I had to do a fair bit of homework for this review, as this is the first time I have personally dealt with AZiO Corporation, and any of the "Mech" series of keyboards. It seems that AZiO offers quite a few products that cover storage devices, wired and wireless networking devices, peripherals, cables, and of course keyboards. At present AZiO lists 13 various keyboards from sleek looking wireless ones, even a mini thumb keyboard, right on up to the wired mechanical keyboards that we will be discussing today.
Narrowing the field to just its mechanical selections in keyboards, you are left with three solutions from AZiO. The first is a more normal looking design called the Levetron Clicker that uses keys much like what is found in the Matias, Alps white mechanical switches, hence the name "Clicker". The next solution to look at would be the Levetron Mech4.
Now this takes design boundaries to a new limit, and may not be a keyboard for everyone, more specifically with the yellowish paint and blue LED lighting, makes it tough to match it to the rest of the PC, as most DIY builds aren't blue and yellow. That isn't to say that AZiO sat on their heels with this design and let it fall by the wayside; rather they picked up what looks to be a solid concept, and in my mind improved on it.
So that leaves us with AZiO's latest solution, and the keyboard we are going to be having an in-depth look at today, the Levetron Mech5 mechanical gaming keyboard. There isn't a whole lot on the surface that has changed besides the choice of paint color to trim out and label. Once the board is powered up and the software is added, you then get the glow of red LEDs with this incarnation and AZiO logo on the volume knob. The software will also leave your head spinning with the unlimited possibilities of control that the software provides its users.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The first chart is what I found as AZiO's specifications. It covers all of the general information like the USB connection on the end of the six foot of cable, as well as the amount of profile keys and the modular D-pad with its six keys. It states that the Mech5 is based on Cherry MX Black switches, and this is the first time I have had the chance to use them. The chart them goes on to show the OS support, the dimensions of the keyboard and the add-on numeric keypad, along with the choice of material on the outside is plastic, and if something was to go wrong there is a three year warranty with the Levetron Mech5.
The features list is where things get a bit more interesting. The Levetron Mech5 offers things gamers can really appreciate. There is a Windows key that will block out the key so you don't accidentally end up on the desktop in the middle of a raid. Even though there are only five profile keys, and even then there is an A and a B side to them to allow for ten active profiles, the amount you can store via the software is unlimited. There is a volume knob along with a modular numeric keypad and Macro D-pad. These modular components offer the ability to move for comfort and ease of use. Anti-ghosting is a must for gaming, and being water resistant helps against any "mistakes" that may happen around the keyboard.
The back of the Mech5 has two USB ports on the back of it, but one is used up by the D-pad. Aside from this keyboard offering three levels of height for the best fit for each user, the software also allows you full control of every key on the keyboard. So if the add-on buttons aren't enough for you, go ahead and set this keyboard up any way that makes its use more enjoyable to your specific needs.
I have had this keyboard for roughly a month now, and in that time it seems many e-tailers have picked up on the Mech5 and stocked their shelves with this keyboard. On the lower end of the listings there is Mwave with an $88.99 listing, which is really good for what you get. In comparison, I took a look over at Newegg to see where they had this keyboard listed. I found that even with free shipping offered you are going to have to pay out $109.99 to get the Mech5 over there. That isn't the worst of it; some of the listings surpass $150 to get this keyboard, so buyers should definitely shop around first for the best deal.
Love it or hate it, the Levetron Mech5 offers gamers a ton of options and features that you just can't pass up, and at these prices, specifically the low end, there is no way you should really pass this solution by if you are serious about gaming and total control of your keyboard.
The packaging is very attractive to the eye with the mix of gloss and flat finishes and the large image of the keyboard out on the open. Under the red 5 on the left are eight features that should draw gamers to this product. On the right, the keyboard appears to be hovering in an industrial looking docking bay, and gives you an idea of where the angular and chunky design comes from.
The long thin expanses at the top and the bottom of the packaging offer the full name of the Levetron Mech5 gaming keyboard, and the part number for reference of KB577U.
The right and left ends of the outer packaging offers basically the same information as the top and bottom does, but all the panels keep that industrial look on them. To show you no one has tampered with your keyboard since it left the factory, there are stickers with AZiO's name on them that you should have to cut to gain access to the inside.
On the back things start off at the top left with the features and specifications. Just under it is an image of the board in use showing how the number pad can go on either side and that the D-pad is easy to access and flips up and out of the way if you need access to the F-keys.
Once you remove the outer packaging you are greeted by this all black cardboard box that has a shiny finish to it and has Levetron by AZiO really large across the top of it.
Lifting the lid of the inner packaging shows the Levetron Mech5 wrapped in plastic and snugly fit into a recycled cardboard inner tray.
