Wooting One

Wooting is a small peripheral company based in the Netherlands. When I say small, I mean a couple of guys, and when I say peripheral, I mean they have one product, and it is a keyboard (aptly named the One). I’ve been following this particular project for some time now, for reasons that will soon become clear. I was thrilled to finally receive a review unit.

You don’t see products that really change the gaming peripheral world very often. Every once in awhile, a brand new technology emerges that either fails miserably or becomes the new standard. It is too early to say for certain, but after spending a little time with the Wooting One, I’m relatively confident that we’re looking at the future of gaming keyboards. Considering there is more ground to cover than usual, this review might be a little longer than our typical fare – bear with me, I’ll try to keep it short.

On the surface, the Wooting One looks about like any other mechanical keyboard you’ve come across. Even popping off keycaps will reveal pretty familiar looking RGB lit mechanical switches – but that is where the similarities end. The defining feature of the Wooting One is that its switches use optical sensors instead of metal contacts. If you made the assumption that light is fast, and therefore the Wooting One should perform faster than a normal keyboard, you’d technically be right, but that isn’t what makes the Wooting One revolutionary. The switches used are still mechanical, and your keystrokes are going to feel about the same as any other mechanical board you’ve used before. The secret is that the sensing method is analog, allowing for more precision, not more speed. Let me elaborate.

Even though the switches on a typical mechanical keyboard are “mechanical”, the signal they send through the board is still digital. Finger hits key, key activates switch, switch presses one contact onto another contact, and “off” becomes “on”, telling the computer the key was pressed. The magic behind the Wooting One is that it uses an entirely new kind of sensor to detect those keypresses – an analog one. In theory, this means that the keyboard can sense varying degrees of depression, rather than just on and off. Think about how significant the difference between a D-Pad and an analog joystick is. That’s exactly the same kind of distinction we’re looking at with this new tech.

The Wooting One has pretty straightforward construction. First of all, it is Tenkeyless, making for a smaller, more portable form factor. I expected the keys to feel wobbly, since one of the big features of this board is that it has easily swappable switches mounted only into the face plate. While the keyboard is, admittedly, pretty light, it doesn’t feel flimsy or wobbly to type on. The braided USB cable is completely detachable, allowing for easy storage and transport, and the body of the board has a three-way cable routing canal that makes cable management a breeze. The One also sports standard MX style keycaps, meaning you should be able to get replacements pretty easily, even if you don’t get them directly from Wooting.

I honestly expected to be disappointed in the features department. I told myself that changing the future of gaming keyboards was enough for one product, and therefore there probably wouldn’t be any other significant features. I was wrong. The Wooting One comes with per key RGB lighting, and while it doesn’t yet have cool lighting effects, all of the right hardware is there to allow for it. The process of assigning colors is quick and easy, and a preview of the changes you are making appears on the keyboard as you make the changes – a way better experience than some other driver software I’ve used.

Not only does Wootility (their driver software – Wooting… Utility… Wootility! I approve.) let you assign colors to specific keys, it also lets you set the actuation points on each key – that is, it lets you decide just how far you want to push your keys down before certain actions take place. Per. Key. You want to mash the living daylights out of your space bar, and have precise control on WASD? You can do that. You want to show a range indicator on an ability when you start touching a key and cast the ability when you press all the way down? You can do that too. All of your settings are stored on the board itself, rather than in the driver software – a bonus if you take your gear on the road. There’s also a key that lets you toggle between analog and digital profiles, meaning you can use it just like any other keyboard if you want to, and then switch to analog controls at the drop of a hat. That being said, there are still a few minor improvements that could be made in the software, like lighting effect options. I expect we will see more functionality within Wootility in the days to come.

Considering what Wooting has accomplished with the One, I’m thoroughly impressed. The One is the first in what I believe will be a long line of analog gaming keyboards. They not only delivered the first keyboard with analog input, they delivered a feature-packed powerhouse of a keyboard with, all things considered, a pretty reasonable price tag. I’m looking forward to some software updates for Wootility, but the One is absolutely going to have a permanent home on my desk until further notice, which is saying something. I’m pretty attached to my keypad – I guess it’s time to look for a stand alone one!

Manufacturer: Wooting
Model: One
Price at time of review: $160

Review sample provided by manufacturer.