The mouse and keyboard are the sword and shield of the PC gamer, an alliance of hardware bent on game domination. They're both integral to the PC gaming experience, but rarely are they built to play together. There are plenty of matched sets, but rarely does their synergy extend beyond outward appearances.
German hardware maker ROCCAT marries mouse and keyboard like never before with the Kone[+] Max Customization Gaming Mouse and the Isku Gaming Keyboard, a pair of peripherals that don't just play well together — they talk to each other.
Utilising a technology dubbed ROCCAT Talk, keys on the Isku keyboard can affect functions on the Kone[+],and vice versa. Pressing a key on the keyboard can activate, for instance, the mouse's Easy-Shift[+] features, giving each of its nine buttons a secondary function. Likewise, the mouse has an Easy-Shift[+] button that can toggle the keyboard's 36 programmable macro keys' alternate functions.
Before we get too deep into how the pair plays together, let's divide and conquer.
The Kone[+] — Max Customization Gaming Mouse — $79.99 (RRP)
On the outside the Kone[+] is a sleek and sexy little thing, matte black and subdued, at least until you start messing about with the illumination options. The grip is sure and comfortable, each of the unit's nine buttons easily accessible. It's as little on the light side right out of the package, but ROCCAT includes a set of four 5g weights that can be used to customise the heft to users' tastes (I used all four).
The Kone[+] performs like a champ as well, gliding smoothly across multiple surfaces as its 6000dpi "Pro-Aim Laser Sensor" works its magic, ready to transmit up to 30Gs of acceleration into flawless movement, should you suddenly develop super powers. The dpi can be switched on the fly, which can be a startling experience as the device software by default speaks the new dpi setting out loud. I nearly peed myself the first time.
The real meat of the Kone[+], however, is in that device software. Just look at those options. You could get lost in there.
The expansive ROCCAT suite for the Kone[+] is what makes it one of the most versatile pointing devices I've played with. utilising the mouse's Easy-Shift[+] I have access to five different profiles, each with its own independent sensitivity settings. Each profile features 22 functions (two for each button, including scroll wheel up / down).
I can make it glow different colours. This is important.
The Kone[+] offers almost unparalleled customisation and functionality for its price point. And then there's the...
Isku — Illuminated Gaming Keyboard — $89.99 (RRP)
Another device in which the customisation is the key feature (there might be a pun in there), only the Isku's form and feel don't quite live up to the functionality.
While it cuts quite a striking figure sitting on my desktop, the Isku overall feels like a cheaper product than its pointing partner. It's light without the benefit of weights. The key action is a little on the soft side, though that's more of a preference thing — I prefer more click to my keyboards.
My biggest issue was with the illumination of the unit. The matte black plastic and a blue lighting don't offer enough contrast to the eyes, leaving me squinting as I broke the unit it. Even after weeks of use I still found my fingers straying to the wrong keys. The illumination isn't customisable outside of brightness either, so I can't recolor my way out of peril.
What I can do, however, is program the hell out of this baby. The Isku features three separate macro key zones: five doubly-programmable keys on the right side, three beneath the space bar and 20 regular keys on the left side of the keyboard proper. That's 36 macro keys. Multiply that by five profiles, and you've got 180 macros at your fingertips.
And recording macros is ridiculously easy. You press a button, input up to 500 actions, and then press another button. Boom, macro. The keyboard even talks you through the process.
With the Isku it all comes down to quality versus functionality. This isn't the sturdiest gaming keyboard out there, and the colour scheme is not good at all, but that's a hell of a lot of macros to fool around with. Ultimate the choice to purchase an Isku might come down to whether or not you're getting a Kone[+]. After all...
They Talk to Each Other
When married with the Kone[+] mouse the Isku's less attractive features weren't nearly as obnoxious. Once both units were configured to my tastes and I got used to pressing a button on one device to screw with another I could never use one or the other alone — these two were meant to be together.
The Easy-Shift[+] on the keyboard instantly transforms the mouse into the perfect MMO weapon. Armed thusly I would never click on a skill icon again. And when things get too complicated for a mouse to handle I can switch to the keyboard's macros, using the mouse to switch functions on-the-fly. Even first-person shooter players can benefit from the pairing with the Easy-Aim function: hold down a keyboard key to briefly up the dpi settings for precision aiming; release the key and it's business as usual.
Joined in harmony through the ROCCAT Talk technology, the Isku gaming keyboard and Kone[+] gaming mouse present a compelling new way to play PC games. It's not a particularly complicated joining, but it makes a major difference; certainly enough to draw attention away from more expensive, sturdier hardware.