Roccat is putting the PC peripheral market on notice: they’re here and won’t stop until they’re on top. Over the last year, the studio has made more of a name for itself than any year before it, releasing new hardware at a breakneck pace, often pushing the boundaries of already soaring hardware expectations. I had the opportunity to go hands-on with their new flagship keyboard, the Ryos MK FX. It’s a beauty of full RGB customization and genuine Cherry mechanical switches, but in a market where “standard” RGB is quickly becoming the expectation, is it enough?
That’s the question I pondered as I opened the large, glossy box with the oh-so gorgeous illumination shot on its cover. When the MK FX was first unveiled at CES 2015, the mechanical keyboard market was just discovering the potential for full RGB lighting. Corsair and Razer both released their boards and for the first time gamers had a peripheral that wouldn’t just light up, but animate. In the world of peripherals, this new generation of RGB keyboards represented a leap forward in what was possible in the world of customization. Since then, RGB programming is quickly becoming an expectation instead of an extravagance with everyone from Logitech to Thermaltake looking for their piece of the pie. Simply being RGB is no longer enough.
These are the thoughts that went through my mind as I unboxed the Ryos MK FX. After putting it through it’s paces, I can confidently say that the MK FX is enough to earn its place among the top tier of RGB mechanical keyboards targeted at gamers.
Let’s start with the build quality. In almost every way, the MK FX is simply an updated version of the non-RGB MK Pro. If you’ve seen that board, or its ten keyless sibling that I reviewed nearly a year ago, then you know what you’re getting into. The FX is a keyboard that could be used to stop a home intruder. The spec sheet places this board at 3.6 pounds, which keeps it well in place on your desktop, and also works to sell this as a high-end peripheral. Like others in the series, the wrist-rest is non-detachable, and is a matte black to prevent unseemly fingerprints. Most of the housing, in fact, avoids smudgeable surfaces, except a thin piece of trim outlining the keyset.
Elsewhere, the FX also includes onboard jacks for a headset and mic, which is becoming all too rare in the premium keyboard market. Interestingly, the board does not feature USB pass-through, which I would have expected in the $170 price range. Then again, the FX already requires two USB ports for power and lighting, and a third would feel excessive.
The typing experience is exceptional. While some people hate Roccat’s non-detachable wrist rests for the “gamey” look, I’ve come to adore them. Roccat has perfectly balanced the angle of the rest to the height of the keys making for a typing experience that is comfortable and makes for far less typos virtually any other keyboard I own. And make no mistake, the FX’s genuine Cherry switches are sweet and provide a mark of quality other boards with off brand switches can’t hope to match.
Like other Roccat keyboards, the MK FX is supremely programmable. Five dedicated macro keys line the left side, but every other key can be reprogrammed to run macros, other keys, or even run programs. The three “thumbster” buttons under the space bar allow you to quickly switch profiles, tripling the amount of programmable keys and lighting schemes. All of this is easy to program within the Roccat SWARM software, which is very similar to the software suite used with previous Ryos boards.
Onto the lighting options. This board looks fantastic. I mean, look at this:
Roccat has placed a white mat under each keyset (see picture two), allowing the the light to reflect out for extra vibrancy that puts Corsair’s K70 RGB to shame (and, incidentally, makes typing a bit quieter than other Cherry Brown boards we’ve tried). Every key, or any group of keys you choose, can have its own color. The SWARM software also ships with a number of presets so the board will pulse like a heartbeat or breathe at whatever timing you set. You can also make it ripple with each key press, color cycle, or even heat map to your own APM. The MK FX is also compatible with AlienFX, allowing some games to intelligently change your illumination to match in-game events. It’s quite impressive and looks gorgeous, even in in a fully lit room.
That said, it’s pretty clear that this is early software. There are customization options missing that you would expect to see. For example, if you would like to use any of the presets, you are stuck with a single color background and cannot adjust the colors being animated. Ripple uses a stock blue, green, and yellow which may clash with some backgrounds. Wave cycles through a non-rainbow ROYGBIV variant without any blending between colors. Reactive typing option only fades from “off” to “on” instead of between colors. Oddly, programming in per-key colors in the “custom” option disabled using animations entirely. These are options that would allow the community to explode the potential of this board.
There are also some other oddities, such as the lack of a “save to device memory” option for the illumination. Without SWARM and a copy of your profile, the keyboard will simply stay dark once Windows loads. Oddly, the FX doesn’t seem to recognize when it should be shut off either. During hibernation, the keyboard will enter into idle mode, lighting random keys in its own version of a screensaver.
None of this, however, is unusual in the RGB keyboard world. Logitech, Corsair, and Razer all expanded the functionality of their RGB keyboards post-launch. I can only hope this is the case, and it seems likely since SWARM does allow users to import and export illumination profiles. We’ve reached out to Roccat for comment and will update this review if they give us any insight into their plans. For now, however, the MK FX is an exceptionally customizable board, but not one that will allow for all the possibilities of customizable animation. Your board will look fantastic, but you won’t be layering effects or creating moving pixel art.
I am a big fan of the Ryos keyboard line and the MK FX is no exception. This is a slick, heavy duty keyboard that types like a dream and looks stunning. I would love more options to expand the possibilities of the lighting, but will be perfectly happy creating static per-key tapestries and playing with the presets until more options become available. Like so many other of their products this year, Roccat is putting the competition on notice.