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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  • Reikon - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I bought one of these with Cherry MX Red switches about 2 weeks ago and some of my keys already look worn out like the ones picture. The space bar also squeaks like crazy, which seems fixable if I take it out and put some grease on it.

    Unfortunately, both issues seem common enough that getting a replacement isn't likely to fix it.
  • ZeDestructor - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    The blue switches are indeed reported t be quite poor for gaming use, and as such, most people get the Browns. The MX Browns are tactile but not clicky or if you're a button-masher like me, get the MX Blacks which are non-tactile and non-clicky linear switches and just about perfect for gaming.

    As for the lettering, its far from being a major issue given you can happily swap them out for other keys., I myself have a set of black engraved PBT keycaps instead of the standard painted ABS keycaps. Unlike the ABS keycaps, the PBT ones don't acquire a "shine" to them since they wear out less quickly.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    "Key travel is pretty deep, making the RK-9000's base model a bad choice for any kind of game that requires multiple rapid keypresses, which is pretty much all of them."

    I disagree with this. I play APM heavy games like Starcraft 2 that involve key spamming, and mechanical keyboards are excellent for this type of game. The thing is that key actuation for Cherry switches happen halfway down, not nearly all the way like a membrane or completely bottomed out like a scissor switch, so rapid keypresses are much simpler.

    Blues may not be the best for gaming, but black, brown, and red switches certainly can be. The rest depend on what level of resistance you want. I prefer higher resistance black switches and ended up selling my brown (made too many typing gaming errors because they were so light), but people can prefer the exact opposite. It is a huge advantage of mechanical switches IMO.
  • Khato - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Well if taken in the context of the MX blue switches, then that comment does make some amount of sense. The blues are horrible for gaming due to the fact that they have something around a 0.75mm 'dead zone' that you have to clear in order to actuate - it actually ends up being more in practice since you basically end up going through the entire 'clicky' zone for each press which is approximately 2mm.

    However, the other cherry mechanical switches don't suffer from this issue and are simply awesome for rapid keypresses. After all, it's a simple matter of toggling the key right around the actuation area, and it can easily register every discrete event. My preference is also for the blacks - the best analogy is that they're like typing on a cloud. Gone are the annoying repeated impact stresses associated with typing on normal keyboards as there's no need to bottom out. I've also used browns, but the tactile feedback is quite overrated far as I'm concerned. Soon as you're used to using the keyboard muscle memory will ensure that you press hard enough for the keypress to register without going so hard as to bottom out.
  • OOwl - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Great review and literally a great read. Personally, I've been using mechanical keyboards for a while now, even did a small review on my current Razer BlackWidow (it uses the same Cherry MX Blue), however in terms of pricing $99 is still a bargain for a mechanical keyboard. We are talking about a product which has an average life expectancy of up to 100 times more (your run of the mill rubber domes will start giving up at around 500,000-1,000,000 key presses and as cherry mx switches are rated to 50 million...i think it's a solid investment).

    I also write a lot on a daily basis, so this is helping out a lot in terms of keeping my hands still working. I do agree to some extent with the gaming part, but i'd still drop a membrane in a second to use my BlackWidow (or a SteelSeries 6gv2, or a Thermaltake Meka G1 oorr Mionix ZIbal 60 - these are the only ones i've gotten to play around with :( oh, and a Dell AT101W i think... black but that one uses Alps switches). For gaming you can always go for a linear switch, so like, Cherry MX Black or MX Red, so noise is dropped yet you still get the great feel of a mechanical keyboard :)

    But i digress :D Great review, solid product!
  • OOwl - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    ---quick edit--- The BlackWidow goes for $79, so mechanical isn't that expensive :)
  • DanNeely - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    When membrane keyboards can last more than 15 years I really don't see the increased longevity of mechanical switches as mattering.

    The only reason I retired the one that came with a whitebox 486 my parents bought in the early 90s a few years ago was that the weight of the PS2-AT adapter and AT plug was heavy enough that when jostled it tended to come loose from the back of the case.
  • evilspoons - Friday, January 27, 2012 - link

    I typically wear out a membrane keyboard in 3 years, even faster when I was in university typing up notes and stuff.

    Membrane keyboard keyswitches don't have to completely fail to become useless - they start to become weird to press and bind if you don't press them absolutely straight down, rendering the keyboard annoying as all hell to use properly.
  • Mr_Bird_Man - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Buckling-Spring keyboards are the best for typing. I had a wonderful 84-key AT keyboard that I used until I found a good 101-key some 20+ years ago. Back in the 80's I could reach 120+ wpm on those beauties. A few years ago I started looking up the old IBM model M keyboards and found out that they are still being made, in the USA, in Kentucky! You can get one with a USB connector, standard windows keys, it weighs 4.2lbs! Why go for an imitation when you can have the real thing? Look up Unicomp, Anand, do a comparison! I love the fact that my keyboard is made in the USA, can be used as a weapon in a pinch, and is 100% awesome.
  • Sabresiberian - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Haha "used as a weapon in a pinch". Got a "laugh out loud" from me!

    I have an actual weapon for that. A .45. It's also heavy enough to clobber someone with, should I run out of ammo. :D

    Yah I'd love to see an article on the keyboards some of these people are talking about, and the different switch types.


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