It’s so easy to take a performance keyboard for granted. For the longest time, I was using a Dell QuietKey. Nothing fancy, just keys that worked most of the time, whether I was typing up pages of documents, chatting online, or playing games, it was hard for me to justify switching to anything fancier when really, I thought I had everything I needed. In the long run, it was keyboards like the Roccat Isku make me feel extremely foolish for thinking that way, not just in terms of style points, but really in the comfort of using it and increased functionality.
If you can get past the sheer size of this keyboard, it’s designed in a way that makes sense. There’s a large, gently sloping space beneath the keys for your wrists to lean on, and the surface used really prevents steamy palm prints or greasing up the keyboard surface with dirty hands, not to mention the comfort of it. With macros on the left, profile switchers below the space bar, and media player controls above the function keys, you take a look at the Isku and think those are all the extra keys you’re going to get. Even with the 5 macro keys and 5 onboard profiles, that might seem like enough if you get good at switching profiles on the fly.
Instead, Roccat accommodates for this by placing the EasyShift key where the the Caps Lock normally is, though this can be remapped, opening up additional functions for 20 keys on the left side of the keyboard, particularly surrounding the WASD area that is so frequently used for gaming. Taking the time to craft profiles for whatever you like, from real-time strategy titles to MMORPGs, the Isku makes even long lists of commands a snap. Even the brightness of the LED illuminating the keys can be mapped to each profile, so turning off the lights before bed is as easy as tapping a key.
There isn’t really a lot to criticize about the Roccat Isku keyboard without getting into nitpicking. If you don’t like keyboards that are too large, or if you have limited desk space, the size could prove to be a problem. The LEDs, while performing admirably, don’t necessarily do the best job lighting up certain keys unless you’re looking straight down at it, particularly toward the number pad. None of these complaints really impact the usability of the keyboard, particularly if you know where your keys are located, but they are areas where perhaps later models could be improved.
Though I had to get used to the slight differences in key sizes and shapes from my previous keyboard, it was maybe ten minutes before I knew that I had found a tool that would serve me just as well in digital combat as it would in getting assignments done, and that my desk had a new staple device that would be put to good use over probably the next few years. For somebody such as myself that prefers to spend his time pressing keys either to communicate, work, or play, and likes to do so comfortably and in a darkened environment, the Roccat Isku Illuminated Gaming Keyboard really opened my eyes to what a keyboard ought to do aside from the standard features that haven’t really changed in decades.
Bottom Line: I have a reputation for being something of a keyboard snob. I like to have a lot of features, but not so many that it becomes daunting and unwieldy. Looks are important, and as somebody who does a lot of typing, messing with the standard spacing and layout of keys is a big no-no. Lastly, I have a thing about keys that make a bit of sound when you press them, and when I unboxed the Roccat Isku, I immediately knew that this was the keyboard for me. Even if you’re not as picky as me, there’s a lot to love about a keyboard that goes so above-and-beyond the normal like the Isku does.
- Profile switching buttons are easy to reach, and with the optional Roccat Talk software, can apply to both the keyboard and the mouse
- Responsive, tactile keys feel good to press and are ideal for precision control in gaming as much as they for typing documents
- LED backlighting for the keys with six different levels of brightness make the keyboard look sharp, visible in the dark, but not so bright it keeps you awake at night
- Placement of LEDs makes some keys hard to read from the usual view when using the keyboard
- Macro keys maybe a little too aligned or close to regular keys, I had a personal tendency to hit Macro 2 when I meant to hit Tab
- Plastic framing around keyboard takes up a sizable chunk of desk space, will likely not fit smaller keyboard trays and other similar spaces
The Roccat Isku Illuminated Gaming Keyboard is available from Amazon for $89.99.