In May of 2017, the small team at Wooting launched their Kickstarter to fund the Wooting One, the first mechanical gaming keyboard to offer analog support. In just seven hours, the One blew through its original €30000 funding goal. By the end of the month, they were funded to the tune of more than 450% of their original target. Backers were excited at the promise of the Wooting One: a truly innovative mechanical gaming keyboard with the potential to change how PC games are played.
- MSRP: $159.99
- Form Factor: Tenkeyless
- Keyswitch: Optical, Flaretech Red/Blue
- Operating Force: 55cN
- Actuation Point: 1.5-3.6mm
- Lifetime: 100M clicks
- N-Key Rollover: Yes
- Polling Rate: 1000Hz
- Illumination: Per-key RGB
- Cable/Connection: Braided/USB 2.0
What is it that makes the Wooting One special? Analog control. Think of the triggers your favorite gaming controller. They’re not limited to two positions, on and off, like a normal face button or key on a keyboard would be. Instead, the depth of your pull is translated right back into the game. The same is true for the joysticks. Push them a little bit and your character walks. Push them a lot and he runs. That is analog control and the defining feature of the Wooting One.
Historically, PC gamers were limited to digital inputs - on and off - because of the way keyboards have always worked. To grossly over generalize, on a normal keyboard, pressing the key would physically close a circuit and register a key press. The Wooting One is an optical keyboard, which means that beams of light lace underneath each switch. When you press down, the amount of light being reflected from the switch is measured for true, depth and speed sensing analog control without physical contact. Using this technology, the team at Wooting is able accurately detect how far and how fast you press each key, effectively allowing every single key to offer the same analog input as a trigger or joystick.
Neat, I know, but what does it mean? In theory, your days of needing to switch between a keyboard and controller should be over. The Wooting One is a recognized as an XInput device, so any game that supports a controller will see the Wooting as a gamepad, if you have it in the mode to do so. And you don’t need to lose all of your keys, either.
To keep things manageable, the Wooting has swapped the Scroll Lock button for a dedicated Mode selector. In digital mode, analog input is disabled and it works like a normal keyboard. In analog mode, you can keep up to three profiles. Within these profiles you can rebind any key to match a gamepad input. Mapping the joystick inputs to WASD is a great place to start, but you can remap anything anywhere. I was incredibly impressed at how easy it was to get up and get playing with. Behind the scenes, the game will treat it like you’re playing with a controller and keyboard at the same time. In practice, you get the benefits of a controller without needing to push your keyboard aside to do it.
The big thing to keep in mind here is how the game will interpret swapping controls. Some, like shooters, will only work correctly if you unbind those keys in game. Others will have trouble swapping inputs on the fly, so you’ll have to stay in an input mode with all but your gamepad rebinds disabled; one button press and your keyboard is back to normal, but it’s still a workaround for some PC games not being designed for hot swapping like this. It takes a little more setup, it’s true, but since all of these settings get saved in-game and on the keyboard, you only need to do it the first time you play. For this kind of freedom, and a small bit of extra setup is a fair trade off.
So how does it work? The hype is real, guys. Buy in. When a game is designed with analog input in mind (most cross platform games) the Wooting One works remarkably well and delivers on its promises. Racing games, third person action games and RPGs, all work very well. Even though some of these games still feel more “at home” with a controller - personal preference based on years of using controllers for those types of games - the Wooting One is more than up to the task, if you’re willing to put the time into learning how to make the most of it.
The main limitation of the Wooting is how little throw any of the keys have. Like most mechanical key switches, from top to bottom is only 4mm of travel distance. Compared to a joystick or trigger, that’s small. It takes some time to get used to how gently you have to touch the keys to get the full benefit of analog control. When I first started out, trying to get Lara to creep forward in Rise of the Tomb Raider took a lot more getting used to than I expected. It’s a pretty steep learning curve, but I helped myself by adjusting my typing actuation to 1.5mm (another benefit of the Wooting One - adjustable actuation points from 1.5 - 3.6mm!) and within a day or so, everything felt a whole lot more natural. You can also adjust your sensitivity curve from a number of presets or set the one that feels best to you.
So far, everything we’ve talked about makes the keyboard sound great, and it is. The Wooting One is an awesome piece of tech. Anyone considering buying in should be aware, though, that it is very much a first generation product from a small company adding features as they go. There are limitations compared to Wooting’s multi-million dollar competitors. RGB lighting, for example, is limited to static layouts. Lighting effects are on the way here but they’re not here yet. DirectInput support and macro recording are still in development too, and gen two should definitely have a thicker braided cable. This one is too thin to really feel premium and avoid those dreaded kinks.
With that in mind, other companies really need to learn from how transparent Wooting is with their community. You can follow their progress on their official site and see what they have planned in both the near and long term. They run regular live streams and are generally a very accessible, open team. Since the original keyboard released, they’ve released a number of updates and don’t show any sign of slowing.
So what other neat features does this keyboard offer? I like that they opted for an aluminum top plate, for one. That always makes a keyboard seem more premium to me, but you can also swap it for a customized one if you like. The keycaps are all standard size and feature the MX stem, so custom caps are a definite option. Interestingly, the key switch itself can be swapped out as easily as pulling one out and snapping another into place. Since the Flaretechs aren’t soldered into the board, all it takes is the included keycap puller. Wooting also includes four extra switches of both types - clicky and linear - so you can see what it feels like.
As someone who reviews a lot of keyboards (seriously, I have a problem), finding the Wooting One was a breath of fresh air. So often, keyboard companies play it safe or trot out gimmicks in hopes of earning innovation credit. This is the real deal. Wooting has delivered a keyboard that has changed the way I play video games. How many companies can say that? If you’re comfortable knowing that the Wooting One is still being developed, this is absolutely a keyboard and company you should consider supporting.
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for purposes of review.