ROCCAT ISKU Review
   
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ROCCAT Isku Review

October 19th, 2011 Mark Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

I have had my current keyboard, a Logitech G15, for over 5 years now and I haven’t had the need to look for a replacement, so testing a keyboard is going to be rather a novelty as I tend to stay with existing products if they still work.  For my first review I received the recently launched ROCCAT Isku keyboard, which at £79.99 I believe is aimed at the serious gamer that is prepared to spend whatever it takes to win.

 

ROCCAT ISKU box front ROCCAT ISKU box rear

 

The Isku comes well packaged in its large box. The only other item in the package is a CD wallet which contains a CD, quick start guide and a ROCCAT ID card which is used for registering the keyboard.

 
ROCCAT ISKU box content
 

The keyboard has several channels on its underside for tidying away any mouse and headset cables and it has the ROCCAT emblem and name on the wrist rest so you can’t forget who made your keyboard!

 
 

ROCCAT ISKU keyboard rear ROCCAT ISKU keyboard emblem

 
 

Specifications / Features

courtesy of Roccat

CREATE THE MOST FEARSOME ALLIANCE GAMING HAS EVER SEEN
For the first time in gaming history your keyboard and mouse can team up to become an unstoppable fighting force – giving you the revolutionary power to command faster, easier and more effectively than ever before.

That’s because our exclusive ROCCAT™ Talk© protocol allows the Isku Illuminated Gaming Keyboard and the ROCCAT™ Kone[+] high-performance gaming mouse to talk to each other – giving you a powerful set bonus that lets you execute mouse macros quickly and easily right from your keyboard.

This groundbreaking technology works like a dream together with our exclusive
Easy-Shift[+]™ technology. Simply use the Easy-Shift[+]™ key on your Isku to activate macros for both your keyboard and mouse — an ingenious short-cut that lets you concentrate more on your game and less on controls. Your Kone[+] will even signal you with a light flash every time it’s chatting with the Isku – so you’ll know when the two are working together.

ROCCAT™ Talk© also lets you take advantage of our exclusive Easy-Aim technology like never before. When your game demands precise marksmanship in sniper mode, simply press and hold a single keyboard key and Easy-Aim will instantly optimize the DPI setting on your Kone[+]. This two-handed custom marksmanship is the simplest and most convenient way ever to achieve pinpoint sniping accuracy. And it also frees up a Kone[+] button for another macro of your choice.

HUNT YOUR PREY INSTEAD OF HUNTING FOR KEYS
The Isku is the only keyboard in the world to feature our groundbreaking Easy-Shift[+]™ technology, which offers you the wonder of 36 easily-customizable macros strategically positioned in 3 spots in the easy-to-find WASD zone. This means you can fire off orders without ever having to re-adjust your hand position – so you won’t have to take your eyes off the screen to look for keys. Simple and ingenious. And because the Easy-Shift[+]™ key works just like the standard shift key, activating your macros is as simple as typing an uppercase letter.

The Easy-Shift[+]™ zone gives you an impressive 28 macros keys – including 8 dedicated keys that can be doubly programmed. Plus, the ability to instantly switch between 5 profiles lets you enjoy up to a whopping 180 macros – enough customization to meet even the most demanding warrior’s needs.

GET YOUR THUMBS INTO THE FIGHT
Are all your digits in? Now you can give your thumbs something useful to do instead of just hovering over the spacebar. Our ROCCAT scientists put three individually-programmable Thumbster macro keys right below the Isku’s spacebar — each easily activated with a quick thumb strike. Perfect for casting a lightning-quick healing spell in the middle of a tough fight. Brilliant for a rapid weapon change. Think of your thumbs as two new eager allies. Thumbs up to that.

RECORD MACROS MID-ACTION
New enhanced Macro Live! technology makes in-game macro recording a joy. Simply hit the dedicated Macro Live! Recording button and let the handy new Sound Feedback tool talk you through the quick and easy recording process, step by step. You can program up to an amazing 500 actions for each of the 180 macros – giving you the freedom to lay down any orders you can dream up. And you won’t have to leave your game to do it.

