Roccat Valo Keyboard Review
By André Gordirro on October 7, 2011
The Roccat Valo keyboard draws attention by the big number of additional keys. It comes with 41 dedicated keys just to record macros with up to 500 (!) keystrokes in a single long sequence. Furthermore, it has illuminated keys and it includes a small microphone to be plugged to the side (for the user who doesn’t want to speak through a headset). Those and other features are going to be examined in the course of this review, beginning with the physical description of the keyboard.
First, let’s review what is a macro. As we explained in other reviews, a macro is a long command sequence that can be programmed to be activated by a single keystroke. For gamers, a well-done macro is a timesaver (and sometimes a virtual lifesaver) during a match, like activating your character’s mount with a single button in World of Warcraft.
Besides the standard keyboard layout with 105 keys, the Valo features 55 more buttons – macro keys, multimedia keys and other functions. Thus, it’s a big model, practically the size of a regular keyboard plus a wrist rest. On the upper left corner there’s a USB 1.1 port; on the opposite side you can find audio connections for a headset or the Roccat microphone.
On the upper right corner there’s an LCD display to show the current user profile, email alerts, date and time, RAM usage and other types of information. The plastic cable ends in two USB connectors and two 3.5 mm audio jacks (sound and microphone) to be plugged into a PC.
Above the standard keyboard layout, there are two lines of macro keys. Well to the left, three keys control macro recording. Roccat included 45 color keys (red, light blue and dark blue) to replace the usual black ones so the user can customize his/her Valo, and a small tool to help release and switch the keys. There is also a microphone in the accessories package.
The Valo is an illuminated keyboard, and the light intensity can be controlled by a series of buttons on the upper edge of the keyboard. They also control the LCD brightness.
Now that we’re done examing the Valo physically, let’s go to the programming and put it to use.
Macro programming isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Thankfully, the Roccart software makes it a little less painful due to a friendly interface. You can save macros in five different profiles, and each one has four other sub-profiles called layers, so the user can have 20 different profiles on each of the 41 macro keys. It’s a lot, believe us – more than the casual gamer will ever need, but certainly a dream come true for those who like to have absolute control at their fingertips. In games like World of Warcraft (MMORPG) and Starcraft (RTS), the user can record complex commands that take time (attack combos, unit building, etc.) and are usually repeated over and over during a match. The Valo comes with an internal memory of 2 MB to store the macros.
The software also allows the user to control the information shown on the LCD display and the brightness of the illuminated keys.
Since work has to come before fun, we first tested the Valo as a regular keyboard – to type articles, instant messaging, etc. In this function, the Valo performed very, very poorly. The keys are small (so the keyboard can house the extra 55 keys) and more pressure resistant (to manage the intensity of gameplay). We ended up mistyping constantly, skipping letters and hitting the Caps Lock unintentionally several times. The typing experience was bad, and we feel that the Valo should not be used for work. During game matches, when we needed to type small messages for our gaming buddies, the text came out truncated due to the difficult typing.
Although typing was bad, at least while playing, the keys responded very well in spite of our hitting some wrong keys due to the buttons being somewhat small. At some point, we launched a grenade when we tried to knife a virtual enemy. In terms of customization, the Valo is awesome. It’s such a world of possibilities that the inclusion of color keys makes sense. However, we feel that the light blue hue is very similar to the darker one. Perhaps an option in orange or yellow would be more appropriate than two shades of blue. Another idea is to follow the example of other gaming-grade models and offer an extra WASD cluster since they are the keys that see more action during play.
We’re still trying to understand why Roccard decided to include a USB 1.1 port. We’re not asking for a 3.0, but, as it is, the Valo didn’t recognize a simple external HD, and the port was left solely to plug in the mouse. At least the audio connections are useful to people like we, who are constantly switching headsets, but the included microphone is a gimmick since any gamer worth his or her salt relies on a good headset (which comes with an integrated microphone, after all).
The Valo was tested while we played Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. With a virtually infinite capacity to record macros, the keyboard is more geared towards MMORPG and RTS titles than FPS games, where the more common controls usually are assigned to mouse buttons. We only regret the difficulty in typing messages to our gaming buddies because of the small keys, but in customization and macro recording, the Valo is really the ideal model for those who appreciate this kind of feature.
The main specifications for the Roccat Valvo keyboard include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
Below is a summary of our impressions about the Roccat Valo.