Rosewill’s RK-9000V2 mechanical keyboard reviewed

For years, Rosewill’s RK-9000 series has set the template for affordable mechanical keyboards. The lineup offers all the mechanical bliss of Cherry MX switches with none of the frilly extras associated with pricier alternatives.

As much as we like this straightforward approach, the RK-9000 has always been a flawed favorite. Its removable cable sprouts from a Mini USB port that can fail under lateral loads caused by inadvertent snagging. Complaints of busted USB ports can be found in not only online reviews, but also our own forums.

The problem isn’t lost on Rosewill. The company has tweaked the cables and beefed up the port for its second-generation RK-9000V2. This RK-redux has a couple of other tricks up its sleeve, too, and I’ve been typing on one to see what it’s like.


From the outside, the V2 looks practically identical to its predecessor. It has the same matte plastic shell, wide rubber feet, and optional lift kit. But the glaring white logo from the original has been replaced with a subtler black graphic that better matches the keyboard’s low-key vibe.

As on the old model, the monochrome exterior gets a hint of color from the red metal base plate faintly visible between each row. This solid foundation helps the keyboard feel firm and planted even when I’m violently thrashing the keys.

Much of the feel is defined by the Cherry MX switches. The V2 is available with the same MX red, black, blue, and brown variants as its forebear. Our review of the RK-9000 series provides a detailed look at each switch type, and it’s recommended reading for anyone unfamiliar with the characteristics of the various switch colors. For tl;dr types, the MX red and black switches have a fully linear stroke, with the blacks backed by stiffer springs. The MX blue and brown switches have a tactile “bump” at the actuation point, which the blues accompany with an audible click.

Rosewill sent us the RK-9000V2 with MX brown switches, which happen to be my favorite. The keys respond with the same crisp, smooth action as on the other MX brown keyboards I’ve used. The familiar feel is consistent across the full range of keys, too.

Although the MX browns lack the sharp clickety-clack of the blues, they’re far from silent. As with other mechanicals, rapid keystrokes produce a gentle chatter that’s oddly soothing to my ears. The soundtrack is part of the experience; I wouldn’t want a truly silent mechanical keyboard even if such a thing existed.

The RK-9000V2 mostly follows the first generation’s no-frills lead, but it’s not quite as austere. Rosewill’s gen-two design swaps the menu key for a function modifier, unlocking a smattering of secondary shortcuts. Fn + F12 toggles the Windows key, allowing gamers to avoid accidentally dropping to the desktop during the heat of battle. Functions mapped to F1 through F8 cover media playback, volume, and a couple of other shortcuts.

A blue LED behind the F12 key lights up when the Windows key is disabled, and its glow is pleasantly muted from all angles. The lighting for the other lock keys is similarly subdued, but only from a normal typing position. The blue LEDs have retina-searing power when viewed from directly above. I can’t look at the keyboard while getting up or down from my chair without seeing a brief lens flare.

Those LEDs represent the extent of the onboard illumination. The V2 doesn’t need dedicated backlighting to be usable in the dark, though. Its oversized lettering is still visible under the glow of an LCD monitor. The jumbo font should work well for the visually impaired, but it’s not the most stylish treatment.

As with its inspiration, the V2 follows a standard 104-key layout. Everything is in its right place, with no double-height nonsense or other awkwardness. The narrow outer border, combined with slim gaps for the numpad and paging block, contribute to a reasonably compact 17.3″ x 5.4″ footprint.

Rosewill doesn’t make a tenkeyless version of the RK-9000V2, but it should consider one. Having your mousing hand closer to the keyboard is better for ergonomics, and a lot of folks can get by without a numpad, especially in gaming circles. If I didn’t spend so much time doing numerical data entry for TR content, I’d be using a tenkeyless unit on my main desktop.

Removable cables are included for USB and PS/2. The old-school port offers full n-key rollover, while the USB connectivity is capped at six-key rollover.

That rollover limitation is inherited from the RK-9000, but the cables have evolved somewhat. Instead of connecting via straight Mini USB jacks that leave the cabling vulnerable to snags, the connectors are angled at 90°, which routes the braided housing along the keyboard’s top edge. There’s just one problem with that arrangement: the cabling runs to the left, so anyone with a machine on the right will have to loop it back around, a potentially more snag-prone proposition than the original design.

On the old RK-9000, lateral forces on the cable can break the port’s flimsy connection to the keyboard. Fortunately, Rosewill has beefed things up for the second generation. Here’s a close-up of the port on the RK-9000V2 (left) and RK-9000 (right):

The Mini USB port on the RK-9000V2 (left) and RK-9000 (right)

Generous dabs of solder anchor the V2’s port to four points on the top of the circuit board. Meanwhile, the RK-9000’s port is attached to just two points on the bottom the PCB. There’s less solder at each of those two points, as well. Rosewill says the new circuit board uses more solder and higher-quality components throughout.

