The Roccat Horde Aimo is an exciting gaming keyboard that tries to mix membrane keys with mechanical design. And, beyond that, this unit has loads of innovative features – and dozens of RGB LEDs. At £81/$90, though, it’s an expensive bit of kit. Can this membrane-based unit outpace mechanical gaming keyboards that cost just as much? Our Roccat Horde Aimo review will find out.
Roccat Horde Aimo Review – Design
The Roccat Horde Aimo is an outlandish and extravagant keyboard – even by the standards of gaming peripherals.
The unit is made from two-tone plastic, with a gunmetal grey body and black accents around the edges. On each side you’ll find black, angled inserts, with another along the top edge of the unit. The wrist-rest is large and covered with angles, and attaches to the front with a reassuring snap.
The Aimo is certainly eye-catching, but we’re not sure if it’s actually good-looking. It’s certainly more extravagant than the Asus ROG Strix Flare, but recent trends across peripherals, PC cases and laptops suggests that some gamers just aren’t looking for hardware that looks this outrageous.
The Aimo is large, too. It’s 500mm wide and 250mm deep – compared to the 454mm, 155mm Asus – and it weighs 1.1kg. If you want to take this keyboard to gaming events, you’ll need a big bag.
There’s no doubt that Roccat’s extravagant design contributes to the Horde’s large physical size. But, thankfully, this chunky peripheral is also packed with features. The biggest, eye-catching addition is the large wheel in the top-right corner. This circular piece of plastic works with Microsoft Surface Dial, which can be used to adjust system volume, scroll through articles, assist with creative applications adjust screen brightness.
It’s clever and it worked well in our tests, but there’s one design flaw: its position on the right-hand side. That means you’ve got take your hand off the mouse to use the dial, which feels counter-intuitive. It would have been better on the left.
Beside the wheel you’ll find a row of eleven buttons. These handle media playback, microphone volume, backlight brightness, lighting affects and task switching. These keys are handy, although sometimes it’s just easier to modify backlighting in the Roccat Swarm app.
And then, on the left-hand side, you’ll find five macro keys. Cleverly, these are shallower and a little squarer than the buttons elsewhere, which means you’re less likely to accidentally hit them during a gaming session.
The bevy of extra buttons are controlled using the Roccat Swarm software. This app is sensibly laid out and easy to navigate, with shortcuts to common tasks for macro assignments and the usual lighting customisation. Impressively, there’s also AIMO Intelligent Lighting, which adapts the LEDs based on your usage, applications and games on-the-fly.
The Roccat is large and has a lot of features, but it still doesn’t tick every box. There’s no USB pass-through, for instance, and no on-the-fly macro recording – disappointing on a keyboard that has its own macro buttons. The software wasn’t always consistent, either; it only installed and updated properly on one system, with the Swarm app experiencing errors on another test PC.
The lighting isn’t great. The keys may have individual RGB LEDs, but they’re quite dim – even at their maximum level of brightness. They’re not even, either, with variations in the lighting strength visible on most buttons.
Roccat calls the Horde Aimo’s keys ‘membranical’. That’s a bit of a buzzword, but it means that the Horde Aimo relies on membrane switches that have been modified in order to deliver a more ‘mechanical-style’ experience.
Membrane keys differ from mechanical keys in their fundamental design. Plungers beneath each button connect with a plastic membrane underneath the keys, and this connects a circuit that registers a key-press. On this ‘membranical’ keyboard, there’s an extra layer of material that’s supposed to deliver the tactile ‘bump’ that is more often found on mechanical units.
It’s easy to see why Roccat want to mimic a mechanical device with the Horde Aimo – those switches are usually the preferred choice for gamers and for keen typists.
Roccat says that the Horde Aimo’s keys have a noticeable ‘bump’ about half-way down their key-press. Roccat also says that the keys actuate at a distance of 1.2mm. That means they’ll register a key-press after 1.2mm of travel, which is a relatively small distance when compared to many other mechanical keyboards.
Roccat makes big claims, but the Horde Aimo doesn’t deliver. The keys have a noticeable bump when they’re first pushed, but get beyond that and the button collapses – you don’t get the bump half-way down, as promised. And, despite Roccat’s claims, the keys require virtually a full press to register. So, instead of being able to use a lighter touch, you’ll still have to hammer these buttons down all the way to ensure that the PC registers your typing.
The buttons are fast, with a soft and consistent action, and they’re physically shorter than mechanical keys. They’re much quieter, too.
However, the Roccat’s keys still need a proper, full key-press to register – and they still don’t have the speed, snap or lightness of the best mechanical units. Mechanical switches without the tactile bump are smoother, while those that do have the bump are more comfortable and still usually require less force to push. When it comes to typing or gaming, the Roccat’s buttons can’t match up to mechanicals.
Thinking of a new system? Here’s our in-depth guide to AMD’s AM4 platform – and the best motherboards
Our Roccat Horde Aimo review shows that this keyboard is packed with features, but in many areas it doesn’t quite live up to its impressive billing – and its £81/$90 price.
Those keys, for instance, are underwhelming. Roccat has tried to build membrane keys that mimic stiffer, snappier mechanical devices, but the buttons here don’t deliver. They’re mushier and shallower than their mechanical counterparts, with an uncomfortable bump at the top of the action – and you still need to press them most of the way down to register a key-press.
Elsewhere, the Microsoft Surface Dial wheel works well, but we’re not fans of its positioning on the keyboard. The extra buttons aren’t always useful, and the lighting is too dim.
The Roccat Horde Aimo will set you back £81/$90 – a fair amount of a gaming keyboard that’s got several prominent problems. For that money you can take your pick of several high-quality mechanical units with different types of switches.
Those units won’t have as many features as the Roccat, but they’ll be far more satisfying to use than the Horde Aimo. They’ll also likely have better lighting and a smart, slimmer design. That’s what we’d choose rather than the bloated and underwhelming Roccat Horde Aimo.
The Roccat Horde AIMO costs £81 in the UK and $90 in the US. Discuss our Roccat Horde AIMO review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!
- Microsoft Surface Dial wheel
- Full RGB LEDs
- Macro keys and plenty of media buttons
- ‘Membranical’ keys are disappointing
- Lighting is too dim
- Keyboard is bulky
- Some key features missing
Roccat ‘Membranical’ switches
Full-size QWERTY layout with numberpad
Microsoft Surface Dial
500 x 250 x 48mm (WxDxH)