By: Ben Joubert
January 13, 2017
With the semester over and finals just recently behind me, I can finally relax. For everyone who has finished off another semester in their university career, winter break is always a nice time to just relax and spend some time with family. If you live away from home, this break means you can finally get a decent meal from your parents. It also means there is suddenly quite a bit of time with almost nothing to do, at least in my case. However, not much has changed for me between finishing off the semester and being able to do anything with my free time during the break. I still spend way too much time watching YouTube videos, or random movies on Netflix. Now the only difference is that I do not feel guilty about wasting so much time, because there is no research paper leering at me, or the final that needs studying for. But there is an important tool required for both endless procrastination and for writing up long-winded papers with much repetition to up the word count. Hopefully my professor will not notice it, although they usually do. This tool I am referring to is a keyboard, which can either help with the typing experience, or end up being something uncomfortable. Today, we have the ROCCAT Suora FX, another mechanical keyboard from a manufacturer we have never worked with before. Will it be up to the challenge of procrastination, including gaming, or perhaps the challenge of writing exceptional research papers? I guess we will see!
The ROCCAT Suora FX arrived in a fairly large rectangular brown corrugated box to our APH Networks location here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It shipped all the way from Ontario, CA, which as a true Canadian, I thought was from the east of Canada, until I realized the shipping tag did align with this thought. This led me on to the amazing discovery of finding out there is an Ontario on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which even has its own airport. Needless to say, I am sure it was quite a shock for the keyboard to arrive in the cold North from warm California, but it did arrive safely. The shipping box had very few dents, with the exception of the corners being a bit beat up. The keyboard was packed inside with plenty of brown paper to cushion it. It would be better with air pockets to stop the keyboard from moving around inside, but there was no damage to the retail box.
Since the ROCCAT Suora FX is a gaming product, we first need to see if it classifies as one. Fortunately, it has RGB, so we can tick that mark off of our checklist. Jokes aside, the RGB feature is advertised on the retail box front and center, with a photo of the keyboard taking up most of the space on the front, and the keyboard's keys illuminated with different colors. The color scheme of the retail packaging is mostly dark, and there are a couple of main features around the front side of the box. The top left features the name and has the RGB illumination, and frameless design advertised to its right. The rest of the front informs us of the Brown mechanical key switches, a game mode button, and a United States keyboard layout. The sides are fairly simple with some pictures of different angles of the keyboard, while the back has all the specifications and other information regarding its features.
Before we move on, here are some specifications of the ROCCAT Suora FX, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
Advanced anti-ghosting with N-key rollover
1000Hz polling rate
50 million keystroke lifecycle
6 programmable macro keys
Width 12.5 cm, Height 43.0 cm
Windows® 10, Windows® 8, Windows® 7 64 Bit, Windows® 7 32 Bit
Internet connection for driver installation
USB 1.1 Port
The ROCCAT Suora FX is kept safely inside the retail packaging, with a plastic covering to prevent any possible surface damage, such as scratches. Over the top is a foam cutout, roughly the same size as the keyboard to stop any dents from the top of the retail box to damage the keyboard itself, as well as for some cushioning and to tightly keep the product from moving around. Other than the keyboard, there are also two booklets included; one on disposal information, and another as a quick installation guide. It has plenty of detail on setting up the keyboard and how to use the key mapping features. Unfortunately, there is no detachable wrist rest or keycap remover, which is understandable for the intended use of the keyboard. However, at such a high price point, both of those inclusions are almost a necessity. The keycap remover is not as essential, because the frameless design makes it easy to just pull of the keys. I will talk later on in the review more about the lacking wrist rest. Overall, the retail box serves its purpose for advertising the important features, and keeping the product safe.
I do appreciate the frameless design ROCCAT opted for in this keyboard, especially with the aluminum plate on top. Because of the aluminum plate, there is very little flex to the keyboard, which demonstrates its great build quality. The aluminum also gives it more than just a strong build, but a sense of class with its clean appearance. This point is further emphasized with rounded edges on all sides. ROCCAT definitely did not try to cut any corners when it comes to its construction. The rest of the keyboard housing is made out of plastic, but this does not take away from the overall build quality and feel of the Suora FX. The keyboard is entirely black, with only the ROCCAT name and symbols above the arrow keys in white. The top side, which is not shown in the picture above, has the keyboard's name, as well as some main features. It seems a tad odd it would have to advertise on the product itself, but otherwise the keyboard is clean.
