PC gamers are always looking to get the edge. In many games mere milliseconds can make the difference between victory and defeat. Roccat is one of many companies here to help give gamers the edge with their full-line of gaming peripherals. I recently spent some quality time with the Roccat Isku FX Gaming Keyboard. A feature and power packed gaming keyboard that offers a ton of gaming centric features and can also help with everyday computing tasks.
The Isku FX offers a ton of functional features for both the casual and hardcore gamer. What surprised me is that Roccat even built features into the keyboard to improve just normal windows activities.
Macros are a major focus of any gaming peripheral. Being able to perform complex button combinations or assign more in-game functions to closer buttons is key. And the Isku FX excels in both physical and software aspects of macros. For starters there are 5 macro buttons on the left of the keyboard. But to up the ante Roccat also added 3 “Thumbmaster” buttons. These are 3 buttons located under the space bar exactly where your thumb lays. These buttons are great for a slew of games. In Battlefield 3 I set them up for quick weapon section so I didn’t have to use the number keys taking my movement fingers out of the action. In an MMO like Star Wars the Old Republic I was able to map other quickbar slots to the buttons allowing me quick access to health packs and additional instant abilities. The layout possibilities for different games is pretty much endless, and you can tailor the layout to your play style.
The team at Roccat also included a set of basic Window Media buttons ont eh top of the keyboard. But where this keyboard helps improve normal windows task is in the handful of preset Windows macros. Again these macros can be set to different macro buttons making simple task just a button press away.
Having all these macros are great but if your gaming hardware’s software isn’t good then you have a problem. Well that isn’t the case with the Isku FX. Roccat has built great software utilities to program their hardware. I found the software intuitive and powerful. I was able to quickly record macros for my games and I was able to set-up each of the 5 profiles for the top 5 games I usually play. The software package even has a bunch of macro presets available for a selection of games. However the selection felt a bit dated with big names like Battlefield 3, Call of Duty and others missing. Luckily it’s fairly simple to create your own macros for each game you play. It would have been nice to see a social tab in the software where I could share my game profile’s and browse and download other gamers game macros. Roccat did spend the time creating an “achievement” system which tracks button use, so why not a simple game profile/macro share section?
Besides macros the software also controls the keyboard lighting, color and pulsing effects. There is also a neat timer function that you can set timer keys which can activate and will give you audible countdowns when events in-game are going to occur. Which could be great when trying to keep track of spawns.
Easy-Shift+ is a specialized Roccat technology that further expands the number of macros you can store and fire off in-game. The Easy-Shift+ key replaces the Caps Lock key and when pressed in conjunction with the other macro, thumbmaster, or WASD area keys, gives you up to a total of 36 macros. Basically it allows keys to serve a normal function and then double as a macro as well.
This is another specialized Roccat technology. Roccat Talk works in two functions. The first allows multiple Roccat devices work in tandem with each other. For instance using the Easy-Shift+ button on the keyboard will activate Easy-Shift+ also on the Roccat Kone XTD mouse. This allows you to free-up the Easy-Shift+ button on the mouse and still get the extra mouse functions. Also you can use the Roccat Easy-Aim function, which when activated quickly increases the DPI setting of the mouse allowing for more precise aiming.
The second way Roccat Talk can function is by providing visual lighting effect feedback from in-game. While this functionality is solely dependent on the gamer developer. Developers can use the technology to change the key color, for instance if you get hit by a fireball in an RPG the buttons might explode red. They can also use the feature to control the mood of the game through altering the keyboards lighting. This sounds great, but again it’s up to game developers to implement so if it’s not supported in-game you won’t get the benefits of it.
While function of a gaming keyboard in my opinion is the most important, form is very close. If a keyboard isn’t comfortable and layout nicely dond it can cause fatigue and not be easy to use. The Roccat Isku FX is a bit of a mixed bag in the form department. The layout of the keyboard is fairly straight forward and the key macro keys are all within in finger reach. The addition of the “Thumbmaster” keys is a big plus and the simple use of Easy-Shift+ further adds to the number of macros available and they are easily activated and used. One thing I would have liked to have seen is a standalone profile selection button. As it stands now you’ll have to use up one of your macro buttons or an Easy-Shift+ space as a profile cycle button.
The design and look of the keyboard is nice and futuristic looking, yet I found the material to be only a little better then your standard OEM keyboard. The keyboard feels very light and flimsy made of all plastic. I’m surprised that primary gaming keys aren’t at the least rubberized or made to feel different for better finger negotiation. One neat little feature they added is to the underside of the keyboard. There is a system of channels notched out of the underside which allows you to route mouse or headset cables, keeping them out of your way when gaming.
Overall the Roccat Isku FX is a stellar gaming keyboard. It offers a lot of features and options for hardcore gamers, but it presents them in a package that is simple enough for a casual gamer looking to up their game. The software that powers the keyboard is very well done and simple to use. Creating custom macros is a cinch and setting up different profiles for your favorite games is quick and painless. I would have liked to have seen a basic sharing function built into the software allowing easy browsing of other gamers keyboard profiles, or at the least a more updated set of preset macros for newer games on the market. The look and feel of the keyboard is ok, but I would have expected better material used for the build other than your typical OEM keyboard. The additional “Thumbmaster” macro buttons are exceptional. More buttons at your finger tips can only lead to better gameplay. If you are in the market for a new gmaing keyboard the Roccat Isku FX is a great choice and it won’t break the bank at a cool $99.99.