Software and Performance
The keyboard software is similar in design to that of the Kone mice, and as such appears cluttered initially. Just a few minutes of use are all that's needed to reveal that it's actually sensibly designed, however. The five profiles are split into tabs along the bottom, with key bindings, lighting and other settings all unique to each one, and you can set specific games or programs to automatically load your profiles for you. The software remained responsive and bug free throughout testing too.
The macro and Thumbster buttons can all be assigned primary and Easy-Shift functions, and 20 buttons in the WASD area (essentially the first five alphanumerical buttons of each row) can also be given Easy-Shift commands. Turning this area into a macro one makes a lot more sense than having masses of harder to reach macro buttons outside the usual key set.
Click to enlarge - The macro and Easy-Zone keys can all be easily assigned numerous functions
The media and regular function keys, while not EasyShift compatible, can also be assigned a range of abilities. The lighting screen lets you choose your backlight's colour and effects, but keys or areas cannot be programmed independently. The Windows keys amongst others can also be disabled in case you're prone to pressing them mid-game. The software even tracks the amount of times you press certain keys, awarding trophies when you reach specific numbers. Thankfully, you can easily disable the ridiculous voice that lets you know of your hard-earned milestones.
The comprehensive macro manager permits you to record delays between keystrokes, loop commands and fine tune things in an advanced editor if you make a mistake. Even better, pressing the record button up top also allows you to record and assign a macro to a compatible key on the fly, with voice commands guiding you through it.
Click to enlarge - Roccat's software lets you customise the function of the media and function keys, as well as record and edit complex macros
Roccat's Talk driver allows the Isku FX to communicate with Roccat's range of Talk enabled mice, of which there are currently just three. Despite this limit, it works flawlessly once installed, enabling you to toggle the Easy-Shift function of one device with the other (or both at once). It's obviously not a necessary feature, but being able to use a keyboard button to instantly lower your mouse's sensitivity for sniping or similar situations is quick, easy and can certainly have its uses. Talk FX is also present, where the keyboard's backlighting will respond to on screen actions, but its implementation is extremely limited at present and it's little more than a gimmick anyway.
With the rubberised feet up, the wrist rest ensures a mostly comfortable typing experience, and there's little friction when moving your lower palms around the base of the keyboard. Laid flat, however, the wrist rest does tend to just get in the way rather than provide support. Rubber feet ensure that even in intense gaming sessions the board won't be sliding around.
Click to enlarge - Eight media keys run along the top edge of the board
The major keys are nicely sized and the spacing between them feels natural, while the key surface is neither too smooth nor too textured. For the most part the buttons are pretty secure, but the macro record and brightness buttons do feel cheap and loose. Meanwhile, the Thumbster buttons require a little too much pressure to actuate, for our liking.
The actual experience of typing reveals that the keys certainly aren't as sticky or resistant as membrane- keyboards can be, but there's still a little tell tale sponginess to them. We had few problems with keys not registering, with the lowered key height and actuation distance noticeably helping to improve response times over other membrane boards. Even so, with that £80 price tag in mind, it's very hard not to miss the typing experience afforded by the various mechanical boards we've become accustomed too. Plus, of course, mechanical keys last much longer too.
Click to enlarge
Roccat claims that the Isku FX has anti-ghosting technology, and while we cannot test for every combination of simultaneous key presses, it's clear that the WASD zone has been given much focus in this regard. Keys pressed at the same time here all tend to register, but it is possible to find areas on the board where holding just two keys will prevent others from being activated. Nevertheless, we never experienced ghosting in our time with the board.
Despite our gripes with the build quality of the Isku FX and some gimmicky features, the board's software, macro editor and key customisation abilities are great and give the Razer Anansi a run for its money. The experience typing and gaming is nice, but only for a membrane keyboard: an important caveat. The main problem it faces is that those with £80 to blow on a keyboard have a solid range of mechanical options to choose from. Therefore, while we're excited to see Roccat's mechanical Ryos (and fearing the price tag), we can't see the Isku FX being a worthy option for anyone in this price range other than dedicated MMO players, to whom the high level of customisation is more likely to appeal above all else.