this combination for like 5 seconds will load the factory settings.
Fn+1 Loads the poll rate of 1ms/1000Hz
Fn+2 Loads the poll rate of 2ms/500Hz
Fn+4 Loads the poll rate of 4ms/250Hz
Fn+8 Loads the poll rate of 8ms/125Hz

 

Like I have mentioned most of these key combinations are actually activating the knob’s functionality for each feature. Let’s dig in what knob is doing against each combination.

Key Combination Forward/Backward rolling Single Click Double Click
Fn+INS Switch between different lighting modes. Turn on/off the lighting on the keys. Turn on/off on the sides of the keyboard.
Fn+DEL Adjust backlighting brightness. Turn on/off the lighting on the keys. Turn on/off on the sides of the keyboard.
Fn+HOME Accelerate/Decelerate the speed of dynamic lighting effect. Turn on/off the lighting on the keys. Turn on/off on the sides of the keyboard.
Fn+END Switches between the static colors. Static mode must be loaded beforehand. Turn on/off the lighting on the keys. Turn on/off on the sides of the keyboard.
Fn+PG UP Increases/Decreases the volume in the value of 2. Play/Pause the soundtrack. Loads the next track.
Fn+PG DN Page Up/Page Down Home End

 

The keyboard has a metallic housing with the overall layout and design in total cohesiveness. Keys are in a floating way layout. On the right side, we have a group of three lock keys which are Print Screen, Scroll Lock and Pause on the top side. Under these keys, there is a group of 6 keys having Insert, Home, and Page Up keys in the first row and the Del, End and Page Down keys in the second row. At the bottom, we have arrow keys. Except for the arrow keys, all other keys have dual functionality as is indicated by double markings on each key. The top marking indicates their regular functions whereas the bottom markings can be triggered using the combination of these keys with the Fn key as described in the table above.

The top side of the keyboard has a typical layout. It is starting with the Escape key. There is a gap between the Esc key and the first group of 4 keys. The first group has a single row of 4 keys which are F1 to F4. The second group has a row of 4 keys starting from the F5 to the F8 keys. Keys from F1 to F3 have dual functionality as indicated by the double markings on the keycaps. These are the three keys to store/load the users’ defined settings on the onboard memory. Genius Knob is to be used for the multimedia functionality.

The spacebar key has Drevo’s brand logo on it in the middle. It lights up and gives a unique look and feel to the keyboard. Each keycap has the laser marking to help ensure the longevity of the text printed on them and to better diffuse the light through them. The windows key is present on the left side of the spacebar key. The properties key is located on the left side of the spacebar key named MENU. Please, note that there is no key combination to lock the entire keyboard though it is my personal observation and has nothing to do with the form or the functionality of this keyboard. I personally like having this feature as my kid takes pleasure in pressing the keys on my keyboards. It is definitely a handy safety feature particularly for the situations where you are doing some work and need a break.

The left and right sides are identical and they show the minimalistic yet stylish finish of the keyboard. There is frosted diffuser plating in the center of the housing. It runs on all four sides of the keyboard. The corners are an exception to that pattern. The diffuser is not running end to end which makes sense given the overall layout of the design. The front side where the USB cable is coming out is not visible to the user hence lighting at this point may not make sense particularly for that user. The front side of the keyboard shows two cutouts on the left and right sides. This is where the USB cable is routed through for better cable management. Being a compact size keyboard the BladeMaster TE does not come with the wrist pad and there is no such provision on it to attach any.

Let’s take a look at the backside of the keyboard. There are 5 rubber paddings on the backside to avoid scratching on the surface where the keyboard will be used. There is a large size Drevo logo embossed in the middle. There is a serial no sticker pasted under the DIP switch. This keyboard has a cable management channel built on the top side. The user has the option to route the USB cable through the left or right side. This is a handy feature and I applaud their design team for giving so much attention to the details. There are two rubber feet that under the keyboard to raise the height from the top side of the keyboard. The cable has a length of approximately 1.8m and has a golden USB connector.

