Reviewing several products of the same type from different manufacturers – like mechanical gaming keyboards – you have to start looking at the subtle differences between each one to keep the review fresh and unique. But, from time to time we receive a product that surprises us, just like the Roccat Vulkan 120 AIMO Gaming Keyboard did when it turned up at TechNuovo HQ.
There’s no hiding what that difference is either. It’s the fact the keyboard is using half-caps rather than the preferred full caps like pretty much all other gaming keyboards use. They’re a nice mid-point between the traditional caps you see on EVERY other gaming keyboard, and the chiclet style caps you generally find on laptops. The half caps also expose the lighting effects, sending light in all directions. It’s a bright and effective way of showing off that beautiful RGB.
However, that’s not the only reason for the aesthetic difference. The Vulkan 120 AIMO is the first keyboard in the Roccat range to use their newly developed Titan Switches, which look to be a basic copycat of the Cherry MX switch. They have a 1.8mm actuation point with a 3.6mm travel distance. The half key caps were a conscious decision to keep them lighter when pressed, allowing firmware to recognise an input up to 20% faster than traditional switches.
The switches when used in fast succession when touch typing or gaming almost feel like using Cherry MX Brown switches, as there is very much a tactile bump. The Titan Switches have improved the traditional design of the Cherry MX switches by installing two pieces of plastic either side of the crosshair switch. Because there are no sides to the keys, it needed something to stabilise them. By no means is this perfect, and there’s still very much a physical wiggle to each key. It didn’t get in the way of my gaming though. What’s also strange is the fact that all the keys are concave, which is typical of keyboards, except the bottom row. The Control, Windows, Alt and FN keys are all convex. Not sure why Roccat decided on this aesthetic.
The base plate is made from anodised aluminium which definitely adds a chunk of overall weight to this keyboard, but it also means that it is tough. and will not shy away if bashed around a bit during intense gaming sessions. The keys have also been sealed for dust-resistance, which reduces gunk buildup which could damage the actuation of the key. And also because of these half key caps, it makes it a lot easier to actually clean the keyboard. A mixture of compressed air and a Q-Tip is all that’s needed to give this keyboard a thorough clean.
The top right hand side of the keyboard is home to a few media keys, being mute, which when pressed will send a wave of red across the keyboard, and a volume and FX button which are directly linked to the vertical scroll knob. On volume, it turns the sound up and down, and on FX, it cycles the RGB lighting. Most of the time I kept it on the volume as the lighting effects cycle anyway. There’s also your ‘M’ keys around the HOMe block which act as macro keys. But, the EasySHIFT [+] button turns every key into a macro key, so makes these six pretty redundant.
The whole keyboard does feel like a premium addition to your desk, utilising the AIMO lighting effects that detects where your common key presses are and illuminates that area in a different colour. It’s only heightened if you’re using a Roccat AIMO mouse like I was when reviewing the Vulkan 120. If I held down a button on my mouse like fire inside of a first person shooter, the lighting effect from the mouse will start spilling over to the keyboard. It’s subtle, but looks nice.
The Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO does include a magnetic wrist rest that connects to the bottom of the keyboard, but feels like the odd man out as it’s made from a flimsy plastic. It’s a far cry from some of the more plush cushiony types we’ve seen from recent keyboards, and it’s like Roccat thought they’d missed a trick and included one at the very last minute of production. It helps with things like typing, but it’s not very comfortable like the FNATIC Streak that we reviewed not too long ago.
I didn’t dive too much into the Roccat Swarm software for this review, as I don’t really travel much outside the default settings. I did change my lighting setup to the AIMO effect though as you know, lighting. But there’s also some intuitive in-depth ability to set up your macros if you wish. There’s also an annoying sound effect you can set every time a key is pressed. Don’t do this, it’s annoying and you’ll be turning it off quicker than turning it on.
There’s a lot to like about the Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO gaming keyboard, and it’s definitely one that’s going to stay connected to my gaming rig for a while, I just wonder how quickly this trend of using laptop style keycaps is going to take off. I like it though, and I definitely think if you’re in the market for a new gaming keyboard, you should definitely take a look at this. If you can, try it out before you buy though, the chiclet style laptop keycaps may not be for you. For more information, head over to the Roccat website.