ROCCAT Isku FX Multicolor Gaming Keyboard Review
Reviewed by: Waco
Reviewed on: June 5, 2013
ROCCAT Isku FX Multicolor Gaming Keyboard Introduction:
It's not often that I get the opportunity to review a gaming keyboard (or any keyboard for that matter), since my lovely wife (BluePanda) usually gets the honor of taking each one for a spin. To my surprise, a few weeks ago I got a box with my name on it from ROCCAT. Most people recognize the ROCCAT name for its line of high-end gaming peripherals, including mice, headsets, and mouse pads. I haven't had the pleasure of testing a ROCCAT gaming keyboard before, but I have high hopes given the pedigree that the ROCCAT brand possesses. I guess at this point I should mention that the keyboard I get to test is the ROCCAT Isku FX – a non-mechanical gaming keyboard with five macro keys, a full set of multimedia keys, full RGB backlighting, and the quiet solace that comes with non-clicky membrane keys.
I'm sure most of you know that there's been an invasion of mechanical keyboards into the gaming scene, all sporting fancy Cherry MX switches of various types. While I have to admit that I do really love mechanical keyboards (especially the Cherry MX Brown switches), there's still a market for membrane-style keyboards that lack the sometimes annoying noise associated with mechanical switches. Can the ROCCAT Isku FX step up and prove its worthiness in real gaming? Keep reading to find out!
The ROCCAT Isku FX comes packaged quite nicely in mostly-black garb with fairly easy-to-read features and specifications laid out around the box. The front of the box proudly boasts about the full RGB lighting behind the keys, along with the EASY-SHIFT[+] functionality and live macro recording. Apparently the ROCCAT Isku FX is also "MMO Approved", although I'm not quite sure what that really means. Did someone round up the MMOs and ask them what they liked? Anyway, moving on to the back of the box you are assailed with a huge amount of text in various languages. One of the key features pointed out on the rear of the box is that the EASY-SHIFT[+] functionality integrates with other ROCCAT products (like mice) via the ROCCAT TALK functionality to let your mouse buttons double-up as keyboard macro keys and vice versa.
Slipping the Isku FX out of the box is quite painless and while there isn't a whole lot of padding here, your local delivery man or woman would still have to try quite adamantly to damage anything before you get to pop open the seal. Sliding the keyboard out of the static-free bag it's housed in reveals the Isku FX and the included instruction manual. No driver CD/DVD is included, but we live in an age where apparently everyone has 24/7 Internet with no interruptions. I disagree with that sentiment (my Internet is amazingly unreliable at times), but I can't really dock ROCCAT for not wasting the money on an almost assuredly out-of-date driver disc in the box.
ROCCAT Isku FX Multicolor Gaming Keyboard Closer Look:
Congratulations! You have made it to page two of the review! If you're looking for the conclusion and just happened to mis-click, just scroll to the bottom and try again. If you actually want to take a look at the ROCCAT Isku FX in depth, keep reading. Freed from its packaging, the Isku FX is actually quite attractive, if not somewhat larger than I expected. The palm rest is long enough that it should be fairly comfortable to type on for long periods of time and aside from the ROCCAT branding and model name and features plastered in various places, I like the overall look (I generally abhor branding and features on a product…once I've bought it, why do I need to be reminded?).
The first thing you'll notice that's a bit out of the norm on the Isku FX is the trio of buttons underneath the space bar. These buttons, dubbed the "Thumbster keys" by ROCCAT, allow you to perform nearly any function you assign that the keyboard is capable of performing. By default, the left and right keys cycle through the five keyboard profiles indicated by the five bright blue LEDs on the top left corner of the keyboard. The numpad, on the other hand, is relatively standard-fare and has no unusual features or surprises. Note here that the inclusion of the full numpad and the inclusion of the five macro keys on the left side of the Isku FX do not exactly contribute to keeping the form factor anywhere near the "small" category. The Isku FX is quite large and is roughly the same size as a CM Storm Trigger, if not a little larger.
Up near the top of the numpad is the usual bank of indicators that let you know whether you have num lock, caps lock, or scroll lock enabled. The ROCCAT TALK logo dominates the area at the top-right of the keyboard and I have to say I wish ROCCAT had just left it blank. The lighting control button is here as well, but as you'll see later, it's more of a token button than anything functional. Moving over to the center of the keyboard, you can see the various multimedia buttons that thankfully work with zero software. I do have to note that these keys are not backlit in any way and are somewhat hard to read at first glance. After using the keyboard for a while, these keys are easy to hit with fairly good accuracy, but the initial learning curve is steeper than I'd like since they are somewhat hard to read. The top-left of the Isku FX contains the indicators for the currently active profile, the macro recording light, and the macro record button.
