Headphones, keyboards, and mice, oh my! Three pieces of hardware that can affect so much of what a PC gamer can and cannot do. Roccat has a large line of hardware, I’m lucky enough to test drive a small piece of it; the Savu mouse, the Isku keyboard, and the Kave 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset. Let’s take a closer look at each.
The Roccat Kave 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset
The Roccat Kave 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset was simple to set up. Each of the four min-plugs are color coded for systems with sound cards that support surround sound. It also has an additional USB plug to power the headset and its LEDs.
The Kave headset certainly looks very handsome. They have the big beefy look of a serious set of headphones, nice padded ear cups, and a wide head band with three separate “cupped” pads. The Kave has some heft to them. The padding does a pretty good job of distributing the weight, but after a few hours I still found myself fidgeting with the headband. I may be an exception to the rule since I end up fidgeting with most over-the-head style headsets. Your comfort may vary.
My comfort aside let’s talk sound. While these are 5.1 surround sound headsets the first thing I listed to through them was music. My collection is eclectic so I heard a little bit of every kind of music style. From bass heavy rap and dubstep to screaming metal guitars and full orchestra symphonies the playback was good. Especially the bass, for me that is one particular frequency I like to be able to hear. Roccat even included a separate slider on their inline control just for the sub woofer so I was able to pump it up a as needed. A full EQ would have been nice, but what limited control they offer was sufficient.
While music was good, it was not what the Kave headset was built for. Wearing them for gaming is where things got interesting. The first game I played was World of Warcraft. Starting in the city Stormwind is always a cacophony of sound just because of the sheer number of people. Moving out of the crowded areas the sound really opened up and allowed the subtle sounds to shine. Walking into the wilderness I could hear the bandits charge in behind me and ineffectively beat on my high level warlock. Turning around I got to hear their grunts and groans spin around me as the direction changed. With a quick press of a button they were quickly dispatched in small “puffs” of shadow bolt smoke.
The next game I played using them was Battlefield 3. Here is where the surround sound came in very handy. After adjusting the front and rear sliders on the inline control up and bringing the center down, I was able to adjust the sound to a point where I could get good directional sense of where gunfire and enemies were coming from. I did have to bring the sub-woofer down though as tank fire tended to drown out most everything. When talking with teammates through the microphone they heard me clearly. The microphone even has a LED that lights up when I engage the mute button, no guessing if I’m muted or not.
Overall I did like the Roccat Kave 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset. They were simple to set up, didn’t require drivers to use, just plug and play. The audio was excellent; the inline slider control was nice. I especially liked the slider cover on it so once I set my levels I could close the cover and they couldn’t be accidently bumped. My only issue is comfort; the over-the-head padding could use a bit more. I can recommend the Roccat Kave 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset.
The Roccat Isku Keyboard
The Roccat Isku Keyboard was an interesting beast. While most gaming keyboards add more buttons, rollers, touch sensitive screens and what-not Roccat decided to keep it simple, just use shift. Well actually the caps lock key, but the idea is the same. Most games use the shift key as a function (like running in most first person shooters (FPS)), but do not use the caps lock. Roccat uses the caps lock as shift key to give you extra functions of the keys around your typical “WASD” keyboard set up. They call this system EasyShift[+]. It’s such a simple idea I am surprised more hardware manufactures don’t do it.
The set up does require use of software drivers, but they installed quickly and easily enough. The interface for programming keys wasn’t easy to understand at first. After installation I was using the keyboard for normal typing. When I went to use the caps lock key normally the indicator light flashed, so I wasn’t sure if I had fully engaged the key or not. Repeated presses on the caps lock key did not change the light at all, it continued to flash. It wasn’t until I came back to it the next day I figured out that I wasn’t in a profile. After that it was pretty smooth sailing.
As cool as the EasyShift [+] system was to use, I found it to be more useful for massive multi-player online roll playing games(MMORPG) than FPS’. In a FPS game it’s all about quickness to keep you moving. Shifting to use the alternate function of many of the normal keys would often result in my in-game death. Given time I think I could get used to it and perfect it some, but I tended to stay with defaults in FPS games. MMORPGs on the other hand can thrive with the EasyShift[+] system. Instead of having all my spells, abilities, and talents tied to in-game action bars I was able to spread them around the “WASD” movement and shift as needed. There are five macro keys and three thumb keys (macros are down the left side of the keyboard, the thumb keys are under the spacebar). These can be programmed in the included software or on the fly via a “record button” at the top of the board. It was easy to record on the fly; just press record, press the macro/thumb key you want to map the macro to, input the keys you need and then press record again to save the function.
Initially the setup was a little daunting, but once I wrapped my head around it, it was simple. I just needed my “ah ha moment.” The Isku is a keyboard I can recommend with the caveat that you may want to really think about what you are using it for. For me one style of game worked better than another. For someone else it may be the exact opposite.
One thing that was touted in the manual was the Roccat Talk. Roccat Talk is a system that further enhances the EasyShift[+] system by allowing the mouse and keyboard to talk to each other. Unfortunately the Savu mouse does not have the Roccat Talk. Speaking of the Roccat Savu…
The Roccat Savu Mouse
The Savu mouse was a real surprise. First off was the grip and weight, for me, perfect. Down the left side is a nice deep thumb groove that, along with its “No Sweat” coating, allowed me to hold on to it. I never felt like I was accidently pressing a button, nor did it feel like I was going to lose hold of the mouse. The weight was just right for sliding around quickly to keep up with the action going on in any game I was playing. The “No Sweat” grip is also on the other side of the Savu, giving me a solid grip all around. The laser has an adjustable DPI (dots per inch) allowing you to go from 400 up to 4000 giving you a really good speed across the screen.
Because the Savu is on the lower end of Roccat’s line of mice it has only two extra buttons, but oh do those two do a lot. The front is your regular extra button but the back is an EasyShift [+] button. Like the EasyShift [+] of the Isku keyboard this button lets you have alternate functions of all the other buttons on the mouse. This is where it got fun. Shifting to alternate functions on the Savu mouse opened up so many things for me. In World of Warcraft I had quick access to my most commonly used spells. In Battlefield 3 I was able to program the silent knife take-down (no more fumbling for the key). I really took to this mouse.
The software was easy to install, and after the Isku keyboard, easy to understand. One fun but useless little thing is the included achievements. You can get achievements for clicking, rolling, etc. If you are into keeping track of your stats, then you‘ll love this aspect of the software.
Overall I really loved this mouse. The only fault I can give the Savu is that it is for right-handed people only. Lefties, sorry, you either have to adapt of go elsewhere. Otherwise I can’t recommend the Savu mouse enough. I really love it.
Overall I was impressed with Roccat’s offerings. They don’t have a large presence here stateside, but I did find a small group of fans recently at the Emerald City LAN I attended. So they are making some inroads. I am very curious to check out more from them as they bring more of their products over from Europe. I think they will give our American counterparts a good run for their money.
For more information on theKave, Isku, and Savu check out the Roccat web site.