Look at all the pretty colors.
The Isku FX is a direct replacement for the original Isku keyboard from Roccat. When looking at the surface, it is hard to see if anything at all has changed since the release of the first generation Isku. However, after plugging it in, you can see the difference immediately – in 16.8 million shades. The Isku FX offers a full range of color customization over the previous model’s six blue LED selections. Is that the only change that this keyboard offers? Or is there something else lurking under the surface that should make you spring for this new model?
In our previous review of the Isku keyboard, there was really not much ill that could be said about it. We would have liked to have seen a way to detach the wrist rest and a little more weight in it, but it was still a phenomenal keyboard to use. The Easy Shift and Roccat Talk functionality really made a difference in games and everyday tasks when used in tandem with one of Roccat’s mice. That left a lot for the Isku FX to hold up in the new version. However, I quickly found out that there was only one real change. Instead of only having six different blue colors for lighting on the keyboard, Roccat now included the full range of 16.8 million colors to be used. The same dome membrane was used for the keys. The five programmable macro keys, their recording feature, and three thumb buttons were preserved. Down to the shape and dimensions, the Isku FX is the same as the Isku.
Unfortunately, that means that the Isku FX has the same problems as the previous keyboard. The biggest flaw of the input device has to be with the wrist rest. While it is nice to have one, it is huge and cannot be detached. If you would be using this keyboard on a tray, most likely you would run into fit problems. At 24.7 cm, it is a wide keyboard. Second has to do with its weight. It is extremely light. If you were to fit it on the aforementioned keyboard tray, you would eventually knock the Isku FX off of it with ease. It is doubtful that the keyboard would break, considering it has survived numerous falls from one to six feet in testing. However, as things made of plastic go, it only takes one good corner to connect with the ground to break apart. Then there is a dome membrane. Why a keyboard that retails for $100 still has one is beyond comprehension. Technically, they are supposed to react just as well as a micro switch board, but they just don’t have the tactile feedback you would expect.
Even though none of those aspects have changed, the Isku FX is still a great keyboard to use. I’ll admit that the typing isn’t as smooth as I would like after using it for an extended period of time. It does take a significant distance of pushing to get the dome to register, but it is something you grow accustomed to. However, it is much better than other keyboards in my house such as the Logitech G5 or the one on a Mac Book Pro. It is important to recognize that the Isku FX is a gamers’ keyboard. It will work for normal, everyday operations, but typing isn’t its strong suit. It excels in reactions and customization. The Roccat software is still fantastic to use, offering simple pages to get exactly what you need done. As with the Isku, the Isku FX still doesn’t allow for on-the-fly customization in key binds, but it does still support five different configurations, which you can change with the thumb buttons indicated by the LEDs on the upper left. Recording macros to assign to the five macros keys on the side is still easy. The recording is no longer interrupted if started as the Roccat Talk voice is giving his spiel. This was a welcome fix, but most likely came down to software instead of hardware changes.
Easy Shift is still the most valuable part of the keyboard. Having a key quickly alter the command of one of 36 different keys to another bind is valuable given the real estate for quick key presses. Pairing this with a Roccat mouse makes it even faster when you can have the Easy Shift button depressed there, freeing a finger from pressing the assigned keyboard key. I’ll say it again: once you get used to this feature, it is hard to imagine not using it.
The Roccat Talk features, including the Roccat Achievements Display (RAD) and environmental lighting triggers, still strike me as something unnecessary. Roccat Talk itself is needed for the functionality between the mouse and keyboard to work, but RAD is just plain annoying. I get that everyone likes achievements, but I don’t need to know when I’ve used a key a specified number of times. Thankfully, the functionality to turn off the sound notifications is still there. The environmental lighting changes are something that I still don’t get as well. An event in a game can trigger colors on your keyboard to flash in an attempt to make you aware of what is going on in the game. I’m looking at the game already – shouldn’t I know that? Granted, neither of these features takes away from the Isku FX, but you can’t help but wonder why they are there.
Looking at the Isku FX is a bit troublesome when the Isku has already been reviewed. Saying they are the same isn’t an exaggeration in the slightest. Basically, the Isku FX retained the same shell, look, and feel with the addition of some colors. That doesn’t mean that the Isku FX is a bad keyboard; in fact, it is rather good when you consider everything that you get with it. It has to be said that for as good as the Isku was, the Isku FX should have been much better. Instead, we get no fixes to the weight issues, no options to detach the wrist rest, or even an address of why a membrane was used instead of a mechanical switches. In the end, picking the Isku FX comes down to a preference of price. If you can live with only blue lighting, $62.00 is a fantastic price for the Isku. Spending $100 on the Isku FX for some more LED range doesn’t exactly seem appealing. Eventually, the Isku will stop production, leaving on the Isku FX to pick up. Until that occurs though, I think I’ll keep the extra cash in my pocket.
Keyboard provided by PR for review.
The previous Isku received a 9/10 equivalent score in the past. Due to the lack of fixes for the next generation (along with no real changes), we feel it cannot be granted the same score, especially because of the price disparity.