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Monday
Dec042017

Review: Azio's Retro Classic Mechanical Keyboard 

Text and photos by Seamus Bellamy

Good looks and mechanical keys—what’s not to love?

Azio’s Retro Classic Mechanical Keyboard doesn’t come cheap. Starting at $190, the price of owning one is obscene. But my God, is it pretty. When Azio’s PR rep asked if I’d like to take one for a spin, the answer was an immediate ‘yes.’ I needed to see if they keyboard’s function could come close to mirroring its form.

Hardware


The first thing you’ll notice while manhandling one of these things out of its packaging, is the heft. With a chrome plated, zinc aluminum alloy frame, leather top plate and heavy aluminum hex bolts to bind it all together,  The Retro Classic weighs in at 3.5 pounds. The keyboard’s bottom plate is made with plastic, but you’ll never notice that it’s there. Even the mechanisms for altering this thing’s typing angle are heavy-duty. Instead of the flip out plastic legs that most keyboards come with.

The Retro Classic’s height is adjusted with a pair of twistable, rubber-footed pillars. Between the friction caused by the rubber against the top of my desk and the keyboard’s weight, this is one input device that’s not going to move around as you type. For some, this fact alone could be worth the price of admission.

User Experience


I found that typing with the Retro Classic comes with more of a learning curve than I’ve experienced with other mechanical keyboards that I’ve tested in the past. Much of this has to do with the shape of its keycaps. As its name implies, the Retro Classic Keyboard looks, well, retro. Anyone that’s laid eyes on a 1930s era Underwood will recognize it as the inspiration for the Retro Classic’s backlit keycaps. Round and trimmed out with the same polished metal aesthetic as the rest of the keyboard, they look simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why we left keyboards of this style in the past. The rounded keys on the Retro Classic are frustratingly close together.

This, along with their rounded shape, which years of typing on square keycaps has left me unprepared for, made typing at any speed frustrating for the first week that I owned the Retro Classic. Four weeks in and I find that I still have difficulties in landing the letters that I want to, perhaps 10-15% of the time. And I type, a lot. Your mileage may differ. No matter how many typos you make, the keys, with their Kailh blue switches, provide click tactile feedback. They offer plenty of travel and are a pleasure to bang away on. As far as I can tell, the Retro Classic is only available with Mapping for Windows computers. However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Mac users.

Using USB Overdrive, I was able to remap the keyboard’s media and application control shortcut keys to jive with my MacBook Pro. The 10 minutes of tinker that this took definitely pays dividends on how good this thing looks sitting on top of my desk.

Should you buy one?


Look, you can get a very capable full-sized mechanical keyboard for less than half of what the Azio’s Retro Classic will set you back. And it’ll likely take a lot less typos than I’ve endured to learn how to type on it. So, if you’re looking for a keyboard that’ll let you get down to work immediately, or that’ll work for you in a fragfest right out of the box, then this the Retro Classic isn’t for you.

But if you feel that you deserve a luxury accessory, and have the time to work out the muscle memory required to rock this thing, then yes: by all means pick on up. This is easily the most beautiful peripheral that I’ve ever tested, and as my fingers learn to navigate it, I’ve been growing to love it more and more by the day. If you can stomach the cost and retro futuristic hardware is your kink, you’ll want to get your hands on one.

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