Roccat Vulcan 120
A second look at mechanical keyboard design
MECHANICAL KEYBOARDS have been a significant part of the PC gamer’s toolkit for the last seven years, and with good reason. Those simple rectangles laden with Cherry switches provide those who invest in the pricey products with a feeling unlike any that a membrane or chiclet keyboard could produce. The responsiveness and the immediate and tactile nature exuded by those switches is second to none.
Since those early days, we’ve seen refinement upon refinement. So much so that the question has to be asked: Where do you go from here? How do you stand out in such a crowded market? It’s a tough one, but Roccat believes it may have the answer.
The German manufacturer, known for its budget-oriented headsets, mice, and keyboards, has typically not been seen at the premium frontier of PC gaming peripherals. Its keyboards, although touting some fantastic feature sets and packing a plethora of Cherry switches, often lacked the design flair and highend material use of some of its more prestigious competitors. It always seemed to cater more toward the would-be or younger gamer, rather than someone truly serious about where they place their digits.
The Vulcan 120 stands in stark contrast to Roccat’s traditional offerings. It’s clean, sophisticated, and far more elegant than anything we’ve seen in the past from Roccat, and for a company that’s looking to clean up its image and lean more on that Germanic design heritage, it’s definitely a good start. The single sheet of brushed aluminum is simple and smooth, unblemished by any obtrusive gaming insignias or branding. The key switches, a custom built mechanical variant, are raised, transparent, and fully lit with the now industry standard array of RGB LEDs, and although they haven’t come from the design houses of Cherry, they’re some of the better bespoke switches we’ve seen.
Roccat’s Titan Tactile switches are smooth and responsive under touch, like some strange amalgamation of a Cherry MX Red and an MX Blue, all mixed in with a super-low actuation point (1.8mm versus 2mm). They’re an absolute joy to type on, every keypress cementing itself down into place firmly, with only the faintest of clicks behind it. It’s a subtle feeling—very subtle—yet still strong enough to let you know it’s there. It’s quiet, too. Well, quiet for a mechanical keyboard, at least—no louder than that gaming staple, the MX Red, that’s for sure. But it’s that immediacy and feel that we like the most, especially in game. This is all thanks to how the key switch works in conjunction with the key cap itself.
FEATHER IN ITS CAP In short, this is all down to just how small these key caps are. At their thinnest, each of the Vulcan’s caps are just over 3mm thick, and at the fattest part of the cap they’re 6mm. Compare that to a standard cap found on a Corsair K70—7mm and 10mm respectively—and that’s a lot less overall plastic involved, which in turn means lighter caps. It doesn’t sound like much, but reducing the overall weight in the cap means you have to apply slightly more pressure on each key to activate the switch (we’re talking minuscule amounts in reality). That’s bad, right? Well, kind of. Of course, for absolute immediacy, you’re still going to want a linear switch (an MX Red, for example), but for those who are keen typists, or who don’t rely on split-nanosecond response times, this makes a big difference. Each click is more forceful, and it sounds and feels better. The thicker caps suddenly feel dampened, there’s less tactile feedback from them, and the sound is almost muffled in comparison. It’s a small observation, but one that makes a remarkable difference in the overall feel of the Vulcan.
Ultimately, Roccat’s Vulcan 120 is a strong addition to Roccat’s lineup. Its uncompromising use of build materials, utilized alongside the brilliance of those key switches, makes it a keyboard to look out for, and a definite contender for anyone looking to invest in a serious piece of premium finger-punching luxury. As far as switches go, Roccat’s Titan Tactile, for this reviewer at least, is one of the best out there right now.