Roccat, a German hardware company quickly making the rise in the US, recently sent me over a gratis Isku FX gaming keyboard to review. Their claim? It’ll stand right up there alongside anything Razer and other leading gaming peripheral producers. The Isku FX is much akin to the earlier released “Isku” keyboard, with the main difference on the FX being that it has changeable colors for the backlit keys. It’s not a mechanical keyboard, which is fine by me as the loud typing can wake a pregnant wife, but at $99.99 the price seems a bit much. Still, the pros outweigh the cons with this one and all of its functions for the hardcore gamer out there. Let’s get into the nitty gritty.
The Isku FX comes complete with all the bells and whistles you’d expect of a modern “gaming” keyboard. Lots of additional functionality and programmable hotkeys, backlighting that can be altered to suit your tastes, there’s thumb-keys that essentially act as “shift” keys and with the Roccat Easy-Shift[+] software this essentially adds a ton of macros to your keyboard that wouldn’t be possible without the easy-shift commands. In fact, Roccat’s kind enough to actually package the thing with a few default commands for World of Warcraft and other games. It’s not a mechanical keyboard, but the keys themselves are of solid design, there’s a great bit of space below the bottom row of keys and thumbster keys for your wrists to rest on making it a very ergonomic keyboard.
The software that comes with the keyboard is robust as well. You can alter everything from the color of the backlighting to which key is the “Easy Shift”, program macros, change settings for individual programs, set profiles for each user or game... it’s all very sleek, and it even has its own form of “achievements” for using the keyboard. Why anyone would want to earn them is another story, but at least they’re there. You’ll know when you’ve passed 10,000 keystrokes for example.
And lastly, it also uses the same “Roccat Talk” feature when in conjunction with other Roccat devices like the Kone mouse series. All this does is allows you to use the same macros across both devices, so you could theoretically press the easy-shift key on the keyboard, and then press a button on the mouse and have it run a macro that was programmed there. It’s a very in-depth little feature, but I’m not sure how many folks actually craft that many macros.
The best, and simplest thing I liked about the Isku FX? The little tiny nub on the W key that always told me without looking where me hand needed to be to control my characters. Anyone who uses WASD in PC games knows the pain of losing your place, and this utterly clears that woe. It’s simple, but man is it a nice little feature. Additionally, the backlighting is bright and beautiful, and even more so the “off” state leaves the keys still readable when other backlit keyboards often are lacking in lit rooms. The macros, though not something I’d use extensively, are insane. You can pretty much do anything with the software and easy-shift combo. And of course, that ergonomic design is utterly fantastic on my poor addled wrists. The keys are responsive and tactile as well, though not quite as solid-feeling as a mechanical keyboard feels (for obvious reasons).
There’s not a lot off with this keyboard. Before I received it in the mail, I was using a Razer Ansari, and both serve essentially the same basic functions. But the ergonomics and overall feel of the Isku have made it my go-to keyboard at home now. The Razer’s going to work... woe is me, right? Anyway, of all the various aspects to the Isku, the one that doesn’t quite hit home is the $99.99 price tag. For that cost, you could pick up a really decent mechanical, and unless you really need the macros, you might be better off doing so. Unless you’re like me and you don’t want to wake your wife in the middle of the morning with the loud clackety-clack of cherry red MX keys. Otherwise the only thing I can really fault it on is being almost too unwieldy when it comes to the default Easy-Shift[+] settings. The assigned key is the caps-lock, which isn’t used much by most folks anyway, but the far easier to reach key for macroing is going to be the thumb keys below the keyboard. Either way, it’s the easy-shift function that’s the most uncomfortable, leading me to believe only the most macro-heavy users are going to really enjoy it.
If you’re on the hunt for a new keyboard, and you’re sick of the usual brands, I’d definitely recommend the Isku FX. It’s cheaper cousin, the Isku, is also well worth it. But the backlit keys and additional functionality make the ten extra bucks for the FX worth it. If you’re not keen on the hip mechanical keyboards, the Isku FX is hard to beat in the realm of gaming peripherals. Until something better comes along, I’ll gladly be using the Isku FX. But then, I didn’t have to shell out $100 for the thing. And if you really, really need the mechanical keys there’s always the MK Pro.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.