Best wheel on a keyboard.
Finding true ingenuity in a modern gaming keyboard is like finding a unicorn riding a skateboard. Sure, there’s the occasional unique lighting setup and you might even find some useful extra keys, but overall there’s very little that’s truly new in the world of keyboards. At first glance, the Roccat Horde AIMO (See it on Amazon) / (See it on Amazon UK) may look just like any other “membranical” keyboard, and in many ways that’s true. But it offers unprecedented levels of customization, and responsive keys that really set it apart. Let’s take a closer look.
Design and Features
The Horde AIMO is a large, full-sized keyboard with five macro keys on its left side. The build is entirely plastic, but it does feature some stylish accents that separate it from a boring, rectangular office keyboard. Roccat also included a removable wrist rest. The wrist rest is moderately comfortable and sits at a nice angle, but I’m not a huge fan of its hard-plastic surface. The keycaps are also covered in a matte-black finish which tends to show fingerprints easily—don’t use this keyboard after eating potato chips.
Mechanical keyboards may be the go-to setup for plenty of PC gamers these days, but there’s certainly something to be said for the quieter keystrokes (and generally lower price) found on a membrane board. Roccat refers to its island-style keys as being “membranical,” and while that is most definitely not a real word in the dictionary, the idea makes sense as they’re going for a mechanical feel using a membrane switch. To Roccat’s credit key presses on the Horde AIMO are not nearly as spongy as what you’ll find on most membrane keyboards, and there’s a nice tactile response halfway through actuation. The effect is reminiscent of a mechanical switch, and these are just as fast with a surprisingly short 1.2mm actuation distance.
Roccat sells a different version of the Horde with a different lighting setup, but as indicated by the name, the Horde AIMO uses Roccat’s light-syncing technology. AIMO allows for RGB lighting to remain consistent across the company’s line of compatible keyboards, headsets, and mice. Roccat refers to AIMO as “intelligent lighting” that adapts naturally, whatever that means, but overall it just seems like the usual range of lighting effects. The three-zone RGB lighting itself is very understated, shining only through the iconography on each keycap. While I did appreciate the lighting not spilling everywhere across the board, the brightness was far too low for my tastes. In a lit room, even with brightness at its maximum setting, it’s actually difficult to tell the keyboard is illuminated, at all.
Along the top edge of the keyboard sits the best feature of the Horde AIMO, its ancillary buttons and Windows dial. While a number of higher-end keyboards like the Corsair K95 include volume wheels, Roccat has take things a bit further with the Horde and stuck a customizable wheel—similar to Microsoft’s Surface Dial device—right on the board. Next to the usual assortment of media keys, there are individual buttons for volume, mic level, key brightness, lighting color, RGB effects, swapping windows like an alt-tab press, and a user button. A simple press of any of these buttons allows the dial to control that function and once I got the hang of it, I found myself wondering how every keyboard doesn’t have this exact same functionality. It’s effortless and useful.
Holding the user button down opens the Windows Dial menu appears on-screen, letting the dial control things like scrolling, zoom, changing media tracks, and even a handy “undo” function that works with word processing or photo editing apps, for example. You can also customize the menu from within Windows to add up to three more functions. This is a first-of-its-kind feature on a keyboard and it’s worth noting Microsoft’s stand-alone dial costs $100 by itself—$10 more than the Horde AIMO.
The Hoard AIMO uses the latest version of Roccat’s Swarm software for assigning macros and choosing RGB lighting effects. Granted, the latter is more easily accomplished using the aforementioned button and the dial wheel. While there’s no per-key lighting customization, it is possible to customize the lighting across three zones.
Using the Swarm software is very straightforward, and assigning macros is an absolute breeze thanks to drag-and-drop functionality. Assigning bindings isn’t exclusive to the macro keys, either, as you can change virtually any key on the entire keyboard very easily. Swarm also now includes a goofy option to assign “sound feedback” to keypresses, such as typewriter sounds or weird alien beam noises. Personally, I see no need for this, but if you have a nice pair of speakers it’s certainly an excellent way to annoy everyone around you.
While they’re still not going to pass for Cherry MX mechanical switches, the membrane keys on the Horde AIMO are a pleasure for gaming. After spending hours playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Overwatch, I actually found myself forgetting this was a membrane keyboard. The tactile feedback is excellent, and each keypress is devoid of the spongy bottom found on most membrane boards. The quick actuation felt great while playing shooters and the key spacing is perfect. All in all, the Horde AIMO has some of the best keys I’ve ever used on a membrane board.
The macros keys on the left side work as expected for quickly deploying recorded keystrokes. But one advantage over other keyboards with a similar set of macro keys is the actual keycap height. Roccat set the height of these keys lower than the main keycaps, effectively eliminating the errant key presses I usually encounter with this type of setup.
The dial wheel comes in handy for gaming, too. Having the ability to not only change volume on the fly, but to tweak my mic levels and alt-tab out of a game to access Discord is awesome.
The Rocca Horde AIMO has an MSRP of $90 and since it is brand new that’s the price it’s holding to online: