ROCCAT Isku FX Review

👤by Tim Harmer Comments 📅23-03-13
A Closer Look

There’s quite a lot to take in with the Isku FX, so lets begin. The first and most important point for keyboard connoisseurs is that this is a low profile membrane keyboard rather than mechanical switch type of other keyboard in a similar price range. This membrane type usually has a few consequences – less responsive keys, a more deadened typing experience and less robust construction – but we find the Isku to be extremely solid in construction. It’s true to say however that the keys are less responsive at first blush and may be a slight disappointment to those who are used to mechanical switch types, but the low-profile keys will obviate some of the downside thanks to less spring-back distance.

The Isku FX has keycaps with a very good finish and characters which are clearly defined when lighting is enabled and disabled. The paint is relatively slippery, although the initial sheen wears to a reasonably grippy surface in a short space of time.

Macro keys M1-M5 on the Isku are in the ideal location for quick access whilst retaining hand position around the WASD-zone, although initial use of the Isku will take some getting used to if you typically orientate your hand to the edge of the keyset (SHIFT+CAPS+TAB etc.) rather than from a central point outwards. They utilise the same membrane switch technology of the other keysets.

Thumbster keys are three additional keys below the spacebar which can be activated and also utilise Easy-Shift[+] to unlock three addition keybind options. Location-wise they’re excellent and being slightly recessed don’t interfere with normal typing. However actuation of these keys is a little stiff as they utilise a standard button-type switch, and this may make them a little more difficult to utilise in the heat of battle. With extended use however this initial stiffness should slacken off.

Speaking of Easy-Shift[+], ROCCAT have built this feature into their Kone and Isku keyboards, acting as a modifier for macro keys to double the number of keybinds possible. On the Isku FX Caps-Lock is the default Easy-Shift[+] key (denoted by the [+] on the keycap), a sensible choice in our mind thanks to Shift and even Tab being utilised more often in gaming. It also allows both Shift and Easy-Shift[+] to be utilised in tandem if required.

Casting your eyes up to the top-left of the board, you can see the profile indicator (P1-P5). Interestingly there is no dedicated key for profile selection; the key you might have expected to change profile in fact activates Macro Live Record functionality, with an indicator light just to the left of it. This should not however be seen as a liability, there are a huge number of macro keys on the Isku, any of which can be bound to profile selection.

Centrally located at the top of the keyboard are the media keys. Often an oversight on many such peripherals, ROCCAT have taken the added step of allowing additional functions to be assigned including web-page refresh. They’re not quite as extensive a function set as the macro Thumbster keys, but this additional flexibility is swiftly becoming ROCCAT’s hallmark.

On the top-right is a solitary button which controls the brightness level of the keyboard lighting; a button push cycles between off and the 5 brightness levels. This is perhaps the weakest of the on-keyboard buttons, frequently failing to register a response when pressed. All said however, if one part of the keyboard was to be weaker than the rest we would choose it to be one where minute-by-minute operation wasn't important.

We should mention the three indicator LED’s at the top-right – as you would expect they generally indicate NUMLOCK, CAPSLOCK and SCROLLLOCK status, however when Easy-Shift[+] is enabled (through pressing Caps Locks by default) the [+] will flash rather than be lit continuously. This is a nice way of providing some decent visual indication of the function being in operation rather than an additional LED or through changing the lighting (as occurs on the Kone mice).

The keyboard keyset is bordered by glossy plastic, which is then framed by a more substantial textured plastic in part forming the moderately sized firm wrist wrest. The glossy surround will be a fingerprint magnet and a devil to clean in time, and the few ridges where the frame transitions from glossy to textured will tend to pick up grime and particulates. It's not an issue per se, more a concern if operating in dusty environments.

Multiple rubberised ‘feet’ around the circumference of the Isku FX provide stability on the table-top, whilst extendible rubberised feet allow the Isku FX a swallow incline if that’s the user preference. Channels cut into the keyboard floor also allows some cable routing options for headset and/or mouse USB if desired, which is a nice touch.

Finally, we should note that the USB cable is not braided, unlike that of the Kone mice. This is something of a disappointment, and whilst not having a substantial durability impact as on the mice it is a rare slip in quality.

Overall we would have to admit to being quite pleased with the Isku FX. It feels durable and has minimal flex, the membrane switches are okay and the layout is excellent. As the top-end goes for these types of keyboard it sets a very high bar.

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