The bells and whistles—continued
On the Apollo, the F keys conveniently double as media and macro profile keys—but without compromising the default behavior. One must hold the Fn key to activate any of the media or macro functions; otherwise, the F keys just do their usual job. That's a nice reversal from what happens on a lot of cheap rubber-dome keyboards, where the F keys are totally hijacked by random media features and shortcuts.
The Apollo's media functions aren't as conveniently positioned as they could be, though. The one I use the most, play/pause, is activated by hitting Fn+F4, which is a fairly awkward gesture. (Again, the Fn key sits to the right of the space bar.) This is a situation where a handful of small, dedicated media buttons might have been more appropriate.
Which brings us to the Apollo's macro functionality. This keyboard has 128KB of built-in memory. According to Rosewill, that's enough to store five different macro profiles with up to 10 macros each.
Macros must be set through the included software, which doesn't look like much but, happily, works well enough. You simply choose one of the five profiles (via the tabs at the top of the window), select one of the profile's 10 macros at the bottom, and then bind the macro to a key on the keyboard. Macros can be basic operations, like cut, paste, or save, or they can conjure up recorded keystroke sequences. The recording feature even lets you adjust the delays between individual key strokes.
Once set, macros can be called up if—and only if—the keyboard is in gaming mode. Enabling gaming mode involves hitting Fn and F12, which lights up the third lock LED, disables the Windows key, and activates all macros. Users can also switch between the five macro profiles by holding Fn and hitting F7, F8, F9, F10, or F11.
The macro functionality is all pretty straightforward, and it doesn't upset the normal keyboard layout too much. The only victims are the right Windows key and the scroll lock indicator, which Rosewill replaced with the gaming mode indicator. Since nobody has used scroll lock since about 1991, I don't think anyone will mind.
In another nod to gamers, the Apollo comes with orange key caps for the WASD and arrow key blocks. These aren't curved or angled differently from the default keys, but they do have a very slightly rougher finish, which might help gamers with sweaty hands get a better grip. They don't interfere with typing, anyhow, which is nice.
Last, but definitely not least, the Apollo has n-key rollover. Rosewill claims it can register up to 64 simultaneous key presses, which technically falls short of "n" but is still far more than most users need. I tested the rollover feature in Microsoft's ghosting demo and couldn't get the Apollo to ignore any key presses, even when mashing the keyboard with my palm.
In this price range, keyboard choice comes down largely to personal preference in matters of style, key response, and extras. Some might like the Apollo's understated, no-nonsense look, or they may prefer the flashier design of something like Corsair's Vengeance K70. Others yet might only spring for a $120 keyboard if it comes with a couple of rows of dedicated macro keys. Certain users may even rule out any keyboard that's not available with Cherry MX red or black switches.
So, yeah, I can't make that choice for you.
What I can say is that I don't have any major quibbles with the Apollo. My only gripes are with the overly bright lock keys and the wonky wrist rest, but those aren't deal breakers. The Apollo, at least in this incarnation, fulfills the most important criterion of all for me: being comfortable to type on all day. I'm particularly glad that Rosewill offers this keyboard with Cherry MX brown switches, which I think strike the best balance between typing and gaming comfort.
There may be better high-end mechanical gaming keyboards out there. But the Apollo is definitely a pretty darn good one.