Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
When it comes to Rosewill, we are very aware of who they are and what they do. Being the Newegg in-house brand name, it sure makes selling their products very simple in a location with tons of traffic. We also know that they are in the business to not only make a few of their own unique products, but to actually clone other products and deliver them to their customers at a more reasonable price point. At least, that has been true for most of the cases and cooling products we have seen over the years, but today we break new ground with Rosewill, as we are now sampling products from the peripherals market as well.
Any of our avid readers know how we feel about the typical rubber dome based keyboards, and it is likely that Rosewill waited until they had a product in hand that they knew we wouldn't bash to harshly right off the bat because of the switch used. Well, the day is now upon us when they have contacted us about having a look at, and voicing our opinions on one of the mechanical keyboards that they released earlier this year. We also noticed at the time of the request that there was no mention of Cherry MX switches in these units, as Rosewill is another company that is joining others riding the Kailh mechanical switch bandwagon that seems to have found its way into our lives this year.
We have you here today to look at the RGB80 from Rosewill. This is not only mechanical, but it is also a ten-keyless keyboard, where the right quarter of the keyboard has been removed. Not only is this a more compact typist's keyboard, but Rosewill fills what keys are available with multimedia and profile buttons, along with support for full NKRO, or 6-Key Rollover. There is also the fact that this keyboard is not only fully illuminated, but you have many choices of coolers to pick from in the presets of the software.
The RGB80 is an 87 key keyboard due to the fact that TKL versions of keyboards do not include the number pad section in the design. This keyboard measures in at only 5.3" from front to back, 14.6" right to left, and not including the key caps, the back of the keyboard frame stands 1.1" in height. With the black plastic outer shell, painted key caps, Kailh blue switches, and the steel plate the mount to, the RGB weighs in at 2.2 pounds, without the included braided cable.
Near the bottom we see that you get the keyboard and paperwork, but there are also some extra goodies as well. For one, there is a key puller included, which is something every mechanical keyboard should come with. There is a reason why they include on in the RGB80 though, and that is due to the fact that Rosewill includes ten clear key caps as well. Each of the clear key caps features black painted legends and iconography; these clear keys are made to replace the Q, W, E, A, S, D, and the arrow keys.
There is no mention of the software, or extra functionality either. Once the software is downloaded (as there was not an included disk), we found that not only do we get five profiles to play with, but any key can be reassigned, and also used for Macro capabilities, launching programs, tying profiles to auto-load with games, and, of course, changing the LEDs behind the key caps to one of over 220 color choices. Another huge bonus is that this keyboard is sent with 512KB of onboard memory to house all of the programming, and allow the keyboard to go place to place without the need for the software at each PC.
When looking around for the RGB80 from Rosewill, we obviously went over to Newegg.com to have a look at what they are listing the keyboard for currently, and found a price of $99.99 with free shipping. Of course, they offer plenty of stock, but trying to locate this keyboard elsewhere at this time is pretty futile unless you find one listed in used markets. However, places have been known to carry Rosewill products in the past, so availability may get better as time goes on. As for now, Rosewill will take a bit of a hit in the scoring for limited distribution to be fair to all the other companies, but not too much of a hit, as we understand the logic in keeping the house brand in-house as long as possible.
Packaging, Accessories and Documentation
Rosewill sends the RGB80 out in a flat black package that displays the ten-keyless mechanical keyboard in many of the color options, although only one color is functional at a time. We also see under the naming that they claim this to be a 16.8 million color choice solution, but not with the software they provide... yet.
One of the longer sides has the Rosewill name to the left, but we stepped in closer to view the five features offered at this end. They cover the colors, the adjustable levels of intensity, and layouts of the lighting, anti-ghosting, the fact it's fully mechanical, and they also offer five profiles to play around with.
Both of the smaller ends display the RGB80 naming, and again with the amount of colors that the RGB naming insinuates, one would believe that that means that there is an option to use the RGB scale to enter colors, but you will soon see that isn't entirely possible.
To cover their markets, Rosewill uses the other long, thin panel to display features contained in this design. We will see the English version of these on the back panel of the packaging.
On the back we see the keyboard at the top with lines running from sections, and explanations of the features they are pointing to. Under that is the English version of the features, followed by the specifications. To the right are four images highlighting the applied texture, the detachable braided cable, the profile keys, and the optional key caps.
