** Article updated on 1st Feb 2012 **
Pricing information has been updated to the article to provide a consideration towards its value.
Rosewill (a house brand of popular U.S. online retailer of PC hardware Newegg) currently has the RK-9000 series in its mechanical keyboard lineup. Four models are available, using essentially the same enclosure but with different switch types. Here, we take a quick look at the RK-9000BL, which incorporates the 50 million keystrokes-rated Cherry MX black switches.
At first impression, the RK-9000BL looks just like any other regular mainstream rubber dome keyboard, except for its reinforced sturdiness. Enclosed In a matte black shell, it offers the same keys, layout, and two "elevators" (that is, riser feet) for height adjustment. The keycaps are laser-etched, and easily replaceable should you choose to.
The keyboard's weighty built (1.6kg) and four rubber feet beneath ensure that it will not accidentally shift during intense gaming sessions. We tried playing Counterstrike 1.6 with the RK-9000BL for three straight hours, and it maintained its stationary position throughout. This is a major plus point, as some mechanical keyboards, despite their bulkiness, have the tendency to shift upwards when pressure is applied to the "WASD" keys. This can be very frustrating even for the seasoned gamer, as however slight the movement may be, it can throw his or her fingers off the intended position on the keyboard, and it could take quite a while to readjust.
The red metal inner chassis below the keys seems to try to make up for the absence of backlighting. Up close, it does look pretty.
The RK-9000BL comes with detachable USB and the PS/2 cables, and they are braided and gold plated. The benefit of having a detachable cable is that users need not worry about having to replace the entire keyboard once the cable wears out. Again, the additional choice of plugging in the keyboard via PS/2 redeems the fact that the RK-9000BL does not offer additional USB ports unlike some gaming keyboards. Having a PS/2 connection is definitely an advantage, as only PS/2 keyboards exhibit full n-key rollover, meaning to say that the gamer can enjoy a simultaneous 104-key press (who does that anyway?). In USB mode, the RK-9000BL does only 6-key rollover.
Arguably the best switch type for gaming, the Cherry MX black switches are linear, non-tactile switches. The good thing about them are their high actuation force, so gamers would not accidentally execute or strike the keys prematurely, especially when they are resting their fingers heavily on the keys in preparation for their next move. Having said that, this would mean that the regular typist has to "bottom out" on every key, which not only encourages fatigue, but also generates many spelling errors over time. So if you type a lot, or prefer a more tactile feel, you could go for the other switch types in the RK-9000 series. For example, the RK-9000 which uses the Cherry MX blue switches is great for typing due to the switches' tactile characteristic. But it's not so great for gaming, especially if you double-tap a lot. Not to mention it makes quite a bit of noise.
If you're looking for a minimalist gaming keyboard to arm yourself with, the Rosewill RK-9000BL is perfect. It serves what a mechanical keyboard should, minus all the fluff. And, if there is any cable failure, you can simply replace it at a fraction of the keyboard's cost. The enclosure itself also looks to be very sturdy and durable, and thus should last you for a very long time. However, if you're looking to strike a balance between gaming and heavy-duty typing, the RK-9000BR that uses the brown switch type may be a better choice. Compared to the blue switch type, it offers a lighter tactile feel, which can help you to double tap more efficiently.
At S$129, the Rosewill RK-9000BL is actually pretty neat, considering that its conservative features do match up to its reasonable price tag - for a mechanical keyboard. If you're looking for variants of the keyboard with MX Blue/Brown key and Red keys, they are also available for S$129 and $139 respectively. All four keyboard varieties come with a 3-year warranty.