A closer look
Before we study the differences between the various Cherry MX key switches, let's first look at the similarities between our four keyboards. They all look the same from the outside, like so:
If that spartan layout seems familiar, that's because it's not exclusive to Rosewill. The now-discontinued ABS M1 keyboard we reviewed over three years ago has essentially the same frame, and so do those Filco mechanical keyboards from Japan that were all the rage a little while back.
We like the design, for the most part. The outer rim of the bezel is very narrow, which gives the keyboard a very compact look and feel. It also affords as much space as possible for mousing, short of lopping off the numeric keypad altogether. We at TR like our numpads; we spend too much time entering data into Excel to do without them.
Other than that, there's not much else to say. The blue LEDs for caps lock, num lock, and scroll lock are bright, but not blindingly so like on the ABS M1. The keys are arranged sensibly, with a full-sized backspace and no tomfoolery around the paging block area. Our international readers may take issue with the shape of the enter key, but that's the most common design here in North America, and these keyboards are, to the best of our knowledge, not sold elsewhere.
It's a shame about the ugly logo, though. Spencerian script looks great on Coca-Cola bottles, but not so much on computer peripherals.
Rather than a soldered-in USB cable, RK-9000-series keyboards feature a Mini USB port at the back. That seems like a good idea in theory. If anything happens to the cable, replacements are easy to come by. In a pinch, you could even use the cable from your digital camera as a temporary substitute.
Unfortunately, we've come across a number of complaints about the durability of the Mini USB port on the keyboard itself. You'll find such complaints in Newegg's feedback section, and a quick look through our forums shows TR forum admin and occasional contributor Just Brew It! voicing the same grievance. In his words:
The mini-USB jack on the keyboard is not very sturdy. Lateral pressure on the protruding USB cable can fracture the solder on the tabs that help secure the connector to the internal PCB, causing the jack to push into the keyboard the next time the cable is plugged in. This renders the keyboard inoperable since it is impossible to properly seat the USB cable.
Just Brew It! was able to repair the keyboard himself by re-soldering the connector. You'll find pictures of the operation here. Less adventurous users who suffer broken connectors will likely have to go through Rosewill's warranty service. The company offers three years of coverage for parts and one year for labor.
Rosewill could alleviate this problem in a number of ways, perhaps by recessing the port, or maybe simply by mounting it more solidly to the circuit board. For now, prospective users will want to keep the Mini USB jack clear of potential hazards.
Pictured above is the USB cable plugged in. Rosewill also bundles these keyboards with Mini USB-to-PS/2 cables (yes, whole cables, not adapters). According to the company, the PS/2 connection enables full n-key rollover with all 104 keys on the keyboard. When connected via USB, the keyboard can only register up to six simultaneous keypresses. MMORPG fiends, take note. I'm sure folks with older KVM switches will appreciate the PS/2 option, as well.
There's not much on the underside. You can see the four thick rubber pads that keep the keyboard nice and stable and the retractable feet—for users who like that sort of thing. I've never understood the appeal of keyboard feet, personally. Good ergonomics mean keeping one's wrists as straight as possible, and that's awfully difficult to do with the back of your keyboard tilted up.
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