Inside, we find the RGB80 inside of a thin foam sleeve to keep it from getting paint rubbed off of it if it were to move around inside. The extra key caps and USB cable are located behind the keyboard, under the folded section of cardboard. We also found some paperwork lying at the bottom of the box to help with installing and controlling the keyboard.
Rosewill RGB80 Mechanical Keyboard
Starting things off with a look at the left side of the RGB80, we see the name is left shiny near the back, while the rest of the top section of the frame is textured, and wraps down the sides. We also see, as with many keyboards, when it lies flat on the table, the key caps lean away from the user.
Moving out to get a better look at this ten-keyless design, we see a flat black frame surrounding black key caps. The legends of these key caps are left blank to allow the passage of light through them from the LEDs under the caps. We can also see that some keys are multifunctional; we will cover those as well.
As for these, we have the F1 through F6 keys, and by holding down the Function key at the bottom right, and pressing one of these F keys, the RGB80 offers multimedia controls.
Moving further to the right, we also find profile selection buttons on the F8 through F12 buttons. These will change the color of the illumination to easily confirm the correct profile. There is also a ton that can be done for each profile, so be ready to play around a bit.
As we swing all the way to the right side of the keyboard, we find two important keys on the Insert and Delete keys that will set the keyboard into 6-key rollover support, where it only reads six keys at a time. Alternatively, you can swap to full NKRO, and it will read every press of the keys, no matter the speed. There is also a Game/PC function found on the Pause Break, but it is out of focus.
The last of the multifunctional keys are found on the arrows. The up and down arrows allow you to cycle the LED lighting off, on dim, on full go, on pulse mode, and also a couple of modes specific to illuminating just the keys most used by gamers.
Rosewill RGB80 Continued
As we now look back to the main section of the keys, we wanted to show the slightly textured surface applied to the caps, and also point out the taller, and much easier to feel, home key bumps in the cylindrical shaped key caps.
The right edge of the board is slightly different, as there is an indented section to add a bit of style to this otherwise very unassuming design. This time we have extended the feet under the RGB80, and now we have a slight forward leaning angle to the caps, which makes them much easier to use now.
Under the keyboard we find four longer rubber pads to keep the RGB80 in one place. We can see the feet at the back edge, and between them are grooves to help a bit with wire management on the desk.
What we do like about this design is that the extendable feet are tipped with a rubber pad, so they will not lose any traction on the desk top. What we would like it more if they would open to the sides so they don't accidentally collapse when shifting the keyboard back slightly.
In case you missed how the channels are designed to work, since the cable is removable and attaches as deep as it does, it allows the option to run the cable straight out of the back. Or, if you bend the cable a bit, it will run out to the left or right as needed.
Accessories and Documentation
We were given 1.8 meters of braided cable to power the RGB80. This cable is USB 2.0 for the PC, and offers a mini connection for the keyboard end. It also offers gold plating on both ends, and even has an inline choke to eliminate noise and chatter from other cables.
There is also a set of optional key caps to use. These are molded in clear plastic, and have the lettering and icons painted on them. This will allow the LEDs to be very bright, easily highlighting where your hand should be. We were also given a key cap puller to make swapping out the caps easy as well.
This card can be found in the bottom of the box. After congratulating you on the purchase, they explain to plug in the keyboard, and you have basic functionality of the RGB80, as the chart of keys below shows what can be done. For full control, we had to visit the Rosewill site, grab the driver package, and install it.
Inside the RGB80
As we start to tear things apart and see what is going on, we find the key caps are made like many others on the market, with a white molded cap, and a rubberized coating applied, leaving the legends blank to allow the light through them. These are okay, but past experience says these will likely wear down over time.
Under each and every key cap on the RGB80, you will find these Kailh blue switches. These switches are tactile with a click to them, and they are also pretty stiff as far as spring pressure is concerned.
I believe it is eight screws that will release the frame from the internal plate and PCB of this design, and the top half also fully encompasses the sides, as the bottom sets just inside of the top to make one solid unit. We also see the brown PCB for the mini-USB port, and a cable must be disconnected to completely free the PCB.
The PCB is a flat surface, and that might be the reason why there is so much flux and nastiness still visible on the PCB. This is also the control center where we find the other end of the cable that connects the USB port, and just behind that are the Freescale MC9S08JM32 MCU with onboard storage and the MCIX 25L512E USB 2.0 controller; both capable of doing what the RGB80 has to offer without issue.
