Roccat products usually leave their research and development department in good shape. The Kone mouse has gone through a few iterations, but none of them greatly change the original design. The Isku keyboard we first looked at back in Christmas 2011, and in keeping with the Roccat ethos of evolution rather than revolution, the Isku FX is very much a refinement of the original product.
What we have here is a keyboard that straddles the line between a basic laptop style keyboard, and the many fully customisable mechanical models that have appeared in recent times.
With fully customisable lighting, media keys, macro keys and a good software base, does the Isku FX provide enough new features to keep it high on the shortlist of the keyboards?
One thing the Isku FX isn't is petite. 50cm wide and 24cm deep certainly places it at the large end of the spectrum. With multiple profiles and a host of programmable keys there should be enough customisation options to satisfy even the most demanding user.
24.7cm x 50.9cm
Windows® XP, Windows Vista® 32/64-bit, Windows® 7 32/64-bit
Windows® 8 / Windows® 8 Pro
Internet connection (for driver installation)
USB 2.0 port
ROCCAT™ Isku FX – Multicolor Gaming Keyboard
As with all Roccat packaging the Isku FX comes in a black box with the ice blue highlights. All the key features of the Isku FX are clearly laid out to grab the eye and help those who believe that documentation is a last resort.
With a built in wrist-rest, media keys and the five dedicated macro keys, it takes up a lot of real-estate on your desk. The underside is bare except for the feet and the cable is only able to be routed out the middle. Above the main keyboard are the media keys, which like nearly everything on the Isku FX are customisable to your preferred function.
The version we have for review is a US layout, hence the rather large left shift key. The 5 dedicated macro keys are within easy reach in the heat of battle. Above F3 is the button for live macro recording. Always useful for those games that you don't play often enough to dedicate a key to, but still find handy to have a set of keystrokes within easy reach.
As well as the ridiculous piano black cover that hasn't been changed since the original Isku, above the scroll lock key we have the button that adjusts the lighting intensity. Handy for that stealth look if the lighting distracts you in a dark LAN room.
The USB connector comes with the always handy label. Anyone who has gone round the back of their rig only to find 8 identical black cables will appreciate being able to spot which is which at a glance.
The keys on the Isku FX fall in the middle ground between a scissor laptop style and the full on Cherry switch mechanicals.
There has been a big shift lately to manufacturers not including driver CDs with their peripherals. Given how fast driver changes occur, and that most of us look for up-to-date versions before installation this is a good thing, especially for the environment.
The software itself is easy to use, with clear tabs offering each element of control beneath your fingertips. The Easy-Shift[+] modifier really expands what the Isku FX is capable of, and combines nicely if you have a Roccat Mouse to put your world at your command.
The media keys are, like everything else, customisable. Although they're so well chosen that we think the only change most people will make it to switch the browser from IE to something usable.
The major upgrade from the standard Isku is an array of colour choices for the whole keyboard. You have a choice of colour levels, hue, whether you want the lighting always on or breathing, and finally if you just want it to sweep through it's varied colours.
Roccat support is always swift to respond and has a realistic selection of FAQs. So often FAQs are "where can I buy more of your fabulous products" that it's worth noting when a company actually answers things you want to know. Although it could equally be asked why their documentation leaves such obvious questions unanswered.
One thing that is vital in software such as this is the ease of creating your own macros. Roccat supply a huge amount of pre-built ones, covering titles from Call of Duty, via World of Warcraft to Photoshop. Should you wish to expand the repertoire it is simplicity itself, using either the on-keyboard recorder or the macro editing software. You have control over everything you could wish to adjust, from delays to multiple key presses at once.
The profile indicators, Lock LEDs and Thumbster keys are locked to the Roccat blue, but otherwise the Isku FX provides a colour for everybody, whether you want the standard red, green and blue options or something rarer such as violet or yellow.
Wrapping up the Isku FX is actually fairly easy.
It's identical to the model we reviewed back in December 2011 except you can now control the colour of the lighting. Everything we said then applies here. We could take the lazy route and just copy and paste our thoughts from there and pretend this was an entirely new review, but if Roccat haven't fixed any of the issues we felt were letting the original Isku down, then there is nothing new to be said about the majority of the Isku FX.
One of the keystones of OC3D, and the one that we believe makes you come to us for your hardware reviews, is that we're always honest with you, and know that your time is valuable. We know that you're not idiots and we're not going to insult your intelligence by forcing you to either read something you've already read, or regurgitating old content via the clipboard and pretending we're bringing you something new. Every word we write is freshly produced, which is more than can be said for the Isku FX.
So the lighting is new, we'll talk about that.
Strictly speaking the Isku FX has 16.7 million colours, but realistically you've got about 16 or so that are clearly identifiable as different shades. Watching the 'Color Flow' which cycles through every available colour, there are clearly a few places where the colour steps. All of the available options roughly boil down to dark, standard, and pale. Now it is unlikely that if you're buying this keyboard because you want a yellow one rather than the regulation red, green and blue options on the market, that you'll be upset it can only do lemon yellow, and not a slightly ripened honeydew melon. If you name a standard colour the Isku FX can replicate it well enough, but it's a bit granular.
The decision to use piano black, which is a fingerprint magnet, on a keyboard, a keyboard!, is still as baffling as it was 18 months ago. The fact that the keylock and profile indication LEDs as well as the Thumbster keys are stubbornly blue rather than adopting the colour of the rest of the keyboard is a bizarre decision at best. When you have a lovely colour perfectly suited to your own preferred hue, having three bright blue LEDs at each corner of the Isku FX somewhat spoils the effect.
That's the Roccat Isku FX then. Identical to the original Isku, with all the positives and flaws we first identified still present and correct, but now you can change the colour of the keys and pay an extra £15 for the privilege. Because the colour change is the only new feature, and the LEDs remain blue, we would suggest saving your money and sticking with the original, hence it only receives our OC3D Bronze award.
Thanks to Roccat for supplying the Isku FX for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.