Comfortable enough to type with your fingers in a V-shape.
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The Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO (See it at Best Buy) does not have any direct connections to the Star Trek universe, despite its name. But one glance at its slick, futuristic design will certainly trigger thoughts of science fiction and the angles of a spaceship. The Vulcan 120 is one of the best-looking, and most uniquely-designed, gaming keyboards I’ve ever used, but its $160 price tag places it in direct competition with other heavy-hitters like Logitech, Corsair, and Razer, so it’s going to need more than just great looks to smoke the competition. I spent some time with this futuristic keyboard to see if it’s capable of both living long, and prospering.
Roccat Vulcan 120 – Design and Features
The Vulcan 120 is, in many ways, a real departure from the Horde AIMO mechanical keyboard Roccat released earlier this year. The plastic deck is long gone, replaced by a gorgeous brushed aluminum top-plate and an all-new design. This is a thin keyboard, and when viewed from the side view it’s more streamlined than any other comparable mechanical gaming keyboard on the market. Despite its slim profile, there’s still some heft to the Vulcan 120, enough that it’s never sliding around the desk, even during intense gaming sessions.
The most obvious explanation for the strikingly slim profile of the Vulcan 120 is the way the switches and keycaps are designed. Instead of recessing the switches deep into the deck and the keycaps covering the entirety of the switch, Roccat placed the switches right on top of the deck. The keycaps themselves rest only on the top of each switch, leaving all four sides of each key—and in turn, the RGB lighting—completely exposed. The effect is a bit jarring at first, but that’s simply because it’s a unique setup. From a distance, the keys floating over the clear switch housings remind me of a typewriter, in a way. It looks really different, and I found it be fascinating at first.
As far as the switches are concerned, Roccat has ditched the ubiquitous Cherry MX switches and designed its own proprietary switches, much like what Razer and Logitech have done. On the Vulcan 120, the switches are dubbed “Titan,” and they have a tactile feel without being too loud or clicky. If I had to make a comparison to a current switch, I would place the Titans next to Cherry MX Brown switches. There’s a satisfying bit of feedback with each key press, and with a 1.8mm actuation distance and a quick response, they feel just like a typical mechanical switch and are in the middle ground between “speed” and “red” switches in terms of feel and noise.
As you might have guessed, the RGB lighting spilling out of those super-exposed switches looks great. You can, of course, change the brightness, but there’s an awful lot of light on display. There’s also a range of preset lighting effects, including color wave, breathing, heartbeat, and even a snake that crawls its way through the keys. This being an AIMO board, Roccat has also included its proprietary “intelligent” lighting setup, although I still don’t understand what in the heck that means beyond changing the colors when you press a key.
There’s a cool top-hat style dial on the upper right of the Vulcan 120, but unlike the Horde AIMO, Roccat inexplicably did not make this a “Windows Dial” that hooks into the OS. You can, however, assign it different functions via the Roccat Swarm app. For basic stuff you just press the key next to the dial for what you want to change, then use the dial to change it. Options include muting audio, adjusting volume, or changing lighting effects on the fly. Media keys are relegated to function key combos, unfortunately.
There are also a few oddities on the Vulcan 120. For one, there’s no USB passthrough, which I’ve come to expect on higher-end keyboards. Second, the wrist rest is sleek and attaches with magnets, which is really cool, but it’s just hard plastic so it’s not really comfortable to use for long periods.
Roccat Vulcan 120 – Software
Roccat hasn’t changed too much in regards to its Swarm software, which allows you to control lighting, record macros, and even assign sound effects to keystrokes. If the latter sounds kind of weird, that’s because it’s definitely super weird. You can add a sound effect to any key press, so if you always wanted to annoy everyone around you with bleeps coming through your speakers every time you press the spacebar, Christmas has come early.
While there’s no dedicated macro keys on the Vulcan 120, setting them up is a fairly easy and straightforward process thanks to a simple interface with drop down menus. There’s per-key lighting customization, but the preset effects look great as-is. Overall, Swarm has a fairly bland interface, but it gets the job done easily enough.
Roccat Vulcan 120 – Gaming
As mentioned above, the Titan switches offer a nice blend of tactile feedback and easy actuation. Personally, I’m a big fan of speedy linear switches like the Cherry MX Red, and the Titan switch didn’t lead me away from that preference. Tactile switches are great for typing, but when I’m playing a speedy first-person shooter like Overwatch or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, speed is just more important to me than tactile feedback.
But, if you’re looking for keyboard to use for both gaming and typing, the Vulcan 120 is a pretty great option. The keys themselves have a light feel, and also offer a rewarding level of precision. There’s no swappable keycaps included with the Vulcan 120 due to the keys’ unique design. That’s a minor issue though, because they look so good and are easy enough to use.
I’m not a big MMO or MOBA player, so I generally don’t use macros all that often. As mentioned, though, assigning macros to any key in the Swarm app is super simple even if the Vulcan 120 is missing dedicated macro keys.
All in all, typing and gaming on the Vulcan 120 was a real pleasure. Key spacing is very good, and the layout is very comfortable. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Vulcan is better than, say, a Corsair K70, as the overall layout is very different given the slimmer design. But I do think it’s easily on par with other mechanical gaming keyboards of its ilk. And as stated previously, I just really love the slim profile and sleek look. It really compliments just about any modern PC gaming setup.
The Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO has an MSRP of $159.99 and is exclusive to Best Buy, at the moment.