Switch Type Hybrid
Form Factor Full size
Media Keys 5 plus multi-mode, jog wheel
Macro Keys 5 dedicated
LEDs Six-zone RGB
N-Key Rollover Gaming zone, anti-ghosting
Dimensions 9 x 2.3 x 20.8 inches
Warranty Two years
Membranical. Mechanibrane. Whichever stupid term you prefer to use, this is—if Roccat’s marketing supremos are to be believed—a crossover between the membrane and mechanical worlds, the combination literally everyone in the entire world has been waiting for since the dinosaurs invented the keyboard. At last—society’s final remaining problem has been solved. We can die happy. But let’s get one thing clear right now: This ain’t what we’d call mechanical, despite the neat notched stalks.
This is a membrane keyboard. It doesn’t have keyswitches—you’re mashing down on rubber domes. And however exquisite those rubber domes may be, however high their actuation point is, however tactile the key mechanism may be, this simply isn’t as satisfying as a switched board.
Let’s un-gnash our teeth for a second, though, because there really is a lot to like about the Horde AIMO. Those keys, squelchy and rubbery though they may be, have been well designed. They’re mid-profile (except for the easily distinguished low-profile row of macro keys), yet they’ve been pulled apart in the layout, giving them the spacing of standard keycaps, rather than the closed-up layouts many lazy membrane keyboards sport. The mechanical bit (as much as we’d like to dismiss it) means that, before your fingers reach the murky bottom, there’s a real bite to each keypress. You can feel the activation point coming, and it’s high enough that it’s possible to go super-light and still type with accuracy.
The fact that every key, including the space bar, has been given the same keyswitch treatment makes the Horde feel consistent and tight, and it is damn quiet. If you’re in a sound-sensitive situation—on stream, typing late at night, or in an office where the death stares burn the back of your head the second you start typing—rolling along on this is a more than viable alternative to clattering a proper mechanical number. It’s not completely silent, but it’s also significantly quieter than a typical full-travel membrane, because the keys don’t tap as they bottom out. The stalk lands on the rubber and it stays there.
Another benefit of the membrane is its ability to spread out the RGB lighting, which emerges in the center of each key dome for the kind of wide coverage you don’t typically find elsewhere. We’re not going to say that Roccat has hit a home run here, though. It’s more of a cleverly whacked bunt that just scrapes first base: Yes, the light shines through, but it’s a six-zone setup rather than individual keys, and the way it’s piped to the top of the slightly pliable caps, through a clear plastic shaft, gives patchy coverage that doesn’t show an awful lot of skill. We weren’t able to pull off any long-term wear tests, but the clear caps mean this thing’s going to look awful if the coating starts to rub away.
Something to shout about
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Away from the mechanidome keys, a host of technological tricks earn Roccat a bunch of points. The jog wheel, top-right, is multi-function, and completely compatible with Windows’ Dial system. It feels great, and it adds an awesome note of versatility. The media keys are individually lit, toggling to indicate which mode the dial’s working on, which is a strangely rare feature. There’s anti-ghosting applied to every key in the gaming cluster (though not to the whole board), and the Caps Lock key doubles, if you choose, as an additional macro shift button. At last—a use for Caps Lock other than accidental shouting.
This is the best membrane keyboard we’ve used, without doubt. It’s quite cheap, it’s well designed, and the precision of its keys is unarguable. We almost loved it. Then we jumped on to a different machine with a proper mechanical keyboard, and realized how much we’d been taking the joy of clacky switches for granted. Membranical is no substitute for the real thing—it’s a parallel universe. If you live in the switched dimension, you won’t want to cross over. But if you love domes, this is where you need to be.