Germany-based Roccat, which was one of the originators of RGB lighting in PC peripherals (and in fact the first manufacturer to utilize lightpipes that have now become all the rage) has decided to push further in the RGB arena with its new AIMO lineup. The first member of the lineup, the Kone AIMO, was debuted in late 2017 at $80, and builds upon the DNA that has long attracted a legion of fans to the Kone family. The big deal with AIMO is that it offers reactive, intelligent lighting. While users can certainly use the Roccat Swarm software to program certain lighting patterns, Roccat is claiming that its new AIMO lighting system will bring a totally new experience to the gaming desktop. AIMO-based lighting is always changing, reacting to users inputs to change patterns both in terms of speed and intensity of the lighting. So rather than see a wave pattern move back and forth constantly on a keyboard, you'll experience something new and different every moment. By the way, as always, Roccat believes in truth in marketing, so while the Kone AIMO has a 12,000dpi PixArt 3661 sensor, Roccat knows that most users will keep it below 2,000dpi. It therefore tunes the sensor for optimal performance in that range, rather than just relying on big numbers to impress potential buyers.
Joining the Kone AIMO at the end of January 2018 will be the Horde AIMO, Roccat's matching keyboard, which will come in at $100. It's being marketed as a "membranical" keyboard, which adds one more "cute" marketing term to a crowded field (Cooler Master has the mem-chanical switch, and Razer has the mecha-membrane switch). All of these switches use rubber domes rather than mechanical springs, but they add a bit more tuning control to provide more feedback to the user. Our impressions based on a quick trial run of the Horde AIMO is that like its competitors, it won't be confused for a mechanical keyboard, but it's better than typical rubber dome models. The good news is that everything else is new and improved as well, including better signaling to reduce ghosting, plus a handy scroll wheel that has even earned Windows 10 certification.\
Down the line, Roccat will release a cost-reduced version of the Horde, which will drop the detachable wrist-rest and AIMO RGB system, but will come in at half the cost (just $50). At that price, it could well be the budget-friendly gaming keyboard to beat!
Also arriving in January 2018 is the new Roccat Kahn AIMO, a wired headset that comes in at just 275g. It uses a USB sound card with virtual 7.1 surround, 50mm drivers, AIMO RGB lighting (of course!), and a flip-to-mute microphone. Most interestingly, Roccat claims that the microphone has been specifically tuned to pick up bass much more effectively, allowing male voices to sound fuller. Manufacturers rarely seem to pay much attention to the effectiveness of the microphones in their headsets, and in our experience they are never close to studio-quality, so it's nice to hear that Roccat is looking to release a product that excels at all aspects of performance.
Given how dominant Logitech has been in terms of innovation over the past few years, we were more than a little surprised that the Logitech G gaming division had exactly zero products to announce at CES this year. It's been a busy few years for Logitech, no doubt, with the release of the game-changing G900 Chaos Spectrum and follow-up G403 Prodigy Wireless in 2016, which together reset the bar for what was possible in the wireless mouse market. Logitech also released what's likely the best mainstream wireless headset, the G533, at CES 2017, and then at PAX West 2017, it released the first mass-market wireless mechanical keyboard in the form of the G613. But time marches on, and we think Corsair may be poised to leapfrog Logitech with its new-for-2018 lineup of wireless peripherals.
Oh, yes, indeed, this was a big year for Corsair. It arranged a special press conference the day before CES started focused solely on peripherals, entitled "UNPLUG and PLAY," and given the incredible scope of the products being announced, we actually think it was entirely merited. Corsair released two major new product lines this year, and both are set to absolutely dominate their respective markets.
First up is the Dark Core RGB and Dark Core RGB SE wireless mice. Being released at $80 and $90 respectively, they match the pricing of many wired mice, yet offer the freedom of wireless. Based on our brief hands-on testing, Corsair has simply nailed the ergonomics of this mouse, while still offering plenty of customization and control. The SE model adds wireless Qi charging for its extra $10 cost, and we're betting just about everyone will go for that model.
Of course, you will need the new MM1000 Qi charging mat, which will come in at $80. Unlike Logitech's PowerPlay or Razer's Hyperflux solutions, this system does not charge constantly, but rather only when the user rests the mouse on the wireless Qi charging spot. Corsair claims that the benefit is much faster charging, although this doesn't sound too impressive when you consider the fact that the products from Logitech and Razer will always be charged. That being said, we think it's a very practical solution, and Corsair adds a bit of value by bundling a dongle allowing you to charge your Android or Apple smartphone.
But wait, there's more! Corsair also released the second wireless mechanical keyboard to hit the market (Logitech won that race with the G613 released in September 2017), but one-upped Logitech by adding blue LED backlighting and a much lower price (just $110!). Now, do consider that this is a tenkeyless model, which won't appeal to everyone, but Corsair took this approach to allow users to pair it with its new lapboard, providing for the ultimate PC couch gaming solution. Every other lapboard to date, including Corsair's Lapdog, has been a big miss in terms of usability due to the bulky cables required, so we think Corsair has vaulted to an easy #1 position right out of the gate.
Best of Show
Whenever we're able to cover this many new products in a single show, we like to name a "Best of Show" in each category. In case it wasn't already obvious, here are our winners:
Best Innovation: Cherry's Low-Profile MX Switch
Best Headset: HyperX Cloud Flight Wireless ($160)
Best Keyboard: Corsair K63 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard with Lapboard ($160)
Well, we think you'll agree that there was quite a lot of big news coming out of CES 2018 in terms of peripherals. And the best news is that many of these products are available for pre-order right now, before CES 2018 has even closed its doors, including all of our Best of Show winners (other than the Cherry prototype switches). Look for reviews of many of these products coming soon from TBG!