Flipping the ROCCAT Isku FX onto its back revealed a few neat features. The feet on each corner of the keyboard are the usual fare, but the cord routing is not. The cable for the Isku FX isn't detachable but it is routable in nearly any way you can imagine with the multitude of grooves pre-formed into the base of the keyboard. There's even the provisions in place to route the cable right up to the front of the keyboard if you so desire (I do not). If your desk can fit the Isku FX, the Isku FX can fit your desk in terms of wiring.
The end of the cord reveals the familiar comfort that is a USB 2.0 cable. The cable is labeled to avoid any back-panel confusion that is so common with nameless USB connections. Moving back up to the indicator area reveals a bit of a surprise, as well as a bit of a disappointment. The indicator LEDs, for lack of a better description, are blindingly bright. On top of that, the indicator panel seems to be entirely translucent, which means the indicators aren't quite so bright off-axis but will light up your ceiling with no trouble.
I apologize in advance for the next five pictures; the Isku FX isn't bright by any definition of the word and I had to shut off seven of the lights in our photo room to get the key color to show up somewhat decently. While the lighting isn't extremely bright, it does offer the full 8-bit RGB color space for each LED color (red, green, and blue) to allow for virtually any color you can imagine. The first photo showcases Clemson Orange (or as close as I could get to it), the second is full blue, the third is full green, the fourth is full white, and the last is full red. Again these aren't crazy bright even at full brightness, so I can't imagine a scenario where you'd actually use the lighting level button I mentioned earlier. I ran the lighting at full brightness during all my testing just to make it visible in a well-lit room.
ROCCAT Isku FX Multicolor Gaming Keyboard Software:
Let me preface this discussion on the ROCCAT Isku FX software with the note that I don't really like being required to install software just to manage my keyboard (in fact, I've never installed the software for my CM Storm Trigger). Granted, if you desire the usability of macro functions and other nifty goodies, this is a required evil. The ROCCAT Isku FX software really isn't too terrible with one huge caveat – every time you hit "Apply" or "OK", you'll be waiting 15 seconds or so until the software writes the changes to the keyboard firmware. This isn't too bad if you set it up once and never touch it again, but as I was playing with the various features on the Isku FX, I found myself getting more impatient each time I wanted to try something out.
The first three tabs in the Isku FX software suite are almost entirely dedicated to setting up various macros and the EASY-SHIFT[+] functionality that allows you to assign alternate actions to most of the keys in the WASD area to anything you can imagine. The third tab allows you to reassign the media keys, as well as all the function keys. This is particularly welcome since I have the habit of hitting F1 or something when trying to do a quick-save in many games, which leads to the rather annoying result of a Windows popup trying to "help" me with whatever it decided I was having trouble with at the time.
The last three tabs are somewhat less functional. The fourth tab includes all the lighting-related options, as well as the extremely useful controls to turn off the EXTREMELY annoying voice confirmations when changing profiles and recording macros. I'm not sure who ROCCAT got to record the various sound clips, but they're just as annoying as the ones included with ROCCAT mice. The fifth tab is for information purposes only and includes stats on key presses, WASD key presses, and apparently some kind of meta-game that rewards you trophies as you play. In 23000-some-odd keystrokes, I had yet to unlock any of the "hidden trophies" and I have to say I had zero motivation to do so. The last tab lists helpful information about the currently installed software and firmware, as well as links to the ROCCAT support forums and online support. All in all, not terrible software, but I would uninstall it after setting up my profiles.
ROCCAT Isku FX Multicolor Gaming Keyboard Specifications and Features:
24.7 cm x 50.9 cm
Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8, Internet connection, USB 2.0 port
ROCCAT Isku FX, Quick Installation Guide
- MULTICOLOR KEY ILLUMINATION with 16.8 million colors of your choice; with 6 brightness levels
- 3 EASY-SHIFT[+]™ ZONES for easy key duplication
- 36 EASY-TO-REACH MACRO KEYS including 3 Thumbster keys
- MACRO LIVE! RECORDING with dedicated M-Rec button; 180+ macros in 5 profiles
- 8 CONFIGURABLE MEDIA & HOTKEYS 25+ assignable functions
- MEDIUM-HEIGHT KEYS with an optimum keystroke & pressure point; advanced anti-ghosting; 1000Hz polling rate
- ROCCAT™ DRIVER + MACRO MANAGER incl. Sound Feedback; Macro Presets for games, multimedia and office apps
- EXTRA-LARGE GRANULAR WRIST REST with special surface texture
- INTEGRATED CABLE CHANNELS for better device organization
- NON-SLIP BASE with lock-on keyboard feet
- ULTRA-FAST PROFILE SWITCHING 5 Profile-Status LEDs
- ROCCAT™ TALK® – SET BONUS get more out of your ROCCAT™ devices by combining their functions
- ROCCAT™ TALK® FX translates on-screen action into sensory effects on your Isku FX
Information provided by: http://www.roccat.org/Products/Gaming-Keyboards/ROCCAT-Isku-FX/#crb_2
ROCCAT Isku FX Multicolor Gaming Keyboard Testing & Results:
The ROCCAT Isku FX Multicolor Gaming Keyboard was put through a few weeks of use and testing. During this time, it was used in everyday use, surfing the Internet, Photoshopping, and of course some gaming. A keyboard is personal to each and every individual so how it responds in these various tasks is important in different ways to everyone. This rather subjective review is meant to provide you the feedback from use rather than assigning made up numbers trying to compare one keyboard to another. It's pretty easy to distinguish the likes and dislikes of a keyboard through words rather than leaving it for you to decide what a 7 or 8 really means. No guessing game – here's what I liked, and here's what I hated.
