Mechanical keyboards are pretty great. We never get tired of recommending them here at TR, mostly because we never get tired of using them. As inveterate typists who often write thousands of words in a single sitting, we know the value of good tactile response and consistent action. As gamers, we also love the solid, accurate feel that’s unique to mechanical key switches.
There is just one downside. Entry-level mechanical keyboards are commonly priced in the neighborhood of $100, and upscale models can ring in at $150 or more. That’s a lotta dosh when you can snag a cheap rubber-dome keyboard at Best Buy for 20 bucks. Mechanical keyboards are more durable, of course, and that should factor into any buying decision—but some folks just don’t have room in their budgets for a pricey keyboard.
Enter Rosewill’s Striker RK-6000. At $49.99, this is one of the least expensive mechanical keyboards on the market today. Despite the low cost of entry, it features a full set of mechanical keys, a numeric keypad, and optional rubberized WASD and arrow keys for gamers. There’s even bundled macro software with customizable profiles, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Since we’ve had good experiences with Rosewill’s other mechanical keyboards, I was curious to try the RK-6000. I’ve been using the thing for the past several days to find out if it’s a worthy solution for cash-strapped typists and gamers.
The RK-6000 looks a little different from the Rosewill RK-9000-series keyboards we reviewed a couple years back. There’s more plastic padding around the main key blocks, and the layout is unusual. The enter key has a reverse L shape, the backspace key is no wider than the alphanumeric keys, and the backslash sits beside it (instead of below it, as on most U.S. keyboards). The left control key is also extra-wide, for some reason.
Lift up those key caps, and you’ll find Alps clone switches with a clicky, tactile response. In simpler terms, the RK-6000’s keys produce an audible click and a palpable tactile bump when actuated. They’re based on the same design as genuine Alps switches, but they’re manufactured by another company. (Rosewill wouldn’t specify which firm, but the Deskthority Wiki says the manufacturer is Tai-Hao. In fact, the RK-6000 itself looks remarkably similar to Tai-Hao’s Clicker F21-7D APC.) Actuating these switches, Rosewill says, requires 50 grams of force, give or take 10 grams. That’s about the same as for Cherry’s popular MX blue switches, which are also tactile and clicky. The actuation distance is similar, too, at 4 mm, give or take 0.5 mm.
Compared to keyboards based on the Cherry MX blue switches, the RK-6000 has quieter clicks but a louder bottoming-out noise. In practice, typing sounds less shrill and a little easier on the ears, though it’s still fairly noisy. There’s also considerably more key-cap wobble, which gives the keys a looser, less precise feel. Compounding that looseness is the fact that the switches under some keys occasionally don’t click at all, especially if they’re pressed quickly or off-center. That last issue isn’t really noticeable with the alpha keys, but it is evident in the numpad and with some of the larger keys, including enter and right shift. The keyboard’s backplate has a little bit of flex to it, too—something we’re not used to seeing in mechanical keyboards.
This is definitely a change from the extremely solid, almost surgical feel of the Cherry MX blues in Rosewill’s pricier RK-9000. One quickly gets the sense that the RK-6000 is built out of lower-grade switches, and the specs bear that out. Rosewill says the RK-6000’s keys are rated for 20 million actuations, while Cherry quotes a lifespan of 50 million actuations for its MX switches.
Happily, however, Rosewill says it’s working on fixing the click problem. A company representative told us, “[W]e’re aware of the issue and we’re working toward a resolution in the consistency of the switch clicks.” Future versions of the RK-6000 may be better-behaved in that respect.
What else? Well, the RK-6000 features some of the usual adjustments, like collapsible feet that can increase the already somewhat steep keyboard angle. The RK-6000 also has a few unexpected bells and whistles. For instance, the braided USB cord can be routed through a gutter at the back, should one wish for it to poke out of the corner of the keyboard rather than the center. (The cable itself is a little short, though, at around 59″. The cables for Rosewill’s RK-9000-series keyboards are about eight inches longer.)
The RK-6000 also comes with a little baggie containing a key extractor and eight orange, rubber-coated caps for the WASD and arrow keys. Those caps are shorter than the regular ones, and they have textured surfaces, which might help gamers with sweaty hands get a more solid grip during intense multiplayer sessions. The rubbery, textured finish and flatter surfaces are a little unsettling during normal typing, however. I would probably keep these caps in the box unless I planned to use the RK-6000 exclusively as a gaming keyboard. But hey, kudos to Rosewill for going the extra mile there.
Finally, Rosewill markets this keyboard as having anti-ghosting technology. I tested this out using the ghosting demo on Microsoft’s Applied Sciences website. With the WASD keys held down, the RK-6000 only registered actuations from some of the remaining keys—and it ignored others, including about half the top and bottom alpha rows. Even with only W and D held down, actuations on C, V, and B weren’t registered. I’ve seen worse showings from cheaper keyboards without explicit anti-ghosting support, but Rosewill’s RK-9000 keyboards have no problem in that last scenario. More upscale gaming keyboards often have n-key rollover, whereby the keyboard’s internal circuitry allows any number of simultaneous actuations.
Based on the Striker RK-6000’s somewhat mixed user reviews at Newegg, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Right out of the gate, I was prepared to hate the unusual layout, with its needlessly tiny backspace key and forcibly relocated backslash. Unpacking the thing, I found that it weighed noticeably less than the RK-9000 series, which made me brace for further disappointment.
But you know what? Typing up this review and several other TR stories on this thing actually felt pretty good. The alpha keys have decent feedback and a solid bottom-out point, which makes them surprisingly satisfying—and preferable, in my view, to mushy rubber domes. Yeah, the small backspace key was an annoyance initially, but I got used to it within a couple of hours. Later, going back to my $150 Type Heaven keyboard from Topre, I missed the crispness of the RK-6000’s clicky switches.
The RK-6000’s only serious downside, as far as I’m concerned, is the inconsistent feedback of some of the switches. I’d be happy if none of the keys clicked or if all of them did, but having some keys click only some of the time can be aggravating, especially in games. A number of the Newegg reviews mention malfunctioning or defective keys, which leads me to think that quality control for the RK-6000’s switches may not be where it needs to be.
If Rosewill can step things up on that front, then the RK-6000 could become an excellent entry-level mechanical offering. For now, though, unless you’re particularly strapped for cash, I would recommend coughing up the extra $40 for one of Rosewill’s RK-9000-series models. The German-made Cherry switches in those keyboards are palpably better-built, and Rosewill offers a choice of different variants of them, which doesn’t hurt.