ROCCAT Vulcan 120 AIMO Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review
The ROCCAT Vulcan 120 AIMO
A premium mechanical keyboard with exclusive key switches
The Vulcan 120 AIMO is ROCCAT’s top of the line mechanical gaming keyboard, and is the first to feature the company’s exclusive Titan key switches. It offers full RGB backlighting with ROCCAT’s intelligent AIMO backlighting technology, an aluminum top plate, and a minimal keycap design that promotes easier cleaning.
Occupying the premium segment the Vulcan 120 AIMO is positioned at a list price of $159.99, though it can currently be found for $139.99 at Best Buy – the exclusive home at present with no first-party listings at Amazon or Newegg. It goes without saying that every price point is packed with options in the keyboard space, but the Vulcan 120 AIMO does present an interesting mix of features at this level. How does it perform? Let’s find out!
- Key Switches: ROCCAT Titan
- Actuation Point: 1.8mm (tactile, silent)
- Switch Travel Distance: 3.6mm
- Memory: 512kb integrated macro & settings
- Processor: 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 based
- Lighting: RGB per-key illumination with 16.8m colors
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Polling Rate: 1000Hz
- Dimensions: 462 x 235 x 32 mm
- Cable Length: 1.8m
- Weight: 1150g
- System Requirements: USB 2.0 Port, Internet connection for driver installation
- OS Support: Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8
- ROCCAT Swarm software suite
- All keys remappable
- ROCCAT Easy-Shift[+] technology
- Removable ergonomic palm rest
“The Vulcan is a precision gaming tool that lets you sense its performance from the first glance and the first key stroke. Developed following the renowned principles of German design and engineering, it is the best keyboard ROCCAT has ever built.”
Design and Construction
The Vulcan 120 AIMO offers a standard 104-key layout with dedicated media controls on the upper right-hand corner. It is built with an anodized aluminum top plate that adds rigidity and helps provide a premium look, and the optional hard plastic wrist rest follow’s the keyboard’s tapered profile and compliments the rather slim overall design.
The minimal depth of the key caps add to the keyboard’s slightly unusual appearance as these sit atop key switches that are of a standard profile, creating a gap that offers a clear (and bright) look at the per-key RGB lighting. ROCCAT states that these key caps “match the spacing and surface area of traditional caps but feature a shortened height to make cleaning easy, complementing the Titan Switch’s dust-resistant housing perfectly”, and in practice it was quite easy to get a microfiber cloth through the wider spacing between keys.
The base of the keyboard is plastic with rubber feet, and there are a pair of flip-out feet as well to adjust the angle. The keyboard connects via USB, and the 1.8 meter cord is not detachable.
The Vulcan 120 AIMO features ROCCAT’s exclusive Titan switches, which are of the non-clicky tactile variety. This is the first keyboard to feature these new switches, and coupled with the minimal-coverage (and very light) key caps the keyboard has a distinctly different feel.
“The Vulcan is the first keyboard to feature ROCCAT-developed Titan Switches. The switches, designed from the ground up, were built for gamers craving a key stroke that was swift and precise while still being tactile. As well as a tactile and silent 1.8mm actuation point with a 3.6mm travel distance, the switches feature structural housing to reduce wobble while being pressed. They bring electrical contact bouncing to a minimum, allowing firmware to recognize input 20% faster. The key caps are also ultra-light – 50% lighter than standard – for that rapid response.”
The Titan switches have their own feel, and it’s hard to describe succinctly. They are somewhat akin to a Cherry MX Brown, but still different enough to make that comparison misleading. They are tactile but not “clicky”, and they are quiet and feel very stable during key presses. The very light weight of the minimal coverage key caps seems to contribute to a slightly springier feel, and the initial travel – before hitting the actuation point at 1.8 mm – provides a little more resistance than I’m used to.
Words like firm, stable, and smooth come to mind when attempting to describe the overall feel. There is the Cherry MX Brown connection to some degree, but as a variation rather than a counterpart. Not being one to modify keyboards I don’t know how close one could get to this feel with an MX Brown, as they seem to pop back up with a little force than I am used to, creating an interesting sensation as they are both fast and with a bit more firmness. The light key caps apparently contribute to this feel. The sound output overall is also fairly low, with a damped character to the noise and very little “clatter” as you type.
RGB Lighting and ROCCAT Swarm Software
The Vulcan 120 AIMO offers per-key RGB illumiation, with the AIMO being ROCCAT’s lighting engine that works together with the company’s various compatible devices.
“The Vulcan provides the best possible platform for the AIMO lighting engine. Each switch features an individually configurable, long-life LED capable of displaying 16.8M colors in a variety of special effects. Transparent switch housing means the multicolor lighting shines impressively and is spread evenly from every key.”
AIMO “reacts organically based on your usage, presenting state-of-the-art illumination scenarios without the need for configuration”, which is certainly an interesting alternative to standard lighting options on RGB keyboards. I didn’t spend a lot of time with the lighting engine (you can read more about it from ROCCAT here) to observe how it changed with my usage, but lighting is fully customizable and several default patterns can be loaded as well.
The ROCCAT Swarm Software offers complete control of RGB lighting as well as the other functionality we’ve come to expect from keyboard control software, including game profiles and macros. Every key with Vulcan 12 AIMO can be remapped, and in addition to setting up custom profiles general features can be configured in software including sound feedback (though the OS) while typing, something I had yet to see outside of Android.
Additionally the “Swarm Connect” option can be toggled, and if you use the Swarm mobile app you can configure these options – hardware monitor, statistics – in the Swarm software and view the results on your phone. I personally have no use for keyboard gameplay stats, but I am not a competitive gamer, either. Interesting as an option, but I did leave this off.
While there is no shortage of high-end mechanical keyboard options on the market (with the $100 – $200 range producing thousands of results on Amazon) this $159 entry from ROCCAT feels as premium as anything I’ve used recently. It has a striking appearance, unique key cap design, and an exclusive key switch that doesn’t feel quite like anything I’ve tried.
While the overall impression of the Vulcan 120 AIMO includes both its hardware and software two things really define the usage experience: ROCCAT’s exclusive Titan switches, and the spacing and feel of the keycaps. The result is firm but smooth, tactile but quiet, and in general hard enough to describe accurately that it deserves a demo to see if its something you prefer over the ubiquitous Cherry MX key switches on the market.
Another aspect of the keyboard that deserves attention is its overall build quality, as this is top notch with no flex and a sturdy feel that extended to the key switches and caps themselves. The hard plastic wrist rest was the only thing that felt less premium overall, and a soft material and stronger magnetic attachment would be welcome additions. Still, the pricing seems fair for what you are getting, especially so as we are seeing discounts already with Best Buy offering it for $20 off at $139.99.
Ultimately, while tastes in key switches and key caps are of course personal, this is a very impressive keyboard and I can’t really fault ROCCAT’s design or execution – both of the Vulcan 120 AIMO itself and the Titan key switches. The typing feel does take a little getting used to, but this is a solid product and it quickly became a favorite of mine. If you have $140-$160 to spend on a keyboard the Vulcan 120 AIMO is absolutely worth a try.
ROCCAT Vulcan 120 AIMO Mechanical Gaming Keyboard