Lifting the keyboard out of the way you can see there are more parts in the bottom of the tray, each in their own little compartments, and the CD and manual are just left to float around between them.
AZiO Levetron Mech5 Gaming Keyboard
The Mech5 comes as a standalone keyboard as you see here. The design is quite angular, and even chunky on the sides, but I can understand the design elements especially once I see them all in play as I get to know the Mech5 a little more.
On the extreme left edge of the keyboard you have a set of five keys that show both A and B designations. The key above that is spilt diagonally offers a Windows lock out key on the top left, but the bottom right key will switch between the A and B sides of the profile keys.
Across the standard 74 key layout you get black key caps with painted lettering. The choice of font is very clear, and stands out well for those who cannot type blind. I also like that there are the usual sized keys for the shift and enter keys as well.
At the top near the right edge of the Mech5 is the large volume control knob. This will illuminate while in use with the slight glow of red LEDs. To the left of it are the caps lock and scroll lock indicators.
Now we are actually looking at the bulky cover on the right edge of the keyboard, traditionally where the numeric keypad is on most keyboards out of the box. Keep in mind, what you are about to see can be done on either the left or right side of the Levetron Mech5 keyboard.
There is a latch under the bottom that needs pressed to release the cover, but once done it will swing past 90 degrees and also expose a USB connector tucked away between two plastic rails. This is to allow you to clip in the numeric keypad that shipped in the bottom of the tray.
As you can see the contour of the keyboard snugs right up to the left side of the keypad, and all that is left to do is to press the cover on the top of the keypad to help lock it in. As I said you can add this to the left side of the board as well.
Since we were adding the components, I went ahead and grabbed the add-on Macro D-pad. I will show you how it connects in a bit, but it rides on the segmented track and will adjust for the best comfort. If you need to use an F-key, just lift the front edge and the D-pad will swing up and out of the way.
Next to the track for the D-pad, at the back of the keyboard, you find two USB ports next to the beginning of the six foot braided cable to connect the Mech5 to your PC with. Keep in mind, if you use the D-pad, and or want the numeric pad to be free on your desktop, both ports will be used by these devices.
AZiO Levetron Mech5 Gaming Keyboard Continued
Following that braided cable, even though the majority of the six foot is still wound up, it terminated in two connectors. Both of the gold plated USB connections must be made unless you don't plan to add the D-pad or the numeric keypad.
Under the keyboard and number pad, they both offer a long rubber piece or two at the front edge to give it secure footing. In the back you will find the same, along with some unusual adjustable feet.
With the feet clipped down into the base of the keyboard, you have a very flat keyboard on your desk, but there is the rubber piece to give you the grip you need to keep the keyboard from sliding around in game.
If you flip up the smaller foot, you can see that it also has a rubber pad on it, and it delivers on half of an inch in height to the back of the keyboard.
If you desire a more drastic angle of attack, feel free to flip out the large feet and raise your board just over an inch higher in the back. The large foot of course has a rubber pad on it as well.
I thought the D-pad keys felt a bit mushy, and I grabbed one of my key pullers to find out why. Once I removed the D2 key I could see this little add-on board used rubber dome switches.
As for the rest of the keyboard if you were to remove the key caps you will find nothing but Cherry MX Black linear mechanical switches backing these caps.
Stepping back a bit to see another way we can use the Levetron Mech5, with the detached numeric pad, you can see in the back that we are now using both USB ports. What you can't really see is the red LED glowing under the volume control knob and around the A/B keys as the keyboard is powered up.
Accessories and Documentation
The Add-on or modular numeric keypad has all of the basics that the typical right side of the keyboard offers. The main difference here is the addition arrow keys and other commands offers with the Shift key. There is also a handy little calculator button at the bottom to bring up the default Windows calculator.
Flipping it over shows it uses the same thin rubber strips and the two additional feet to allow for the perfect angle. Also, found around the edge, there are three tabs that will allow this device to clip into the sides of the Mech5 and the swing-up caps.
On both sides of the numeric keypad you get a USB port on them to allow you to either pug this into either side f the keyboard, or use the adapter cable to allow the use of the pad anywhere on the desktop.
To accomplish the task of connecting the keypad to the keyboard and still not connecting it directly to the keyboard you are given this four foot long male to male cable that works with the back of the keyboard and the keypad. You cannot connect this to the side ports on the Mech5.
The Macro D-pad offers you six keys that can be slid onto a rail to allow you to adjust their placement on the keyboard to allow you the most access with the least amount of effort.
Flipping the D-pad over you can see there is even a little foot to take the pressure off of the hinge. This foot will rest between the F-keys and the numbers across the top.
