The ice blue magic of Roccat
The Roccat Arvo keyboard is sized at 39.4 x 14 cm and it is certainly one of the most compact keyboards we've seen outside of laptops. The function keys are right at the top edge of the chassis while the Esc and Mode (explained later) keys form the top left and right corners of the unit. In addition, there are three programmable Thumbster keys in front of the space bar. Because of the small size of the chassis and the standard sized keys, it is obvious that something had to go. In Arvo's case, you lose all the keys usually found between the main keys and the numpad and the functions of these keys are integrated to the numpad itself - a trick copied from modern laptops that also have integrated numpads.
The keyboard sits very solidly on the table and is heavy enough to give confidence of its longevity. The key feel is a bit on the stiff side, but not too much so as to make the keyboard inconvenient to use. You get clear feedback for your key presses. However, the keys are somewhat on the loud side and you would not want to be typing furiously on them if someone was sleeping in the next room.
Special keys and their uses
There are very few special keys on the Roccat Arvo Compact Gaming Keyboard, but they are all pretty useful. I've already mentioned the 3 macro keys positioned underneath the spacebar, where they are relatively easy to reach and are very useful for those using macros (which everyone who plays games or word processes etc. really should be doing). These three macro keys are always accessible once the driver software has been installed, but unfortunately there is no “on the fly” method for programming new macros for them. Instead, you have to open the driver software and create a new macro and then assign it to a specific macro key. There's a nice selection of pre-made macros for some popular games, however, so it is not like you'll have to start from nothing.
Two additional macro keys are available when you have the Game mode turned on. You can switch between two set-ups of the numpad by clicking on a Mode key at the top right corner of the keyboard. The Game mode actually means that you get access to the arrow keys and Ins, Home etc. keys that are usually located between the main keys and the numpad, so it is difficult to see where the “Game” comes to this mode. It is only the two extra macro keys (1 and 3 keys) that will come useful for gamers in some situations. However, they will be hard to find in the midst of hectic gameplay, unless the game already requires you to keep your hand on the arrow keys.
Roccat Arvo Compact Gaming Keyboard is a successful compromise between size and functionality, bringing some laptop keyboard innovations to regular tabletop keyboards. The small size makes it a perfect companion to gamers with limited space on their computer desks and it will also be easy to take with you when you have to take your gaming away from home. The feel of the keys is pretty nice – not quite up there with the best key feels I've experienced, but still enjoyable enough to use even when writing articles such as this one.
If you are looking for a compact gaming keyboard, the Roccat Arvo should certainly be on your short-list. Personally, I rate it higher than any of the other compact keyboards I've used in the past and while it will not make me give up my G19, it is still a keyboard that I will keep around for special situations.
Our total score: 8.5/10