So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Roccat Isku FX gaming keyboard
A solid, no-nonsense keyboard aimed at gamers
- Solid and functional industrial design and build
- Easy to program macros
- Robust software
- No mechanical keys
- Inconsistent button design and lighting
The Isku FX is solid keyboard that stands out through its practical design and macro functionality. However, lack of mechanical keys and design quirks stop it from being a must have.
Price$ 95.00 (AUD)
German peripheral manufacturer Roccat has made a name for itself in gaming circles for its robust keyboards and mice, and the Isku FX is the latest addition to its keyboard portfolio. At a glance, the Isku FX features multicolour backlit keys, Easy Shift [+] functionality with 36 macro keys, eight media keys and on-the-fly macro recording. The bundled software allows for an endless amount of macro combinations and adjustment of the keyboard’s features, such as the colour of the backlight.
Sharp and angular
Mechanical keyboards are the popular choice for serious gamers due to the comfortable feel and response of the keys. Roccat has chosen to make the Isku FX membrane-based, and this fact alone may decide whether a gamer will want to have a look at it or not. Fortunately, the keys are of a high quality and do a good job of simulating a typical keyboard experience. No keys stuck, popped off or malfunctioned during testing, whether it was with a game or when typing. It will be interesting to see if Roccat incorporates mechanical keys in a future iteration of the keyboard, as that would definitely make it a more compelling choice over the competition.
The Isku FX has a two-tone black finish and features an angular design reminiscent of a Lamborghini car. The outer rim of the keyboard has a matte finish while the interior uses glossy plastic. The two-tone finish gives the keyboard a stylish look, though there is a tendency for fingerprints and scratches to be left on the glossy section. In an interesting move, Roccat has designed the Isku FX with a permanent wrist rest. Several gaming keyboards take the same route, though people who aren't accustomed to using a wrist rest will have to get used to it.
Below the space bar there are three “Thumbster” buttons which are shortcut buttons that can be programmed. The buttons are well placed and easy to activate on-the-fly with the left hand thumb. There is a macro recording button at the top-left of the keyboard, and a backlight brightness button on the right. Eight media keys are located between them. On the left side of the keyboard there is a row of five programmable keys, though their placement meant I initially would confuse the bottom key whenever I wanted to press the left Ctrl key.
The lights are on but...
The keyboard does not have a Caps Lock key and instead features an Easy Shift [+] key. This unique feature allows keys within three zones on the keyboard to be used with another preset function when activated. It's an interesting feature that increases the programmability and functionality of the keyboard, though gamers used to dedicated macro keys on other keyboards will need to train themselves to make use of this feature.
Read more: Roccat Kone Pure gaming mouse
The keys are all backlit with RGB LEDs and the colour can be customised to one of 16.8 million colours. The LEDs imbue the keyboard with a nice glow in dim lighting conditions; the colouring is not as visible in a well lit room, even on the highest brightness setting. The keyboard has six levels of illumination for the keys, including the ability to turn off illumination completely, and the brightness levels can be cycled with the dedicated key that's located at the top-right of the board. Neither the media keys, nor the macro recording and brightness buttons are illuminated in the same way, which detracts somewhat from the overall consistency of the keyboard.
Next to the macro recording button, there is a row of blue LEDs that indicate which memory bank is being used. The colour of these LEDs can not be changed and the brightness is much higher than those of the QWERTY keys, which also impacts the consistency of the keyboard’s look. The Num/Scroll lock indicator, as well as the Thumbster buttons, use this same blue LED, which gives the keyboard an unbalanced look as far as colour and brightness are concerned. It would be nice if a future iteration of this keyboard addressed this.
Put to the test
The Isku FX was tested with the recently-released StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. RTS games such as this are a perfect candidate for multiple macros, and programming the keyboard with the shortcuts was a breeze thanks to Roccat’s bundled software. Drop down menus were used to easily create my own macros, but there are also preset macros that can be used. I also tested with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and it performed responsively with the game. The Isku FX has a raised bump on the W key, just like the F and J keys do, which makes it really handy during gameplay. It is particularly useful in switching between typing and putting your fingers in the WASD key position for FPS games.
All up, a solid keyboard that shines when it comes to programming macros backlighting, but the lack of mechanical keys and some inconsistencies with the design are drawbacks.
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