 

This keyboard has a unique yet handy implementation to change the keyboard’s layout from its default one. There is 4-pin DIP switch on the backside of the keyboard. All DIPs are by default in off position. Following table describes the combination and behavior:

DIP Position Result
DIP 1 is On Interchange the left Ctrl and Caps Lock
DIP 2 is on Interchange the Alt and Win keys
DIP 3 is on DIP 4 is off Loads the Dvorak Layout
DIP 3 is on DIP 4 is on Loads the Colemak Layout
DIP 3 is off DIP 4 is on Loads the Minimak Layout

 

Drevo has cautioned to use a stick when changing the DIP switch. I have tested them with my nail though.

Let’s take a look at the switches that this keyboard is using. The Drevo BladeMaster TE is using Gateron mechanical switches that come in red, blue, black and the brown color versions. Our review sample has Gateron RGB Brown mechanical switches (KS-9) with Cherry-plated mounted stabilizer. The Gateron Brown switch sits between the tactile and linear switches. They don’t generate the click but the tactile bump is still present. The LED style on these switches is SMD RGB w/o lense. It has a single color/RGB through-hole. These switches are manufactured by Huizhou Gateron Electronic Technology Co., Ltd. in China. The major differences between these Reds and the Cherry MX Brown switches are: –

Feature Gateron Brown Cherry MX Brown
Operating Force 55±15 cN 55cN peak
Pretravel Distance 2.0±0.6 mm 2.0 mm
Total Travelling Distance 4.0 mm 4.0 mm
Switch Tactile Tactile
KeyStrokes Up to 50 Million Up to 50 Million

 

The stem is of same cross shape as we can see on the Cherry switches. There is like a medium clicky sound on these switches.

Like any other mechanical gaming keyboard, this keyboard has Anti-Ghosting, N-Key rollover feature which ensures that each keypress is registered no matter how many other keys are pressed at the same time. This is done by the keyboard hardware which detects or scan each key independently. It is helpful while gaming to give the user a better and fluid gaming experience without any hiccup. This keyboard features the anti-ghosting technology in tandem with the N-Key rollover. Please, note that there are models of the mechanical keyboards in the market with roll over feature applicable to only a few keys which are normally the keys that are used frequently while gaming.

RGB Lighting

The Drevo BladeMaster TE RGB Backlit TKL Mechanical Gaming keyboard comes with RGB backlighting enabled. The keyboard has multiple pre-defined lighting effects and 7 single colors on it. The user can configure and customize the individual keys backlighting either using the software or through the Genius Knob for which the corresponding mode needs to be activated using the Fn and mentioned keys. Refer to the tables above for more detail on it. The backlighting is almost similar to what I saw on their Tyrfing V2. Here are some of the predefined modes on this keyboard:-

  • Spectrum
  • Rainbow
  • Power Gauge
  • Breathing
  • Twinkling Stars
  • Marquee
  • Reactive
  • Aurora

In case you are wondering the Spectrum mode is the one that produces a rainbow effect. Besides these modes, there are 7 single colors on this keyboard as well which include white, red, green, blue, yellow. All the modes and color customization options are available in the software which we will cover in the later section. Here are some pictures of the RGB lighting on this keyboard. Colors don’t spread uneven and their diffusion pattern is in order and quite subtle. We can control the brightness of the lighting which is again another handy feature as well as the speed of the lighting effect except that of the static mode. Here are some of the pictures of this keyboard with backlighting.

Software

The Drevo has provided comprehensive software for their BladeMaster TE keyboard called Power Console. The software can be downloaded from their website. It is not provided in the accessories. Let’s take a look at the software. At the start, it will prompt you for the email ID and password to log in. The user can also use Offline mode but will lack cloud services in that mode. After a successful login, the main interface will show the device list like Mouse, Keyboard, Mouse Pad etc. The accurate detail and model of the connected device only will be shown. In my case, the BladeMaster TE 87K was displayed. Click on the connected device and it will show another window in which the block picture of the connected device is displayed in the right pane.

