The RK-9200 from Rosewill can help bring your gaming and typing experience to the next level. As the first mechanical keyboard to offer dual LED backlighting, the $139 RK-9200 provides the atmosphere that gamers love while also offering premium features such as active anti-ghosting 12-key rollover. Find out if this upgraded experience is worth the hit to your wallet.
The Rosewill Helios RK-9200 is certainly a solid keyboard. There are no curves on this device; the rectangular shape is made of straight lines and the keys fall perfectly into a grid system. There is a very slight slope of the keyboard, with the top of the board being higher than the bottom. This angle can be increased with the two kickstand legs on the bottom of the device. The top right of the keyboard has the cursive Rosewill logo in white above the three blue lights for num lock, caps lock and scroll lock.
Keeping with the traditional layout of a full-size keyboard, there is a full numeric keypad to the right of the arrow keys as well as a row of function keys above the QWERTY keys. These function keys also double as shortcuts, such as adjusting the system volume when pressed along with the Fn button. There's also a dedicated Windows button that acts as the Command key when attached to a Mac. Each character on the keyboard uses a soft cream-white color.
The RK-9200 is made of a soft black plastic that feels smooth and luxurious to the touch. Measuring 17.3 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches and weighing 2.6 pounds, the RK-9200 has a premium look and feel, looking right at home next to a powerful gaming notebook. A solitary USB port on the back of the keyboard is used to connect it to a laptop or desktop computer.
If you like your keyboard with fancy lights, the Rosewill Helios RK-9200 is sure to fulfill your yearnings. According to Rosewill, this is the first mechanical keyboard with dual LED backlights for each individual key. This allows each key to have a sharp and distinct glow without also lighting the spaces between the keys. Additionally, blocks of keys can be one color while the rest of the keyboard is another.
True to its gaming roots, there are three specific zones that can be lit independently. The first zone is the W, A, S and D keys, the next is the four arrow keys, and the last zone is the rest of the buttons on the keyboard. Each zone can either be red, green or off, allowing users to have a red keyboard with green arrow and directional keys or vice versa. However, the choice of red and green LEDs gave the keyboard a slightly festive holiday appearance.
There are four different lighting modes: low, medium, high and breathing. In our bright office, the low setting could barely been seen but the high setting shown bright and clear, with medium obviously being right in the middle. Breathing mode transitioned between low light and high light on a slow cycle of about five seconds.
Nice as they are, the RK-9200's lighting doesn't hold a candle to keyboards on gaming notebooks from MSI and Alienware, which offer a rainbow's worth of colors, and let you set up custom profiles for games and other apps.
Also, the RK-9200 lacks any internal memory, so it will not remember any of the light settings if you shut down or restart your computer.
Setting up the Rosewill Helios RK-9200 on a Windows computer was incredibly easy. There was no setup required beyond plugging the keyboard into an available USB port. This worked for both a desktop computer running Windows 7 and the MSI GT60 2OD-026US running the latest version of Windows 8.
Things were slightly more complicated when we used this keyboard with a 13-inch MacBook Air from 2011 running the latest version of OS X. When we plugged in the keyboard, we received a prompt from the System Preferences alerting us that the keyboard was not immediately recognized. We then entered a wizard to help set up the new keyboard, which asked us to press the key to the right of the left Shift button, then the key to the left of the right Shift button. The keyboard was then recognized and we could type as usual. The Windows key was also mapped as the Command button without any additional setup required.
As with any gaming keyboard worth its salt, the RK-9200 includes active anti-ghosting, which allows multiple key presses to be recognized simultaneously. But the RK-9200 places itself firmly in the upper echelon of keyboards by providing 12-key rollover, or the ability to detect up to 12 simultaneous keys.
However, only the arrow keys, shift, control, alt and spacebar work with this feature. When it came to the rest of the keyboard, our notebook could only detect up to six keys being pressed at the same time.
We tested the anti-ghosting feature using a key-detection app from Microsoft. If we started by pressing down the WASD keys, our PC only detected up to six buttons, with the oldest button pressed getting unrecognized when we pressed a new one. But when the arrow keys were the first buttons we pressed, we could accurately press all 12 buttons simultaneously.
In addition to anti-ghosting, the Windows key can be disabled to prevent the accidental appearance of the Start menu while gaming. Holding Function and pressing the Windows key toggles the feature on and off. When the keys are backlit, the light on the Windows key turns off when it is disabled. If none of the keys are lit, the Windows key will blink red three times if turning off and green three times if switching back on.
The F buttons also serve as system shortcuts, including next and previous track buttons, a pause and play button and volume controls. There's also a home and email button, occupying the F1 and F2 keys, respectively, which launched our default browser and email client without any additional setup required.
One feature that's sorely missing was macro support. While each of the F buttons served a useful purpose, we weren't able to customize or otherwise modify any of these keys.
Thanks to the Cherry MX Black switches, typing provided a pleasant tactile feedback without the deafening clacking sound of a Cherry Blue switch. There was plenty of key travel and zero keyboard flex, no matter how aggressively we typed.
Both the sound and experience of typing on the Helios RK-9200 Keyboard are first class. Numerous co-workers asked what keyboard we were using after a couple hours of use, admiring the clacking sound at a decibel slightly higher than their keyboards. After testing the keyboard themselves, the consensus was overwhelmingly positive, except one co-worker who longed for the even more tactile Cherry MX Blue switch version.
We scored 80 words per minute on the typing test at TypingTest.com, which is about the same as our average score. The overall typing experience felt better, however, than our usual desktop keyboard.
Controls were fantastic when we loaded "Bioshock Infinite." The extra keyboard feedback made navigation a joy, blissfully running around the aboveground world in the clouds. The MSI GT60's keyboard felt mushy in comparison.
The Helios RK-9200 is available in four different Cherry MX switch types: blue, red, black and brown. We tested the Cherry Black switches, a favorite of gamers due to the lack of a detectable pressure point and a relatively high operating force to prevent errors. Cherry Reds are similar to the Cherry MX Black switches, but have a lower pressure point, arguably making this model more prone to typing errors.
Cherry MX Blue switches, on the other hand, are known for their detectable click when a key is pressed, producing a typing volume significantly higher than other keyboards. The switches are very tactile, garnering a dedicated following in the typing community, though slightly less popular with gamers. Cherry MX Brown switches are in between Blue and Black, providing resistance while also supporting easy multiple strikes.
The Rosewill Helios RK-9200, regardless of switch type, costs $139 and will be available in either late July or August 2013. The keyboard includes a two-year warranty from Rosewill.
If you're looking to take your gaming to the next level, it may be time to invest in a mechanical keyboard. The $139 Rosewill Helios RK-9200 provides typers and gamers a first-class typing experience as well as multiple backlit lighting options. Gamers will also love the active anti-ghosting 12-key rollover feature, which will ensure that every keystroke is rightly registered in even the most intensive games. But we wish there were a few more color options, and other similarly priced gaming keyboards, such as the Corsair Vengeance K95, have more features, such as macro buttons and dedicated multimedia keys. Still, the Helios offers a strong mix of personalization and performance for the price.