Since the advent of the Hator brand, two types of keyboards have appeared in its assortment — optical Earthquake and mechanical Rockfall. The first we reviewed earlier, but the second did not have time to consider before they were removed from sale. But it’s not a big problem. The latter were replaced by Rockfall EVO in full-size and TKL versions, already completely on optical switches. And now we will definitely feel them. At least the standard Rockfall EVO.
|Model||Hator Rockfall EVO|
|Polling frequency, Hz||1000|
|Number of keys||104|
|Keystroke resource, mln.||80|
|Switch type||Kailh Optical Black|
|Changing the angle of the body||+ (two levels)|
|Built-in memory, KB||+ (six macros)|
|Ability to record macros||+|
|Handling rollovers||NKRO / 6KRO|
|Backlight||+ (RGB, 16.8M colors)|
|USB cable length, m||1,8|
|Braid material||Nylon braid|
|Removable palm rest||–|
|Dimensions (L x W x H), mm||437 x 132 x 36|
|OS Compatibility||Windows 10 / 7 / XP, Linux and Mac OS|
|Peculiarities||Removable switches. Keys for removing caps and switches included|
|Average cost, $||80|
Contents of delivery
The keyboard comes in a package consisting of a yellow semi-cover and a main black box, on the back of which all the technical specifications of the product are listed. Internal protection against damage during transit is rather weak.
In addition to the keyboard, the package includes instructions in three languages, a good wire wrench for removing keycaps, a metal bracket for dismantling the mechanisms of optical switches.
Design-wise, the Rockfall EVO is virtually indistinguishable from its mechanical predecessor. This is a completely utilitarian and standard classic type keyboard with slightly rounded corners. It is not clear why the top panel is made of matte plastic, and all the side faces are made of gloss.
A subtle difference in the EVO version is the transition to a standard ANSI layout of 104 keys with a single-row Shift and Enter. Previously, a long left Shift was combined with a double-row Enter, but this, to put it mildly, created problems in the selection of keycaps if they needed to be replaced or customized. The F1 button is located above the number «2». The symbols are laser engraved. Latin engraved in the upper left corner, Cyrillic in the upper right, but slightly lower and more subtle. This position provides good illumination of both layout languages. By the way, the symbols of the Ukrainian alphabet are also present here. The Fn key replaces the right Win key.
The block of numeric keys is made as standard, without frills. The set of lock indicators is also familiar, it is located above the numbers in the form of large rectangular LEDs and includes Num, Caps and Scroll Lock. There is no separate indication of the game mode. An interesting dedication appeared on the right side of the front face: «…to the best haters».
Instead of the usual Outemu mechanical switches, the Rockfall EVO keyboard is now equipped with Kailh optical mechanisms, black, similar to those we have seen previously in Hator Earthquake. Visually, they can be distinguished by the square side walls around the central cruciform rod. Technically, these mounts are fully compatible with classic Cherry keycaps. Optics are similar to mechanics in tactile sensations, but differ in the principle of operation. In terms of effort, these buttons are a cross between Cherry MX Red and Black. They are linear in actuation, claimed actuation force of 45 grams (+/- 10%), 1.8mm stroke to actuation, 3.6mm full stroke. Internal type stabilizers, which makes it easy to remove the keycaps for cleaning, especially given the presence of a good wire key in the kit. The stabilizers themselves are lubricated and do not make excessive noise during operation. However, buttons with this type of switches tend to dangle, both long and short. Stock caps are made of ABS plastic, painted on the outside.
A unique feature of Kailh Optical is the ability to easily remove them and replace them with others, because the mechanism itself has no contact elements and does not require solder for fastening. The diodes of the optical sensor, as well as the backlight diode, are soldered directly on the board. From the switch, it is only required to mechanically put or remove the shutter between them. Such switches are much more resistant to wear and dust and moisture than classical mechanics. And the user can choose the tactile option of the buttons for each individual key to their taste. By the way, the buttons are held by the base plate, there is no load on the printed circuit board at all.
