ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro hands-on: Simply the best keyboard that I have used so far
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Founded back in 2006, ROCCAT has been a part of Turtle Beach Corporation since 2019. Although the company's history is not that long, many of its products are outstanding. Thankfully, the Vulcan TKL Pro keyboard I have been using since last year is not an exception.
Currently priced at US$159.99, the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro is a compact keyboard that uses Titan optical switches with a lifecycle of no less than 100 million keystrokes. As the name suggests, it uses a tenkeyless form factor which, combined with the detachable USB-C to USB-A cable, makes the Vulcan TKL Pro an extremely convenient keyboard solution for both gaming and office/general use.
As I mentioned earlier, today's hands-on comes after a very long period of intensive use. Even though I might seem to overlook some details here and there, I can already say that this keyboard is nearly perfect, at least as long as you have thin fingers.
Box contents, design, build quality
The retail packaging that protects the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro provides all the essential information about the product inside and doesn't waste precious space or materials. Inside the cardboard box are just three items: the keyboard, the Quick Installation Guide, and the detachable braided USB-C to USB-A cable.
The keyboard's design is straightforward and without any commercial gimmicks. However, this doesn't mean that the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro doesn't look good. Even when the RGB lighting is turned off, this compact keyboard looks great no matter where it sits. Although there are no dedicated multimedia controls (the F9 - F12 keys double as multimedia keys when combined with Fn), this keyboard features a mute key and a volume knob that looks like it has just arrived from the 1980s (for me, this is a good thing) and feels able to withstand a nuclear attack with ease.
Overall, the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro packs the design and build quality one would expect for the price, and then some. After using it almost exclusively for over six months, I can say that it still feels and looks (except for some annoying dusty areas) brand-new. The guaranteed life of 100 million keystrokes of the switches (more about them in the next part), combined with the solid build and the use of a detachable cable should allow for at least an entire decade of comfortable use. If you think otherwise, the comments section is all yours, of course.
Specs, features, real-life usage
The contactless Titan optical switches used by ROCCAT for the Vulcan TKL Pro have a 1.4 mm actuation point, making this keyboard faster than those that use traditional mechanical switches, in addition to the impressive lifespan mentioned earlier. The total travel distance of the keys is a mere 3.5 mm and the 45 grams actuation force value is rather typical. The polling rate of 1,000 MHz is not adjustable, but that shouldn't be a problem because there are plenty of software-controlled settings available.
In the beginning, I found the keys too small for my (quite thin) fingers. Thankfully, it didn't take long for me to enjoy typing on the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro more than I ever did on my old Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. At first sight, I should miss the ergonomic design and the palm rest, but it is not the case. The layout might not be ergonomic, but the feel of these switches seems to compensate for that.
When it comes to gaming, I must admit that the keyboard is usually faster than my reflexes, so I tried to stay away from online shooters and I settled for slower-paced vehicular combat, mostly War Thunder and Armored Warfare. In both cases, as well as in other games that I won't mention here, the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro never failed.
The RGB lighting presets available can be adjusted to a certain degree without the use of the ROCCAT Swarm app, this software companion comes with plenty of options that include much more than just lighting options. However, the custom profiles and macro capabilities would be nothing for RGB fans without ROCCAT's AIMO.
The official description should say it all: "AIMO is a state-of-the-art intelligent lighting system that reacts organically to your behavior without the need for extensive configuration." The best part of this technology is that it can sync the lighting for the entire gaming hardware ecosystem that includes various mice and headsets (in my case, the Burst Pro and Elo Air, both to be reviewed in the coming weeks as well).
To be honest, for most of the time I simply forget about the aforementioned software companion. Essentials such as preset RGB effects, brightness adjustment, or Game Mode toggling can be easily accessed directly from the keyboard. However, those who feel that the keys are not clicky enough can use the software to add audio feedback to their typing. Doesn't seem like a big deal, but I think that the typewriter sound is awesome.
The good, the bad, and the truth
Leaving aside the RGB lighting and the specs of the amazing switches used by the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro, there is one big thing that needs to be highlighted: using this keyboard simply feels natural. It might not be ergonomic, but in the end, it turns out to be much better than expected, comfort-wise. The compact layout and detachable cable are both great design choices. Lastly, the software companion that some people seem to hate is superior to most similar products from other brands.
However, the size of the keys and the spacing might not be enough for those who have large hands and fingers. Cleaning whatever might end up between the keys is not as easy as it seems, although a powerful vacuum cleaner with a proper keyboard cleaning accessory might be able to get the job done nicely. Obviously, if ROCCAT would release a waterproof, washable version of this keyboard, that would make it nothing else but the best keyboard ever. At first sight, some might consider the US$159.99 price tag a bit too high.
Those who think the tenkeyless design and the lack of a palm rest are enough to keep them away from experiencing the Titan switches should check out the ROCCAT Vulcan Pro, which doesn't have these problems. The others might not find anything else to complain about because, washable or not, the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro is dangerously close (for the competition, of course) to perfection.
Disclaimer: The author of this review received the ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro mechanical keyboard from ROCCAT free of charge for the purpose of testing.
ROCCAT (official product page)