- Processor: Core i7 2600K @ 4.4 GHz 100 x 44
- CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE Z68AP-D3
- Memory: Mushkin 991996 Redline PC3-17000 9-11-10-28 16 GB
- Video Card: XFX HD 7970 Black Edition
- PSU: Antec TruePower New TP-750
- Hard Drives: OCZ Agility 3 120 GB, 2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 RAID 1
- Optical Drive: N/A
- OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit SP1
In everyday use, it took a bit of time to get used to a membrane-style, non-mechanical keyboard again. After a few hours of many many typos, I settled back into my usual routine. The Isku FX is extremely quiet in normal use and certainly won't annoy your significant other, roommate, or LAN buddies. If you're used to a mechanical keyboard, you probably won't like the feel of the Isku FX, as it has the same "mushy" feeling that almost all non-mechanical keyboards have. That being said, it's certainly not impossible to use. As I said above, after a few hours of use, my mis-typing took a back seat and I just typed as normal.
I'm a programmer by trade, so I type a lot. Mis-keying something and having to back up isn't a disaster, but it certainly makes something that shouldn't be a limiting factor quite annoying. The Isku FX isn't bad for a non-mechanical keyboard, but there is a certain accuracy you'll never get with a numb and mushy keyboard like the Isku FX. Just like a car with power steering, there's no real feedback from the keyboard to your fingers as to whether or not you actually hit a certain key or not. In serious programming binges, this really made me a bit cranky and I nearly put the Isku FX aside in favor of my clunky, non-power steering mechanical keyboard.
I know my comments above seem a bit harsh towards the Isku FX, but those comments are coming from someone who types a LOT. In gaming, however, I saw the Isku FX in a totally different light. With the annoying voice confirmations disabled, I set out to play probably a bit more than I should have. Neverwinter, the new MMO from Cryptic Studios, dominated the majority of my playtime and I honestly have to say that the Isku FX doesn't have any real drawbacks for gaming at all. The macros work well, the keys are quiet, and I didn't ever find myself wanting to blame my keyboard for a particularly embarrassing failure in-game. I also played a few more intense games like Call of Duty, Team Fortress 2, and Warframe to see how the Isku FX held up, and I have to say, I had no complaints.
ROCCAT Isku FX Multicolor Gaming Keyboard Conclusion:
Overall I have mixed feelings here about the ROCCAT Isku FX. On one hand, the Isku FX is quite good as far as non-mechanical keyboards go and the lighting and customizability is unmatched by anything else on the market. There is one huge caveat though: the price. The ROCCAT Isku FX debuts at a very mechanical-tier price of $99.99, which is above and beyond the pricing of its non-mechanical peers by a significant chunk of change.
So while the Isku FX really is a good keyboard without any obvious faults in terms of gaming, there's not quite enough here for me to want to drop 100 bones on it. That's the price territory of the much sturdier and much more mechanical Corsair K90, CM Storm Trigger, and the Rosewill RK-9000. For quite a bit cheaper, you can get any number of non-mechanical keyboards from Logitech, Razer, SteelSeries, and others.
So there you have it. The ROCCAT Isku FX really doesn't have any problems aside from the price. At $70 it would be a good keyboard to consider. At $80 it would be a hard sell, but the full-RGB backlighting could be a swaying factor for some. At $100, I just can't find a way to justify the cost compared to the features it offers. I'd pass, but if you really want full RGB backlighting for your keyboard and you don't really care if it's mechanical or not, perhaps this keyboard needs a home on your desk.
- Full 24-bit RGB backlighting
- Quiet non-mechanical keys
- Easy macro recording
- Price is a little high compared to comparable non-mechanical keyboards
- Annoying software
- Backlighting not very intense for most keys
- Mushy non-mechanical keys