There are total 4 Icons on the left pane which are:

  • Customization
  • Genius-Knob
  • Radi-RGB [Drevo is using Raid terminology for RGB backlighting on this keyboard]
  • Settings

The default option is Customization. There are multiple options allowing the user to configure each key on the keyboard. At first, it will prompt you to click on any key. Clicking will display further options. The first option is the default behavior of the key. Second is the option to disable the selected key. The third is the Keyboard function. Fourth is the Macro in which the selected key can be assigned to the selected macro from the list. Same goes for the batch processing. Next, is the Mouse function in which different mouse actions can be assigned to the selected key (one at a time). Next, is the multimedia option in which user can configure the selected key to play, pause tracks, volume control etc.  Next is the Windows shortcuts in which the selected key can be assigned to perform a certain action from the available options in the list. The last option is to configure the selected key to launch a user selected program. Drevo has gone at length to provide in-depth customization options at the user’s disposal.

Next main option is the Genius-Knob configuration. There is more to it than meets the eye is the right phrase for the Genius-Knob. The knob has four action button styles. Single-click, Double-Click, Forward, Backward. There are three layers of configuration possible with each having 4 possible configurations on each action button hence a total of 12 configurations. Layer 1 is the default option. Let’s say you want to turn the selected text in MS Word to Bold or Italic. Launch the software and Click on Genius-Knob Icon. Click on Single-Click and then from the list of options select Keyboard function and write Ctrl+B. Click anywhere in the right pane and that would set the option. Next, click on the Double-Click button and select Keyboard Function option. Write Ctrl+I in the text box and click anywhere in the interface. That is strange as it was not setting it without this clicking in the interface. You are all set. Open the Microsoft Word app and select any text. Single click the Genius-Knob and it will make the selected text bold. Similarly double-clicking the Genius-Knob will make the selected text italic. That simple! But there is one Con to it. As you can tell, the Layer 2 and 3 need to have trigger button for which you would need spare buttons on the mouse as it will work only in combination. Pressing that button on the mouse and then action defined button on the Genius-Knob will perform the action in the corresponding layer. This is tedious and I would prefer simple keyboard shortcuts instead. But this can come handy during gaming.

Next, the main Icon is the Radi-RGB. Here you can customize the backlit lighting per key on the keyboard. All the supported lighting modes are also listed. Clicking any would immediately load and set that mode on the keyboard. The user also has the option to customize the lighting as per his/her own requirements. Also, in the Customization, the user has been given a set of keys for timely customization of those areas without selecting and setting lighting effects on them.

The last Icon is the Settings. The user can disable certain key combinations like Alt+F4, Windows key etc here. The user can restore the keyboard to its factory default settings as well. There is a shortcut to it as well by pressing and holding Fn+Ctrl+Esc keys for 5 seconds.

There are four Icons on the right pane. The Icon lets the user create Profiles for onboard memory. The first profile is by default set for the user’s convenience. Next Icon is for the Macros where the user can create/edit the Macros as per the requirement. Next Icon allows the user to create a batch of instruction. The batch can be executed on a single key or Genius-Knob.

Conclusion

The Drevo BladeMaster TE is from their enthusiast grade segment of the keyboards named as BladeMaster. There are two versions of it. One is the Pro version which is an expensive model and features Cherry MX RGB switches as well wired connectivity using USB Type-C and wireless connectivity as well using Bluetooth 4.0 protocol and Wireless 2.4GHz mode. TE is a wired version only yet with all the bells and whistles. This keyboard comes in TKL category which means it does not have a numpad. The BladeMaster TE comes in 87, 88, and 91-keys configurations. This keyboard is available in US/KR/UK/FR/DE/IT/SP/ND/JP layouts depending upon the region of the availability. It is compact build but without any compromise on the build quality. This keyboard is using Gateron RGB Red/Blue/Brown/Black switches. My sample has Brown switch. This keyboard packs all the features that a mechanical gaming keyboard can have and within this size. The keyboard has RGB backlighting on it with 9 pre-defined lighting modes and 7 static colors.

