Introducing Rosewill's RK-9000 Mechanical Keyboard

As enthusiasts and professionals we spend a lot of time checking out what's under the hood of the computers and devices we use, but thankfully more and more we're paying attention to how we actually interact with hardware, what the user experience is like. User experience has been a major selling point of Apple's products, but there's one place where even Apple has been a bit neglectful: the keyboard. On notebooks your options are limited, but on the desktop you have access to mechanical keyboards. Today we'll take a quick look at Rosewill's RK-9000 mechanical keyboard and see if it's worth the price premium.

Before we get started with breaking down the RK-9000, a brief explanation of what we mean by "mechanical keyboard." There are several different types of switches used in modern keyboards, but the most common is the "membrane" switch. At its most basic, there's a "bubble" under each key, and when you press down the bubble makes contact with a circuit board beneath and registers the keypress. The attraction to this design is simple enough: it's cheap and easy to make. The problem is that as far as tactile response goes, it sucks out loud.

Enter mechanical switches. If you're old enough to remember what keyboards were like in the eighties and prior, you'll remember big, heavy keyboards with loud springs and plenty of feedback. Obviously it's a hell of a lot more expensive to equip a bunch of keys with springs, and that's why mechanical keyboards remain a bit of a niche product. That's a shame, too.

Rosewill offers four different mechanical keyboards, each based on the four different types of Cherry MX mechanical switches available. The Cherry MX Blue is the clickiest, the loudest, and the most tactile of the four; we have Corsair's Vengeance keyboards with the Cherry MX Red switches due in house soon, and we'll be able to compare and contrast then.

Aesthetically, the RK-9000 series isn't much to look at and you wouldn't be faulted for thinking they at least appear cheap. These look like generic black keyboards; no shortcut keys, not even so much as a fancy design. Black keys, black frame, but man is the RK-9000 heavy. With a $99 price tag it's hard not to fault anyone for taking one look at the keyboard and thinking, "Seriously?" Even the package is pretty bare; the keyboard itself has a mini-USB port in the back, and the keyboard comes with two cables, one mini-USB-to-PS2, and one mini-USB-to-USB. That's it.

Of course, once you've actually typed on the RK-9000, your impression will change in a hurry. 

The Rosewill RK-9000 in Action
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  • bigboxes - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    You assume incorrectly. Mechanical keyboards reduce fatigue and injuries from repetitious motions. You want carpal tunnel or some similar injury? Keep on using cheap keyboards. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Friday, January 27, 2012 - link

    It's your finger suddenly hitting something hard which causes the stress.. so a projected keyboard is actually the worst case for that. Try it for a minute on the table, your foremost finger joint will start to hurt quickly. Reply
  • Pylon757 - Saturday, January 28, 2012 - link

    With most mechanical keyboards, you can actuate the switch (i.e. send a signal to the computer) without having to press all the way down. With practice, people can type only pressing the key about 75% down, which might reduce stress like what you mentioned. With rubber dome membrane switches, you have to press the key all the way down, and thus you're going against a hard surface.

    On the other hand, if you do go down all the way on a mechanical keyboard, it hits the bottom a lot harder since there isn't rubber cushioning you like on a rubber dome keyboard.
    Reply
  • mcbowler - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I still have an old IBM keyboard in storage that I miss. I bought a new unicomp keyboard to replace it.. but it has a weird problem of registering two keystrokes randomly when I only typed one. Now I use the Logitech Solar Keyboard K750. Reply
  • drwho9437 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Good guide to the mechanical boards on the market can be found here:

    http://www.overclock.net/t/491752/mechanical-keybo...

    It details differences in keycaps and switch force curves. I have several MX blue boards they mostly are similar. The switch type is the biggest defining trait of a keyboard. I am not a gamer though more program and write.
    Reply
  • Kegetys - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Something the mechanical keyboards in the market currently seem to miss is proper, dedicated media keys. Many of them list "media keys" on their specs but in reality they are done as combo keys usually by replacing one of the windows keys. This kind of sucks, I'd want at least volume control, mute and a few other keys. The only mechanical keyboards I have found that have proper media keys are the Corsair K60/K90, but those apparently do not have all the keys mechanical (the media keys themselves do not need to of course). The K90 also has the extra macro keys at the left which makes it a bit too big. Reply
  • drwho9437 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Ducky DK9008 has stuff. Reply
  • randinspace - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I don't know man, I had a visit from my muse the other day and by the time she'd left I was horrified to discover that I'd typed 30 freaking pages. Even if I wasn't hypersensitive to noise in the first place (wearing a pair of noise cancelling headphones with the volume set to 1% as I type this) I don't think I'd be able to move SOMETHING right now if I'd attempted that feat on a keyboard with a standard configuration.

    Side recommendation to anyone who's ever thought they had a novel in them: don't EVER try to write more than a couple pages a day using a laptop's built-in keyboard. Even the most expensive keyboards on the market (like this thing: http://www.amazon.com/KB500USB-WHT-Kinesis-Advanta... to say nothing of Microsoft's ergonomic wireless options) are cheaper than EEGs and arm braces and weekly physical therapy sessions...
    Reply
  • pj_camp - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Unicomp bought and carried on the old IBM M-series technology. The damn things are bulletproof. I've had mine for going on 10 years now and no keys have faded in the least. Plus, you get to sound like an army falling down the stairs when you type. Reply
  • somewho - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Mechanical keyboards are really a great thing. I'm currently using a Noppoo Choc Pro with MX Blues and the differences with my previous $10 logitech keyboard is really day and night. Here's some of my opinion that can (hopefully) reduce the vague advantages of a mechanical keyboard :

    Zero flexes : in a good mechanical keyboard, the switches are mounted to a special metal plate instead of the PCB, thus making the keyboard very rigid and pratically flexless, unlike those cheap keyboard that use cheap plastic for the case.

    Shorter attenuation point : in a typical rubber dome keyboard, the attenuation point (the time when the press register), is always at the bottom of the key travel, so you have to do a full press to properly register a key. In mechanical keyboard (with MX switches, at least), the attenuation point usually happens halfway, so you don't need to bottom out to properly register a key.

    Tactile feedback : in a tactile mechanical switches, like MX blue and brown, the key will give you a tactile (and audio, in blues) feedback when a keypress is registered, so you can be sure your key is pressed correctly.

    Consistent typing force : the rubber in rubber dome keyboard will lose their elasticity (the "squishiness") far sooner than a metal spring. You know, a lot of cheap keyboard used for heavy gaming will lose the elasticity on the WASD cluster very soon, making the keys unusable. This won't be happening soon with a mechanical switch, due to the metal spring used instead of rubber.

    N-key rollover : Most mechanical keyboard that use PS/2 interface can correctly register multiple keypress at one time, making your epic CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E+X+S+F+G+J super combo possible (even much more). For USB mehcanicak keyboard, usually they're limited to 6KRO (6 key at once) due to the limitation of USB interface. altough my Choc Pro (also USB) can handle 36KRO.

    Customizable : Most mechanical keyboard that use cherry switch is also very customizable. You can buy 3rd party keycaps and make your keyboard looks like whatever you want. You can even order customized ones from wasdkeyboards.com

    Well, I guess that helps!
    Reply

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