SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

Rosewill's new mechanical illuminated RK-9100BR, the latest in the RK-9000 series of gaming keyboards, is a beautiful hunk of plastic. It's the kind of accessory that makes you "ooh" and "ahh" when it's finally plugged in and ready to go.

Manufacturer: Rosewill
Available: Now
Price: $119.99

But after using it on and off for over a week, I have to wonder: what actually makes it a gaming keyboard? It lacks some features that ones from Razer and Logitech have, like dedicated macro keys and other bells and whistles.

But those cherry switch keys are as great for gaming as they are for anything else, and the RK-9100 can even be configured so that only the WASD and arrow keys are lit up. Still, the latest from Rosewill isn't a dedicated gaming keyboard. Instead, it's something in between, and that makes it extremely versatile.

 

MECHANICAL KEYS

Anyone who thinks $120 is too much to spend on a keyboard hasn't yet tried mechanical keys. Once you jump on this bandwagon, you won't want to go back. But all mechanical keyboards are not alike; they come in a variety of flavors, each with its own feel.

Rosewill's RK-9100 ditches the cherry red and cherry black switches available with on the older RK-9000, coming only in cherry blue or cherry brown switches. I opted for the brown switches, for their quieter sound, not to mention that they require less force than blues to press down.

For starters, the keys are significantly quieter than my older Cooler Master Quick Fire Pro. You can float a little above the actuation point, so hovering fingers are no problem. They're snappy and responsive, and feel great to type on, even after some lengthy gaming and transcription sessions.

To top if off, this thing is sturdy. Its weight and rubbery grips—adjustable to different angles—ensure that it won't move no matter how hard you type, and that it never feels cheap.

 

ILLUMINATED

Mechanical keyboards have become rather common, though mechanical keys that are also individually backlit are comparatively rare. True, you're paying for that combination, but it's certainly worth it if you game or type in low-light environments.

The Rosewill Rk-9100's individually backlit keys are illuminated in a lovely shade of azure blue, saving the caps and num lock keys, which shine emerald green. F11 and F12 adjust the brightness between four different levels; F9 switches modes, with either the whole board, everything but the number pad, or just the WASD and number keys lit up; and F10 turns the illumination on and off entirely.

In any light scenario, the RK-9100 is a gorgeous specimen. When it lights up for the first time and bathes you in its glow, you'll see it too.

I've got a few criticisms, though: even at the lowest settings, the RK-9100 is extremely bright. Further, the caps and num lock keys, with their separate, green lights, have only one setting: really bright. And the lighting around some keys, like the function keys, is a little uneven, though that's a nitpick for sure.

 

AESTHETIC

Rosewill's RK-9100 is a full-sized keyboard, and as someone who primarily uses a laptop, the luxury of a number pad is much appreciated.

But other luxuries are seemingly missing; there's no wrist rest, no fancy logos (just a simple metallic one), no fluff or frills. In fact, the RK-9100 can even come off as a bit…plain. But upon further inspection that plainness gives way to simplistic, utilitarian beauty.

Its simple rectangular shape is refreshing. The layout is traditional and, more than anything, purely functional. Even the font used on the keys is attractive, which sounds strange, for a font. Think Helvetica.

 

WHAT'S LEFT

I've said everything I needed to say about Rosewill's RK-9100 keyboard. It's not quite a fully-featured gaming keyboard, but it works great for both gaming and long typing sessions. The cherry brown keys are clicky and responsive, but quieter than other mechanical switches. The illumination is dazzling and comes with some nice customization options. The keyboard's utilitarian design makes it extremely attractive.

There are some footnotes to add, though. Back-of-the-box-stuff. Like: you'll need two open USB ports on your rig, as the backlights require their own plug. Though the RK-9100 sports two additional ports anyway.

Part of the function row doubles as media keys, which is fine; use them, or don't. It's somewhat baffling that F6 and F7 turn the volume up or down—in that order—but you'll no doubt get used to that.

The keyboard's anti-ghosting tech lets you confidently press six keys at once (not that you'll ever have to). And the braided USB cord and gold-plated connectors are of extremely high quality.

If Rosewill's RK-9100 sounds like what you're looking for in a keyboard—if you won't miss more stylized aesthetics and complicated macros, but crave responsive keys and gorgeous, simplistic illumination—then I can't recommend it highly enough.