Rosewill RGB80

We received the Rosewill RGB80 inside a very simple, black cardboard box, and the main artwork is a picture of the keyboard itself, highlighting its capability to change the backlighting to (theoretically) any color of the visible spectrum. Do not be misled by the picture however, as the keyboard does not feature individual key backlighting; only a single color can be set for all of the keys. Unlike with the Apollo RK-9100, there is just one version of the RGB80 at the time of this review, with Blue switches.

Similar to the Apollo RK-9100, the RGB80 is a relatively simple looking keyboard in ten-keyless format. It has a detachable USB cable that can be routed to exit from the center or near either of the sides of the keyboard. Rosewill also provides six clear "gaming" keycaps and a keycap extraction tool.

The RGB80 sports a very sturdy, thick and tall plastic chassis that gives a feeling of robustness. Once again, Rosewill is using corona treated plastic for the chassis, the textured surface of which feels soft to the touch and does not get dirty easily. Ten-keyless keyboards are designed with compactness in mind, so naturally there's no wrist rest supplied. The series logo is etched on the sides of the chassis but, despite the very tall body, there are no USB ports or jacks. It has a very low current requirement of just 500mA though, making it compatible with virtually all systems, even with low-power tablet/notebook USB ports.

Beneath the Rosewill RGB80, we can see the cable routing channels, four large anti-slip pads, and two tilt feet. The anti-slip pads are more than enough to keep the heavy RGB80 stable on nearly any surface. We can also see that the cable jack is a typical Micro USB port, meaning that the user can replace the cable with any Micro USB to USB cable if desired.

As we suspected when looking at the specifications of the RGB80, Rosewill is not using Cherry MX switches but Kailh switches instead. As we mentioned in previous articles, Kailh switches are basically "perfect" copies of the Cherry MX switches, which the company started producing after Cherry's patent expired. There is a lot of chatting around in forums and billboards regarding the quality of Kailh's products, with complaints about their consistency and quality. Unfortunately, to test the quality of the switches we would have to perform millions of keystrokes, which is not possible within the time frame of a review. However, as we have access to a texture analyser, so we can at least test the consistency of the keys.

The blue switches have a rating of 50cN ± 14cN, so the Rosewill RGB80 gets a borderline pass, with the weakest actuation force being 37cN and the strongest being 60cN. This difference typically wouldn't be apparent to a user while typing, but it is discernable if you identify the weakest and strongest keys and test them using the same finger. This is perhaps the biggest drawback of Kailh: the quality control is not at the same level as Cherry MX. How much that truly matters is going to be more of a personal preference, with the primary advantage being Kailh switches cost less than Cherry MX switches.

The FN key works similarly to the Apollo RK-9100. By holding it down and pressing the F1 to F6 keys, the user can perform sound and media control functions, while F8 to F12 keys will switch between the five different programmed profiles. The "game mode" has been changed from FN+F12 to FN+Pause/Break. Finally, the FN plus the up/down arrow keys controls the backlighting settings.

The backlighting of the RGB80 is its strongest selling point. Unlike with the RK-9100, the backlighting is not focused on the characters, spilling from the sides of the keycaps. The user can choose the backlighting color through the downloadable software, but it only allows you to set a single color for the entire keyboard, as the RGB80 does not support individual per-key backlighting. However, it is possible to cycle through three modes: full keyboard backlighting, gaming mode backlighting (WASD, Space, Arrow keys, F8-12 keys and Enter), and extended gaming mode backlighting (gaming mode + ALT/Ctrl, Swift, Tab and all numbers).

As we mentioned above, Rosewill also provides ten (QWEASD + arrow keys) clear keycaps. The keycaps have the character printed on the front side rather than the top. Their transparency however makes them very bright in comparison to the rest of the keys. Although this probably was the desired effect, it can also be annoying if the backlighting is not turned down.

Inside the body of the Rosewill RGB80, we found a well-assembled but dirty PCB, with an astonishing amount of powder on it, most likely from the soldering process or from the powdered gloves of the factory workers. A Freescale MC9S08JM32 microcontroller is the core of the RGB80, with an MXIC 25L512E flash chip next to it.

