Roccat Isku Keyboard Review
By André Gordirro on March 12, 2012
The new Roccat Isku is one of the most configurable keyboards we’ve ever tested. Thanks to the EasyShift[+] technology, already featured on the Kone[+] mouse we reviewed here, and to the number of extra keys, it is possible to program over 180 functions. The keyboard can store five user profiles, and it features six levels of illumination and a special synchronicity with the Kone[+] mouse. It has loads of options and special features, so first we’re going to analyze the physical characteristics and then review its software and actual performance.
The Isku is a huge keyboard with some extra space reserved not only for the programmable keys but also for a big wrist rest. It doesn’t fit in those traditional sliding trays for keyboards found on most small computer tables. On the left side, the user finds five M keys (M1-M5). In place of the traditional Caps Lock, there is the EasyShift[+]. On the top left corner, there are five LEDs to indicate the current user profile and a button to record macros on-the-fly without the need of an application.
The illumination button and a display for the Caps Lock, Easy Shift[+] and Num Lock can be found on the right side of the keyboard.
Below the space bar, there is a more unusual configuration: three extra buttons, a great feature that turns the thumb, once just relegated to hit the space bar, into a more active finger during gameplay.
On the top, there are the traditional 12 function keys plus multimedia controls and two buttons to open the default web browser and Windows Explorer.
When we turned over the Isku, we found two retractable feet and some rubberized feet to stabilize the keyboard on the table. Cable channels help prevent the formation of a mess of cables on the desktop. Unfortunately, the Isku doesn’t feature any USB ports or audio jacks.
The main characteristic of the Isku is the comprehensive list of configuration options, especially the creation of macros. Macros, as we explained in other reviews, are long series of command sequences that can be activated by a single keystroke. It’s a timesaver for strategy and RPG games because it bypasses the opening of several menus just to execute the same action several times, like releasing a spell, invoking a character’s mount or uniting troops. Overall, it’s possible to program over 180 macros in five user profiles.
The EasyShift[+] multiplies the available keys which then can be programmed to execute several functions. It’s an intelligent way of virtually increasing the number of programmable keys without having to physically add them to the keyboard. If the user wants, he or she can relocate the EasyShift[+] key to some other button on the Isku and have the Caps Lock back to its traditional location.
The user needs the proprietary Roccat software to configure the Isku. The application seems complex, but the interface is elegant and friendly. For those who tremble at the task of recording macros and configuring lots of keys, the software offers some presets for major games available on the market (World of Warcraft, Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Mass Effect), as well as presets for applications (Firefox, Photoshop and Skype).
Through the software, the user can control the intensity of the illumination, program the lights to go off after some period of keyboard inactivity, disable some keys (like the Windows button) and play a sound when a user profile is activated.
Thanks to the anti-ghosting, the user can press several keys at the same time without the keyboard misinterpreting the information.
Prior to playing, we first used the Isku to type. We needed some time to adjust to its size and key distribution. Because of the proximity of the M1-M5 keys to the traditional keys on the left side, we ended up mistyping a lot. We also had to reprogram the Caps Lock to its original position, now occupied by the EasyShift[+] . With so many extra keys, we don’t understand why Roccat didn’t include a separate key for the EasyShift[+] instead of replacing the Caps Lock.
As with games, the Isku is the ideal keyboard for complex titles with thousands of commands. The average gamer will probably be satisfied with the presets, and the software is just good enough to make some more hardcore configurations without getting a headache. For FPS games that require a lot fewer commands, it’s better to invest in a good mouse. Since these types of controls remain the same over several titles, the same keyboard preset can be of service in such games as Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3.
Although the placement of the M1-M5 keys can lead to some accidental keystrokes, the inclusion of three buttons below the space bar is a touch of genius. The thumb usually rests over the space bar doing nothing until it has to press it for the virtual soldier to jump. Now the finger can execute three more functions like reloading a gun, changing weapons and drinking healing potions. In terms of positioning, they are the best keys on the Isku.
For those who own the Kone[+] mouse and the Isku keyboard, it’s possible to establish a communication between them through the Roccat Talk feature. The user can control the Kone[+] resolution with a keystroke on the Isku and execute the EasyShift[+], also found on the mouse, through the keyboard. This actually leaves the same EasyShift[+] button on the mouse to be reconfigured to some other function. As we considered the Kone[+] a Hardware Secrets Golden Award recipient, it makes a nice tag-team with the Isku.
The main specifications for the Roccat Isku keyboard include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
The Roccat Isku is the ideal keyboard for strategy and RPG games that have many complex commands. It features a great capacity for customization, and the application offers useful presets for many hot games on the market. The illumination is beautiful and functional, but the Isku could have featured some USB ports, especially having a sibling product like the Kone[+] (it would have been interesting to hook it up with the Isku). There’s the slight problem with the positioning of the M keys, which we invariably hit by accident, and the question of the size itself: the keyboard is too big and requires lots of empty space on the table.