Real Keyboards

Rosewill’s RK-9000-series mechanical keyboards reviewed, by Cyril Kowaliski, on The Tech Report, 13 August, 2012

This post reproduces the first page of Mr Kowaliski’s review:

Mechanical keyboards are pretty much standard enthusiast fare nowadays. That wasn’t always the case. There was a time when nearly everyone was seemingly content with the mushy, rubber-dome switches of Logitech or Microsoft keyboards. Today, though, a visit to the nearest enthusiast message board is certain to reveal gaggles of geeks debating the merits of this mechanical key switch or that.

Sensing a golden opportunity, or perhaps simply capitalizing on a trend they created, peripheral makers have swelled their lineups with all manners of clicky keyboards. Entry prices are lofty, often in excess of $100, and product pages tout various additional amenities for hard-core gamers, inveterate typists, and those who are neither but want it all.

In exchange for $134, typists are promised tactile bliss with the Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate Silent. For $5 more, gamers can delight themselves with a Battlefield 3-themed version of Razer’s BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard, which has light-up-in-the-dark keys, macro buttons, and a paint job crafted to highlight one’s taste for simulated warfare. Hopeless addicts of massively multiplayer games may indulge themselves with Corsair’s $115 Vengeance K90, which is also backlit and features even more macro keys (18 in total, plus three macro switching buttons). Some even take to specialized retailers, who might carry keyboards like the $345 Topre Realforce 87U Tenkeyless 55g. Other options abound; manufacturers like Cooler Master, Gigabyte, Steelseries, and Thermaltake all offer at least one type of fancy mechanical keyboard.

And then, amid all of that, there’s Rosewill.

You wouldn’t suspect Newegg’s innocuous house brand to be catering to keyboard snobs, but it does. [Newegg is a US computer-supply chainstore.] It all started, if my memory serves, with just one mechanical model. That keyboard was pulled from Newegg’s listings one day and, not long afterward, replaced with a whole family of offerings, one for each type of the most popular mechanical key switches on the market. I’m talking, of course, about Cherry’s MX switches, which are known for their color-coded nibs and are widely used by makers of mechanical keyboards everywhere.

We’ve reviewed a number of Cherry MX-based keyboards recently, so the switches should be familiar to most of you. Some of those switches make a clicking noise when actuated, while other variants do not. Some demarcate the actuation zone with a tactile bump, while others have a completely linear response curve, giving the user no information beyond what’s visible on-screen. Different folks prefer different switches for different reasons, and we’ll look at those reasons in more detail shortly.

The point is, Rosewill delivers all major Cherry MX key switch types inside affordable, no-frills keyboards priced around the $100 mark—eminently reasonable by mechanical keyboard standards. There are no flashy backlights, no fancy paint jobs, no blocks of macro keys, and no amenities beyond the strictly necessary. There’s just a plain black plastic frame, a set of 104 conventionally assorted keys, and some LEDs for caps lock, num lock, and scroll lock. Everything you need is there, and nothing more.

The concept is admirable, at least on paper. We certainly thought so. You might have seen a tentative recommendation tossed in the latest editions of our system guide. In any case, we’ve always been eager to give one of these keyboards a shot.

Rather than testing a lone representative of the lineup, we got our grubby mitts on four of ’em—one for each switch type available. We’ve compared and contrasted them to figure out not just whether the RK-9000 series is any good, but also which of the four options is the most comfortable for typing and gaming. Our findings are subjective, of course, but they should help you choose between the different key switches and decide whether you want them on one of Rosewill’s keyboards.

To read the full review, click here.