The switch is held on by two latches on the top and bottom. To remove it, the complete key must be rested up and down in the middle of the body at the level of the base plate and squeezed, then carefully moved back and forth. The latches will compress and release the mechanism. The first time out of the habit of doing this is of course scary, but with subsequent attempts everything becomes easier and does not require extra effort.
The keyboard has three levels of height. In the basic version, it is 36 mm, with low legs — 42 mm, and with high legs — 50 mm, if you look at the back row. The keys are ergonomically inclined in profile. The back three rows are tilted forward, and the front three rows back.
The signal cord enters the keyboard case from behind, closer to the right side of the case. At the point of contact there is a large protection against bending. There are no additional ports.
Nylon braided wire is quite flexible, with an average level of rigidity. Well remembers the given form. Its total length is 1.8 meters. Near the connector there is a ferrite ring to eliminate interference. And there is also a reusable Velcro tape to adjust the length of the cable.
The back side of the keyboard is decorated with alternating diagonal stripes of matte and glossy plastic. Five square rubber feet are glued in the corners and in the center. Four holes for drains were made along the front face.
The legs are laid out in two levels. Each has rubber stickers.
The keyboard has full individual RGB backlighting of all keys. All characters are read well in both dark and brightly lit rooms. All colors except white are displayed correctly, white has a slight blue tint. Lock-LEDs shine with a soft white color and do not irritate the eyes.
Hator Rockfall EVO has built-in memory for six quick macro commands and can control lighting and multimedia without a driver. All combinations of additional commands are activated using the Fn button. Below is a list of features that we were able to replicate.
|Fn+Esc||Reset all keyboard settings to factory settings|
|Fn+F1||Starting the player|
|Fn+F2||Turn down the volume|
|Fn+F3||Turn up the volume|
|Fn+F11||Macro recording. Lock-indicators and YUIOP buttons quickly blink white, the rest of the buttons go out. Press one of the YUIOP buttons to write a command to it. Type a combination of characters (maximum 31). Press Fn+F11 again to end recording. To reset the key assignment, repeat the operation from the beginning and end the recording without entering any characters|
|Fn+F12||Lock/unlock all buttons (child lock)|
|Fn+~||Switching anti-ghosting mode NKRO/6KRO|
|Fn+Backspace||Individual assignment of the color of the keys (Lock-indicators blink quickly). Press the desired keys in this mode to change their color. Red, orange, yellow, light green, green, blue, blue, pink, purple, white color sequentially change. In between, no backlight mode. To complete the setup, press Fn + Backspace again|
|Fn+Y||Enable/Disable macro buttons mode. When the mode is activated, the commands written to the YUIOP keys are executed, while they glow in white. Commands are executed without taking into account time delays|
|Fn+Win||Lock/unlock start button|
|Fn+Insert||Light effects: heat trail, splash, cross, water circles, line, cool down|
|Fn+Page Up||Spectrum change mode, or constant backlight (color is selected in this mode by the combination Fn + Pause, spectrum change — Fn + PrtScr)|
|Fn+Delete||Light effects: light wave, raindrops, lines, twinkling stars|
|Fn+End||Individual key illumination mode (colors assigned via Fn+Backspace)|
|Fn+Page Down||Selecting the direction of the light effect|
|Fn+PrtScr||RGB mode selection for certain lighting effects|
|Fn+Scroll Lock||Choice of front color for specific lighting effects|
|Fn+Pause||Selecting a background color for specific lighting effects. Selecting the current color in individual modes|
|Fn+←||Decrease light effect speed|
|Fn+→||Increase light effect speed|
From the official site for Hator Rockfall EVO you can download and install the driver. The current actual software version is 18.104.22.168.
In the driver settings, you can select the autorun option and program operation options, as well as decide whether you need automatic checking and installing updates.
On the keyboard base screen, you can remap any key except Fn. Keyboard and mouse commands, macros, media buttons, Windows commands, and program launches are available for assignment. Each button can be disabled completely or reset to default. Up to eight profiles can be assigned to the program’s memory, all the rest are available in the profile editor and can be activated automatically when the application previously linked to them is launched.
