Being a PC gamer means rising to the challenge. Whether you casually play MMOs or are a competitive e-sports aficionado, at some point you’ve looked at your hardware and wondered whether it was time to upgrade. Most of us overlook the keyboard, or maybe make our choices based on the lighting options. That’s a problem, as the Roccat Ryos TKL mechanical keyboard so easily proves. Blending style and function, the TKL is likely to change your typing experience for the better and take your game to the next level.
When the Roccat Ryos TKL arrived at my door, I didn’t know what to expect. Having never used a Roccat product before, I wasn’t sure if I would be testing a serious contender or a flimsy would-be from Hong Kong. It didn’t take me long to see that the Ryos TKL is anything but. The packaging is slick and highlights the illumination options, onboard memory, and macro capability, as well as the dual ARM processors. If you’re new to buying a high-end keyboard, it’s the kind of thing that might surprise you. The idea that a keyboard should require its own processors and memory seems a little bit silly until you see just what the keyboard can do; then it all makes sense.
Hardware and Build Quality
Taking it out of the sleek black inner box, I was immediately struck by the build quality. The Ryos TKL is thick and heavy, and could stand in as a bludgeon if you needed it to, with a thick braided cord that stayed straightened out almost immediately. Unlike the MK Pro, the Ryos is tenkeyless, which means it lacks a number pad, but saves on desk space and keeps your hands closer together during gaming sessions. It also eschews the dedicated macro buttons in the pursuit of compactness. The TKL also comes with three programmable “thumbster” buttons under the space bar. The “smudge-proof” glossy black finish also delivers, thanks to a matte finish with a glossy dot texture. There is some straight black trim which will smudge but it’s thin enough that it’s easily ignored.
I was disappointed to see that the unit didn’t come an integrated USB port, which for the $139 MSRP, I really feel it should have. That said, I’ve found those ports to be almost useless without also demanding a second USB cable be plugged in (most headsets and many gaming mice require more power than a keyboard alone can provide). I was also surprised to see that the wrist-rest is not removable, which means there’s no way around the Ryos’ added depth. This was not a big con for me since the tradeoff is a keyboard with a unique and eye-catching angular design but some users may find themselves cramped for desk space.
The Ryos TKL writes like a dream. With Cherry MX Browns, the keys can hammer down with a satisfying clack or they can be as quiet as a standard keyboard when touch typing, both with a fraction of the actuation force of standard keyboards, making it feel exceptionally light to the touch. This is important, especially in situations where you need to type quickly or fire off commands in rapid sequence. The keycaps are solid and seem resistant to wear, though I didn’t have enough time with the unit to test long-term wear.
Easy+Shift: Powerful Key Programming
The real power of a gaming keyboard, however, lies with its software. Even with dual-ARM processors and onboard memory, without a good driver, it’s all just marketing speak for the store shelf. Here, not only does Roccat deliver, but provides one of the most full-featured, customizable drivers I’ve ever seen on a gaming product.
The big feature the Ryos brings to the table is Easy+Shift, which allows you to change the function of every single button on the keyboard. Using this, you can just as easily change the letter “P” to “Q” as you can make it trigger a complex macro created using the onboard recording function. Easy+Shift takes the place of the place of the caps lock, which was disorienting at first but worked well for gaming. This new key works like a standard Shift; hold it for secondary functions, release for standard keys. We’ve seen similar functionality from function buttons in the past but the Caps Lock positioning, as well as Easy+Shift’s ability to alter nearly every key on the board truly pushes its use to the next level. It’s easy to see how the Ryos TKL could help gamers of every stripe play faster and better.
Read on for more about key mapping, as well as one of the Ryos TKL Pro’s most striking, and overwhelming, features, per-key illumination, and our final conclusions!