While big peripheral names like Corsair, Razer, and Logitech rule much of the mainstream mechanical keyboard market, it's becoming easier to find competing products at lower prices as more manufacturers step in to meet demand.
Enter the RK-9000V2 RGB from Rosewill, an elecronic brand owned by Newegg.com (which also owns us here at GameCrate). Though the RK-9000V2 could certainly do with a catchier name, the fact that it offers genuine Cherry mechanical switches and RGB lighting at a price a little below what you'll pay for comparable features in a mechanical keyboard from a bigger name means it's worth a look for price conscious gamers.
Design and Features
The RK-9000V2 is a full-size board, including a number pad, but has no extra frills or wasted space so it doesn't take up a single inch more on your desk than it needs to. It has a great weight to it, which combined with rubber feet on the underside helps it resist slips even on a slick desktop. The detachable braided cable is also a nice touch, and makes the keyboard a little more portable.
The keyboard doesn't have a great deal in terms of design personality, which could be good or bad depending on your preference. It sports a Rosewill wordmark in the upper right corner, with the Rosewill star logo repeated on the Windows keys. It also has some unique pictorial indications on keys, like the direction arrows and the Function row, which are pre-programmed to control specific features of the board. Aside from that, though, there isn't much that stands out about the RK-9000V2 visually. It won't look out of place no matter the other peripherals on your desk, but it also isn't particularly exciting to look at.
Along with the keyboard itself you also get a plastic key-puller in the box, which is a nice bonus but probably unnecessary for a board that doesn't come with any alternate keycaps.
Macros and lighting
The RK-9000V2 can support up to 50 programmed macros, though it doesn't include any dedicated macro keys. Instead, you program those macros on the fly using a sequence of buttons on the keyboard spelled out clearly in the small instruction booklet included with the board, and those macro functions can be tied to any button you like (such as the function keys). You can also switch between five different profiles via keyboard commands, which makes it easy to keep your macros in order and ready for whatever game you boot up.
You use similar on-the-fly keyboard commands to program the board's different color and lighting patterns, which is one way where the RK-9000V2 falls short of competing RGB boards. There's no software to install with the keyboard, which is nice, but that also means your lighting customization options are limited to tweaking the color and speed of the patterns pre-built into the board.
The eight pre-programmed LED modes offer a nice selection of useful and attractive lighting patterns to chose from, ranging from solid color shifting to a twinkling star pattern to keys that light up as you touch them. You can then customize each of these different modes using key commands, tinting them to suit your RGB preferences and how fast you want the lights to move and change color. You can achieve a surprising amount of versatility using these customization options, but it'll fall far short of what you get with dedicated software that allows you to change colors on a per-key basis.
If you're the kind of person who loves diving into lighting and color customization options in your keyboard's software, the lack of such an option on the RK-9000V2 may be a deal breaker. But if you usually just settle on one of the pre-programmed color patterns in your board anyway, then you might appreciate never having to install or configure any software.
Cherry MX switches
While many mechanical keyboards that cost less than the big names manage their discount prices through the use of off-brand switches, that isn't the case with this Rosewill board. You can get the RK-9000V2 with either Cherry MX Brown or Blue switches, two of the most popular mechanical switch types on the market. And while Cherry isn't the be-all, end-all of mechanical keyboards that it was a few years ago (and companies like Logitech and Razer have developed their own gaming switches as alternatives), the name still carries a great deal of prestige, along with widespread acceptance and appeal.
You can find countless online resources discussing Cherry MX switches, their performance long-term, and whether Brown or Blue might be the right one for you, and the presence of those switches in this board from Rosewill goes a long way towards setting it apart from the legions of dirt-cheap "gaming" keyboards that include low-rent mechanical keys.
I spent several weeks using the Brown switch model for typing and gaming to write this review, and found that the board felt and sounded exactly as I expect from a Brown switch gaming keyboard. Every key is exactly where you would expect it, with no layout issues, dead keys, or delayed responsiveness. The font on the keys is large and easy to read, though some of the secondary function icons are a little odd and clutter up the design of the board more than I'd like.
Like many gaming keyboards, the RK-9000V2 also features media controls which you can access through the secondary functions of the six keys in the Insert, Home, PgUp area. I'm used to these alternate media controls being on the Function row in most of the gaming keyboards I've tried, and found this alternate placement took a bit of getting used to (and was a little harder to access on the fly). If you're planning to use macros, though, you'll likely have other features in mind for those Function keys, so the media placement on the board makes sense.
Slightly cheaper, but not cheap
If the RK-9000V2 were $40 or $50 less than comparable models like the Corsair K70, it would be a slam-dunk recommendation for bargain-hunting gamers. Since the discount is more around the $20 range, though, the choice requires more careful consideration.
Do you love programming your own lighting animation patterns with keyboard software, or do you need a keyboard that looks flashy even with the LEDs off? In that case, the RK-9000V2 probably isn't for you. But if you just want a plug-and-play Cherry MX gaming keyboard that's versatile enough to fit with any desk setup and you're willing to sacrifice some features to save some money, this board is an attractive option.
For more information, check out the Rosewill RK-9000V2 on Newegg.
Disclosure: Rosewill is owned by Newegg.com, which also owns GameCrate.