Rosewill Apollo RK-9100

The Rosewill Apollo RK-9100 is clearly the successor of the very popular Rosewill RK-9000 series. There are several versions of the RK-9100 available, varying by the type of the mechanical switch and the backlighting color. We received the RK-9100xR, the version with the Cherry MX Blue switches and red backlighting.

Aesthetically, the Apollo RK-9100xR looks almost like a standard old-school 104-key keyboard. Only the company logo and the design of the notification LEDs on the right side make a visual difference when the keyboard is powered down. This changes once the keyboard is connected to a system, bringing the backlighting on.

The backlighting is very well applied, illuminating the keycap characters without spilling out from the sides. There is only one slight exception, the spacebar key, where the LED light is focused at the center of the strip and unable to fill it with uniform light. Rosewill also provides two sets of four orange "gaming" keycaps, one for the arrow keys and one for the WASD keys. The orange keycaps are semi-transparent, allowing the LED to illuminate them entirely.

The chassis and the wrist rest of the RK-9100 are both made of corona-treated plastic, which gives a soft, rubber-like feeling to the touch and does not get dirty too easily. It is a relatively thin mechanical keyboard, as the chassis of most similar designs is nearly twice as thick. Two USB ports and audio jacks can be found conveniently placed at the top-right side of the keyboard. The two USB 2.0 ports are very close to each other however, and devices wider than a standard USB connector (e.g. certain flash drives) may be obstructed if either port is already populated. Furthermore, these two USB ports are not powerful enough to power devices such as external 2.5" mechanical disk drives.

As promised, the mechanical switches of the Apollo RK-9100 are Cherry MX Blue. The keys are firm, feeling very solid and consistent, even though Rosewill is using bar stabilizers instead of cross stabilizers beneath the longer keys. Under the hood, we found a very well assembled board, without soldering imperfections or mechanically weak links. A Freescale MC9S08JM16 microcontroller lies at the heart of the system, with a larger Genesys Logic GL850G USB 2.0 hub controller next to it.

By holding down the FN key, the F-keys offer additional functions. F1 to F6 keys perform sound and media control functions, while F7 to F11 keys will switch between the five different programmed profiles. FN+F12 will enable or disable "Gaming mode", disabling the windows key and initiating the gaming profiles. Finally, the FN plus the up/down arrow keys controls the backlighting settings.

The greatest feature and the weakest link of the Apollo RK-9100 is that the keyboard is fully programmable. You can literally program any key to perform any action at all, from simple layout changes to actuating macros. You can program up to fifty macros (ten per profile), with each macro being capable of registering up to 27 keystrokes.

Limiting each profile to ten macros is a bit odd as well; while it's doubtful most users would actually need 50 macros on a single profile, there are certainly some that will want more than ten. As usual, there are software packages that provide a better macro experience if that's what you need, but the built-in macro support does travel with the keyboard.

While the provided macro programming software does work and has a simple interface, it really kills the potential of the keyboard. The interface looks as if it came from a 1980s Windows 3.11 machine and really needs an update. As this is one of the main new features of the RK-9100 over the previous generation RK-9000, if you don't need macro support you can save $20 or more by sticking with the tried-and-true RK-9000 series.

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  • Spoogie - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    Disappointing that AT didn't do its homework this time around.

    This keyboard is identical to many others and simply rebranded with a name change. Sometimes the keys change...

    Try the Monoprice if you want MX Blacks ($97) or Red ($97). I should mention that this keyboard is identical to the QPAD MK-85 ($250), save the larger enter key, and to the Nighthawk series ($150). The Xarmor u9bl also appears to be the same keyboard, but uses MX Blues.

    MonoPrice confirmed that the MX Black version does not have a backlight, even though the picture they have shows it with a backlit red. You can get a Ducky that's backlit, in MX Black, though it's not programmable. It comes with the option of green, white, or blue backlighting.

    If you want MX Browns, you can try the Nighthawk X8.
  • Araemo - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    I thought the RK-9100 looked a lot like my Monoprice keyboard.

    I tried the RK-9000.. three of them, actually. All 3 died within a couple months. Rosewill warranted the first two, and I gave up when the third died, it's just not worth the hassle.
  • fishman - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    I've had a RK-9000 for over a year. It's used quite a bit, and it still works fine.
  • cbrownx88 - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    I have two RK-9000's. Work one has blue switches and has had zero issues. Gaming board at home with Brown switches has been replaced once.

    Hoping it was a fluke...
  • Souka - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    So this is better than the keyboard my dell came with?

  • JCheng - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    Good to know. Though it looks to me like the Monoprice $97 model doesn't have macros, the comparable one is $134:
  • Spoogie - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    This is the one I got two years ago on sale for $74. It works great and has macros. Only thing is, if a key breaks there's no way to replace it due to the way it's built. I imagine the others share the same issue.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    So let me get this straight: sometimes the keys change, the switches change, the prices are different, there may be a larger enter key... but the keyboards are "identical"? Never mind the fact that there are only so many things you can do with a keyboard to make it "different" before you go too far. Anyway, we're well aware of the myriad mechanical keyboards out there, but rather than trying to list every alternative we've focused on keyboards that are potentially better.

    If something is more or less the same (which would mean backlighting plus basic macro support), then the only reason to get it instead of the Rosewill keyboards would be price. In this case the keyboards you mention (e.g. Monoprice) are essentially the same keyboard as the RK-9100 but they cost more. If you don't want backlighting or macros, there are plenty of other less expensive options. Personally, unless they can save me money I wouldn't buy a Monoprice product over another option; they're pretty much as no-frills as you can get, but where that's great for things like cables, keyboards and displays sometimes need a bit more in the way of features and extras. Rosewill is a known brand with decent support in my experience, so you either need to beat them on price, features, or support. The Corsair and Roccat keyboards can do that, but many other keyboards fall short in one area or another.

    That's my two cents at any rate.
  • Spoogie - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    The ones I listed are essentially the same. No, they're not like comparing a Filco to a Steelseries to a Logitech to a Mionix, to a Corsair etc. etc etc. If you'd done your homework then these facts certainly demand noting in your review. That tells me you didn't, so own up to it already.

    The differences are minor: sometimes the keys, backlight colors, macro options, prices, and warranties.

    Some readers might find these facts useful.
  • wetwareinterface - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    and most readers will find a breakdown list like you expect to be tedious at best to read through. this isn't a comparison article of rosewill vs. other brands. this is a review of 2 keyboards listing their features and the included software.

    if you wish to comparison shop online try newegg and amazon. this is a review site

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