Roccat Studios recently made the jump to the North American market after making a name for themselves in Europe. The Hamburg, Germany-based company has enjoyed plenty of success since their start-up in 2008. With a strong showing at CES 2012 that garnered plenty of attention with their unique campaign, all that's left is to find out if Roccat's products truly do set the rules, starting with the Isku Keyboard.
First and foremost, the design of the Isku goes with the all-in-one approach, meaning that the wrist rest is permanently attached to the keyboard. There is a reason for this, of course, but more on that later. The keyboard passes the durability test as it doesn't feel cheap in the least bit, as you would expect coming from Germany, which seems to pride itself on making products that last. The keys are illuminated with a blue back light that has six different settings at your disposal. One minor issue I have with the back light, however, is that it does not illuminate the media keys at the very top of the keyboard. I haven't used them much at all, so this is fairly easy to look past.
The true test of any gaming keyboard, though, is the ability to macro. Roccat does not disappoint in this aspect, giving you 36 programmable macro keys, which are all easily used with the left hand on the keyboard. While there are only eight true hot keys, almost the entire left side of the QWERTY can be changed into hot keys with a simple programming in the macro manager. The primary hot keys will be found on the far left side and, in a unique position, the other three will be found on the wrist rest, appropriately named thumb keys. You won't find that on many of the top gaming keyboards today, so give an extra point to Roccat for creativity with their design.
Programming, of course, can be done either on the fly or opening up your macro manager, which is quite easy to use. Even if this is your first gaming keyboard, the average PC gamer should have no problem deciding how to program their hot keys. I have found that the thumb keys are incredibly useful in the MMO world, especially since I have always had a problem finding that perfect key to use for Ventrilo. The thumb keys change this, making it far easier to communicate without having your push-to-talk key be an important button that may also activate a command in-game.
The Isku Keyboard also makes sure that your programming stays that way, giving a gamer five different profiles to use to their liking. Whether there are multiple players using the same PC for different games or one gamer has several different style of characters in their game of choice, the profile customization means that you no longer have to spend time reprogramming the keyboard based upon the style one chooses to play.
While Roccat's launch into the North American markets has been a steady one, availability is a bit sporadic at this point in time. Amazon is the best place to find the Isku, especially with the price point of $89.99. Newegg also carries the product, but has it for $25 more than Amazon. Roccat's website states that other carriers have either started carrying or will carry the Isku in the near future, such as CompUSA.com, Fry's Electronics, and Micro Center.