So you're a hardware junky? You've got your PC all neat and tidy? Most probably in matching colours too. You might even have swayed towards a certain item of hardware such as a graphics card or memory because it matches the rest of your system, rather than a blue motherboard and a black graphics card for example.
Probably though if you look in front of you you'll find that those things so coldly referred to as "Human Interface Devices" probably don't match up very well. Maybe if you tried hard they're all black. After all the loathing for beige is so ingrained in the psyche of the modern PC user that most things follow Henry Fords creed that you can have any colour you like, so long as it's black.
But what if you want to actually have the stuff you use for most of the day, match up entirely? Until now you have two choices. Firstly, and most obviously if you want quality hardware, it wont. Your other choice is to accept some lesser quality items to try and get it all to at least be from one manufacturer, even if not designed along the same lines.
Enter the Roccat Smart Desktop Management System, or SDMS for short. Hopefully we wont end up with the typical redundancy that occurs with such things by calling it "the SDMS system".
A couple of months back we reviewed two parts of the SDMS, the Roccat Sota Mousepad and the Roccat Kova Gaming mouse. Both of these were designed to be part of a holistic desktop package.
Now we look at the final two parts of the Quartet, the Roccat Arvo Keyboard and the Roccat Apuri Mouse Bungee. "The Apuri what?", I hear you all cry. We'll get to that soon enough.
Let's start by looking at the Roccat Arvo, the keyboard on which todays review is being lovingly hand-crafted by your resident wordsmith.
Keyboards are very much up there with mice and other input devices as items that are likely to be found in your local parts store. Because of this the packaging and box art are of a premium importance in grabbing the attention of the passing shopper. Roccat have continued the great looking packaging we've seen with their other items with the Arvo. A life-size replica of the keyboard on the front, with the important information and features highlighted on the back.
Removing the internal box from the cardboard sleever we find the Arvo well protected by a stiff cardboard box. The keyboard itself is further kept safe with a plastic cover to protect iti from any dust and the like.
Taking it out we get our first look at the Arvo, and it definitely is both eye-catching and follows the design trend of the rest of the SDMS Roccat range.
The underside has four large rubber pads to keep it in place, and two stubby feet should you require the keyboard at a slightly more ergonomic angle. It doesn't raise it much, as you can see, but every little helps when you're typing regularly.
Below the space bar are three extra buttons, the "Thumbster" keys which can be programmed to whatever you like and, thanks to their easy placing, hit regularly. Often extra keys are in strange positions but with the keys right below the spacebar they're easy to hit every time.
On the top right is the mode switch which changes the cursor keys as we'll see below.
The mode switch handily lights up but doesn't, unlike many LEDs, distract at all.
Finally we have the Roccat manual and driver disk. Although as always with Roccat the software is available from their website ensuring you can stay upto date without the bloat that some manufacturers want you to install.
And here you can see how the mode button affects the keyboard. When in gaming mode the cursors are lit by a nice soft blue, and when on you return to the standard keypad.
In gaming mode the 1 and 3 buttons become two extra macro keys, meaning you're in full control at all times.
Roccat Apuri Mouse Bungee and USB
Moving on to the final part of the Roccat SDMS, the Apuri mouse bungee and USB hub. Before you all scratch your head wondering why your mouse needs a bungee, or if it's solely to aid in getting off bridges, it's actually designed to keep your cable off the desk so you can have the benefits of the response of a cable mouse, with the freedom of a wireless one.
By virtue of it being "pre assembled" the box is a large affair with plenty of explanatory details all over it.
The side shows the main elements of the mouse bungee and how it should hopefully help in freeing your rodent, whilst the rear has the standard feature list in multi-language format.
A brilliant little touch on the bottom is a life-size view of the Apuri. Not much use for anything but really amuses me.
Removing it all from the packaging we see the AC adaptor for those extra power-hungry USB devices. This is in the form of a universal two pin with an adaptor. Not the prettiest solution in the world but it is what it is. We also have the Apuri itself and the USB to mini-USB adaptor that allows the four ports on the Apuri to only take up one on your PC.
As you can see above we have two USB ports on the front, two on the right triangle face, and the left triangle face is for the AC Adaptor and the mini-USB.