RECORD MACROS AT YOUR LEISURE
If recording macros using a menu-based system is more your style then our world-famous Macro Manager software is just what you want. The award-winning Macro Manager lets you record and fine-tune your macros with incredible precision — and with intuitive ease thanks to a gorgeous and simple-to-use interface. The new Loop Function even lets you repeat your settings up to an incredible 255 times. And the internationally-adored program even comes with presets for top games and office apps — so you can enjoy your favourites with no wait.

Additional details available here…

 

First Impressions

 

The keyboard looks initially to be one of the biggest keyboards I have ever seen! It looked at first that the Isku was going to be bigger than the G15, but after comparing them together they are very similar in size. The main difference between them is the wrist rest of the G15 is detachable where as on the Isku it is fixed. 

 

 

The Isku is made of shiny black plastic with a matt black finish on the wrist rest and keyboard surround. The keys are of a reasonable size in the standard QWERTY layout. There are 5 macro keys on the left hand side and 3 thumbster keys below the spacebar. The keyboard has blue back lighting with several different brightness levels.

 

Hardware / Software Installation

 

Once the keyboard was unwrapped and plugged into a free USB2 slot Windows 7 immediately detected it and it was available to use as a standard keyboard. To get the benefits of the extra keys and macro programming I downloaded the driver from the ROCCAT support web site to ensure I was running the latest.

 

Testing Methodology/Setup

 

My current gaming rig was used during testing which has Windows 7 Home Premium (64bit) Service Pack 1 installed with all associated drivers. The ROCCAT Isku driver software used was version V1.15 / FW1.24.

The keyboard was tested with the following games / software over a ten day period:

  • Battlefield Bad Company 2
  • Battlefield 3 (Open Beta)
  • Media keys used to control Windows Media Play

It should be noted that Isku supports the ROCCAT TALK protocol which allows certain ROCCAT products to communicate with each other directly. The main example here is that the Isku can communicate with the ROCCAT KONE[+] which can offer you special new functions. An example of this is that you can program a keyboard key to change the DPI resolutions on the KONE[+], conversely the KONE[+] can also execute a keyboard function such as a macro assigned to any of the special keys on the Isku . Unfortunately I am using a Logitech G5 mouse and therefore will not be testing this feature.

 

Performance – Software

 

After installing the software I was slightly surprised to only find the following options available under a ROCCAT Isku Keyboard application menu group

  • Isku Driver
  • Uninstall Isku Driver

After looking for a shortcut on the desktop I finally found a ROCCAT emblem in the quick launch area. Clicking this loaded the Isku keyboard settings program (clicking the Isku Driver option in the menu also loads the same program).

 

 

This allows full control of the keyboard and allows you to setup up to 5 different keyboard profiles for different applications (or games as we call them at pcGameware!).

The keyboard settings program provides an interface which allows for custom programming of macros and the subsequent allocation of a macro to a particular key. This includes the keys within the EASYSHIFT[+] key area. After changing several of my keys to use the EASYSHIFT[+] I can say they work flawlessly and do provide an additional area which is in the main area (WASD) of the keyboard.

I initially had an issue trying to perform mouse functions with the live macro record option. When recording a macro in game I found that it was ignoring my left mouse selection. It was successfully activated in game but didn’t appear in the macro or when it was replayed. Based upon this, I thought I would manually enter the macro in the Macro Manager. Initially I found that the Macro Manager wasn’t that intuitive whilst I was trying to record my mouse commands. Eventually I found that if you ‘right click’ on an existing command then you can insert a mouse action before the currently selected command. This means that if you want to enter a mouse action into a macro you are required to enter a following keyboard command before you can enter the required mouse command, if the last action you wish to perform is a mouse command you need to enter a dummy keyboard command, enter a mouse command before the keyboard command and then delete the dummy command!?

This could be a driver issue or alternatively a problem between the keyboard and the chair (i.e. a user issue, me!), but after spending about several hours trying to solve this one macro issue I couldn’t find an alternative way of achieving it!