The keyboard has a rugged frame. The dimension of the keyboard is 369x136x45mm with a weight of 940gm without cable. The keycaps are made of ABS material. Make sure to check out the regional layouts available before buying the keyboard. There are 13 keys that work in combination with the Fn to give the stated outcome. Pressing them without the Fn key would give their normal output.

The killer feature on this keyboard is the Genius-Knob which has changed the game and is an example that innovation can still be done on the peripherals. This knob has four actions associated with it. It can be rolled forward or backward. These two can be configured to perform certain actions. Similarly, the central portion of the knob is a button that can be clicked single or double and each can be configured for certain actions. To make this happen, Drevo has provided comprehensive software named Power Console. There are three layers in the software. In each layer, the user can define actions against each button option making a total of 12 configurations per profile for the user. You can assign shortcuts to the knob to perform. This will be very useful particularly during gaming. Layer 1 is a default option. Layer 2 and 3 are required to be configured using mouse buttons which is a big Con as you would need two buttons on the mouse for this functionality. The knob has been implemented on the left side making it a smart choice as the majority of the users are using the WASD keys left handed hence it was only logical for Drevo to come up with this location. There is an onboard memory allowing the user to create and save up to three profiles making the keyboard on-the-go ready to be used anywhere.

Similarly, multimedia functions can be performed using the knob and there is no more need for any dedicated multimedia key. As soon as you press the Fn key the combination keys got to light up in the white LED regardless of the current lighting effect. This is definitely a handy feature giving the user a visual aid. The spacebar key has Drevo’s brand logo on it in the middle. It lights up and gives a unique look and feel to the keyboard. Each keycap has the laser marking to help ensure the longevity of the text printed on them and to better diffuse the light through them.

There are 55 rubber paddings on the backside to avoid scratching on the surface where the keyboard will be used. This keyboard has a cable management channel built on the top side. User has the option to route the USB cable through the left or right sides. There are two rubber feet that under the keyboard to raise the height from the top side of the keyboard. The cable has a length of approximately 1.8m. It has a golden USB connector. The LED style on these switches is SMD RGB w/o lense. It has a single color/RGB through-hole. The stem is of same cross shape as we can see on the Cherry switches. Like any other mechanical gaming keyboard, this keyboard has Anti-Ghosting, N-Key rollover feature which ensures that each keypress is registered no matter how many other keys are pressed at the same time.

The Drevo BladeMaster TE 87K RGB Backlit TKL Mechanical Gaming keyboard comes with RGB backlighting enabled. The keyboard has 9 pre-defined lighting effects and 7 static colors on it. The user can configure and customize the individual keys backlighting either using the software or through the keys combination of the keyboard. The keyboard is coming from crowdfunding at Kickstarter where 3559 backers have so far backed up the BladeMaster concept from Drevo and pledged $435,476 to make this happen. This is enough to show the popularity of the design concept. This keyboard is listed at $99.99 at the time of the review. This is actually 10 bucks more than what it was initially set at. This is bit steep price for a TKL keyboard particularly when it is not using Cherry MX switches. Still, given the set of features on the keyboard including the Genius-Knob, backlit RGB lighting, DIP switches to switch between the layouts on the go, I could have digested this price but this keyboard is chattering and missing certain key combinations which I am hoping would not be the case in the actual retail units.

I am thankful to Drevo for giving me the opportunity to review their BladeMaster TE 87K RGB Backlight TKL Mechanical Gaming Keyboard.