Now we take a closer look at the arm of the Apuri. This is a bit of a wonder as it holds up under its own weight really easily, but is also extraordinarily floppy and flexible. The top of the arm contains a groove that comfortably holds the cable of your mouse, and the arm also has sufficient holes to allow for whatever routing of your cable you desire.
The base of the Apuri has three very soft glowing blue LEDs.
Underneath, as you could see from the bottom of the box above, their is a blue lit Roccat logo. On a wooden desk this ends up being a nice blue smear, but on a glass desk, as seen here, it really looks the business. So if you're one of those people who have transitioned to a glass desk, either clear or black or otherwise, you get a great Roccat logo glowing away. A nice touch.
Although not necessary to use the Arvo, to get the best out of it it's advisable to install the software.
Firstly we have the Macro screen, which contains all the goodies and so we'll take a closer look at below. However for the moment it's a good overview of the keyboard and current settings. One feature that will make a lot of you stand up and cheer is the ability to disable the Windows key in certain profiles. No more will you go to crouch and end up looking at your desktop.
The second tab contains the update screen for both the Arvo firmware and the driver itself.
Apart from the help screen which is self explanatory, let's return to the Macro and Profile page. Firstly, something that exists in the absolute best control panels, is the ability to assign a profile to an exe and so the software will load it automatically if you load that executable. Anything that saves faffing about when you just want to play is a good thing and it's great to see it implemented here.
Profiles themselves are stored in a proprietary extension which should allow for easy sharing of your favourite game profiles across the Internet.
Now the real meat of the package, the assignments themselves. Roccat have thankfully included a swathe of pre-built shortcuts and macros to perform the standard tasks you might require. Firstly, media settings if you like to control your player via the keys.
This is the outstanding part, pre-assigned shortcuts for your favourite game. Personally I don't play WoW as I prefer sp RPGs, and so have left off the shot as I don't know how useful they are. However the Crysis ones are very useful. Admittedly things like binoculars are as easily used with the default key, but the ability to hit your suit abilities that fraction of a second sooner than using the radial menu could be vital. And this is able to be utilised in all your games, saving a swathe of time.
Finally for you hateful respawn hunters there is the ability to create a timer that will give an audio countdown. Grab the Quad Damage power up, hit the timer, and return just as it reappears, to the fury of everyone.
Testing and Conclusion
Roccat Apuri Mouse Bungee
Testing the Apuri is easiest and shortest so we'll start there. After all with a USB adaptor and a cable holder as long as it recognises your device, that's the USB part dealt with. And sure enough it does. There is also enough power that it glows and can handle bluetooth adaptors, pendrives and the like without the AC adaptor should you desire more portability or to save a few pence on your electricity bill.
The bungee part is harder to quantify. At first glance it seems almost useless. After all how difficult is it to control your cable. But actually once you use it you wonder how you ever lived without it. Although the mounting point doesn't rotate the arm itself is flexible enough that the lack of rotation isn't a factor at all.
The main thing here is the feel. Until you've pushed your cable in, and it holds it so tightly that in a fortnight of extensive testing I haven't had to remount the cable at all, you don't realise how often you move your cable around. Whether you're lifting your mouse to bring the cable back on the desk, or move it around the various detritus that your desk accumulates, to not have to do so is a joy.
It truly makes a wired mouse feel wireless. I used a wireless mouse myself for years before finally converting to a gaming mouse and it definitely brings that feeling back.
Of course there has to be downsides. The Roccat Apuri has only three. Two of them are small things you can easily adapt to, or are easily fixed by Roccat, and the last one is quite a big thing. Firstly is the placing of the USB and AC Adaptor cables. As a result of the triangular design these have a habit of wanting to be at the rear rather than the side and therefore turning the Apuri. The second problem, which is tied into that, is that the feet aren't quite as sticky as I'd like. Don't get me wrong it doesn't slide about, but I've had to move it maybe three or four times in the last couple of weeks solely because the side ports pull it slightly and the feet don't hold it.
Sadly the most important fault is the price. Currently on Scan for £28 it's quite expensive for what it is. 4 USB port hubs certainly don't cost anywhere near that and the bungee is brilliant, but 30 quids worth of brilliant? That's a tough call indeed. It absolutely improves the experience of using a wired mouse and if, like me, you really find the cable an irritation then it's almost worth it for that alone. If you're short of USB ports and want a very very well built, amazing looking, USB hub that has an extra trick up its sleeve then it's as high a recommendation as a USB hub is likely to get.
