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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  • JNo - Friday, January 27, 2012 - link

    Just looked it up. Gosh darnit they make them with bluetooth so you can press an 'iphone' key and use it to instantly switch to typing out a text message on your phone. That is too cool (works with android etc as well). But no UK layout for me :(

    I really want to get a tactile keyboard - probably cherry brown from what I've read. I just want one with a UK layout and a few basic media buttons - y'know like play, pause, ffwd, rwd, volume up and down, mute. Mebbe sleep key. Mebbe a couple of USB ports to recharge/sync my phone/mp3 player. Is that so much to ask?!?!

    I know purists like them plain but I use those things. The new Corsair one has a gorgeous machined metal volume roller but not much more.
  • superccs - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Aren't there red, blue, grey, and black versions of the actuators? They are all different, and would be justly suited to people looking for a different feel from their mechanical keyboard.
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    There are quite a few. Blue, Red, Brown and Black are most common, but you can sometimes find Clears. Greens and Greys are found in spacebars, which get their own heavier switch type.

    More then anyone should even know about Cherry switches can be found at Geekhack.
  • superccs - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Wow, unreal... That's waaay too much info lol. Though there was not a section of sound clips letting you hear what each keyboard sounds like when you throw it out of your window in to traffic.
  • DanNeely - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    It might not have as much trivia; but overclock3d has a much better guide about what type of switch will work better for what type of person.
  • Sunsmasher - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Very much a personal preference.
    I like membrane keys. They're quiet and easy to press.
    Noisy, clicky keys do nothing for me at all.
    To each his own....
  • Leyawiin - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Had no idea there even were mechanical vs. membrane keyboards. I've been using Keytronice "Lifetime" series keyboards since I read a recommendation for one back in the 90s. They never fail, have good feel and are no frills (which I like). My only gripe is the black keyboard's letters fade (old beige one never did). Still, I have no idea what kind of keyboard it is, just that it works really well.
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Keytronics made both mechanical and membrane keyboards, but my guess would be that the Lifetime is mechanical.
  • Metaluna - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I have no idea if the Keytronic is membrane or not, but it could just be a really good quality membrane. Usually membrane goes hand-in-hand with cheap, so you have a lot of awful membrane boards out there.

    "Mechanical" is kind of a misnomer. It's really membrane vs. everything else. Basically any switch that doesn't suck, while not obviously being a membrane, is grouped in the mechanical category. Topre capacitive switches, for example, aren't very "mechanical" at all, and have rubber domes that superficially resemble a membrane board, but the switch works on a completely different principle and does not rely on physical contact between two conductors to actuate. Cherrys, on the other hand, literally have two metal contacts that snap together when the switch is actuated, so are very close to how you would normally envision a simple electrical switch to work.

    The common theme of "mechanical" switches is that the actuation point occurs before the switch bottoms out. There is also usually some tactile feedback at, or very close to, the actuation point. For most people this gives a more pleasant typing/gaming experience and generally allows you to type faster with less fatigue.
  • fffblackmage - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    I picked up my first mechanical keyboard, an RK-9000, just about a couple months ago. I was originally going to get the one with the Red MX Cherry switches, but though I'd better go with the Blue switches, since I do more typing than gaming. $100 was a lot of money for "just" a keyboard, but I definitely love typing on my RK-9000. There's just something really nice about the tactile feel, and maybe even the clicky sound.

    I happen to like the basic appearance of the keyboard, especially the matte quality versus the glossiness of my old keyboard. The red backplate is also a nice aesthetic touch.

    My only complaint is the printing on the keycaps. They are fading, and my keyboard is still practically new. It's a relatively minor aesthetic issue, but considering the keyboard was $100, I suppose I was expecting better.

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