Roccat Skeltr Smart Communication RGB Gaming Keyboard Review
By now you'll probably know if the USP of the Skeltr is something which appeals to you. If it does, and if you must have it in your life regardless of cost or other considerations, then little we can say will sway you. If, however, you're on the fence then all is not as it seems. Roccat claim that by reducing the amount of distraction you have, or indeed time it takes, when you get a message and have to reply to it, you're in the game longer and thus are less likely to die/get overtaken by competitors/lose the battle. Let's examine exactly how this works.
Currently if you're playing, let's say an FPS for simplicity, and your phone goes off then you keep your left hand on the WASD keys to keep you moving around and avoiding death whilst your other hand quickly slides down your notification screen, sees who wants you, and either replies, ignores it until the end of the round, or just swipes the spam email away and carries on playing. It takes barely a moment and even whilst doing so you can still keep your character moving. Sure your hand is off the mouse - or the keyboard depending upon which is the more important control method in your title of choice - for a moment but it isn't that long.
So how does the Roccat speed this process up? By using the button on the right you can switch the keyboard from your PC to your phone, and thus reply instantly. But this is, in effect, worse than the above option. For a start by putting both hands on the keyboard you've got one off the mouse, so it's not any better than the current solution. Secondly, because the keyboard is now focussed upon your phone you no longer have control of your character, so you're a sitting duck. Thirdly, you have to have your phone on the application so that you can quickly reply. Great if you're in a chat application, but no use at all if you get an email or a text and you're in another app. You have to take your hand off the keys to swipe your screen and change it to the relevant app, then hit the reply button or whatever, then change the keyboard to control your phone, type your reply, go back to the app that you had running all the time and then put your keyboard back into keyboard mode. How on earth is that easier than just picking up your phone? It isn't. And that is before we've addressed the fact that all of us have our phones in cases - you'd be insane not to - and have our screens automatically time out. So before you start playing you need remove your case, turn off the screen time out, connect the phone to the keyboard, attach the charger cable, balance it in the slot at the back and all that to end up with a system which is slower, more likely to kill you, and more unwieldy than the current "quickly pick it up" method.
So if the USP is a good idea in theory that is utterly hopeless in practise, that hefty price tag becomes untenable. Yes you can use the Roccat Power Grid app to display a multitude of things, but that isn't unique to this keyboard. Any Roccat offering will do likewise and for far less investment. The keys themselves are fairly bland to type on, with not quite enough return spring force so it slows down your typing when compared to something like their own Isku, and certainly much worse than a mechanical offering. Similarly the lighting is a bit limp. The Roccat Ice Blue is gorgeous and bright, but many colours have varied brightness with purples and yellows being very dull. This limits your customisation and is very noticeable if you have the keyboard colour cycle. Lastly the keyboard is very plastic. Not exactly wobbly or flexible, but if it was priced at around £70 you'd feel a little short-changed, let alone £150.
In short the Skeltr is an similar to the Isku, except with worse key lighting and a massive price hike to include a feature that doesn't really work, and once you take away that then you're left with a very expensive, mid-range keyboard that's almost impossible to recommend. It's the first really disappointing Roccat product. It gets our innovation award for bravely trying something new, even if it wasn't wholly successful.
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