Eventually I managed to perform the following macro in Battlefield 3 (Open Beta)

Go Prone (Z key pressed)
Select Defib paddles (4 key pressed)
Use Defib paddles (left mouse button clicked)
Select Main Weapon (1 key pressed)

 

 

I did try something similar in Battlefield Bad Company 2, but I wasn’t able to successfully achieve the same result. I even tried the advanced macro editor which allows you to provide a pause between key presses, but in my limited time I still couldn’t find a suitable workaround.

 

 

I can’t complain because in the past I have had the same problem with the macro manager provided with my Logitech G15 Keyboard, but this is something people need to be aware of. It isn’t necessarily a problem with the keyboard software but more a compatibility problem between the keyboard and the application. In most instances where I have previously experienced this new drivers have solved the issue and as the Isku is such a new keyboard this doesn’t surprise me.

The media keys worked flawlessly with windows media player. The software provides the option to select several other media applications which are available on the market.

 

Performance – Hardware

 

I must admit at the beginning of the test I was slightly concerned about the concave depth of the keys. On my existing G15 keyboard the keys have a greater depth to them than keys on the Isku . This was the first main keyboard difference I noted (other than the missing LCD display). This aside during the weeks testing I haven’t slipped once from the key I have being aiming to press.

The keyboard comes with 6 levels of lighting, which light the majority of keys. The exclusions are the macro live recording key, the media player keys and the light level key. I suspect most people will select which light level they prefer and leave it set. The driver is clever enough to remember which light setting you have selected and the keyboard returns to the same light level when the machine is rebooted. The actual light levels vary and I am certain everyone will find one which suits them. My only complaint is that certain keys on the right hand side of the keyboard, in particularly the PRINT SCR, SCROLL and BREAK have the light at an angle which only lights the wording fully if you are looking from the centre of the keyboard (or further to the right). This means that the keys are slightly dimmer than expected and you can’t fully read them if like me you tend to be slightly off centre towards the left of the keyboard. I admit I am being really picky about this but seeing as the keyboard is providing an EasyZone key area which is on the left hand side of the keyboard I assume like me that most people would be slightly offset towards the left hand side of the keyboard!

The rubber grips on the underside of the keyboard are extremely large and fix the keyboard in position no matter how frantic the action gets! This to me is one of the biggest benefits of the keyboard. Once it’s positioned on the desk and with the added weight of your own limbs on the wrist rest this keyboard doesn’t move at all. ROCCAT should be thanked for designing the large number of rubber strips into this keyboard and providing an extremely stable platform to game from.

Once multiple profiles have been created and allocated to various applications the fun begins when you start to load the applications. The keyboard driver announces via sound in a rather authoritative voice which profile has been loaded. The relevant light on the top left of the keyboard is also lit. My initial thought was that I would soon become annoyed of the voice but the tone is subtle enough that it performs its function of informing you which profile has been loaded and allows you to get on with gaming.

Overall I would have to say from a hardware point of view that the keyboard performed flawlessly.

 

Final Thoughts

 

At the start of the test I was horrified by the price tag of £79.99 for the Isku , but after having spent ten days using it I now appreciate its design and build quality, although I still think £79.99 is expensive for a keyboard.

The minor flaws with the lighting are negligible and is about the only thing I could find to say against the ROCCAT Isku hardware. The software is a different matter, but as I have previously said this could just be an issue with my understanding of the software. The work around is a minor issue and something which if it is a software issue I suspect will be fixed fairly quickly.

The big question is would I go out and buy one now while I still have my beloved G15?

The answer to that at present is no, but that’s only because I have missed my LCD display, if ROCCAT were to incorporate a LCD display similar to the G15 (and let’s be honest the area above the media keys screams out for something*) then I suspect I would be arguing with several people to be the first in the queue.

* @ ROCCAT – just think, that area could have a LCD display which would be twice the size of the G15…

 

Verdict

 

Design/Quality pcGameware awards the ROCCAT Isku a Silver
Performance
Value
Overall

 


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