Roccat Isku Keyboard Review: Why can’t I hold all these macroes!?Posted 10:10 am on Friday, September 28th, 2012 by Michael Revis
Gaming on a PC has its various quirks. Primarily, you have to figure out what makes you comfortable when doing those multi-hour marathon sessions, whether playing a lot of Counter Strike, or just trying to get through a raid on WoW without wanting to stab the guildmate that keeps screwing everything up but happens to be sleeping with your leader.
Accessibility is another thing to keep in mind, particularly when mapping your keys to specific functions. Games like WoW already have built-in macro configurations, allowing you to make almost any command or series of commands simpler to execute. Some people apparently want more than that.
The Roccat Isku keyboard is an attempt to fill that need. Its primary gimmick is providing 36 different macroable keys, including five macro keys on the far left side, three thumbster keys on the bottom, and the keys around the WASD area. The Isku also allows for five different profiles to allow you to have custom configurations for different games that you play. You can even create your own custom macros right in the configuration menu, or even record your own macro right on the spot with the record button.
For the average gamer, this can seem like going overboard, and it kind of is. Chances are you won’t even be using all five macro profiles, sticking with one or two at most unless you’re a hardcore gamer. For some people, however, it’s better to have that option available than to not have it at all, though it does cause the keyboard itself to come with a pretty hefty price tag, around $75.
Still, there are other things that make this product desirable that don’t include throwing as many macro buttons at you as possible. The keys are very durable, and are able to take a good amount of punishment, which was tested by me and another Scout on TF2 screwing around and swapping the intelligence back and forth between each other, jamming our respective L keys as fast as possible. And if you don’t want to use the Easy Shift button, since it takes up your Caps Lock key, you can choose to disable it for easier access to your cruise control function.
The media keys also allow easy watching of videos, and also include a quick internet button, and a quick button to open you’re My Computer folder for checking out your files. It also comes with an extra large wrist pad for additional comfort when doing those long gaming marathons, and the bottom of the keyboard has grooves where you can filter cables through, reducing cord pollution.
Of course, for every positive, there’s a negative. Figuring out how to use the keyboard itself is a challenge, as the instructions are fairly vague and only go over the most basic functions. The sheer size of the keyboard, as well as the existence of extra keys, takes some getting used to as well, especially if you’re like me and have been using a basic HP keyboard for the past few years. It’s also a bit jarring when you hear a voice that sounds like George Carlin telling you when you’ve switched macro profiles (which can thankfully be disabled).
Macroing also has its ups and downs. Being able to record your own button settings is a plus, however, the macro config doesn’t like handling more complex commands. This means that you can’t specifically type out strings like “/use Zhonya’s Hourglass” for LoL, meaning you have to be able to memorize where you’re setting these functions to in regular play and use the assigned key instead. Even something as simple as a quick heal macro for my Necro in GW2, involving the summoning of a Blood Fiend then quickly sacrificing it to get a health boost, which requires two simple presses of the 6 key, seems to be too much for it to handle. You’re mostly left with making simple commands, such as easy mount up buttons and quick character info screen functions, which feels like a bit of a waste.
While there is a lot of potential for hardcore gaming, a lot of it needs to be explored to be really understood, and for most players out there, you’re probably not going to want to mess with it. The macro functions are also outperformed by games that have built-in macro configs, which allow you to make those very specific commands that you need to slap other people’s shit around, and tend to be much easier to use.
That’s not to say that the Roccat Isku is a bad piece of tech, but rather, it’s one that may be too far ahead of its time to be really useful to a broader audience of gamers. It’s still a fairly solid keyboard for what it offers, and there’s nothing stopping you from using those extra keys to set in-game macros to. You just have to really consider how much use you’re going to be getting out of those extra functions.
Final Grade: B
Michael is a man of many things. Journalist, writer, gamer, professional procrastinator, cosplayer, super hero, whale wrestler, evil mastermind, and robot master. And that’s just on the weekends.