If you’re like most gamers, you probably haven’t invested too much into your computer accessories. Hell, half the “hardcore” players I know have default Dell speakers.
And maybe you’re invested in a gaming mouse at some point for added analog precision, but that only covers one half of the classic PC gaming setup. What about your WASD?
You’d be remiss to keep your left hand away from a precision instrument that holds up to your coveted right-hand accessory. That’s why today we’re taking a look at the Rosewill Mechanical Keyboard.
What is a mechanical keyboard, anyway?
According to PC World, who knows way more about “technology” and “physics” than we do:
A mechanical keyboard uses actual, physical switches underneath the keys to determine when the user has pushed a key. Press a key, and you press its switch down. Press the switch down, and the keyboard sends a signal to the PC telling it that you pressed that key.
In other words, a mechanical keyboard like the Rosewill RK-9000I doesn’t have any flimsy silicone or rubber membranes underneath (unlike the sad excuse for an input device you’re using now). Every key houses a blue (as if the color mattered) Cherry MX Switch that compresses with a satisfying click when engaged. Each switch has two levels of resistance, so you can rest your fingers on the keys with more conviction than you’re used to without setting them off.
That satisfying click
Of course, more resistance also means you’ll have to apply slightly more force to something like the Rosewill device in order to get your words across. No, it’s not enough to tire out your digits (unless you happen to be a veal), but mechanical switches plus more serious key actuation results in markedly louder typing. Within the first few days of use, my Rosewill mechanical keyboard’s distinctive sound earned a lot of comments from coworkers – both positive and negative – so don’t expect to use it for composing top-secret spy documents incognito.
That said, I personally found the precise, rhythmic tapping of the machine to be soothing; there was never a point at which I was unsure if I had actually depressed a key, which is more than I can say about the typical, flimsy action of most standard PC keyboards.
As the week passed, I grew more and more fond of the RK-9000I. Keystrokes felt bold; typing felt… purposeful. What were once routine e-mails and quips suddenly had gravitas. Sure, I had to keep my door closed more frequently than is typical, but I preferred being alone with the mechanical keyboard. For the first time in decades, typing felt… intimate.
I can’t say how the mechanical keyboard affected my actual typing, as my results were mixed. At some times, I made errors I wouldn’t normally make, due to not pressing the keys with the added force necessary or not lifting my fingers high enough to hit their higher seating. At other times, I plowed through paragraphs much more quickly than I’m used to. When I got in a rhythm, the actuation and sound of the RK-9000I gave me the confidence to press forward, faster and faster into words I wouldn’t dare normally type quickly. Like phlegm.
The certainty of keystrokes on the Rosewill keyboard reflect the overall excellent build quality of the product. Each key feels incredibly solid, with a lot less wiggle than you might expect, and lettering that’s etched in via laser instead of the standard, cheap white paint. The body of the keyboard itself is pleasing to the eye – ivory metal, straight lines, with only a small Rosewill logo in the corner. There are no frills, lights, or curves, as every element of the RK-9000I is designed to say “I came here to type.”
As with pretty much every keyboard, the Rosewill mechanical keyboard has sturdy pop-up feet for elevated typing… if you’re so inclined. Unlike other keyboards, this one comes with two cables: a micro USB to USB connector, and a micro USB to serial connector. Both wires are covered with high-grade braided cables, and end in gold-plated connectors.
While a serial keyboard connection might seem antiquated for the modern typist, Rosewill offers it as an alternative for users who want to avoid key jamming (e.g. pressing too many keys cancels out transmission of any of them). With the serial connection enabled, the Rosewill mechanical keyboard can simultaneously send every keypress to your computer. While this won’t be terribly useful to most people, it could offer a slight advantage to gamers with extremely complicated binds or incredibly high APM.
Now, if you’ve done your homework, you’d find that the only problem with the Rosewill mechanical keyboard is a frequent claim that its micro USB connectors become loose and disconnect during use. Obviously our trial isn’t capable of evaluating this claim, since most users find the problem only surfaces later in the product’s life. During our week with the keyboard, the wire seemed sturdy, only disconnecting from the base if given a purposeful tug. We can’t imagine that would occur too often, especially if you’re not moving your keyboard around your desk. Even if the wire did weaken over time, it’s a standard micro USB connection, so it should be cheap and easy to replace.
Overall, the RK-9000I appears to be well made. Typing is assertive and fun, and it’s a beautiful (although austere) product to behold.
WASD and more
How does the Rosewill mechanical keyboard hold up to hardcore competitive gaming? Well… fine, I guess. Playing Team Fortress 2 and other hectic action titles, I found the keyboard was just as responsive issuing commands as it was for writing TPS reports. Inputs were never really flubbed, and the precise, audible action of each key made it easy to edge into or out of position, where accuracy is paramount. In other games, I didn’t really experience a particularly large execution advantage, though I still welcomed the experience of each key press and the happiness associated with my now-more-frequent in game chatting.
No bells and whistles
Now, if you’re looking for a keyboard with lots of fancy, additional features, this isn’t it. The Rosewill mechanical keyboard has the typical QWERTY lettering, a handsome row of function keys, a numpad, and those buttons nobody uses anymore (SCROLL LOCK?). That’s it. There aren’t any zoom in/out levers, no volume up/down/mute buttons, no backlighting, no LCD screen, and no wireless option.
In other words, if you choose to buy this input device, you’re buying it for just that: inputting keystrokes. Yes, they’ll be much moresatisfying keystrokes than you might be used to, but don’t expect the kitchen sink. Ultimately, the trade is a personal decision: is a more tactile, personal typing and gaming experience worth it if you can’t have all the fancy features of today’s keyboards?
The Rosewill RK-9000I mechanical keyboard is to typing what a fine chef’s knife is to food preparation. It turns a boring, everyday chore into a meaningful, nuanced experience. It gives you, the user, more control and precision, perhaps at the cost of versatility or convenience. Ultimately, the keyboard succeeds where it matters most: being a goddamn keyboard. It’s bold, addictive, accurate, and kitschy… the perfect toy for a geek looking to sling consonants and vowels at his friends and foes alike with more force.
It doesn’t believe in subtlety, but with typing this engaging, don’t you want others to know how much fun you’re having?