Posted on May 30, 2012, CJ Miozzi ROCCAT Isku & Kone[+] Review
Gaming peripherals manufacturer ROCCAT recently released the Savu, a mid-size gaming mouse and the “new king of optical mice.” The company first caught my eye with its reveal of the Power-Grid, which looks like it’s going to revolutionize gaming by letting players control their PC and games with their smartphones, and I thought it worthwhile to look back on some of ROCCAT’s other products: namely, the Isku keyboard and Kone[+] mouse.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Isku is its size — at 24.7cm x 50.9cm, it takes up quite a bit of desk real estate. Part of that is the extra large wrist wrest, while five macro keys account for the added width. I didn’t feel the need to remove the wrist wrest, as I found the keyboard comfortable to use as-is, but those looking for that option may be disappointed to learn that it cannot be detached.
LED backlighting comes with six adjustable brightness levels and the ability to set a turn-off duration to converse power while you’re AFK. Viewed from an angle — such as while sitting back in your chair — the backlighting doesn’t fully illuminate the keys and requires a more direct perspective for maximum visibility. I’m sure this is all part of ROCCAT’s dastardly plan to correct our posture and save us from a future of back pain.
The Isku is a traditional membrane keyboard, which may be a turnoff for mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, but it’s nonetheless comfortable to type with, relatively silent, and has anti-ghosting capabilities that allow you to press multiple keys at once without issue.
Diving into the functionality, the Isku comes with a column of five macro keys to the right of Caps Lock, accessible to your pinky while keeping your hand centered around WASD, and three “thumbster” keys below the spacebar for easy thumb access. All eight of these keys are fully configurable and can run custom macros, but it’s ROCCAT’s Easy-Shift technology that really impresses here.
Easy-Shift is a function that allows you to hold down one key in order to access a secondary function on another key, much like the traditional shift key. This Easy-Shift key, which defaults to override the rather useless Caps Lock key but can be reassigned to the thumbster or macro keys, allows you to assign a total of 36 functions to the macro and thumbster keys, as well as 20 keys centered around WASD.
This means that, while gaming, you’ll have no reason to move your hand out of position, nor will you need to break your head re-assigning a game‘s default keys to fit into that tight area. Further, the keyboard can store up to five unique profiles, so if your setup for one game doesn’t work in another, you can easily set up a second profile and switch between them freely.
The Kone[+] is a large mouse with a comfortable design, measuring 13.5cm x ca. 7.8cm and weighing 126g. If that’s not heavy enough for you, then it can be beefed up with four easy-to-install 5g weights. Its thick rubber cable is more pet-resistant than a typical flimsy cable and more durable than a braided cable, which can fray with time.
With a 1000Hz polling rate and a 6000dpi laser sensor, the Kone[+] has more than enough horsepower to meet anyone’s needs, and a tracking & distance control feature lets you optimize lift-off distance and fine-tune the sensor for your gaming surface.
Four configurable LEDs sit in the Kone[+]‘s “corners,” with each pair forming a band of light that runs along the mouse’s body. The light colors can be adjusted individually and even set to “flow” through a sequence of colors, an optical illusion created by having two LEDs at opposite ends of both bands of light.
The Kone[+]features a total of 12 buttons, with its ancillary buttons positioned such that you won’t be clicking them accidentally, yet they are still relatively easy to access. One of those buttons is the Easy-Shift, which allows for a total of 22 mouse functions. Like the Isku, the Kone[+] is macro-ready, with the ability to store up to five different profiles in memory.
The scroll wheel on my Kone[+] is a little spotty, however; scroll ticks sometimes don’t register, and I can’t tell if that’s by design to prevent accidental scrolling or a sign of a defect. A quick search revealed others have experienced various issues with the scroll wheel that presented themselves within the first couple weeks of use, so be sure to hold onto your receipt in case you need to replace it while it’s still under warranty.
ROCCAT Talk and Final Thoughts
There’s a reason I’m reviewing these two peripherals as a pair: ROCCAT Talk, a technology that synergizes the Isku and Kone[+] by allowing the press of one Easy-Shift button to apply to both the keyboard and the mouse — at your option, of course.
Pressing two mouse buttons at once feels awkward to me, but that may just be because I lack the manual dexterity of a right-handed person. The ability to press the Easy-Shift button on my keyboard to access the secondary functions on the Kone[+] buttons feels so much more natural and allows for seamless gaming.
As a practical example, Diablo veterans are familiar with the furious left- and right-click gameplay of the series, but Diablo 3 introduces several keyboard hotkeys to use in combat. I’ve reprogrammed two of those hotkeys to my left and right mouse buttons such that every attack skill I use comes from mouse clicking — just like the Diablo of yesteryear.
Individually, the Isku (MSRP: $89.99 ) and Kone[+] (MSRP: $79.99 ) are both solid products that can stand toe-to-toe with the competition, but it’s in their combined use that their true value lies. For a membrane keyboard, the Isku isn’t inexpensive, but you are paying for 36 additional key functions and backlighting. The Kone[+] isn’t cheap, either, but the 22 total button functions and customizable weight justify the price. Together, the Isku and Kone[+] combine to form the ultimate PC gaming control interface, with near-endless macro capabilities, a comfortable design, and top-quality performance.
If you’re shopping for both a gaming keyboard and a gaming mouse, I’d recommend this pair of peripherals in a heartbeat. Just be wary of of the mouse’s scroll wheel; if you draw the short straw and get a defective one, replace it.