In the past, I have preferred tenkeyless keyboards, mostly because of the size of my desk. However, because of the ROCCAT Suora FX's frameless design, it does cut down quite a bit on size. The dimensions of the keyboard come in at 125mm in depth and 430mm in width. These measurements are also ever so slightly slimmer compared to the Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS, a slim mechanical keyboard we reviewed last week. On the manufacturer's website, they boast that the more minimal design of the keyboard gets you closer to the action. I cannot personally attest to these claims, but I can say I do appreciate a simpler keyboard design with few extra bells and whistles. Overall, the ROCCAT Suora FX RGB is a bit smaller than the standard full sized keyboard, but does not sacrifice much to reach the smaller size. Unfortunately, ROCCAT made the decision of not adding a wrist rest to keep the measurements down, but at the high price point of this keyboard, they should have at least added a detachable one. ROCCAT intends for this keyboard to be portable without needing to be a tenkeyless, but giving the option of a wrist rest would be appreciated.
This end of the ROCCAT Suora FX is fairly standard compared to others. We have a standard 104-key QWERTY ANSI layout, which is what you will find on most keyboards on the market today. The first set of F keys along the top from F1 to F4 are a few presets for the RGB lighting, which I will talk more in depth about later on in the review. Along the bottom of the keyboard is the usual Windows key, but here it is branded with the ROCCAT logo. Bringing it back to the top, the next set of F keys from F5 to F8, has some extra functions. Pressing the keys in combination with the Fn key launches a set program. Starting at F5, the shortcut launches your file browser, default media player, default electronic mail program, and finally, the calculator. I did not really use these keys, but I think they are useful additions.
On this end of the ROCCAT Suora FX are some of the features aimed at gamers. Starting at F9 and moving through to F12 are the media controls, which are skip backward, stop, pause or play, and skip forward, respectively. Right next to this set of keys is the Print Screen button, and in combination with the Fn key, this adjusts the brightness of the RGB lights. Above the arrow keys, we find all of the macro functions from M1 to M6. All of these can be adjusted through the downloadable software. The top right end of the keyboard houses the last of the media controls, the volume. It has mute, volume up, and volume down. Lastly, there is the Game Mode button, which locks the Windows key and activates the macro buttons.
The ROCCAT Suora FX features full NKRO support, which is also sometimes called anti-ghosting. Full NKRO means that each key actuation is scanned individually, meaning no key press is missed. Another form of anti-ghosting is 6KRO, which can scan each key press individually up to six keys. For gamers and fast typists, 6KRO should be enough in most cases, but why not be safe and have full NKRO? It certainly does not hurt.
For gaming keyboards, or really any keyboard, the most important aspect for me is how nice or comfortable the keys are for my taste. My usual preference is Cherry MX Red switches, because of the low actuation force. I also find typing on them to be a comfortable experience. On the ROCCAT Suora FX, it features TTC Brown mechanical key switches, making it a mechanical keyboard. Other types of popular keyboards in the market today are keyboards with membrane and scissor based switches. The membrane keyboard is the cheapest and has a squishy feel to it when typing, while the scissor keys are more responsive, and work well for everyday office use. The mechanical keyboard is the most expensive of the three, because each key switch is an independent part. The more well-known brand of key switches for mechanical keyboards is Cherry MX, while others such as Kailh and TTC are an imitation of the Cherry MX, as their patent expired a few years ago. However, while most people will not notice a difference between the brands, there is a difference, and sometimes it is more pronounced, depending on the keyboard.
The color of the switches, which on the ROCCAT Suora FX we are reviewing today are Brown switches, also changes the experience. Starting at the most sensitive end of the spectrum is the Red switch, which is a good gaming one if you like to not bottom out. These are linear switches with no bump in the middle. Next up are Blue switches, which are known for having a great typing experience due to its audible and tactile click feedback. Brown switches are sort of found in the middle of the spectrum, with low resistance to typing, but still having more resistance than Blue switches. They too are nonlinear switches like the Blue variant, but they lack the audible click. Black switches have the most resistance, and are also good for gaming, but all of these are still largely personal preference.
There is nothing too special about the back of the ROCCAT Suora FX. As usual, there are four rubber feet located at each corner of the keyboard, but adds one located in the center bottom position. They are elongated ovals in shape, and should give enough traction on most surfaces for the keyboard to stay in place during intense gaming sessions. In addition to the five rubber feet, the top two corners also have feet that stand for a better typing angle. On each of these, there is some rubber here to provide more traction. In the middle of the keyboard is a sticker providing information regarding its design. Another helpful addition on this side are the tracks for the cable. There is a center track and a track leading to both the left and right sides of the keyboard. This is useful for anyone who values cable management on their desk.
