The Ultimate Sci-Fi Typing Experience
If you are in the market for a gaming keyboard, you likely already have a brand in mind. Specifically, most people who classify themselves as “gamers” already know what most of their competition/peers are using and will align in kind. Despite their popularity in certain circles, many people may be unaware that brands like ROCCAT, one of the top Keyboard brands of 2019, can also enhance the life of the average computer user, typist, or small business owner. Tired of boring, throw-away, generic keyboards, I wanted a fun, comfortable, reliable keyboard that even would make Captain Jean Luke Picard proud. I welcome you to my review of the ROCCAT Vulcan 120 AIMO keyboard.
The ROCCAT Vulcan 120 AIMO arrived in a 19 1/2 inches wide by 8 inches tall by 2 1/4 inches wide visually appealing retail box. The main focal point of the cover was the large, glossy, vibrantly-colored, obliquely-angled image of the Vulcan keyboard. Similar to the 5/8 inches wide polychromatic bar along the bottom, the keyboard emanated an attractive colorful gradient. The play-on-color gradient theme continued onto the surface of the box as well. The ROCCAT name/logo and the “VULCAN 120 AIMO” name, located toward the upper left, vividly contrasted against the black background. If you adjust your gaze toward the right, the dark matte black fades to a lighter/shinier black and then appeared to darken again. Along the bottom right corner, you will find “RGB MECHANICAL GAMING KEYBOARD,” and along the top right a USA flag and a small icon denoting “GERMAN DESIGN & ENGINEERING SINCE 2007. From the twelve thin grey oblique bars to the ROYGBIV color bar, to the obliquely angled photo-quality image, to the use of contrasting colors upon the black background, ROCCAT provided a masterclass in packaging. The front flap displayed the same “ROCCAT VULCAN 120 AIMO” title but this time utilized a darker black glossy font. Both of the side panels listed the same white title/ and oblique image of the keyboard, while the top panel listed the packaging contents (ROCCAT VULCAN 120 AIMO RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Quick-Installation guide, disposal information), system requirements (Windows, 7/8/10, USB 2.0 Port or Better, internet connection or driver installation), SKU sticker, and several of the standard product manufacturing labels.
Similar to the cover, the back panel successfully grabbed my attention. The ROCCAT VULCAN 120AIMO title was displayed along the top left but this time the company provided three features of the keyboard: Speed, Durability, Illumination. From left to right, I was able to learn about the ROCCAT Titan Switch (with exploded button configuration), Speed (electrical bounce time reduced by 20% to 4ms combined with shorter key buttons improves response time), Durability (sturdy aluminum top plate, reinforced key switches, dust-resistant, spill-resistant design), and Illumination (AIMO intelligent lighting system, long-life LED, transparent key switches for vibrant colors). Lastly, the rear panel provided a list of the technical specifications of the keyboard: 1.8mm actuation point (brown, tactile), removable ergonomic palm rest, integrated macro and settings memory, 6 programmable macro keys, ROCCAT Easy-Shift + technology, 32-bit ARM Cortex-MO based processor 1000 Hz polling rate, Roccat Swarm software suite, 1.8m braided cable, 1150g weight, 462mm x 235mm x 32mm dimension. Thoroughly pleased with the promises relayed by the packaging, I lifted the front flap of the box and removed the black/silver keyboard, the included magnetic-mounting wrist guard and the Quick-setup/disposal guides.
I have read several gaming reviews of the Vulcan keyboard and I wanted to use the device in a slightly different manner. Working in a medical office, and reviewing products on the side, I easily type 10,000+ words per week. You may not think that a keyboard change would matter that much, but it does. When trying to transcribe speech, or trying to document ideas, any leg-up is appreciated. I believe that the difference between my Vulcan Keyboard and the standard keyboard was as large as the transition from laptop to a desktop keyboard. Over the past several weeks, I have had the luxury of working with the keyboard. Beyond the “ooh’s,” and “ahh’s” from the coworkers intrigued by the futuristic design, and the occasional anti-tech naysayer, I have truly enjoyed my experience with the mechanical peripheral.
