Customizable mechanical gaming keyboard.
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Tech blogs and review columns such as this are dominated these days by mobile accessories such as Bluetooth devices, carrying cases, etc. So when I have the chance to review something for the more traditional PC side of things, I jump at the opportunity. One such gadget that recently appeared on my radar screen is the ROCCAT Ryos MK Glow illuminated mechanical keyboard. ROCCAT isn’t a company I was familiar with before this review, but I am a huge fan of “clicky key” keyboards, such as the Das Keyboard I reviewed a few years ago. Adding to my excitement was the fact that the Ryos MK Glow offered backlit keys, a feature I greatly appreciate on my keyboards, but until now was lacking from every mechanical keyboard I’d run across. ROCCAT is a German company that develops gaming accessories. While gamers are not our typical audience, many of our readers are looking for high-end computer accessories, many of which happen to be geared toward the gaming market. The Ryos Glow fits that bill, with high-quality construction and durability as well as a wide range of customization options. In fact, ROCCAT proclaims that the Ryos MK Glow is “the most advanced, most customizable mechanical keyboard ever.”
Out of the Box
For those of you used to the flimsy, waif-like keyboards PC manufacturers are shipping these days, the Ryos MK Glow will definitely capture your attention. It’s big and heavy, which reflects its sturdy construction. The keyboard measures 9.2 inches by 20 inches and weighs just over 3.5 pounds. Compared to Das Keyboard (18 inches by 6.5 inches and three pounds), the Ryos MK Glow is bigger and heavier but has greater functionality.
One thing that turns me off about a lot of gaming hardware is their garish appearance and design, given the audience they are appealing to. Despite its size, the Ryos MK Glow isn’t overly flashy. It has a lot of extra keys compared to the typical 101-key keyboard (more on this later). The keyboard has a faux-carbon fiber look to it and the wrist rest has the ROCCAT logo on it. The wrist rest isn’t detachable, which I like, as detachable rests tend to be flimsy. Since it is part of the keyboard, the wrist rest is extremely solid and stable. I was also very happy that, unlike Das Keyboard, the Ryos MK Glow isn’t a smudge or fingerprint magnet. Overall, though, this isn’t a keyboard that most people would have a problem keeping at their desk.
On the bottom of the keyboard are four large, thick rubber feet that firmly hold it in place. This meant that the keyboard didn’t move even a hair as I was typing on it.
Getting started using the Ryos MK Glow was easy; it was just a matter of plugging it into my computer’s USB port. The keyboard has a 5-foot, 10-inch cable, making it easy to attach it to a PC that is under a desk without the need for a cable extender. After having used a wireless keyboard with the system I used to test the Ryos MK Glow, it took some time to get used to the cord running across my workspace.
While I was able to start typing with the keyboard almost immediately after plugging it into my Windows 7 laptop, there are special drivers you can download from the ROCCAT website to help you customize the backlighting brightness along with configuring the special keys. The Ryos MK Glow keyboard drivers are Windows-only and are compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.
The keyboard has five dedicated “macro” keys that run vertically along the left edge of the keyboard as well as three “thumbster” keys that run parallel to the space key. In fact, however, you can assign a secondary key function to every key, and you can store over 500 macros in the keyboard’s 2MB of flash memory. The F12 key lets users quickly record macros, which can be assigned to one of the dedicated macro keys on the left side of the board (M1–M5) or any of the other keys on the board. These are features intended exclusively for gamers, so this means you will have extra keys you may not be using. Another feature that is available via the driver software is ROCCAT R.A.D., a stats-tracking program that keeps track of your achievements and your key usage tendencies. Again, these features are only useful if you (or your children or grandchildren) are into PC gaming.
For anyone who truly appreciates a clicky-key keyboard, the ROCCAT Ryos MK Glow is an experience to behold. It offers a combination of tactile response and smoothness that I have not run across on any other mechanical keyboard. For as good as I thought Das Keyboard was in terms of typing feel and comfort, the Ryos MK Glow takes things to an even higher level.
If you are not familiar with mechanical keyboards, they differ from less expensive “membrane” keyboards in that they include a switch mechanism under every key, which offers a number of advantages: greater durability, the ability to press any number of keys at the same time and have them all register, and key strokes that register without having to press the key all the way down. This typically means that you experience less finger fatigue as well as less delay between the time you hit a key and the time that it registers in your computer.
There are a variety of switches used in mechanical keyboards. Blue switches provide both audible and tactile feedback. If a key is pressed and reaches its actuation point (the point where a key is registered and the resulting output is displayed on-screen) an audible click is heard in combination with a bump to let the user know the key has been pressed with enough force. Most, if not all, of the mechanical keyboards I have used in the past use blue switches and I have come to appreciate the sound and feel these switches offer when typing.
The ROCCAT Ryos MK Glow keyboard I reviewed used Cherry MX Black switches that do not provide any feedback to let a user know the actuation point has been reached. Compared to Das Keyboard, I found it took a bit more force when typing in order to activate the switch. However, the flipside of this is that I found I was less prone to accidental key presses. The Cherry MX Black switches still offered the audible feedback I prefer with mechanical keyboards. According to ROCCAT, the Cherry MX switches also offer 50 million keystrokes over their lifetime, compared to the more typical 10 to 20 million keystrokes an average keyboard offers.
While the Ryos MK Glow doesn’t provide the true clicky-key sound I have grown accustomed to using Das Keyboard, I found that I was able to do some of my fastest typing on it. As someone who does a lot of typing, I fell in love with the Ryos in a matter of minutes. Typing on it was smooth and fast, something that was confirmed by several of my colleagues who had a go with it. I also found that, over time, the added gaming keys did not impact my typing experience. While the macro keys on the left side of the keyboard add to its overall width, I never once found myself accidentally hitting any of these extra keys.
Beyond the spectacular typing experience the Ryos offers, I was almost nearly as impressed with the backlit keys. Since I prefer to work in low-light conditions, having a backlit keyboard is a must. I won’t even buy a laptop anymore that doesn’t have backlit keys. Each of the keys on the Ryos MK Glow has blue illumination and you can control the brightness via the driver software.
After being my preferred mechanical keyboard for nearly three years, Das Keyboard has been relegated to second place by the ROCCAT Ryos MK Glow. While this is first and foremost a gaming keyboard, it also offers a smooth and comfortable typing experience that I, as someone who does a lot of typing, can truly appreciate. The added speed with which I was able to type cannot be ignored. Furthermore, the backlit keys make typing even easier, especially in low-light conditions.
Considering that today keyboards are throwaways that come bundled with a new PC, some may scoff at paying $140 for a keyboard. If you are a casual computer user, this is probably true. Since most of you reading this review probably aren’t gamers, the added gaming keys are not a selling point. In the end, it comes down to improved typing speed and reduced finger fatigue. If you are someone who does a lot of typing, the $140 price tag will be an afterthought after using the keyboard for just a few minutes.
- Solid construction
- Smooth and comfortable typing experience
- Backlit keys
- Expensive for casual computer users
- Extra keys for non-gamers
- Not Mac compatible
$139.99 (Currently $139.99 from Amazon.com)