Accessories and Documentation Continued
Still key side down you can now see the hinge folds over and exposes the track and white plastic ball that surrounds the segmented track at the top of the keyboard. The ball seen here is what will keep the D-pad in place as it is spring loaded and will settle in the gaps in the track.
The manual on the left I am going to be getting into more detail about soon enough, but the contents found on the CD will have to wait for the next page of the review.
Opening the manual you are again told of the specifications and features. At this point AZiO dove right in and starts with an eight point check list to get acquainted with the Levetron Mech5.
AZiO then takes you through the setup and connectivity of the Mech5. This includes how to install both the D-pad and the numeric key pad. It then goes on to cover that both USB connections must be made, shows the volume knob, and shows the back of the mech5 has two USB ports around back.
I like that the instructions also cover a full description of the software and how to manipulate it. These two pages cover the Macros on the left and the individual key settings on the right.
The last couple of images goes into the more advanced Macro settings and how to use and set them and ends with support and warranty information.
Once the keyboard is connected you then throw in the disc and install the software. Once installed and opened you are greeted with this page. On the most basic level, to the right are basic instructions for creating profiles, creating Macros, or selecting any of the keys to reassign a new function to each and every key.
Once you click on the "default Profile" button a sub-menu pops up and allows you to name and start various profiles to apply to the buttons on the left edge of the Mech5. While you can only set so many of the keys at any one time, the amount of profiles you want to set it limited only by your creativity and storage space on your hard drive. Just click on new and name the profile, make it active, or load one of the various profiles you save back into use.
Pressing the Macro Settings button at the bottom brings up this menu. At the top window you name the Macro that you want to create. The bottom window is where the recording of the Macro as you use it as well as the ability for time delays.
Most keyboards need third party software to offer this sort of functionality. On top of unlimited Macros and Profiles you also have the ability to reassign every single key in the Mech5 layout. Just click on a key and highlight it blue as the D2 key now is, and this window pops up to allow you to set anything from another keys functionality on to macros.
I have had quite a bit of time to try and get as used to the Levetron Mech5 from AZiO in both gaming as well as day to day usage. The Mech5 contains Cherry MX Black switches which makes sure controls in gaming with a higher level of pressure is needed to actuate the switch. This makes sure that you aren't rolling over to other keys as easily. As a writer though, I find this board to be very difficult to use over the long term. It was fine when I just needed to search the web or compose and e-mail or two, but when looking at composing something like this review, I really miss the comfort of my Matias. The Mech5 is really great in all other aspects. The numeric keypad is easy to install and use, so is the D-pad for that matter. I like the options added to the feet in the back. So even with a higher desktop like mine, you can angle the board for an easier reach while still taking advantage of the built in wrist rest. On the whole I really liked the Levetron Mech5; I just don't do enough gaming these days to outweigh the need for a "writers" keyboard on my desk.
Along with modular components, the D-pad that will slide back and forth across the top, as well as flipping up so you don't have to remove it to gain access to the F-keys and the multi-positional numeric keypad, it shows that while the design is a bit outside of the box, each detail is very well thought out, and we didn't even get to the software. Considering that the software will give you full customization of the keyboard along with unlimited profiles and Macros, I don't think I have yet to see a keyboard submitted that offers this sort of feature set. If you can get along with the industrial looking design of the Mech5, the features I found during the testing is just icing on the cake for a board that is so easy and comfortable to use.
During my testing I didn't run into any ghosting and I don't type fast enough to experience NKRO issues. That being said, I do try to create the environments to show these sorts of issues, and even then I couldn't find any fault with the way the keys are registering by themselves or multiples in rapid succession. If I were to have to really pick at the Mech5 for an issue, I would say the lack of backlighting will be an issue for some buyers, but with decals for the letters on the keycaps instead of laser etching them, the lighting won't work well. This does bring me to one other thing. Since they did choose to use decals on the keys, I could see them wearing away over time, but is not something I have experienced yet.
Even if you aren't attracted to the design, and it was something I had to let grow on me a bit before I was really accepting of the design, you are going to be hard pressed to find one close to this price to replace it. Keep in mind we have Cherry MX Black Switches, some of the simplest but most inclusive software available, and the modularity to use the Mech5 in any way you see fit. If you don't shop around, you are likely going to be spending near $110 to the more known e-tailers out there, and it's a good deal at that price. For those that are a bit more frugal, you can locate the AZiO Levetron Mech5 gaming keyboard at a terrific deal of $88.99 to your door from Mwave at the time of writing.
There are cheaper mechanical solutions, but the linear switch with this sort of activation pressure isn't widely available, and I can't think of any keyboard that will offer the software capable of what AZiO brings to the table. For a company that sort of showed up out of the blue, they really impressed me with how well they design keyboards, and just how much thought they put into these products.