If you’re like me, you spend the majority of every day typing. Serious typists need serious keyboards, and that means mechanical keyswitches are mandatory. One upon a time, we would have been called keyboard snobs. These days, mechanical keyswitches are common enough that a noisy keyboard is almost a given for a power user.
At this point in the game, I suspect that the Rosewill RK-9000V2 is a keyboard that needs no introduction. Rosewill has been selling basic mechanical keyboards using Cherry MX switches since at least 2010, and the keyboards have won a lot of awards—including a TR Recommended award—for their unpretentious design and solid underpinnings. They’ve also been long-running picks in our peripheral guides for their no-nonsense value propositions. That’s not to say that Rosewill’s been resting on its laurels, though. We have the latest and greatest from Rosewill’s keyboard division in our hot little hands today: the RK-9000V2 RGB.
This keyboard is exactly what you expect from the name. That’s to say that it is an RK-9000V2 with RGB LEDs under each key. This particular example uses Cherry MX brown switches, so they’re bumpy rather than clicky. Unlike the last RGB LED Rosewill keyboard we tested, however, the RK-9000V2 RGB uses Cherry’s transparent MX RGB switch housings for a potentially more diffuse and nicer-looking lighting effect.
I’m going to tell you up front, my fellow gerbils: I have an older RK-9000 as a daily driver, and as a device to type on, Rosewill’s latest maintains the exact same high-quality feel as its predecessors. If you want more detailed information about how the keyboard works as a keyboard, check out our RK-9000V2 and RK-9000 reviews. If you’re pressed for time, just know that the RK-9000 keyboards are solidly-built and provide the same smooth key feeling as most every other Cherry MX-equipped keyboard out there. Rosewill’s claim of full n-key roll-over holds up under testing, and I really couldn’t find anything in the typing experience to complain about.
The interesting parts of the new model are its add-on features. Besides the aforementioned RGB lighting, Rosewill added an extensive programmable macro function to the board time around. The standard media keys are back from last-generation’s design, although they’ve moved from the F-keys over to the formatting block above the arrow keys. I find this placement superior anyway, since it enables easy one-handed operation. The RK-9000V2 RGB also retains the Windows-key-lock from the previous model to prevent disturbances from accidental keypresses while gaming.
Perhaps the most notable part of this RGB-equipped finger exerciser is that Rosewill provides absolutely no software to configure it. Instead, Rosewill lets users control every part of the board through Fn key combinations. I was apprehensive about this choice at first because it seemed like a huge inconvenience. Without a flashy on-screen display, how could I ever program macros and lighting effects? However, given the quality of some vendors’ software, this might actually be a blessing for Rosewill’s new keyboard. I’ll talk more in detail about how the key combinations are used in a bit.
The amazing technicolor keyboard
I have a confession to make. Using the RK-9000V2 was a familiar typing experience, but I’ve never owned a keyboard—or any peripheral—with RGB lighting. The blinkenlights are easy enough to ignore while working or gaming, but the hypnotically-shifting colored lights were mesmerizing with even a glance out of the corner of my eye on the first day. That’s not to say I hate the lighting, though. In fact, in a drab place like my combination-gaming-battlestation-and-home-office, I found that I actually quite enjoyed the bit of color it added.
The V2 RGB’s lighting isn’t all that bright, but I think that’s a good choice on Rosewill’s part. It’s certainly bright enough to be immediately obvious indoors, yet it’s dim enough that it won’t hinder night vision. You can toggle through the lighting modes by holding the Fn key and pressing the up and down arrows. The up arrow selects RGB lighting modes, while the down arrow cycles through single-color modes. In either case, the lights have seven different modes: full-on, cycling colors, wave, “rain drops,” “trigger,” flashing, and “bump.” Users can also alter the brightness of the lighting in any mode by using the Fn key and the left and right arrow keys, or disable the lighting entirely if they prefer.
While in a single-color mode, the lighting color can be customized by holding down Fn and tapping the F1-F3 keys. Red, green, and blue each get ten brightness levels (including off), although I found that when mixing colors, the first three or four brightness levels were basically imperceptible. Practically speaking I think you could get around 500 colors out of the lighting, which should probably be enough to satisfy anyone. Meanwhile, in RGB mode, the colors are randomly decided upon every event. That means, in trigger mode, every keypress generates a random color. I found that ultimately, while RGB mode looks gorgeous on the color-cycling and wave modes, single-color mode better suits the more complex functions.