The keyboard was arranged in a similar manner to standard keyboards. Along the top row, you will find the ESC key, a 1-inch gap, the F1-F4 function keys, a 5/8 inches gap, the F5–58 keys, another 5/8 inches gap, the F9-F12 keys, a 7/16 inches gap and then the Print Screen, Scroll (Game Mode), and Break buttons. Just to the side of the break key, you will find a mute, FX, Volume up and volume toggle button. Similar to most keyboards, below the function row, you will find an evenly spaced, standard QWERTY Keyboard. Under the Print Screen button, you will find the six programmable M1-M6 (INS, HOME, PG up, Delete, END, PG down buttons). Just below the six Mode buttons, you will find the arrow keys. Along the far right, you will find a standard number pad. Each of the keys jutted 1/2 inches above the surface of the aluminum-silver plate background and had a concave shape to accommodate my fingers. I loved the angle of the keyboard, the rear keyboard elevators, and the ability to add the ergonomic palm rest. The 18 inches long by 2 15/16 inches wide palm rest had two 3/8 inches wide rubberized feet on the backside to decrease movement. Additionally, it had a row of magnets, under the keyboard attachment point, to attach to the metallic lip of the keyboard. Securely affixed, you can attach the two pieces together by simply sliding the palm wrest over the lower notch of the keyboard. The magnets will do the rest.
In a world of wireless technology, I was extremely pleased with the 72 inches long, braided, USB-A cable. I threaded the cable behind my monitor and plugged it into the back of my work computer. Immediately, the AIMO LEDs came to life. Upon the first impression, I loved the solid aluminum layer, the transparent key housing, and the thin concave black keys. The key spacing felt right, the ergonomic palm support felt comfortable, the home row aligning nubs were present on the J and F keys, and the buttons were incredibly responsive. As I typed, the keyboard seemed to change colors from yellow to orange to red. If you hold down the FN button and press the F1 (red/orange/yellow), F2 (green/teal), F3 (dark blue/teal), F4 (all green) buttons, you can cycle through the four different color schemes. If you press the “FN” key and then the scroll key, you can enter into “Game” mode. A small white LED will illuminate along the bottom right to alert you to this mode. While in that mode, the windows key was deactivated, preventing rogue fingers from striking the windows key. If interested, you can use the free ROCCAT software “SWARM” to create macros and custom key layouts for the keyboard. I did not require the use of the SWARM software for this review, but I may return to check it out at a later time. When the caps-lock key is depressed, the shift-lock+ software can further enhance your gaming macro/layouts.
If you are concerned about pricing, look to the Roccat Website to alleviate your worry. Perhaps the Vulcan 80 with single-color key illumination and black anodized background suits your fancy, or perhaps the Vulcan 100, with multi-colored key illumination, brushed aluminum backing, and additional media functions is more akin to your liking? Personally, I like the detachable palm rest of the Vulcan 120, 121, and 122. The only main difference between the Vulcan 120, 121, 122 series is the overall finish of the backing material, as the prices are the same. The metallic surface added a much-needed rigidity to the thin design. The keyboard did not feel flimsy despite the thin black keys and thin surface. To test the speed of the keyboard, I selected a variety of online speed tests and repeatedly achieved 96–101WPM. The short keystrokes added several words per minute to my 90–95WPM standard keyboard/laptop scores. In addition to the highly-responsive keys, I loved the ability to mute the volume and to control the volume with the volume knob. Additionally, with the Fx key pressed, the knob could also dim or turn off the LED lights, which was an added convenience.
To summarize my experience, I appreciated the springy, highly- responsive, mechanical keys, the comfortable concave surfaces of the keys and the light-up flare. The wrist support was a nice feature and the magnetic attachment was convenient. However, I would have liked some padding/gel or something to enhance comfort. I loved the clear buttons and the 360 light that emanated from each of the keys. In concert with the metallic backing, the final product was quite visually appealing. The Function keys F1-F4 changed the keyboard colors, while F5 changed your screen, F6 opened your default web-browser, f7 opened your email and f8 opened your calculator. F9-F12 added music/video functionality. I did not find much use for the M1-M6 buttons outside of the standard Home/delete, end buttons. One thing I did not notice until much later was the bottom row of keys was actually convex instead of concave. I thought this choice was a little odd when all of the other keys cradled my fingers during typing. Even without the SWARM software, the keyboard drastically enhanced my monotonous typing experience. The volume toggle knob, mute options, and comfortable keys, combined with vibrant colors, to make the experience positive. It was like I ordered a sportscar for my desk. I look forward to reviewing the SWARM software in a later review.