Only time will tell if the V2’s port is more robust than its predecessor’s. It seems sturdier to me, but having the port on the outside definitely isn’t as bomb-proof as some other approaches. We’ve tested a fair number of mechanical keyboards that bury the port in the enclosure’s underbelly and then run the cable through tight grooves that take the brunt of any physical trauma. Consider one of those—or a keyboard with fixed cables—if your system lives in a particularly abusive environment.

After a couple weeks with the RK-9000V2, the most telling thing I can say is that I’ve barely noticed using the thing. That sounds kind of harsh, but it’s really a compliment. My lab is loaded with Cherry MX keyboards that deliver the same predictable, satisfying keystrokes PC enthusiasts have come to expect from the breed. As the most unassuming of the pack, the RK-9000V2 blends right in. It’s ordinary in a superior realm, if you will, and a night-and-day upgrade from keyboards equipped with inferior switches.

Rather than calling attention to itself, the RK-9000V2 simply goes about the business of delivering the goodness of MX switches to your fingertips. Rosewill’s tweaks add useful functionality without messing with the basic forumula, and the reinforced USB port and new cables show the company has paid attention to complaints about the original. That’s the kind of ordinary I can get behind.

At $99.99 for the red, black, and blue variants and $109.99 for the brown, the RK-9000V2 is among the most affordable keyboards with genuine Cherry MX switches. It’s TR Recommended for anyone looking to ascend into a higher realm of key response while honoring the modesty of the IBM Model M.

Comments closed
    • anotherengineer
    • 5 years ago

    No cherry clears?!?!

    Rosewill how about some more options please!!

    • just brew it!
    • 5 years ago

    A few thoughts…

    I’m not sure the redesigned connector is going to solve the issue. Yes, it is now held down at 4 points instead of 2; but they switched from through-hole to surface mount. In terms of mechanical strength it is probably a wash compared to the old design. Surface mount + ROHS-compliant solder is not a recipe for maximum mechanical strength.

    They really ought to move the connector so that it is less exposed, or use a captive cable with a strain relief, plus a dongle for PS/2 support. The original run of V1s used the captive cable + dongle approach; they switched to the detachable cable and fragile connector several months in. My two RK-9000s with MX blue have the captive cable; the RK-9000 with MX black that my son uses has the detachable cable (and was the subject of the forum thread linked in the article).

    Yes, it does appear that the PCB is of higher quality this time around. But most of the on-again, off-again quality problems with the V1 were not with the quality of the PCB per se; they were with the quality of the soldering of the switches and the (already discussed to death) USB connector placement/design.

    I agree a tenkeyless version would be nice. There don’t seem to be a lot of choices out there for no-frills, tenkeyless mechanicals. I’m starting to think that I would prefer a tenkeyless plus a separate numpad that I can position to the left of the main keyboard, so that I don’t need to reach as far for the mouse.

    • LoneWolf15
    • 5 years ago

    I’d be interested in hearing how Monoprice’s mechanical keyboard stacks up. They have a Cherry MX Blue model for $60 that I got for my wife’s system. She’s been very happy with it. I think it’s about the least expensive you can get in the no-frills-but-done-well category.

    [url<]http://www.monoprice.com/Product?p_id=9433[/url<] (note: apparently on backorder until the end of May, I guess there's heavy demand).

      • DancinJack
      • 5 years ago

      I have a buddy that has one, and he’s been pleased with it. Especially for 60 bucks.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      Wish they’d branch out. If they’d had a model with browns when I bought my keyboard I’d have been my choice.

    • culotso
    • 5 years ago

    PS/2 support is such a boon. Too bad it’s not tenkeyless. 🙂

    • Umbragen
    • 5 years ago

    For some reason Amazon is charging a premium for this model – it makes it a tough sell against the other MX Browns and Clears in the same price range. It’s even worse when you consider the competition has two or three year warranty’s.

      • UberGerbil
      • 5 years ago

      Newegg is cheaper (and even cheaper for me with the ~$11 tax savings).

    • invinciblegod
    • 5 years ago

    You should review the lolita keyboard! (Yes, it’s a real product.)

      • MadManOriginal
      • 5 years ago

      The name is from a fashion trend name in Japan.

    • anotherengineer
    • 5 years ago

    Nice little review Geoff.

    A few questions.