Once again, the weak link of the Rosewill RGB80 is the software. It is somewhat better and more detailed than the software of the Apollo RK-9100, but it still does not do this keyboard justice. The RGB80 is fully programmable and, once again, the user can program any key to perform any action at all. Aside from simple layout changes, the keys can be programmed to execute macros and launch applications. The macro recording of the software can register up to 27 keystrokes. Longer macros and or complex macros that require recording the position of the cursor are possible, but a third-party software that can compile .EXE files is necessary, and you then set the compiled files to be launched as applications.

Rosewill Apollo RK-9100 Final Words and Conclusion
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  • Spoogie - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    Disappointing that AT didn't do its homework this time around.

    This keyboard is identical to many others and simply rebranded with a name change. Sometimes the keys change...

    Try the Monoprice if you want MX Blacks ($97) or Red ($97). I should mention that this keyboard is identical to the QPAD MK-85 ($250), save the larger enter key, and to the Nighthawk series ($150). The Xarmor u9bl also appears to be the same keyboard, but uses MX Blues.

    MonoPrice confirmed that the MX Black version does not have a backlight, even though the picture they have shows it with a backlit red. You can get a Ducky that's backlit, in MX Black, though it's not programmable. It comes with the option of green, white, or blue backlighting.

    If you want MX Browns, you can try the Nighthawk X8.
    Reply
  • Araemo - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    I thought the RK-9100 looked a lot like my Monoprice keyboard.

    I tried the RK-9000.. three of them, actually. All 3 died within a couple months. Rosewill warranted the first two, and I gave up when the third died, it's just not worth the hassle.
    Reply
  • fishman - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    I've had a RK-9000 for over a year. It's used quite a bit, and it still works fine. Reply
  • cbrownx88 - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    I have two RK-9000's. Work one has blue switches and has had zero issues. Gaming board at home with Brown switches has been replaced once.

    Hoping it was a fluke...
    Reply
  • Souka - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    So this is better than the keyboard my dell came with?

    JK!!!!!!
    Reply
  • JCheng - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    Good to know. Though it looks to me like the Monoprice $97 model doesn't have macros, the comparable one is $134: http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=114&cp_i... Reply
  • Spoogie - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    This is the one I got two years ago on sale for $74. It works great and has macros. Only thing is, if a key breaks there's no way to replace it due to the way it's built. I imagine the others share the same issue.

    http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=114&cp_i...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    So let me get this straight: sometimes the keys change, the switches change, the prices are different, there may be a larger enter key... but the keyboards are "identical"? Never mind the fact that there are only so many things you can do with a keyboard to make it "different" before you go too far. Anyway, we're well aware of the myriad mechanical keyboards out there, but rather than trying to list every alternative we've focused on keyboards that are potentially better.

    If something is more or less the same (which would mean backlighting plus basic macro support), then the only reason to get it instead of the Rosewill keyboards would be price. In this case the keyboards you mention (e.g. Monoprice) are essentially the same keyboard as the RK-9100 but they cost more. If you don't want backlighting or macros, there are plenty of other less expensive options. Personally, unless they can save me money I wouldn't buy a Monoprice product over another option; they're pretty much as no-frills as you can get, but where that's great for things like cables, keyboards and displays sometimes need a bit more in the way of features and extras. Rosewill is a known brand with decent support in my experience, so you either need to beat them on price, features, or support. The Corsair and Roccat keyboards can do that, but many other keyboards fall short in one area or another.

    That's my two cents at any rate.
    Reply
  • Spoogie - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    The ones I listed are essentially the same. No, they're not like comparing a Filco to a Steelseries to a Logitech to a Mionix, to a Corsair etc. etc etc. If you'd done your homework then these facts certainly demand noting in your review. That tells me you didn't, so own up to it already.

    The differences are minor: sometimes the keys, backlight colors, macro options, prices, and warranties.

    Some readers might find these facts useful.
    Reply
  • wetwareinterface - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    and most readers will find a breakdown list like you expect to be tedious at best to read through. this isn't a comparison article of rosewill vs. other brands. this is a review of 2 keyboards listing their features and the included software.

    if you wish to comparison shop online try newegg and amazon. this is a review site
    Reply

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