In the macro editor, you can create chains of macros that are unlimited in number and size. Keyboard and mouse clicks are accepted, without delay, with automatic recording of the delay time, or with a predetermined time. Macros can be edited, deleted, copied, imported and exported. As well as giving them individual names.
In the backlight settings, you can individually adjust the lighting for each key. Eight profiles are also available and the ability to automatically turn off the backlight when the PC monitor is turned off. In addition to the static glow, there are 12 more visual effects with the ability to fine-tune their parameters in terms of color, brightness, direction, intensity, etc.
Ergonomics and testing
Before proceeding directly to the assessment of the ergonomics of the Hator Rockfall EVO, we decided to slightly modify it. The fact is that the company’s assortment now includes sets of interchangeable PBT keycaps in several color options and costing approximately $20. They are delivered sealed in a plastic mold and laid out immediately in the correct order.
We got to test a set of gray-white buttons, made using double molding technology, which provides them with the ability to conduct light efficiently.
It took me a little over 10 minutes to remove the stock ABS caps with the included wrench.
It took only six minutes to install new ones, since the caps laid out in the form did not take time to remember which and where to put. The main advantage of PBT over ABS is increased wear resistance. And much more pleasant tactile sensations. But there is a drawback — only English characters are applied on the keycaps. The limitations of technology, what can you do.
The backlight looks good on the new buttons. It is also possible to engrave the Cyrillic alphabet here, but now it will no longer glow.
The nature of the operation of Kailh optical switches can be said to be pleasant. Quiet, linear, soft enough to press, but with just the right amount of resistance to avoid accidental activations under the weight of your fingers. They work subjectively a little faster than the «red» analogues from Cherry, which have a delay against contact bounce at the controller level. I don’t have a device for objective control of this parameter, but a person is not really able to catch the difference between 2 and 16 ms of activation time. Therefore, it may be that the speed is felt due to the slightly reduced key travel. An unpleasant moment, as in Earthquake, is the weak horizontal stabilization of all keys. They slightly crawl around their axis in one direction or another. This is visible to the naked eye, although it does not create inconvenience in tactile terms. This type of buttons is optimally suited both for gaming battles at a professional level, and for printing large amounts of text. By the way, Hator has separate sets of switches (10 each for $6) with analogues of the “clicky” blue Kailh buttons or the “brown” or “red” Optical Outemu. So you can build yourself an input device with a different tactile combination for individual groups of keys.
As far as the software is concerned, there are questions only about the localization of the interface. Everything is quite intuitive and understandable, but not very beautiful. Hope this gets improved in the future.
Hator Rockfall EVO supports full-fledged NKRO anti-ghosting, which allows you to activate at least all the buttons at the same time. In case of hardware incompatibility, the keyboard can be switched to 6KRO mode, where only a combination of any six keys will work at the same time.
Hator Rockfall EVO is a logical upgrade for Hator Rockfall. Kailh’s new optical switches are a much better and more reliable solution than Outemu’s controversial mechanisms. It is frankly incomprehensible why the company did not immediately switch to their use. Moreover, the choice of optics in our stores is still not the widest, and its presence in the assortment is a significant advantage over competitors. The second positive point is that such optical switches can be easily removed and replaced with compatible ones, and this is already a unique feature for the local market, even if this is not a novelty on a global scale. Given the expansion of the range of accessories for Hator keyboards, namely the appearance of interchangeable switches and keycaps made of PBT, the user gets the opportunity to assemble a very individual keyboard to his taste. The list lacks only individual palm rests, but everything has its time.
Rockfall EVO has no significant problems. The only negative is the backlash of the key stems, the same as observed in Earthquake. This is probably a feature of the optics from Kailh.
In general, Hator Rockfall EVO is a quite standard and quite easy-to-use keyboard, not without some drawbacks, but it has a number of advantages over classic mechanical keyboards, in particular, in terms of design simplicity, activation speed and durability.