A good keyboard is a great tool for the consummate PC gamer. While most keyboards may offer a few media controls, a gaming keyboard is actually so much more than that. While reviewing the Roccat KONE[+] mouse, they also sent us over the peripheral’s partner in crime, the Roccat Isku gaming keyboard. These two items are supposed to flawlessly work together, allowing for a gaming experience that can elevate the player’s gaming experience further.
The Isku is much larger than a traditional keyboard but it’s size should throw you off, each additional button and extra surface space seems to have it’s own intended use. One of the first things I did upon setting it up was accidentally hit the play button at the top of the keyboard. My Spotify player automatically started playing a song from the last album I had been listening to. The other buttons helped me control the other options as I saw fit. This was impressive since I hadn’t downloaded and software for the keyboard yet and it was only acting off of it’s initial programming. Even the macro buttons had some sort of pre-programmed options to them, yet I really didn’t have use for them… yet. Something that seemed a little odd was that the Roccat Isku has an integrated wrist guard, which may be welcomed in certain situations but is still slightly annoying as it cannot be removed, taking up unnecessary space.
When it comes to functionality, the Isku is quite good at what it does! The Isku keyboard has a total of 15 different macro buttons (three sets of five) and separate profiles for different games can be loaded accordingly. Macros are incredibly easy to program in, allowing for super-precise controls and an ease of use in the most tense moments of gameplay. The keys on the Isku keyboard are back-lit making sure all keys are easily identifiable at night. During the day, however, they are not as vibrant as I would have hoped. I usually type from home row but the inclusion of the macro buttons does tend to throw me off a little bit, so I do find myself looking at the keys on occasion to reposition myself. It doesn’t happen often, but a few times I’ve looked at the keyboard and wondered “What the hell am I doing?”. Another feature on this keyboard I have come to love is the internal record feature. At first, I had it set up to start and stop Fraps, which was pretty cool as I could pick and just my recording moments without having to leave the game I was playing. After a bit, I figured out how to operate my Twitch.tv stream from it and all bets were off! I set macros for ads, standby graphics and even my webcam. Yes, all that from my keyboard!
Roccat has this nifty feature called Roccat Talk, which is a fancy way of saying that my Roccat KONE[+] and Isku can operate together as one fine tuned peripheral. How’s that, you ask? Well, you can program both devices to recognize certain things. In Battlefield 3, the keyboard could change my mouse’s DPI when I entered a zoomed in mode. It could also hot swap my macros, just to make sure everything just worked awesomely. I didn’t have a ton of other games that were pre-programmed for Roccat Talk, yet I was able to set and manipulate settings in other games to make it work exactly as I would have liked.
So, what didn’t I like about the Isku keyboard? Well, it’s a traditionally membrane style keyboard, while it still works great, I personally would have preferred a mechanical keyboard over a membrane keyboard. I felt that the responsiveness of the keyboard would have been significantly improved with the mechanical style setup. As I noted already, the back-lit keys were kind of hard to identify in decently lighted conditions. I once had a Saitek keyboard that had back-lit keys but also had a high-contrast outline on the key characters as well, so they were easy to identify, this would be a simple solution to an otherwise annoying issue.
Ultimately, the Isku keyboard is a great overall keyboard and a really good introductory gaming peripheral. While good on it’s own, when paired with the KONE[+] mouse, the experience was exponentially better and went from good to excellent.