The company Azio has sent us the Retro Compact Keyboard (R.C.K.), a wireless Bluetooth keyboard that is particularly striking for its exceptional typewriter-oriented design. Whether the mechanical keyboard can convince only with its design or whether also the functionality, which can convince in Germany about 250 Euro expensive hardware, finds out in our test.
Design and Workmanship
The keyboard is available in four different versions, which differ in colour and material:
We have from Azio the dark version with black leather surface and a copper frame. The palm rest is also made of metal and genuine leather. The round keys also give a vintage impression, reminiscent of a typewriter. In contrast to the keyboard frame, however, they are made of plastic.
The workmanship of the keyboard and the included palm rest is impeccable. Overall, the keyboard looks very stable and high-quality thanks to the copper used and its high weight of about 1.6 kilograms. Our test specimen did not show any clacking, sharp edges or unclean gap dimensions.
Scope of Delivery
In addition to the actual keyboard, the scope of delivery also includes a wrist-rest, a fabric bag for transport, a plastic cover to protect against dust and an optional USB cable that can be used to connect to a computer and charge the integrated rechargeable battery. Azio also includes a cleaning brush to remove dust from the keyboard. Two additional feet, which can be exchanged for the keyboard’s pre-mounted stands, allow the height to be adjusted.
The additional keys, which are also included in the scope of delivery, allow you to customize the layout of the keyboard. No tool is required to change it.
Ergonomics and Layout
Due to the retro design, which gives the keyboard its name, the keyboard needs some getting used to at first. This is mainly due to the round keys, whose edges are much closer to each other than on keyboards with a standard layout. At the beginning of the test, this led to typos accumulating, but after a few days, writing with the initially unusual layout was already very easy by hand.
In addition to the unusual shape of the keys, the ANSI key arrangement of the Retro Compact Keyboard also provides some time to get used to. Although Azio uses a German QWERTZ layout for the R.C.K., the keyboard only has a single-line Enter key, under which the hash key is located directly. Users who are otherwise used to the German standard layout and the large Enter key will therefore make frequent mistakes when using the Enter key, at least initially.
In combination with the soft palm rest made of genuine leather, which, like the 1,600 gram keyboard, is very slip-resistant, the R.C.K. is convincing in terms of ergonomics. Without the palm rest, pressure points and a slight numbness occur during long typing due to the angular and high edge of the keyboard. In my opinion this is not a negative point, because the wrist-rest is included in the delivery.
The installed mechanical switches, which Azio developed together with the Chinese company Kaihua for the R.C.K., also give no cause for complaint. In order to not only reproduce the typewriter feeling in the design, but also to make it palpable during use, the keys have a tactile click, which is noticeably palpable during typing but is not as hard as with a real typewriter out of consideration for frequent typists. The feeling when writing is comparable to a Cherry MX Blue.
Bluetooth, Battery and Mobility
The keyboard’s features, which include Bluetooth and a 5,000 mAh battery, give the impression that the R.C.K. is designed for mobile use. However, since the 1,600 gram keyboard is about 400 grams heavier than a DELL XPS 13, in my opinion the R.C.K. is no alternative to classic iPad keyboards for users who regularly use their hardware. Even when using the monochrome white backlight, a battery charge in our test endured several weeks of intensive use.
Furthermore, the R.C.K. is compact compared to standard keyboards due to the missing number pad, but can’t keep up with real dwarves like the mechanical Vortexgear pok3r in terms of size, which admittedly has neither Bluetooth nor a battery – let alone the striking design.
The Azio Retro Compact Keyboard stands out in many ways, both positively and negatively, from the uniformity of office and gaming keyboards. I was convinced by the really high quality workmanship and choice of materials, which make the high price of about 250 Euro seem justified. In my opinion, the design of the keyboard also looks chic on the desk.
Typical gamers and frequent writers who don’t focus on the design, but only on the functionality and as error-free as possible inputs, will, in my opinion, better continue to use a keyboard with a standard layout and square keys. Since mobile use is not the primary area of application of the R.C.K. due to its high weight, this again significantly limits the target group. However, users who are mainly looking for a technically flawless keyboard with a top design and for whom the negative points of the R.C.K. are acceptable can access it without hesitation.