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Most of us have used the numerical pads on our keyboards since we were knee-high. But just like what happens with a romantic breakup, you'd be amazed by how little you miss your old partner once something better comes along. Enter the tenkeyless Rosewill RGB80 ($150 MSRP, $100 online) mechanical keyboard, which boasts a compact design, functional software and ambitious backlighting. Although the keyboard does not quite justify its high price tag, it's a good investment for anyone who wants to keep his or her shoulders close together and never really needed those extra 17 keys, anyway.
The appeal of a tenkeyless keyboard, which eliminates the numerical keypad on the right, is its small size. In this capacity, the RGB80 delivers. The device measures 14.6 x 5.3 inches, compared to the fairly standard 17.3 x 5.4 inches of the Feenix Autore or the gigantic 21.5 x 9.6 inches of the Corsair Vengeance K95.
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This RGB80's small size makes it very easy to fit on almost any desk. It also let us keep our mouse closer at hand and our shoulders closer together, making it more comfortable to use over a long period of time.
Size aside, the RGB80 is a bit Spartan. Without a wrist rest or any excess space, it wasn't easy to find a place to rest our hands. We also found it curious that the keyboard sells itself on its ability to record macros (which it does well), but did not offer even a single macro button.
Keeping the keyboard small is one thing, but Rosewill may have gone a bit too far. At 2.2 lbs., the keyboard is already somewhat heavy to transport easily; making it a tiny bit larger to accommodate a macro key or two would have been a good idea.
The RGB80 does not use the industry-standard Cherry MX switches but does not appear any worse in their absence. The keys are comparable to a Cherry MX Blue model, as they provide a fair amount of resistance and strike with fairly loud clicks and clacks. They feel a little softer than Blue switches, so hardcore typists may have to adapt to a lighter touch.
The keys themselves are nothing too special — but the smooth, black squares with a matte finish kept our fingers in place. Like some other gaming keyboards, the RGB80 offers swappable keys — the W, A, S, D, Q, E and arrow keys, to be precise. The substitute keys are clear and give the keyboard a pleasant futuristic look, but they're actually much smoother and more slippery than their regular typing counterparts, making them somewhat impractical for gaming.
It wasn't quite as comfortable to type on the keyboard as it was to use a standard office model. In the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, we scored 94 words per minute with a 2 percent error rate on the RGB80, and 101 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate on a Dell membrane keyboard. We use the Dell keyboard for hours every day, which almost certainly influenced our results.
Despite its lack of macro keys, the RGB80 features its own unique software that allows users to program macros, customize profiles and adjust its backlighting. The software isn't strictly necessary, and such a simple keyboard may have actually been better off without it. That said, it's functional in some areas and hamstrung in others.
Recording macros is very simple and fairly intuitive. Unlike the Corsair Vengeance K95 or the Roccat Ryos MK Pro, which have dedicated macro-recording buttons, on the RGB80, users need to open the software and click on the Macro-Record option. From there, they can enter a desired sequence of buttons, and click Stop Recording when they're finished. It's not as elegant as a dedicated button, but it works.
Assigning macros, however, is a little tougher. The RGB80 has no macro keys, and as a tenkeyless, is already 17 buttons shy of a full desktop keyboard. This means that each key already serves a precious function; replacing one of them with a macro means either sacrificing an important key or putting the macro in a hard-to-reach spot. Neither solution is optimal.
The RGB80 is one of very few keyboards to offer customizable backlighting. This is a boon, as some keyboards (such as the Corsair Vengeance K70) are stuck with a garish palette. Rosewill asserts that the keyboard can display more than 16 million distinct colors.
This may be true, but we did not find it particularly useful. Mixing colors to find the ideal one is a bit haphazard (you can combine any five you choose), and we generally found it was better to stick to the standard seven in the spectrum. Furthermore, you can only assign a color to the keyboard as a whole, not to individual profiles, which makes it very hard to tell the profiles apart.
When it came to games, the RGB80 was beyond reproach. We ran it through a battery of "Titanfall," "StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm," "Batman: Arkham City" and "Star Wars: The Old Republic" in order to test its proficiency with first-person shooters, real-time strategies, action/adventures and massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, respectively. The keyboard performed admirably for every title.
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In particular, we were happy with the keys' quick response times, whether we were furiously tapping the space bar to double-jump in "Titanfall," mashing "A" to issue an attack-move command in "Heart of the Swarm" or tapping the number keys to access gadgets in "Arkham City."
The macro issue reared its ugly head when we played "The Old Republic," though. We were able to control the game just fine overall, but we had to either sacrifice keys for macros or go without them entirely. The RGB80 is not without its charms, but hardcore MMO players should look elsewhere.
In our tests, we found that the RGB80 could handle six simultaneous keystrokes. This is fewer than allowed by some hardcore gaming keyboards, but with one hand on a mouse, a user can hit only five keys simultaneously, anyway.
Tenkeyless keyboards, by definition, require compromise. The RGB80 meets gamers halfway in a good-faith effort, and gets much more right than it does wrong. Overall, we recommend this peripheral for its excellent in-game performance, small size and colorful lighting. That said, the macro issues, software limitations and high price give us pause (although its online price of $100 is much more palatable). If you're not married to a tenkeyless design, you can get a better keyboard for only a little bit more money. But gamers who want a portable keyboard should check this one out.
|4 mm (black keys), 2 mm (clear keys)
|14.6 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.