ROCCAT Vulcan TKL Pro Review Tenkeyless Keyboard With Floating keycaps & Optical Switches

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Whether downsizing a company or a house, downsizing has its benefits even with keyboards! This is especially true when the number keys on your current keyboard are just collecting dust! If you never use the numpad and/or want to increase desk space for the mouse, getting a smaller keyboard is the way to go. The compact form factor of small keyboards like the Vulcan TKL Pro puts the mouse closer to your typing position, as well as bring your hands closer together, improving the gaming experience.
The Roccat Vulcan TKL Pro is one type of small keyboard called tenkeyless, although you can also get 60% and 75% keyboards, which are even smaller than tenkeyless. For exclusively gaming, a 75% keyboard is the better option because these keyboards have the F-row directly above the numrow. If you need arrow keys, Home/End/PageUp/PageDown and modifier keys (i.e. Shift, Ctrl), you should go with a tenkeyless solution like the Vulcan TKL Pro.
Aesthetically designed to wow the user, the Vulcan TKL Pro floating keycap design is really beautiful to look at. The open plan type keycap layout and slimline profile keycaps gives the impression of a chiclet style keyboard even though, the Vulcan TKL Pro keybed is about the size of a standard keyboard. The Vulcan TKL Pro uses optical switches instead of mechanical ones, which does improve the typing and gaming response more noticeably if you're a regular typist or gamer. 
Basically, instead of a mechanical switch that pushes down and hits a contact, the Vulcan TKL Pro uses a laser that detects the position of the switch above it. The Vulcan TKL Pro has the same linear switching characteristics of Cherry MX Red switches but with a much lower actuation point of just 1.4mm compared to the MX Red's 2mm actuation point.
The Vulcan TKL Pro key switches are built upon a solid aluminium top plate with virtually no keyboard flex; hence there is no bouncy feeling when typing like you get with a laptop keypad. The backside of the Vulcan TKL Pro is made of plastic, keeping down the weight of the keyboard at just 665 grams. 
On the base of the keyboard, there are also several rubber feet and two height adjustment pop-up stands for raising the keyboard above the desk. The feet are rubberized all-around via rubber strips to keep the keyboard secure on the desk whether you have the keyboard up or flat on the desk. The dimensions of the Vulcan TKL Pro are 36cm long, 13cm wide and 3.4cm high.
The Vulcan TKL Pro uses matt-finished laser-etched ABS key caps, which are made of thinner plastic that are not as high quality as PBT keycaps. Thicker double-shot PBT keycaps, are specially, sought after because of the hardwearing texture of the keycap, which prevents the keycaps legend from fading or chipping off. ABS key caps work well but, they do collect more finger grease, leaving a permanent greasy shine after a few weeks of use.

Speaking of keycaps, the Vulcan TKL Pro uses a clean typeface font for the keycap legends and the keycaps themselves make a nice audible clack sound without the rasping clicky sound some mechanical switches make. The Vulcan TKL Pro key press sound is a bit more subdued when you bottom out because of the thin key caps, hence the clack sound is not as deep sounding as with thick PBT keys. Most of the Vulcan TKL Pro key caps have a concave curvature to them similar to a skateboard quarter pipe ramp. The concave design with raised edges does provide a nice tactile feedback and help guide the fingers right in the centre of the key for proper actuation. As you can see on the image below, the Windows key, Space key and modifier keys have flat tops.
The Vulcan TKL Pro comes with a detachable 1.9 meters long cable with USB-C to USB-A terminals and a braided rigid outer sheath. The USB-C charging port on the keyboard is located slightly offset to the left and, it's contained inside a deeply recessed housing. The cable is Roccat branded and features a white keyboard etching on the side of the USB-A plug connector, which helps identify the right side up. The keyboard marking on the plug also makes it easy to distinguish the Roccat cable so, you know which cable you're unplugging when fumbling behind a PC.
There is a volume knob on the Vulcan TKL Pro, which is positioned on the top right corner and, it's made of textured hard plastic. The volume knob integrates a logarithmic potentiometer so, the resistive element tapers from one end to the other with palpable resistance as you turn the knob. On the specs of the Vulcan TKL Pro, you will also see listed "32-bit Arm Cortex-M0 processor". This, basically, means the Vulcan TKL Pro is able to store more data onboard than an 8-bit keyboard, which is great when storing longer macros but, strangely enough the Vulcan TKL Pro has no dedicated macro buttons; hence you cannot assign macros from the Roccat Swarm software.
Like most RGB keyboards, the Roccat Vulcan TKL Pro comes with a companion desktop application to make the keyboard do what you want it to do. The Swarm software suite is only compatible with certain Windows operating systems, namely Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. Things you can do include being able to control some basic functions of your computer's operating system such as system log off, hibernate and system lock. The Swarm software also lets you quickly remap buttons by simply dragging and dropping.
From the Roccat Swarm software, you can also manage profiles (up to five) and reprogram most keys aside from the modifier keys, space bar, tab, caps lock, enter key, delete key, volume knob and mute button (mutes audio in). There is also a game mode function that deactivates the Windows key of the keyboard. 
You can also enable the Easy-Shift[+] function, which basically adds an extra Shift key to the Vulcan TKL Pro keyboard so, you can use the standard Shift key when using WASD keys for gaming. Easy-Shift[+] lets you add additional functions but only for a few keys. Having two Shift keys is great, although the drawback is that you can only use the Easy-Shift[+] function when game mode is enabled.
Some Swarm software functions can be activated from the keyboard, including game mode, which is activated by pressing the Function key together with the Scroll lock key. You can also do some basic tweaking with the RGB color illumination and adjust brightness from the keyboard by using the Fn key and the navigation arrows. 
That said, to enable the full potential of the key illumination feature of the Vulcan TKL Pro, you have to use the Roccat Swarm software so, you can tweak the color led illumination of each key, choose a color theme, choose a lighting animation (i.e. heartbeat) and adjust the lighting speed effect. You can tweak each individual key aside from the modifier keys, space key, delete and enter key.
A few other useful things you can do with the Roccat Swarm software include adjusting the character repeat speed and enable sound effects when typing. This feature is enabled from the sound feedback tab, which features four presets (sci-fi, beam, typewriter and click sound). The Vulcan TKL Pro has a QWERTY layout design, containing a total of 84 keys so, you can use it for both gaming and regular work aside from data entry and playing MMOs since there is no numpad to re-key abilities to. You can buy the Vulcan TKL Pro from amazon.

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