But it's still £30. Give it grippier feet and maybe, as it's part of the SDMS range, the same colour changes the Kova has and it's spot on. As it stands, it's the flashiest and best built USB hub, the mouse bungee is brilliant, and if you're really stuck what to spend your overtime on it's worth a second look.
- Great design
- The Bungee makes a genuine difference
- It's so hard to catergorise that it seems difficult to put a price on
- The feet need to be grippier
- It will appear at the bottom of your "to buy" list. But shouldn't.
Let's have a look at the Arvo keyboard now.
Arvo Testing and Conclusion
Testing keyboards is always subjective. However there are various things we can get a feel for as we go so hopefully it'll all be clear by the time we're done.
Firstly let's have a look at, well, the looks. The most obvious thing about the Arvo is its compact nature. Moving the arrow keys and home cluster around really shrinks the size and if you're limited for desk space this is already a boon.
Secondly the actual design. Sometimes calling a design futuristic is a bit of a euphemism for "not practical" or "ugly". With the Arvo however it really is a great looking bit of kit. Roccat have the Arvo as the keyboard element of their "Smart Desktop Management System" or SDMS, along with the Kova mouse, Sota mousepad and Apuri USB/Bungee. There is definitely a great design thread running through all of these and together they match perfectly. So often we see keyboards being a rectangular lump and any tweaks and tricks solely limited to lighting, that to see a redesign that works, whilst still keeping standard key sizes and placing so vital for the touch typers amongst us, is a testament to Roccats design team.
As for the keys themselves they are a halfway house between laptop style keys and full-size keys, Roccat call them "Medium Height" and that's close enough. They are about full-size in height, but type with only a slightly longer key-press than laptop keys. They do take a little getting used to though. If you're one of these people whose muscle memory relies upon feeling the bottom of the keystroke as a "stop" rather than the key appearing on your screen then it will appear slower, whereas actually the key does engage long before that.
There is a lot of tactile feedback from the keys as they require a little press to push down, but spring back nicely. The best word really is bouncy. But in an entirely good way. The keyboard itself certainly wont move thanks to the very robust feet that are made of a material that definitely needs to be used on the Apuri. Build quality, again, is most definitely not an issue.
The cursor keys being embedded in the number pad really takes a lot of getting used to and is something that, in the limited testing time we have, I never quite got used to. It works perfectly well and any problems are solely as a result of me having typed with a certain style of keyboard for over a decade and not having long enough to adapt, rather than a limitation or issue with the Arvo itself. I'm positive those of you who are used to laptop keyboards will fit straight in without worry.
The Thumbster keys are positioned really well and within very easy reach. In fact they're so well placed I'm astounded that everyone doesn't copy this rather than give us keys off to the side or above the F keys. The macro ability of the Arvo, and it's software, truly is the star of the show though. Both the inbuilt macros and the customisation ability of the software in allowing you to create your own is second to none.
So what are the negatives? Well not a lot actually. Pricing wise it's about where you'd expect for a keyboard of such quality and features. We've seen it for around £45 and considering you're getting a high build quality keyboard, that looks the part, with epic software and great typing feedback it's almost cheap.
The only real negative is the compact nature. And this isn't so much of a negative as a design decision. I personally found it took a lot of adaptation and still hit the place I expected certain keys to be. There aren't many games or utilities as such that would be problematic to use with the Arvo, apart from Excel. Although if you're an accountant then you probably wouldn't be looking for a keyboard such as this.
It's very rare that a company set out to create a range of products for you and end up hitting the mark with all of them, but Roccat has. The Arvo, Kova, Sota and Apuri all match design-wise, have great build quality, performance and good pricing.
I have no hesitation in awarding this our OC3D Recommended award, and we'd love to see a full size one with Thumbster keys please Roccat.
- Macro ability
- Nice typing feel
- Very cool design
- Thumbster keys are a stroke of genius
- The numpad/cursor cluster takes some getting used to.
Thanks to Roccat for providing both the Apuri and Arvo for todays testing. Discuss in our forums.