Here we went ahead and put the RGB80 back together and added the optional clear key caps. While they are very obvious in normal lighting without the illumination on, just wait; it gets better.
In this image we have the light set as the keyboard ships out of the box. All of the LEDs are enabled, and the keyboard looks really good when backlit, but we still have other options as well.
One of the LED settings offers illumination of specific keys like we see here. In this instance, the profile buttons, the six clear keys to the left, the space bar, Enter key, and arrows are illuminated.
Outside of color choices, or the option of turning the LEDs off, this is the last setup the RGB80 offers. On top of the illuminated keys in the last image, the row of numbers is now illuminated, along with the Shift, Control, and Alt keys.
With the software available on site with a May release date, this is what we get. Across the top are five profiles to select and set how you want them, along with the PC lockout button to activate it via software too. The main window shows the keyboard layout, and you have to click on a key to activate five of the functions around the SYNC Program button that allows games to be tied to the profile. There are the LED setting and profile resets at the bottom, with commands also found to the right.
By clicking on the Escape key we can open the Macro window; this is where you can program the key commands, test it, replace or edit it, and even access repeat settings and time delays. There is also the option to import Macros from other software and drop them right into this keyboard to be stored onboard. With the 0% bar at the bottom, you know how full the memory is at any given time.
Of course, you can disable keys, launch programs with them, and even reassign key functionality, but we moved right into the LED settings. Here we find the five profiles we can change the default colors for. Under those, we can turn them off, display a single color, use single dimming (which is like a pulse mode), or set them to a color loop of all the available colors. To set a specific color to any of the profiles, all you need to do is click in the colored box next to them.
This is the scale we are given to select our colors. We find twelve presets running down the left side, and eighteen more columns with twelve colors in each. We thought we were pretty good at basic math, but somehow Rosewill claims 16.8 million colors when there are only 228 colors that we can see to choose from.
We found the Rosewill RGB80 ten-keyless mechanical keyboard to be very solid functionally, and exactly what we would expect in a blue switch based keyboard. The multimedia keys all function well, the profiles swap without issue, and once we tinkered a bit in the software, we find the programmability almost endless. The 512KB of onboard storage is plenty for most gamers, and you can take the RGB80 on the go with all of your effort still intact, without the need for driver installation on a new PC. Since we don't typically use the number pad, or most of the commands above them, we can really appreciate the compact nature of this ten-keyless design. Even though this keyboard is made of plastic on the outside, as much as we tried, this easily palm-able keyboard is one tough cookie to try to flex, which makes us feel good about its build quality.
On the other hand, we did find some slight issues with this keyboard. First and foremost is the fact that even the packaging shows this to be a keyboard with 16.8 million color choices. We may have missed something (there is nothing obvious to indicate otherwise), but 228 colors is a far cry from the full RGB scale used by others that we assumed this keyboard would offer as well. The second issue isn't going to matter to most, but we felt they could have done a better job during the build process by cleaning off the PCB. While all of the solder points are clean and done well, we feel the rest of the PCB should look like clean as well -it was just plain messy.
We also tested it for 6-key Rollover, and it will only read six key presses at any given time. When switching between 6-key Rollover and NKRO, the keyboard shuts off and resets, coming back to life with the setting you last pressed. We also found a sit testing NKRO and anti-ghosting that uses a method of pressing both Shift keys at once and typing. Keyboards with true support with still type what is expected, while others without anti-ghosting will skip letters entirely. As for this Rosewill RGB80, it passes the test with flying colors.
Pricing isn't all that bad at $99.99 U.S. dollars, but we do wish more places were carrying them, as it usually gets prices dropping a bit sooner, rather than later. For a compact, ten-keyless design, we do like what Rosewill has sent forth to users to help both gamers and typists enjoy doing what they do every day. The switches are comfortable, and feel slightly smoother than their Cherry MX equivalents. However, there are also companies... cough... Thermaltake, that offer a similar product with a five-year warranty, versus this keyboard's single year of coverage.
Maybe we are wrong, and there is another way to add color choices to this software, or maybe it will release in later software versions, but we will be deducting points for the fact that one thing is being advertised, and we found something completely different. Other than that sticking point with this product, we really don't have anything else bad to say, or abuse Rosewill about. While we do wish it was a bit cheaper, we feel it is priced well, not great, but it's still a viable option for those in the market for an illuminated ten-keyless mechanical keyboard.
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