As we all know by 2017 standards, any gaming product without RGB illumination is truly no gaming product at all (In case you missed it, there is a bit of sarcasm here. - Editor). I mean, how cool can something really be if you cannot say it's lit? Jokes aside, the ROCCAT Suora FX features full RGB illumination with accompanying software to adjust the different configurations. As I have mentioned earlier in the review, the first set of function keys from F1 to F4 control some preset lighting settings. F1 in combination with the Fn key creates a wave effect, which cycles through many of the colors from right to left. This setting truly shows off the capabilities of its RGB LEDs. F2 is a simple breathing effect; the colors are also cycled through with each breath. F3 is a reactive ripple effect, where after each key press the keyboard's lights ripple out from the pressed key in full RGB fashion. F4 is a fully lit static color of your choice.
The software for the ROCCAT Suora FX was easy enough to find and use. Everything was laid out clearly, and the instructions were plain and simple. One minor annoyance is after downloading the software, I had to go through a couple of updates until the Suora FX was recognized. This is due to the ROCCAT Swarm software being used for more than just this keyboard. The first page of the software is for basic settings, such as character repeat rate and key reaction time. A small but fun feature to play with is sounds for each key press. There are a couple of sounds to play around with, but I cannot really see anyone implementing them for daily use, and they are more so here just for fun. The key assignment tab is mostly for recording macros. A nice feature with the software is the Macro Manager, which contains a list of games that has some preset macros for each game listed for you to implement. I looked at the macros for DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the games I am most familiar with, and most of the macros are fairly basic, but still quite useful. The final tab is key illumination. On this page, all the information and lighting styles are shown, and there is a custom mode to illuminate only certain areas of the keyboard with separate colors, which can be quite useful for different hotkeys in games. Unfortunately, even though this keyboard is RGB, there is no color picker to choose from. Instead, there are only seven colors available to choose from for all the lighting effects. On the bottom of each of the pages are the different profiles for the ROCCAT Suora FX, which can have up to five different profiles. The software overall is simple and intuitive, but there is a noticeable delay between switching through the different tabs or settings. It can be a little slow at times, but overall this does not really impede the use.
Since the feel of the key switches is one of the main selling points for any keyboard on the market today, I will take the time of giving my subjective experience in the most objective way possible for the feel of the TTC Brown switches found on the ROCCAT Suora FX. Although Brown is not my favorite switch variant, I do think I used the ROCCAT Suora FX long enough to get used to its typing and gaming experience. As previously mentioned, Brown switches have a slightly higher actuation force. The keyboard I compared it to is the AZIO MGK L80, which has Kailh Brown switches. The TTC Brown switches on the ROCCAT Suora FX were slightly squishier than those found on the AZIO MGK L80. The typing feel was affected because of this, causing each actuation to feel heavier. The key response is still fairly crisp, making the audible and satisfying sound of a mechanical keyboard. Overall, the key switch has a good feel, but feels a bit heavier than the brown switches found on the AZIO MGK L80. This was most apparent to me during long typing sessions, where I actually had some finger fatigue using the ROCCAT Suora FX. Overall, it was a pleasant experience, but the heavy feeling switches were not my cup of tea.
Keyboards are fairly simple, and I cannot really think of many different ways of improving its design, although I am not an engineer like some of the other reviewers here at APH Networks. As such, I personally enjoy a clean and simple design, with few bells and whistles. The ROCCAT Suora FX exemplifies this clean and simple design, helping me both on my endless procrastination and my attempts at make a dent on all the leering assignments from university. It features a frameless appearance with an aluminum plate, which effectively translated great build quality. There is very little flex to the keyboard, attesting to the attention that went into its construction. Unfortunately, there is no detachable wrist rest included, which is understandable to keep the ROCCAT Suora FX more portable. However, with a price tag of $135 USD at press time, I think it should at least be an option. The high price is mostly due to the RGB illumination, which looks great, but only goes as far as pretty lights, and does not add anything to performance or in gaming use cases. The included Swarm software used to adjust all the settings such as macros and the RGB LEDs, is functional but is a little slow at times. As good as this keyboard may be, it definitely requires a bit of fine tuning. Using the Suora FX was mostly a good experience, but I found the keys to be a little heavy and squishy compared to other Brown type switches, making for a typing experience closer to the feel of Black key switches. I think for this price, having original Cherry MX or even Kailh switches would have been better. Overall, the ROCCAT Suora FX is a well-built keyboard, and does its job in the gaming department. However, at this premium price caused by the RGB lights, I think there still could be improvements made to the Suora FX for a fuller experience.
ROCCAT provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
6/10 means A product with its advantages, but drawbacks should not be ignored before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 6.4/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The ROCCAT Suora FX is a capable keyboard with RGB lighting, but original Cherry MX switches are off the list even with its $135 price tag.
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