The Software & Testing
Something that I’ve conveyed many times over when doing reviews for ThinkComputers is that I don’t pull punches. The RK-8100 is certainly not the product where I’m going to start. Let’s start with the good part of testing this interesting input device: The software
The software for the RK-8100 comes out of nowhere. If you read the rest of this section you’ll understand what I mean by that. Rosewill took the opportunity to create the most customizable keyboard software I’ve ever had the opportunity to set my eyes on. You can literally do anything functionally to the keys on this device.
The mini CD that I thought was just a driver or a crappy manual was actually the software that ships with the device. Once you insert it and run through the typical installation windows you can access the software. I really need to convey that every keyboard software I ever use from this point on will be compared to the software Rosewill designed for the RK-8100.
Once opened you have a digital representation of the keys that you’re typing on. The RK-8100 has the ability to change to 1 of 3 layers on up to 10 profiles just by clicking through the tabs. Each layer is represented with a different color; Red, Green, and Blue.
When you click on the profile window it opens up a drop down which shows a listing of all the other profiles. Each profile can have a custom name which is awesome especially if you have profiles set up for specific uses or specific applications. A scenario where this might be applicable is if you lived in a dorm or an apartment and everyone who lived there used the same computer. This would be a perfect way to set up your key preferences without worrying if someone was going to change them.
An advanced tab is located at the top of the software overlay. This is where you can set the keystroke for the custom personal quick switch, the type of media player you want to be associated with the media keys on the device and where you can check for software updates.
Surprisingly the media player selection was something that was rather unique. A lot of media style keyboards are set to default the media keys to a specific application. Most of the time that application happens to be Windows Media Player regardless if you use WMP or not. The media association thing isn’t a big deal to me because Windows knows when I install the Zune software suite to overwrite the default settings for Windows Media Player but having the option available for change is quite nice.
The key binding on this software is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve downloaded third party programs in the past that attempt to replicate the things this software can do when it comes to binding. None have ever worked with the precision or the dependability of the RK-8100′s software. When I say you can set any key to do anything, I mean it. Why bother removing the Windows key if you’re gaming when you can just turn it off in a saved profile you created specifically for gaming?
If the software for the RK-8100 was that phenomenal the device that utilizes the software has to be just as good, right? That question couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s start from the beginning of when I took the unit out of the box and set it on the table. It wasn’t level. The keyboard wasn’t level. Feet up or feet down, the RK-8100 wasn’t level. Now, I know that every keyboard that Rosewill ships out won’t have this problem but you would think that if the company is hoping to get a good review on the product they would ensure that the product that they ship to us would at least be level. Regardless, this is just the first sign of shoddy craftsmanship. I fixed this fault with a small piece of cardboard and a piece of electrical tape.
The interesting selling point of this device is that it features gaming specific keys. The WASD keys and the arrows keys both feature dedicated oversized rubber boots. The novelty of these keys wears off after 5 minutes of normal typing. The lure of the majority of gaming keyboards with similar style keys is typically illumination, texture, or color. These keys lack illumination (which I could care less about) but have the texture and color. All in all they have too much texture and color. Due to the size of each of the keys they are crowded together and have a tendency to get pressed on accident when trying to hit the proper key. I’m sorry, but the purpose of a keyboard above all other things is the ability to properly type. Gaming or no gaming a keyboard that you can’t type on without hitting the wrong keys all the time is just a failure of a device to me. If this was 1996 and I was still gaming using the Arrow keys I might reconsider this thought of failure, if and only if Rosewill also shipped replacement keys for WASD section of my keyboard.
Illumination on a keyboard is always nice unless the illumination comes from a logo located on the center of the wrist rest. It just so happens the RK-8100 features this wonderful illumination (sarcasm). The best part about this light is there is no way to turn it off unless you power down your PC. It reminds me of the power indicator light on certain PC cases except the light isn’t located on the tower in/on your desk its located by your wrist shinning right in your eye.
Lastly, the location of some of media keys on the RK-8100 puzzles me. Most keyboards locate all the media keys right above the standard button layout but Rosewill decided to locate these keys on the side. This isn’t a deal breaker for me but I think the media keys would have been better suited to be located on the top of the device as opposed to the sides.