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Review: Roccat Isku Gaming Keyboard

by Reinhard Rheeder-Kleist (Choc_Salties)  Posted Friday, February 08, 2013 12:45:00 PM

  
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Introduction

I recently asked myself how does one review a keyboard? It seems that the boss was impressed with my previous attempt at stringing coherent sentences together about the subject matter that I’m worthy of been given this whole review thing another go. And here we are once again! And once again the question begs, what makes this keyboard different?

ROC_12_701__01804.1351501639.1280.1280.jpg  

Fairly underwhelming? WRONG!

The Roccat Isku Illuminated Gaming keyboard appears relatively straightforward from a regular, everyday keyboard perspective – it looks like a fairly innocuous blue-lit multimedia keyboard. Under the hood though, this keyboard is anything but regular.

Usability of the Roccat Isku Gaming Keyboard

The Roccat Isku Illuminated Gaming Keyboard is a dome-switch type keyboard, unlike the keyboard which I reviewed last week. This doesn’t detract from its overall usability and feel when using it for practical everyday purposes – I’m typing this review on it. Key-fall is slightly less than normal and this gives the keyboard more of a Chiclet-type feel (how most notebook keyboards feel when working on them) and this gives typing a great overall feel. Illumination is handled by a dedicated extra key to cycle through six different brightness settings. Multimedia functions are handled with a full array of extra keys at the top of the keyboard, above the function keys.

isku-l-2.jpg  

I love my multimedia keys!

As is standard with most gaming keyboards, the Roccat Isku Illuminated Gaming Keyboard comes with no less than 8 macro keys  - five to the left of the main keyboard body, and an extra three located below the spacebar – a very useful addition if not just wanting to use your thumb for jumping. Additionally, there are five switchable profile modes, which gives 40 different possible macro configurations. Upon further inspection in the keyboard driver panel, there is a function called Easy-Shift which allows further programming of the first 5 keys on each row to be given a secondary function, in addition to their normal option. Now instead of 8 macros or functions per profile setting, you now have 28, for a grand total of 140 secondary functions assigned to your various hotkeys. Control for the Easy-switch system is controlled via the caps lock key, although this can be reconfigured to another key if required. Besides, who actually still uses that caps lock key for its original purpose today anyway?

Macro recording is handled either via the Isku’s driver panel software, or can be done on the fly with a dedicated macro recording key.

The Isku is an unusually large keyboard due to do fact of an integrated palm-rest. Very good for protecting the wrists of sometimes less-than ideal LAN seating arrangements and preventing the more mundane wrist injuries which could occur with excessive use. (Officially - carpal tunnel syndrome; I like to call it wankers cramp.) The palm rest also has an excellent secondary function – behind and below, there are channels built into the keyboard for managing cable clutter from things such as mouse cables, headphone cables and others – the whole keyboard is slightly raised so as to allow cabling to come through below the front part sitting on the cables and being wobbly or potentially damaging them.

As most hard-core gamers know, the keyboard is usually one of the first places to receive the full force of their anger – that and the vitriol being shouted out over voice-comms. The Isku sports several large rubber grip pads underside to keep it in place when getting hammered – even the keyboard stands are made mostly of this hardened rubber. This got a working when I lost a clone in EVE Online and forgot to update it. Half-way through my keyboard slamming tirade, I noticed the keyboard not moving, and was like, “ooh that’s a super feature!” before continuing to scream at team-mates for breaking the healing chain…

One of the heavily-touted features of the Isku keyboard is the inclusion of the Roccat Talk function – allowing the keyboard to work with other Roccat products in a synergistic manner. To test this functionality, I hooked up a Roccat Kone Pure Gaming mouse, installed its driver as well as the Roccat Talk driver. From there a simple reconfiguration within the Isku driver page allowed me to do an on-the-fly DPI change with the Kone by holding the Easy-Shift key (the caps-lock key). Very useful if needing a hold-release switch, rather than cycling through DPI settings which can be problematic in a fast-paced FPS match.

Drivers and Control of the Roccat Isku Gaming Keyboard

The Roccat Isku Illuminated Gaming Keyboard comes with a complete set of drivers included with the packaging, but just to make sure everything was as up-to-date as possible, I download the drivers from the official Roccat site.

The driver installation was straight-forward and the interface well presented. On first run of the drivers, the software informed me of a firmware update being applied to the keyboard; a little alarming, but no big deal in the end.

Driver functionality is primarily related to key functions and alternate functions when paired with Easy-Shift control. The EasyZone dialogue further expands on the alternate key layout per profile when paired with the Easy-Shift control system. Media keys and F-Keys can also be given alternate functions when set into alternative profiles, although they do not get the Easy-Shift benefit of having alternate functions.

automate-all-the-things-jpg.jpg  

Because ALL THE THINGS!

Finally the Advanced control section of the driver panel includes settings for handling keyboard polling, key repeat delay and repeat rates, keyboard illumination and system key functionality (whether the Windows, Tab and application keys are active or not). Although initially miffed that there wasn’t a specific key for disabling these keys to enable a “gaming mode” this isn’t necessarily a problem, where a profile can be dedicated to “normal” usage and the other profiles can be assigned to games as required. One of the interesting little settings with regards to illumination is a dimming and timeout function, whereby if the keyboard itself is idle, the illumination setting can be dialled back – useful for when passing out if using your machine as a media player, and you’re alone at night because the girlfriend dumped you because video games…

ForeverAloneBlackTextSS-jpg.jpg  

Maybe I need to put the gaming away and go outside

Conclusion

I’ve been working with the Roccat Isku Illuminated Gaming Keyboard for a week now and have found it to be a most excellent replacement to my existing keyboard. Key press distance is a bit shorter than I’m used to but the actuation feels about the same; good response all around. If you’re that gamer that needs ALL THE THINGS tied to a keyboard shortcut because you don’t want to click ANYTHING on your hotbars, then this keyboard is a winner.

The Roccat Talk feature is an interesting take on getting synergy out of your mouse and keyboard but it feels like a bit of a gimmick. Don’t get me wrong – I get it and understand it, but I think that similar functionality can be derived from programming your mouse’s DPI steps appropriately. If you’re wanting to further customize your mouse’s buttons in the same way the Easy-Drive system works on the keyboard, then this feature is definitely a winner. One of the positive upswings of the Roccat Talk driver is that it removes superfluous Roccat icons in your taskbar’s notification area.

Cable management a definitely a plus both if you’re into moving your kit around when going to LAN parties or even having your kit sitting permanently in one spot. The thumb macro buttons at the bottom of the keyboard below the spacebar are definitely a plus.

I heartily recommend this keyboard to any type of gamer and especially any MMO or MOBA player that needs shortcuts for everything, everywhere!

  l_11318170_001.jpg  

Box Shot

 

Pro’s

  • Good key-press distance and actuation
  • Solid grip on table or other surface thanks to huge rubber feet
  • Thumb macro buttons
  • Integrated palm rest & cable management
  • Solid driver presentation and usage
  • Dimmer switches on illumination!

Cons

  • Illumination distorts keys symbols if viewed at oblique angles.
  • Roccat Talk drivers are a third driver to be installed before usable

Rating of the Roccat Isku Gaming Keyboard

Looks ***

Value ****

Durability ****

Usability ***

Overall 4/5 stars

Recommended retail Pricing - R869.95

Availability : Kalahari.com

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Gallery

isku-l-2.jpg  ROC_12_701__01804.1351501639.1280.1280.jpg  l_11318170_001.jpg  0.jpg  automate-all-the-things-jpg.jpg  ForeverAloneBlackTextSS-jpg.jpg 

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