Part of their line of AIMO-enabled gaming peripherals, the Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO is a much-lauded keyboard. After enjoying the more recent AIMO revision of Kova mouse, we decided to put the Vulcan to the test as well.
For a while there, gaming keyboards could be spotted a mile away based on all the extra buttons, features and effects that were being added to it. From dedicated macro buttons on the side to integrated touch screen displays, it seemed like “the more, the better” was the mantra. In the past two years though, we’re seen designs for gaming keyboards converge to a point where a lot of them look alike – especially now that nearly every major company has embraced RGB lighting. For one to stand out, it’s all about the little details – and Roccat’s done a great job with the Vulcan 120.
For over a year now, HyperX’s Alloy Elite RGB has been our keyboard of choice – but the Vulcan 120 is serious competition for HyperX’s flagship keyboard. The Vulcan’s a tad more expensive though, which for some will cancel out the advantages that Roccat’s board may offer.
Visually, the Vulcan 120 follows the recent trend of doing away with all kinds of mostly unnecessary buttons and fluff, with an elegant and sleek design. At first sight, aside from the top of the keyboard, it’s extremely similar to boards like the Alloy Elite, but there’s a big difference – the actual keys. Instead of the traditional square caps that cover most keyboard’s surface, the Vulcan 120 comes with caps that only cover the top of each underlying switch – leaving the rest exposed.
Hardly visible when viewed from above, it makes for a standout design when viewed from anywhere else and provides a vibrant lighting effect that’s gorgeous. Our initial worries were that the keys wouldn’t feel as sturdy because of this design, but using the keyboard made sure this wasn’t the case at all.
Another feature that immediately stands out is a dial in the top right corner. As you’d expect this can be used for volume control, but pressing the FX button next to it also enables you to dynamically “dial” your way through the various lighting schemes available to you.
For added comfort, the keyboard also comes with an optional wrist rest. We prefer to use our keyboards without one so we didn’t really test this (we do have a large gaming surface under our keyboard for combat), but it seems like a fairly standard plastic solution.
The new keys on the Vulcan 120 aren’t just a visual change – they also make use of Roccat’s own Titan switches underneath those little keycaps. These self-developed switches provide an alternative to the well-known Cherry MX switches used in so many other keyboards, and we loved them.
The keys on the Vulcan 120 are very responsive, and don’t give off that loud clicking sound that you get with some of the Cherry MX switches. This largely depends on what type of switches you’re using and it was the reason we went with brown switches for the Alloy Elite, but we thought that the Titan switches provided a similar “middle ground” experience.
As a result, Roccat’s new keyboard can be comfortably used for both gaming and regular everyday work/typing. The big benefit about the Alloy Elite was that it comes in different flavors though, so if you’re actually fond of the kind of response you get from red Cherry MX switches then you’re missing out a little here. If you’re anything like me, however, this is a great neutral keyboard for gaming.
As with the Kova AIMO, the Swarm software that goes with Roccat’s gaming hardware isn’t the easiest and smoothest piece of software you’ll ever set up, but the lighting effects on the Vulcan 120 in particular are gorgeous thanks to the new key design.
Despite its striking new visual design that really comes alive when combined with AIMO lighting, the Roccat Vulcan 120 has a surprisingly minimalist approach to it. We loved it, because extra features so often mean that cheap plastic buttons get added for very little added comfort. Those who regularly play music might miss dedicated media buttons on the Vulcan, but it’s a great gaming keyboard that is also well suited for everyday use.