    1. How does it compare to the Code Keyboard with the Cherry White’s that you purportedly inherited from Cyril?

    2. Would you be willing to part with the Code Keyboard for say a Gold Subscription to TR on my behalf??

      • Dissonance
      • 5 years ago

      The MX clears on the Code keyboard are noticeably stiffer than the browns. Typing is definitely more work, and I can see how fatigue might set in over a long day, but I still prefer the clears. It’s a shame they’re not more widely available.

      Alas, I like the clears too much to part with the Code. But I admire your persistence 😉

        • anotherengineer
        • 5 years ago

        🙂

        As I suspected on both counts.

        Good to hear that someone with stronger hands prefers the clears. I don’t too much typing or gaming much these days on my home PC, but it would be nice to have a slightly stiffer keys than the X4 MS sidewinder I use now. I don’t work with power tools as often either, but when you are used to shoveling and beating on metal with a hammer, my keyboard feels like mush after that.

        It’s really too bad the clears aren’t more available, and more so our $$ has dropped, one of the code keyboards would cost about $230 to get up here to me. A bit too much.

    • Forge
    • 5 years ago

    I have a 9000 in Blues at home and love it. I had a Browns for work, but apparently when I packed it up at my last job, the USB connector gave up. I was planning on opening it up and taking a run at reflowing the solder joins, but if this is a known issue, I’m thinking I might toss it past Newegg support first and see what they think. What is the warranty on the Rosewill mechanical keyboards?

    • superjawes
    • 5 years ago

    Remember, kids, places like WASDKeyboards have dampening rings to silence the bottoming out noise that affects all Cherry switches.

    I’ve been using a V1 with dampening rings at work (for almost two years?), and I’ve received zero complaints about the noise generated.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      I have the rings on my CM QuickFire XT as well, and they really do make a difference in sound without a big difference in feel.

      • anotherengineer
      • 5 years ago

      Most industrial stores, hydraulic shops and hardware stores would probably carry o-rings also.

        • superjawes
        • 5 years ago

        True, true. As long as you get the right size, the effect should be the same. (I just know for sure that WASD has the right size, and you can get a keycap puller if you didn’t have one already.)

          • anotherengineer
          • 5 years ago

          Keycap puller??? You mean I shouldn’t use needle nose vise-grips?!?! 😉

      • slowriot
      • 5 years ago

      The stock situation at WASDKeyboards is a bit dire and so is their pricing. $145 base for a tenkeyless model, the only switches they have in stock are MX Browns which carry another $5 charge (and I much rather have a linear switch), then $25 for them to install o-rings…. Add another $5 if you want a numpad. $175 is really pushing it unless you just gotta have your specific color scheme.

      EDIT: For comparison I’m thinking about just buying Corsair’s K65 RGB for $150. $25 cheaper and you can per-key backlight colors.

      The mechanical keyboard market in general is kinda sucky right now to be honest. The supply shortage of Cherry switches has driven prices to annoying levels.

      • Krogoth
      • 5 years ago

      Babies complain about keyboard noise.

      Men just don’t give a crap about keyboard noise. Model M master race forever.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 5 years ago

      [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826997065[/url<]

      • just brew it!
      • 5 years ago

      Ditto. I’ve had a V1 with o-ring mod at work since shortly after the RK-9000 V1 debuted.

    • Klyith
    • 5 years ago

    +1
    Had my V1 in browns since late 2012 and it’s still going strong. I in fact did the exact same right angle cord replacement myself, which works well on my desk. Between that and having one of the models after they started throwing a ton of glue on the USB connector I haven’t had any problems with that.

    Agree that the keycaps are not the greatest, my lettering also wore kinda fast. But then I replaced them with a front-printed PBT set which are tight. (Replacement sets for these boards are the easiest to find, unlike others with unique row 1 sizes.) If these are on sale you can get a board + good keycaps for cheaper than some other competition. Great value for anyone that doesn’t care about backlights.

    I really wish they’d stolen WASD’s media fn keys on the insert block. So much better than on f-keys.

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 5 years ago

    I’ve been using the first-generation Rosewill RK-9000 brown for 2½ years. While my fingers have polished most of the texture off of the most-used keycaps, the lettering is still clear. The keys still operate exactly as they did when new.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 5 years ago

    I have two of the original RK-9000 in brown and blue switches; the brown was first, then I got the blue to see the difference. They are a generally solid and straightforward Costar OEM keyboard, and I got them because they were on sale for very low prices, ~$60, which was much lower than ‘fancy’ mechanicals at the time. I never had an issue with build quality per se, but some of the materials are a little cheap – the keycaps are thin and the lettering on them gathers grunge quickly. But if this v2 goes on sale for similar $60-70 prices, it will again be an easy recommendation for anyone who wants to try out a mechanical keyboard.

      • Westbrook348
      • 5 years ago

      so you got the blue to see the difference.. how did they compare to you?

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