I don’t hide the fact that I am an ‘aesthetic nerd’ which means I’m obsessed with the most gorgeous gear and gadgets. When it comes to gaming peripherals, it’s not an easy task because most manufacturers think that gamers are cave-dwelling trolls who think a crooked club with RGB is the coolest thing ever.
Roccat, thankfully, isn’t one of those companies. The Vulcan 120 AIMO Mechanical Gaming keyboard is hands down the most gorgeous keyboard ever made.
The team at Roccat bring the full force and history of ze German industrial design and engineering to deliver something that’s more than just a keyboard. The Vulcan is a work of art that belongs in a steampunk world of 2077 and an experience to use. I love it.
But the question you are here to answer is how good is it as anything more than a great YouTube backdrop? Read on to find out.
Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO Mechanical Keyboard Review
The Vulcan is a low-profile mechanical keyboard which means it’s really skinny. It’s only 3.2cm at its highest. It’s also just over 46cm wide which is plenty enough to accommodate all the keys you need. Thanks to its metal and plastic construction, it weighs a smidgen over a kilo. Yes, it feels heavy but in that very reassuring way. The keyboard deck is made of a brushed anodized aluminium plate that holds everything together. It feels as nice as it looks and has that air of German precision about it.
This plate sits on a strong black plastic frame that’s thicker at the bottom and minimal bezels around the rest of the deck. The included wrist rest snaps to the magnetic groove in the bottom bezel. The wrist rest is plastic but it proved quite resilient to my fingerprints and hand oils. Underneath the Vulcan are two retractable feet that elevate the keyboard. These sadly only offer one position and I wish it offered two because I needed something in between the raised and flat positions. A solid braided USB-A comes out of the back of the keyboard.
The star of the show, however, is the keys. The Vulcan uses Roccat’s Titan low profile mechanical switches and I’ll get into these further on in the review but what I want to touch on is their design. The low profile keycaps look like Roccat took a precision saw to traditional keycaps and cut off 80% of the bottom. This gives the illusion that the keycaps are smaller than regular ones but they aren’t. The keys have a subtle curve dip to them which makes contact with your fingers tips easier.
The lower row of keys which has the CTRL, Windows key and space bar are the reverse with a domed shape; presumably, this makes it easier for your thumbs to hit. Just one of many amazing little details.
The key caps sit on a transparent base which clearly shows off the Titan switch and the LED light at the back of each key. I love how the light refracts through the plastic housing, giving them an almost crystalline look that’s simply stunning and compliments the clean design of the Vulcan. It’s not loud and flashy like on the SteelSeries Apex but rather refined with a subdued elegance and richness about them. They get pretty bright too and is one of the most elegant lightings on any keyboard.
Above the number pad are the media controls which honestly look mismatched with the pristine industrial look of the rest of the keyboard. The three rubber buttons for volume and effects look cheap and out of place and so does the plastic volume knob.
It does feel good with a lovely stiffness to it as you rotate it. I wish it had been a solid metal knob instead of the cheap plastic one — that would really fit with the rest of the keyboard. The same can be said about the media buttons. Roccat should use metal switches for a more visceral feel.
Remember the titans
Now, let’s talk some more about the keys and switches. I’ve already talked about the unique keycaps but how do they actually feel to use? Well, good and bad. Let’s start with the good. They curved keycaps allow your fingertips to really sit on the caps while the domed space and assistant keys on the bottom are easy to hit. The Titan switches are tactile and silent(as much as a mechanical keyboard can be silent) with a 1.8mm actuation point and a total travel of 3.6mm. My wife certainly didn’t complain about the noise as much as she did with the SteelSeries Apex 5.
Although Roccat calls these tactile switches, they feel much more like linear switches with a smooth travel all the way through the actuation point. There’s no tactile bump notifying you that the key has been actuated.
After a few weeks using the Vulcan, I still don’t have a good sense of how much force I need to use before the switch actuates which has led to a rather odd typing experience. However, in games, I appreciated the fast, uninterrupted travel of the keys and quick response.
And while Roccat says it’s only an optical illusion that the keycaps are smaller, they certainly feel smaller. My fingers kept spilling over to the adjacent keys despite of the curved keycaps that should have stopped that from happening. Now, before you go thinking I have fat fingers, I have thin and long fingers. So it’s truly troubling how many typing errors I make with this keyboard. It’s gotten better over the weeks but it’s worse than my Apex 5.
The last time I experienced something odd like this was the keyboard of the Gigabyte AERO 15 laptop which really disappointed me in what is otherwise a great feeling keyboard.
I’m not sure if you can find a Roccat store but I’d certainly try it out before buying because my experience hasn’t been the greatest. Ladies with long nails might have a bit of trouble using this so just be aware.
Software that’s actually useful
The Vulcan 120 comes with a wealth of customizations which can be accessed via the Roccat Swarm software. The simplest thing you can do is change the per-key RGB lighting and save your preferences to the keyboards onboard memory. The AIMO in the name is Roccat’s lighting engine and ecosystem. When you have compatible products, their lighting can sync up and react to each other.
For those of you who are OCD about your key setup, you can remap every single key on the Vulcan 120 and even multiply the number of functions using Roccat’s Easy-Shift function. This basically changes the keys functions when you hit the CAPS-LOCK key when gaming. To make things even easier, there’s a Macro Manager which has some common system and game presets that you can pick from and quickly assign to the keyboard. This is great because it takes out the complexity of setting up macros.
Several games like Apex Legends, CS:GO and Battlefield V are already in the manager for you to pick from if those are the games you play. I must say, I’ve been surprised by the Swarm software. I feel it’s much easier to understand and actually do stuff with than say Razer Synapse or Alienware Command Center.
The Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO retails for about $280 here in Australia. This isn’t bad for a premium keyboard and certainly way better buy than the $350 Alienware AW510K or the $330 Logitech G915 LIGHTSPEED but that’s also a wireless keyboard so consider that. It’s hard to fault the Vulcan, truly. The construction and design is beyond anything I’ve encountered and I wouldn’t let it go simply because of how gorgeous it is.
It’s a veritable masterpiece in keyboard design and the aesthetic geek in me declares this a grand masterpiece. But sadly, I can’t get over the disappointing typing experience I had. It’s not terrible but the combination of low-profile keycaps and lack of tactile bump just don’t work for me.
And so it’s with a heavy heart that I cannot declare the Vulcan 120 as the best keyboard ever made…but it’s so, so close.
Roccat provided the Vulcan 120 AIMO to PowerUp! for the purpose of this review.