Just Your Type? (Part 2) : Corsair Vengeance K90, Rosewill Rk-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Roccat Isku

6/15/2013 8:58:57 AM

Corsair Vengeance K90

All the macro keys money can buy

Price : $130

Website : www.corsair.com

THE CORSAIR Vengeance K90 launched early last year alongside the Vengeance K60. It is, at heart, an expanded version of that board, fitted with a vast bank of customizable macro keys at the far left, and a detachable rubberized wrist rest. The extra functionality is mostly aimed at MMO players, who may have need for the truly staggering number of macro keys 18 keys, arranged into three banks of six, with three profile buttons for a total of 54 programmable actions. We're a bit skeptical about the utility of so many macro buttons, as it becomes difficult to remember which key does what, and to hit them without looking, as the button count increases. Still, you should be able to imagine whether you'd be able to put the buttons to good use or not.

With the K90, Corsair goes deep on macro keys. Unfortunately, only the main QWERTY keyboard and arrow keys are mechanical.

Beyond those extra keys, the K90 features the strong points of the K60, including a rugged all-aluminum body and responsive Cherry MX Red switches. The fantastic-looking low-profile aluminum design is even snazzier in the K90, thanks to blue backlighting that shines through the laser-etched keycaps. One of the strangest and worst features of the K90 is that it uses membrane-style switches for a small subset of the keys on the board (the 18 macro keys, the function keys, as well as the block above the arrow keys), which feel noticeably worse than the mechanical keys that make up the rest of the board. Especially for keys that are meant to be used in the heat of the moment, the transition to non-mechanical keys is very jarring.

Rosewill Rk-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

A solid board, low on features

Price: $130

Website: www.rosewill.com

Sometimes it's nice when a company comes along and boils down a product category to just the features that are important. With the RK-9100, Rosewill does just that, offering a solid mechanical gaming keyboard with few flourishes.

The RK-9100 is a compact design with no wrist rest and a minimal lip around the outside of the board. It's heavy, and feels quite sturdy. It uses mechanical keys once again, Cherry MX switches, though with the RK-9100 you have a choice of the typing-friendly Blue switches, or the in-between Browns. We tend to prefer the Browns as a nice compromise between gaming and typing, which makes it a bit frustrating that the Brown-switch version of the RK-9100 retails for $130, $20 more than the Blue version.

The Rosewill RK-9100 isn’t the fanciest-looking keyboard, but it feels great to use.

The keyboard has a nice blue backlight, except for the scroll-, num, and caps-lock keys, which glow green while active. It's a good idea, but for some reason the green light is incredibly bright, and angled to shine right into your eyes while active. It's distracting, and unfortunately can't be turned off we wouldn't be surprised if most RK-9100 owners end up fixing the problem with electrical tape. That's the only significant problem we noticed while using Rosewill's keyboard, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that $130 is a bit too much to ask for this board. The Logitech G710+ features the same MX Brown switches, and with street a price that's currently only about $10 more than RK-9100, includes significantly more features that set it apart as a gaming keyboard.

Roccat Isku

Membrane plank makes strong impression

Price: $90

Website: www.roccat.org

If you're not ready to make the jump to a mechanical keyboard, and aren't interested in touchscreens or scalp massagers or whatever other luxury features are going into the $200-plus planks, your money will go a lot farther. Specifically, it'll go all the way to the Isku, a handsome and feature-rich keyboard from German newcomer Roccat.

The Isku is wide and flat, with an oversized wrist rest and a wide bezel all around the board, taking up plenty of desk real estate. It’s got a grippy textured-plastic frame and recessed contoured keys that make the whole thing seem flatter and lower to the desk than normal. The dome keys are good (as far as they go) with a fairly crisp and responsive activation.

The Isku is thin but takes up a lot of room, thanks to its broad wrist re-stand bezel.

The Isku is thin but takes up a lot of room, thanks to its broad wrist re-stand bezel.

Where the Isku really shines is in its expansive set of features. It has eight macro buttons (including three "thumbster" keys under the spacebar), with on-the-fly recording, and profile switching. It gets further mileage out of the bind-able keys and macros with an “Easy Shift" button where the caps-lock key would normally be, which temporarily switches the functions of all right-hand-accessible keys while held down. There’s a lot to customize, and the included software suite is intuitive and up to the task.

Also, the Isku is part of the "Roccat Talk” ecosystem, which allows button presses on the keyboard to affect the behavior of a Roccat gaming mouse, and vice versa. At this price, we’d strongly recommend buying a mechanical board, but if you can’t or don't want to, the Isku is an excellent choice.

A Keyboard For Clean Freaks

One of the keyboards we received while preparing this roundup was the Logitech Washable Keyboard K310. Somehow it didn’t seem quite fair to pit the $40, K310 against the likes of the Razer Death-statker in a straight head-to-head, but we couldn't resist the chance to see if this washable keyboard really works.

The K310 has a standard full-size layout with flat, thick plastic keys. Despite the very plastic-y construction and nonstandard keys, the keyboard actually feels pretty decent to use.

We don't actually have a standard testing procedure worked out for washable keyboards, so we improvised. We took a quick trip to the corner store for a bag of Cheetohs bane of all keyboards. We then used a mortar and pestle to mash them into a fine, delicious powder, and applied it liberally to the keyboard (and surrounding table).

We were originally going to stick the K310 in the dishwasher, but a label on its back specifically warns against doing so. Instead, we gave it a thorough hand-washing in the sink.

What's the verdict? The keyboard looks like new, and works just fine. Not bad!

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