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Posted by Caitlyn Muncy on Jan 31, 2012

Review – Roccat Isku Keyboard

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It’s common knowledge that we all need a keyboard for our computers. However, for those of us who are gaming about 90 percent of the time, we want something that comes with all the bells and whistles. The Isku keyboard, put out by German gaming peripheral maker Roccat, leans a bit more towards the higher end range of things, and has a price tag that matches its functionality. However, it has a few begrudging aspects to it.

Following suit with its relatives, the Kone [+] mouse, and the Kave 5.1 headset, the packaging was quite impressive. It seems as though Roccat wants to make sure that the presentation of the exterior matches the interior. I will state again that this professional standard on packaging alone does deserve to be noted, but my rant about all that jazz is on my review of the Kone [+]. That being said, let’s just focus on the task at hand then.

First Look

Upon very first laying my eyes on this keyboard, I was both entranced and completely put off by it. It is a massive keyboard at about 20 x 9.72 inches, due to an enormous amount of buttons, and a wrist rest that is not detachable. As far as looks go though, this thing is beautiful. There is a shiny black plastic that surrounds the keys and buttons, which are slightly more matte and smooth. The shiny plastic is a magnet for fingerprints, so keep that in mind if you’re a bit obsessive compulsive. Surrounding that, which is mainly just the wrist rest, is a more textured black plastic that has the appearance of freshly poured cement. It is a bit lightweight, but does not give the thought of being a cheap piece of plastic.

Its size is honestly what made it unappealing at the start. I have a very large keyboard tray that slides out from my desk, and this thing took up all but an inch of it width-wise. Lying flat, I had a bit of a hard time keeping it at the edge of the tray. It seemed to enjoy sliding away from me. There are two kickstands of sorts that will prop it up, but even then the sliding persists as it’s rubber “feet” are too smooth. Seeing as all the keys and buttons are past the wrist rest, all this moving about made it a little difficult to see what keys I was pressing. In the heat of battle, this was certainly not a good thing. Normally, the illuminated keys would’ve been the saving grace at this juncture, but a portion of the keys back lighting are oddly placed, which means I can’t discern buttons when it comes to making split-second decisions.

Concerning the face of the keyboard, there are 5 LEDs in the top left-hand corner that let you know which of its programmable profiles you are currently using. To the right of these lights is another LED that will indicate when you are in record mode. Simply depress the the button next to the LED labeled “REC’ to record your macro, and press again. However, beware the gruff male voice that will let you know when you’re recording or not, as he might very well scare the living daylights out of you should you forget.

Nearest to the cord at the top of the keyboard are the media keys which can be customized to fit a variety of purposes. On the right side is a singular button that controls the six levels of brightness, sided by the Roccat Talk logo, which will be addressed here in a bit. Just beneath this logo are three LEDs that delineate which Easy Shift [+] profile you are using.

The keys have everything you could want, including a number pad on the right hand side. The left side of the keys has five macro buttons, and beneath the space bar are three thumbster buttons that make for wonderful shortcuts. All keys excluding the media hotkeys illuminate blue.

Features

This keyboard seems as though it has zillion features, its two most notable being the three thumbsters keys, and its 3 Easy Shift[+] zones that utilize something called Roccat Talk. The talking is done between the Kone [+] mouse and this keyboard, and will give them an entirely different set of buttons that can be programmed on one of the 5 profiles they both contain. By default, the Easy Shift [+] button is Caps Lock on the Isku, but it can be programmed onto another key. Once it has been pressed, it can remap the programmable keys and buttons of the keyboard and mouse, or one specifically. This will give you 36 easily-customized buttons that are not far off from your WASD anchor.

The Easy-Aim is a feature that both the mouse and keyboard share as well, which is great for snipers as it will immediately drop your DPI to a speed of your choosing. Simply program a button on either or both, and get headshots every time. Well, if you have good aim that is.

There are default profiles already in place, but you have the option of going in and messing things all about until you have them the way you’d like them to be. Just don’t forget to program an Easy Shift [+] button on both the mouse and keyboard, or you won’t be able to use that aspect.

Performance

This is a very easy keyboard to use. The thumbsters and macros were at a perfect distance, and the keys are in a natural position which meant a great experience in gaming. I was a bit disheartened at the fact that it wasn’t mechanical with all of the pomp and circumstance that it displayed in packaging and appearance, but it is by no means a reason to abandon thought of this product. Unless you are just really fond of that clicking and clacking.

My main annoyance concerning the design of this keyboard was the positioning of the LEDs behind the keys. If you are directly above the keys, you can see them perfectly. As soon as you start to lean back, or go to your normal sitting position, a good portion of the keys are dim to a point of being indiscernible. This would mainly be the top half of keys that are no longer be visible, which was annoying if you were trying to get any typing done and can’t do it all by feel.

Making changes to something if it didn’t suit my needs was clean and simple. It does take a little bit of time (about 30 seconds) to apply the new changes to the device though. The audio feedback on either the mouse or keyboard are also exceedingly helpful, as you never quite know which profile you’re on otherwise.

Conclusions

Obviously, with all of these customizable features, you can expect a long time for setup. It does take a bit of time to go through each profile and set up things the way you like them as well as making sure that you’ve programmed in an Easy Shift [+] button. Even if it is a bit arduous, the end product works quite well. Although this isn’t my favorite keyboard in the world, it does change to fit my needs with its different profiles.

The Good

  • Excellent Presentation
  • Easy Shift [+] gives you twice the amount of buttons
  • Roccat Talk

The Bad

  • Poor back lighting on some keys made them hard to see
  • Keyboard kept sliding

 

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