The list of best gaming keyboards is crowded enough as it is, so the Roccat Vulcan TKL Pro hopes to sneak onto it thanks to two secret weapons; optical switches and a more compact design. With competition like the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition to overcome, it's a big ask. However (and somewhat surprisingly), the Pro manages it.
The Roccat Vulcan TKL Pro pulls off something unexpected, too - it improves on a well-loved formula for one of the best Vulcans yet.
Price: $160 / £150
Form factor: Tenkeyless
Switches: Optical (Titan Switch)
Media keys: Mute & volume control
USB passthrough: None
Tested on an Nvidia RTX 2080Ti (opens in new tab)-powered gaming PC
The most obvious feature for the new Roccat Vulcan TKL Pro is its compact design. This one's tenkeyless, meaning the numpad on the right-hand side has been removed entirely. That makes the Pro a dinky little device, and able to fit on pretty much any desk setup. Because the USB-C to USB-A power cable is also detachable, it means you can easily transport the whole thing if necessary.
The main draw would be the optical switches, though. They're a new design shared by the Roccat Burst Pro mouse, utilizing a beam of infrared light instead of the normal physical switches required by most standard keyboards. It's a straightforward process; when you press down on a key, the beam is interrupted and a signal is sent almost instantaneously to your computer. That means the TKL Pro is incredibly responsive. Razer has made a point of introducing optical switches on its own keyboards to great effect, so Roccat following suit isn't a bad thing at all. If it means greater longevity and faster responses, we're game.
If you're familiar with the Vulcan range, you won't find much that's different other than the lack of a numpad and absent rubber media buttons in the top right. While I miss the latter (the simple plastic mute button isn't quite the same), it's a beautiful piece of kit overall.
That's because it comes with a brushed aluminium faceplate in black, soft-touch keycaps, and exposed stems with astounding RGB. I'm not sure I've seen a nicer implementation of RGB lighting than on the Vulcan range, and the TKL Pro is no different.
As with its predecessors, the Roccat Vulcan TKL Pro works like a dream. It's hugely satisfying to type on due to the pleasing type-writer clack of its switches and those soft-touch keycaps. Certain keys such as 'enter' are also a good size in contrast to competitors' offerings, and the bottom row's convex keys are nicely differentiated from the rest.
But be warned - this is a noisy keyboard. It clatters a lot even by my standards as someone who loves that, and I wouldn't dare use it in an office for fear of pushing my co-workers to murder.
Luckily, this doesn't mean its keys wobble. Much like the solid aluminum faceplate, it's pretty sturdy. The same goes for the volume dial - it can't be accidentally removed like others in the Vulcan range. It's a small tweak, but makes the whole keyboard feel more premium.
Elsewhere, the compact design is helpful in the likes of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. You're not stretching to reach attacks spread across the keyboard, making it a good choice for gamers with smaller hands. There is a downside, of course - certain bindings aren't present on the keyboard as a result of its smaller size, and setting up macros can be a nuisance because the Swarm software is difficult to work with - but it's nothing catastrophic.
Equally, any sins are easy to forgive when the keyboard itself performs this well. It makes turning and tilting buildings to the perfect angle while constructing guest facilities in Planet Zoo a breeze, and the keys' springiness is essential for games such as Call of Duty: Warzone where your fingers need to bounce from crouch to sprint and beyond incredibly quickly. Indeed, first-person shooters are where the Pro's in its element.
Other than that, it's business as usual - albeit with a few small yet vital changes. For starters, I've not noticed the same occasionally sticky keys as others in the range. On the standard mechanical Vulcan (the Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO), my 'E' key would often add extra letters after extended use and for no discernible reason. It wasn't all the time or enough to ruin my experience, but it was a nuisance. Because the TKL Pro uses optical switches, I'm hoping that sort of mechanical quirk is gone for good.
Overall - should you buy it?
Broadly speaking, the Roccat Vulcan TKL is one of the best keyboards the company has made to date. It's not perfect and there's room for improvement, but it's definitely a sound option if you want a tenkeyless gaming device.