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New mechanical keyboard is perfect for people who love their laptops

Roccat built a mechanical keyboard for people who love their “chiclet” style keys

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Peripherals manufacturer Roccat announced its newest set of keyboards earlier this year. It’s called the Vulcan line, and includes all the bells and whistles of a comparably-priced model from Corsair, my current go-to brand for high-quality gaming mechanicals. More than the new boards themselves, however, what got me interested was Roccat’s claim that it had invented its own unique keyswitch, called the Titan Switch Tactile.

After test-driving one for about a month, I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing all that special about the new switch. It feels enough like the the Cherry branded switches that I use every day that I can hardly tell the difference. Instead, it’s the design of the board itself that is worthy of note. It feels like it was custom designed for fans of integrated laptop keyboards, and happens to be a great way to ween people off of them and onto something more comfortable and reliable.

The Vulcan keyboards come in three flavors. There’s the Best Buy-exclusive Vulcan 120, which runs $159.99 online and comes with an exclusive magnetic wrist rest. The Vulcan 100 doesn’t come with the rest, but for all intents and purposes it’s the same thing for $149.99. Finally, there’s the Vulcan 80, which forgoes the exotic analog volume control in favor of regular old keys on the media row. That brings the price down to $129.99 and, for my money, improves functionality. Both the 100 and the 80 will begin shipping later this month.

The internal gubbins of the new Titan Switch Tactile.

When I first started typing on the Vulcan 120, it felt incredibly clumsy. I’m used to using a Cherry G80-3000 MX which, save for the silent switches inside, is about as generic as you can get. Taking out a ruler, I found that the Vulcan’s keys were actually a few millimeters closer together than those on my Cherry. The keycaps themselves were also a few millimeters larger all around.

The bigger keycaps and the closer spacing explained my initial clumsiness, which I was able to work through over the course of a week. But, looking closer, I found that the height of the keys themselves was completely different.

On a traditional mechanical keyboard, the bottom row — which includes the space bar — is the lowest row on the board, sitting closest to the surface of your desk. The top row — the function keys on a full size board — is the tallest row. Looking at most mechanical keyboards in profile, you can actually see that stair step quite clearly.

The Vulcan, by contrast, was almost perfectly flat. Using the pair of optional rubber feet on the bottom, I was able to lift the top row considerably. But, compared to my old-school Cherry, the change was minimal.

The Vulcan 80 swaps the volume dial and rubber keys on the media row for traditional mechanical keys found on the rest of the keyboard. While I didn’t get a chance to demo one, I was disappointed in the functionality of the buttons in the media row on the Vulcan 120.

And that’s when it hit me. The Vulcan isn’t designed for me, a guy who’s been using mechanical keyboards exclusively for more than two decades. Nope, it’s built for you, the poor sod who’s only ever typed on a laptop keyboard.

Laptop keyboards are fine. I enjoy them, just not for everyday use. But those who use them exclusively love the short throw of the keyswitch and the wide, chiclet-shaped keycaps. Viewed from that perspective, the new Vulcan line of keyboards is a great step up for just about everyone but me.

The mechanical keys aren’t overly noisy, so you will be able to use them on a conference call or a livestream. The rise from the bottom row to the top isn’t so aggressive that it’s going to put a strain on your wrists, but it will put your hands in a much better ergonomic position at the end of the day. Compared to a laptop, I think you’re going to be able to type more accurately and for longer periods of time if you get a Vulcan. It’s the perfect stepping stone for those who are looking to get into mechanical keyboards for the first time, or for those who have found top-of-the line models simply too cumbersome.

My recommendation is to go with the Vulcan 80, however. The soft rubber media keys on the higher-end models aren’t very reliable. While the loss of the analog volume control is disappointing, I’d rather stick with traditional keys all the way.

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