Gaming keyboards are not a new thing, and the range out there is becoming almost overwhelming. Whether you’re looking for a mechanical, a programmable, a fully lit example or all of the above, Roccat’s Vulcan 121 AIMO can answer your requests, but with a £139.99 RRP it may not be for everyone’s budget. While I can’t speak for everyone’s idea of value, but when you consider the amount of use – or abuse – a keyboard gets, it’s easier to argue that a good quality one is a worthwhile purchase.
The 121 AIMO is a considerable unit. Weighing in at over a kilo (1150g to be exact) and measuring 462mm x 235mm x 32mm, it is a sturdy and substantial board. This is particularly handy when deep into a frantic game, as it’s not going to slide around and lead to mistaken keypresses. Obviously, the minor drawback is that this is distinctly a desktop option, and would quickly lead to leg-ache if used for couch gaming. The fact that it is a wired keyboard (with a 1.8m cable) also counts against such an application. But, as a main option for a dedicated gaming PC, the 121 AIMO is a high quality option.
Every key benefits from the trademark Roccat Titan Switch system which “is engineered to be swift, yet precise and responsive.” This apparently leads to a 20% faster response speed than the industry standard. That last statistic might sound like trying to determine what 9 out of 10 cats prefer, but it does feel impeccably responsive. High level players will find an increase in their performance, and even typing documents (such as this review) becomes a more tactile and enjoyable experience compared to basic keyboards.
The increased responsiveness and more tactile feel of the mechanical keys is complemented by the included removable palm rest which provides ergonomic support for your wrists as you type. Given the amount of time the average user spends using their keyboard it feels like this is more than just an added extra but rather a necessity. Even without considering all the extra functions and features the keyboard itself is easy to recommend for those with the budget for it.
Gaming keyboards aren’t just about mechanical keys and increased responsiveness though. The Vulcan 121 AIMO is packed full of smart features that can give an advantage for dedicated gamers. While these are welcome, the Roccat software sensibly makes it clear that many of the more sophisticated options would be disabled in online competitive games. It is clearly a good thing that the various profiles and macros do not amount to a pay-to-win system, but players hoping for a shortcut to success online may be disappointed. As part of the accompanying Swarm software suite, colour responses, key setups, and individual game profiles can be set up, although the prospect of yet another program running in the background to keep updated is symptomatic of the state of modern PC gaming.
The keyboard boasts a 32-bit ARM Cortex-MO based processor and an internal memory that can store 5 profiles (meaning that you can remove the Swarm software if you so wish) for different users. There are 6 fully programmable macro keys that can be assigned specific functions to make life easier in games, and the accompanying Swarm software is clear and easy to use, whilst offering a huge depth of options for players wanting to get the most from their purchase.
In more frivolous fashion the keyboard is also fully lit and different patterns and rhythms can be set, from waves to heartbeats, whilst the last key pressed illuminates as well. This is attractive enough, but most users willing to spend £140 on a keyboard would mostly be touch typing so I’m not sure it offers much more than a fancy aesthetic benefit. Either way the brightness of the illumination is easily changed through the software or by using the knob on the top right of the keyboard itself.