Some of the modes change a bit between RGB and single-color mode, too. The cycling colors mode becomes more of a “breathing” mode when you only use a single color. Wave mode is always full RGB, but whether you get a horizontal or vertical wave (which I would have called “waterfall”) depends on which button you use to cycle to it. I thought the inclusion of both was a nice touch. The more unusually-named modes are unusual functions, fittingly. Bump mode sends a full vertical “bar” of lights to both ends of the keyboard with each keypress. Every key in the “bar” is a random color in RGB mode; it’s quite a mess. Flashing suffers the same problem, and is essentially the same mode except with vertical “bars” rather than horizontal.
True customization fanatics—or the really, really bored—can actually set up LED-lighting profiles with individual color settings for every single key. The process for this is a bit involved. After entering LED profile programming mode, you have to set a color, tap the programming mode button again, and then select the keys you want to be that color. Then, you have to repeat the process for all the keys you want lit. It’s a little obnoxious and if I were someone who wanted to individually light every key on my keyboard I might look for another device with a software interface. However, the feature does work just fine, and you can even mix up custom keys with the preset lighting modes.
Keys that press keys
While I enjoyed the RK-9000V2 RGB’s lighting modes, I came away impressed by its macro functions most of all. For some background, I find keyboards without dedicated macro keys annoying because they require the user to give up one regular key to trigger the macro functions. That’s still the case here, but Rosewill equipped the V2 RGB with the ability to save five macro profiles and switch between them with a single Fn-and-number keystroke. Also, Fn and the backquote (`) key disables macros entirely. That way, it’s easy to define a few macros, and then if you decide you need those keys for whatever reason, you can simply swap to another profile or disable macros entirely.
Defining macros works very similarly to setting up per-key lighting. You enter macro mode, select a key, record your macro, and then exit macro mode. There’s also a separate function for deleting macros. The really cool part about all of this is that Rosewill’s engineers make use of the keyboard’s lighting function to guide you through the process. When you’re editing or deleting macros, the keyboard’s keys light up to indicate which keys are already programmed and which keys are available. Not only that, but when you change macro profiles, the keys that are programmed will briefly light up bright red to remind you where your macros are.
It’s a little ridiculous how capable the macro function is. I expected the feature to be really bare-bones, given the software-less configuration. Instead, it’s quite powerful. Macros can be defined with an arbitrary number of keys. By default, they will play at the maximum speed, but you can manually insert delays—up to one second between keystrokes—using the numeric keypad while recording the macro. The keyboard also includes hardware function keys to adjust the key repeat rate. I was left scratching my head about this feature until I realized that those keys also control the macro playback rate. The maximum 8x speed is insanely fast for most things one would want to do with a macro, and I honestly cannot imagine what sort of lunatic would use it. The lower speed ratings are useful configuration options, though I still think the 1x speed (around 8Hz) is plenty fast for most uses.
The way macros trigger can be adjusted too. Rosewill lets macros run in single, loop, and toggle modes. Single mode plays the macro once on keypress, while loop mode repeats the macro as long as the key is held. Toggle mode repeats the macro on keypress, and continues until the key is pressed again. In case you’ve hosed up your macro configuration, there’s a quick key combination (Fn + Profile key + Esc) to wipe out a profile, and you can hold down Fn + Esc to reset the whole keyboard to defaults. That feature could come in handy if a user makes a really gnarly mistake in a macro, because yanking the power isn’t enough to reset anything on this keyboard. Rosewill stores all of the settings you make in the RK-9000V2’s non-volatile memory.
So in the end, what did I think of the RK-9000V2? Well, frankly, I love it. Brown keyswitches aren’t my favorite type—I’m an MX Red kind of fella—but the typing feel on these switches is unmistakably Cherry. The LED lighting is a fun addition, and it really does make macro programming easier. The macro function is one of the most convenient I’ve ever used, and not having to install or open an overwrought configuration app is just delightful. Rosewill’s engineers put a lot of work into making this keyboard’s extra functions properly usable without any software at all.
I do have a few complaints about the keyboard, but for the most part they really feel like nitpicking. The process for programming macros is a little unintuitive, but it’s easy enough once you learn how to do it. The process for creating custom lighting profiles is convoluted, but I can’t see someone buying this keyboard for that purpose alone. I suppose I could complain about the lack of granularity in the macro function, since you can’t define custom delays for every single keystroke. You also can’t define a macro that triggers on key release, or one that repeats X number of times. Still, I think those flaws are forgivable considering that this keyboard is ready to go from the moment the USB cord is seated.
The keyboard’s flaws look all the more irrelevant in light of the price. At $129, the RK-9000V2 RGB is certainly not a cheap keyboard. Given that similarly-equipped keyboards from more prominent brands go for $150 or more, though, the RGB LED-equipped RK-9000V2 is a solid value. I can’t say whether RGB LEDs and macro functions are worth a $40 premium over the standard RK-9000V2, but if you want those extras at a reasonable price, the RGB-equipped version is a great way to get them without breaking the bank. I’m happy to call it TR Recommended.