Release Date: 1/16/2013
Colors: Black, White
Gaming keyboards are just as important as mice; the buttons are probably the most important thing of all, and the gimmicks and extra stuff comes last. The second most important thing in a gaming keyboard is ergonomics and how it’s designed physically. Some keyboards have large desktop footprints with giant wristpads or strange key shapes and proprietary key layouts. I spend over a week shopping around for the right keyboard to replace my Alienware TactX keyboard. Not that it broke or I hated it, I absolutely love the TactX keyboard, I just wanted something new and different. First on my list was the key type. Did I want Cherry MX keys or membrane? The TactX keyboard is an excellent Cherry MX keyboard, but it’s very loud and “clacky” and the key height is very high. I loved how far apart each key was, but I was ready for something new.
My first pick was the Havit Lammergeier which had a wonderful design and Cherry MX keys, but it’s only available online. Remember, any decent gaming keyboard is going to start at around $100. I also thought about the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate, but at $250 it was ridiculously expensive, had a laptop-style keyboard setup and the Razer touchscreen has been abandoned and hasn’t been updated in a while. My next thought was the Corsair Chroma series with its nice LED lighting, simple design, and Cherry MX keys. However, it was just too simple for me. I wanted something a little more flashy, something with a unique layout. I also looked at Logitech keyboards, but they were also very simple in design and seemed overpriced for what they didn’t offer. After this, I looked at Cyborg keyboards, as the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 was nearly $300 and had a lot of amazing features. After testing it and looking up extensive reviews, the software is shoddy and the hardware is cheap. I personally fiddled around with one and it didn’t seem like it was made of $300 material.
With the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 being the most expensive keyboard on the market right now I went and looked at some lesser-known brands such as Roccat, Gearhead, Mionix, Thermaltake, Azio, and TTe Sports. While these brands don’t make terrible products, they just aren’t the #1 brand that everyone knows such as Razer, Logitech, Corsair, or Mad Catz/Cyborg. Several of these brands offered Cherry MX keyboards, but they just didn’t feel right, something about them felt cheap, loose, or just awkward. I then went over to the Roccat Isku keyboards, but they only offer membrane keyboards and I was hesitant. I tapped away on a few keys and noticed how soft yet responsive they were. I continued tapping away at an Azio Levertron Mech5 keyboard right next to it with Cherry MX keys and realized how much better the Isku keyboard felt. The design was simple yet somehow unique and sleek, but all these Cherry MX keyboards looked crazy, futuristic, and had so many buttons, switches, and gizmos that it could make your head spin. With the even $100 price tag I grabbed the Isku FX keyboard specifically since it was compatible with AlienFX and had customizable LEDs.
Right out of the box the software was extremely easy to install. No CDs were included (who needs them these days?) so just a quick driver download was needed on the website. The software was installed on Windows 10 64-bit with no hitches at all; after I opened the software it prompted me to do a firmware update on the keyboard which went smoothly. This was probably the easiest hardware driver I have ever had to install; even Razer’s software can have problems from time to time. Once the software was open it looked overwhelming. The Isku is designed for people who love macros and keyboard shortcuts. There is a dedicated row of shortcuts on the far left, but the Isku has a special Easy Shift+ key function that can double all your shortcuts. On the bottom of the keyboard, there are three “Thumbster” keys that allow you to do whatever you want with them. These are great for reloading in games, crouching, or switching to your favorite weapons. They are located just right, but I feel you will need to have larger hands to reach them.
The Isku FX allows up to five profiles to be switched on the fly, this is for people who may have a lot of shortcuts for different games. Blue LEDs are at the top left to tell you which profile you are on, and no there is no dedicated profile switch key, that’s what all these macro buttons are for. Next to the profile LEDs is a live record button. Press the button and a guy with a gravelly voice will walk you through the macro recording process. This is great and takes away those confusing menu screens to record macros, however, that option is still here. At the very top are your media keys, a browser button, and a button for My Computer, but again you can change these if you want. Next to these is a button to turn the LED lights on and off which is a nice feature. Then the rest of the keyboard is a pretty standard affair.
As for the rest of the software, the macro options are insane, and it even lets you program buttons by milliseconds of when they activate, it’s crazy. Another tab allows you to use the F keys as more macros if the 16 before weren’t enough. Another tab allows you to alter the “Easy Zone” keys, which are around WASD, to completely change what they do normally or add a secondary macro via the Easy Shift+ key. This is great if you are playing an MMO with a mouse and don’t want to use the top number keys or switch to the keypad. This is also useful if you are using a program that has a lot of shortcuts; now you can have them all right next to each other. The Advanced Control tab allows you to change the lighting effects, enable AlienFX, and various other options. The Roccat software also comes with an achievement system which is odd, but it’s here. There are 16 achievements in total, I have yet to unlock any, but it’s very interesting and kind of strange.
The keys feel fantastic and I can’t stress this enough. Membrane keys are usually shoddy, but these click very quietly and had a lot of response, and don’t feel mushy. I felt the keys are a little closer together than most Cherry MX keys, but not by much and I quickly got used to this and forgot all about it. I also like how I don’t have to press the keys down so far, as people with smaller hands tend to cramp up on Cherry MX keys.
Overall, the Roccat Isku FX keyboard is amazing, and surprisingly so for a membrane keyboard. If you are on the fence about membrane keyboards or are a hardcore Cherry MX fan, I suggest giving this keyboard a shot. Out of several membrane keyboards, I tried this was the only one that felt decent, so I understand the hate behind those kinds of boards. The software is some of the best out there for hardware, and there are so many customization options it will make you dizzy. Even if you don’t use macros this is a wonderful keyboard, has great lighting effects, and is well worth the price.