Anyone considering a gaming keyboard in 2017 is faced with a myriad of brands with a myriad of different mechanical switches. The market is full of options. One thing the market is not full of are gaming keyboards with traditional rubber domes. Roccat have a fully specced gamer oriented keyboard with just that.
The Roccat ISKU+ Force FX Gaming Keyboard is one of the few non mechanical gaming keyboards, making it a very interesting keyboard to examine. It offers pressure sensitive keys that in our experience, turned out to be very useful indeed. Read on to find out what we think of this lovely looking keyboard.
Lets start off with a look at the specs. The key feature are the analogue QWEASD keys. Essentially, this feature is designed to allow for pressure sensitive actions. Most keyboards are binary in nature. On or off. With the ISKU Force FX+, you can perform different actions with different levels of pressure on the key. This can come in really handy in different circumstances. In some ways it mimics the effects of an analog controller. For example, when driving, you have different levels of steering input, depending on the pressure on the keyboard. Alternatively, you could set the W key to walk, run and sprint, depending on the key pressure. It goes further than that though. You can set a macro, which means different actions are performed according to the key pressure. Think of all the possible actions you could do here! walking, strafing, ducking, jumping, combo’s etc. There’s a ton of possibilities.
Other standout features include full RGB lighting, extensive customization options and dedicated macro, media and thumb keys below the space bar.
A Closer Look
The Roccat ISKU+ Force FX comes in a big and bold box. Here you get an idea of the key features of the keyboard, with RGB lighting, pressure sensitive keys and the large wrist rest being the key highlights.
The rear of the box goes into these features even more.
Apart from the keyboard itself, the ISKU+ comes with a basic set of extras which include user and installation guides and a nice set of three stickers.
And here we have the keyboard itself. As you can see, its quite large, with a textured plastic finish and a very large wrist rest. The keys on the left side (left of and including the T,G and B keys) can be programmed with a function Roccat calls Easy Shift+. With this, you can press the shift key to introduce a second programmable option. This kind of feature might have a learning curve, but if you’re putting hundreds of hours into a game and get used to this kind of function, you’ll feel downright crazy when the option is gone. MOBA gamers performing complex sequences of commands should find this useful.
The QWEASD keys as pictured are the pressure sensitive ones. They are clearly marked by the white lines across the front of them.
Other than being a nice looking photo of the Roccat logo, you can see the thumb buttons here. While your left thumb might be most often found bashing the space bar, having these keys here is a nice idea. Of course these are programmable and can perform whatever function your game needs.
At the top of the board there’s a section with dedicated multi-media keys. There’s buttons for volume and mute, forward, back, browser launch and finally one that opens the system’s file explorer which should come in handy.
On the left side we have 5 dedicated macro buttons.
The back of the keyboard features channel’s for cable routing. With this you are able to route the cable to the left or right side. There’s four rubber anti-slip feet along with the usual height-adjustment stands.
Here’s a peek at some of the common colors. Of course, this is a RGB keyboard so you can choose from just about every color there is.
Roccat Swarm Software Overview
Roccat products are controlled by the company’s impressive Swarm software. All the Roccat products are controlled from this one program. It checks for firmware updates over the net too.
Selecting the keyboard at the top of the program reveals four main tabs. The general features as seen below contains settings for sound feedback, which plays a sound through your speakers. While its a cool idea, and we’re sure the kids will love it, in our testing the sounds lag when you type faster than the time it takes to playback the sound. The character delay controls the rate at which a character repeats when the key is held down. This could be handy for something like controlling an auto fire rate.
You’ll also note a small pin on each sub window in all the screens below. This means you can pin your most commonly accesses controls on the left most tab which you’ll see just below the Roccat Swarm logo.
Moving to the next tab, we see the controls for key assignments. Every key can be reassigned if you choose! Obviously this page will be important for setting the macro keys on the left of the keyboard as well as the thumb keys towards the bottom. You can set profiles here according to the game you play or program you are using.
Next we have the key illumination tab. The ISKU+ Force FX features full RGB lighting. As you can see there are a range of customization options, for the colors, patterns and even a heatmap to show you just how much button mashing you are doing!
The final page is where you control the analogue features of the keyboard. There are many different presets to choose from.
We used the ISKU+ Force FX for about a week in general usage, some gaming and typing this review. Its standout feature is pressure sensitive QWEASD keys which can make a major difference in the right game. Throw in RGB lighting, Roccat’s Swarm software and full customization options and its clear there’s more here than mechanical vs membrane.
We must credit Roccat for implementing the analogue technology in a keyboard, as it works really well. A game like Grand Theft Auto 5 means driving cars of course, and screaming head on into traffic takes some skill and luck with a traditional on or off key stroke. Being able to apply variable pressure and hence different steering inputs is a really nice way to game. With this keyboard you could get away without a steering wheel in serious racing games, whilst remaining competitive.
There is of course, the elephant in the room. This is a membrane keyboard, not a mechanical one and that fact alone will be a deal breaker for many gamers. The mechanical switch typing experience, with the different switches durability, actuation, feedback and resistance etc means many people will never consider a membrane keyboard.
While its pricey at $109.99 USD, there’s still a lot to like. If it wasn’t for the analogue functionality we’d probably be more critical, but as it is, this feature can really benefit a gamer, especially if you become accustomed to it. Its no gimmick.
If you want a mechanical keyboard, this isn’t for you, but if you play a lot of driving games, are adventurous with your macro programming and don’t care for the clickety clack of many mechanical keyboards, then by all means give the Roccat ISKU+ Force FX a good look.
Nice analogue functionality
Swarm software capabilities
Feels great for a membrane KB
RGB adds nice bling
Mechanical keys are de rigueur
Braided cable would be a nice finish