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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  • Greg512 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I have an old IBM M, and I love using it, though it is too loud for office work. Mechanical keyboards do make a great investment, especially if they aren't too loud. They may be expensive upfront, but they last forever and never need upgrading. Certainly the second most underrated computer component, after the monitor.
  • adrien - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Agreed. I scavenged my model m keyboards and I've been enjoying them. There are a few things I like in these in particular:

    1- no windows key*s* ; and seriously, who need two of them?

    2- the tilt and curvature of the keyboard which makes it possible to access functions keys without touching the other keys

    3- the space at the top of the keyboard, especially to put pens/pencils; it might sound stupid but when create/debug code with paper-and-pen, it's actually nice

    4- I wash them in the shower (takes a few days for them to dry up)

    Btw, for gaming, I gave up on mechanical keyboards and I actually switch to another keyboard when I play usually. I also had troubles and couldn't explain them at first but when you're playing a car game with the arrow keys, you want to make small and maybe very short presses; that's simply not how you can play on mechanical keyboards.
  • Goi - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I have a Model M too, I wasn't aware you could throw it in the shower...
  • adrien - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I can't "guarantee" the results but so far, it has been tried on half a dozen of keyboards by myself or friends.

    I made a mistake once however: used a mop on it with the space key removed: it caught the spring with it and now the spring is 4 times too long. Besides that, no issue.
  • Googer - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    The Model M was designed to handle a spill when lying on a table. The electronics and key springs are shielded from such a mess. However tilt it on it's side and water will creep in to every crevice imaginable and the metal springs which give it that signature sound and feel, will quickly rust. It is not advisable to submerge these keyboards as they were not designed for it; they will fail over time.

    Proper cleaning should involve disassembly and use a mild rapid drying cleaner/solvent like alcohol.
  • dananski - Sunday, November 11, 2012 - link

    "1- no windows key*s* ; and seriously, who need two of them?"

    I use both several times a day. Win+E/D and Win+L are very handy to be able to do one-handed. You could say exactly the same (and be equally wrong) about alt, shift and control, unless you're on Linux that is.
  • Sufo - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Scavenged DELL AT102W here. It uses Black Alps switches which are just great for those of you who want a satisfying click, but not a very heavy key press. Be prepared to bottom out on every key press, but they keys are light enough that I wouldn't think it was an issue. It's a very fast board - not hugely loud, but loud enough. It's my work board, so one might think the noise could be an issue, but everyone seemed to get used to it pretty quickly :)

    For gaming I use my Logitech illuminated KB. Still convinced it's better than any mechanical for that purpose.
  • Googer - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Those DELL Keyboards were just rebrands of a particular IBM design.
  • _rob_ - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    > Those DELL Keyboards were just rebrands of a particular IBM design.

    Except they weren't. The AT102W is not a rebranded Model M. In addition to looking rather different, Model Ms use buckling springs and AT102Ws use ALPS switches.

    Dell did ship some Model Ms, as did some other brands, but the AT102W is one of their own.
  • bs57 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I also managed to salvage a few old IBM 'm' keyboards before they were thrown out at work. The one I'm using now was built in 1984 and still works perfectly.

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