Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
If we had to think back to the only AZIO branded keyboard we have seen this far, it really does not bring back the memories of something high tech or anything more than basic functionality. This is because that only keyboard was the Large Print 3 Color keyboard, which did offer backlighting which is a huge plus, it was and is more geared to the older crowd or anyone with vision issues. Since most people who are proficient with typing do not tend to look at the keyboard, there really is no need for the mainstream user to have such a keyboard. On the flip side of the name game, their sister company Levetron offered the complete opposite. This time rubber dome switches are tossed in favor of mechanical switches, and with aggressive styling, and a detachable number pad, we did see a keyboard geared directly towards the gaming market as well.
So, where does this leave us now? Well, this AZIO keyboard keeps mechanical keys, offers backlighting, and the design is based with a brushed metal top. We do not feel comfortable saying mid-range, mediocre, or lower-end, but we will say that while being very stylish, it definitely is nowhere near as aggressive as the Levetron solution. This latest sample is able to stand on its own as a top tier offering, yet AZIO finds the way to deliver all of this without drivers, yet still offering the customers plenty of functionality.
Today we find ourselves reviewing the AZIO MGK 1, sort of a companion to the EXO 1 mouse we just saw. While this design offers a grey colored brushed metal top, the keys are black, and the sides offer a splash of bright red to accent this design. By using double functionality on the Function keys, AZIO is able to deliver a functional keyboard with all of what we previously stated, yet still find room for multimedia keys, a Windows lockout, lighting and brightness switches, and also offers switchable 6KRO or NKRO support and anti-ghosting. This is really a keyboard that needs to be seen and felt to truly appreciate, but we will do our best to convey what we find with this MGK 1 mechanical keyboard.
AZIO provides us with a basic chart of specifications where we see that this USB powered keyboard offers Kailh blue switches across the entire 104 key layout. There is LED backlighting under each keycap, and going a bit further, they can be adjusted in brightness, turned off, or even put into a reactive mode where the lights stay lit for a couple of seconds after the key is pressed. There is six feet of braided cable to make the connection to the PC, and even though 2.3 pounds seems like a lot for a keyboard, compared to many other offerings, this is a featherweight. There is also a list of the Hotkeys that include keys for the browser, email, the calculator, media player, multi media keys, and others we have mentioned, but we do see that the volume adjustment is done with a wheel much like Logitech offers. Along with the Windows compatibility, we see the dimensions of the keyboard, and that it carries a three-year warranty.
Aesthetically, we are dealing with a smaller, or using only the space needed to get the keys into the design with just a bit of trim around them. While the bottom and sides are made of plastic, and molded in red, the top of the keyboard is something different all together. There we find cylindrical key caps all painted black with the legends and iconography left white from the original casting of the key caps. Under all of the caps are of course the Kailh switches, which are then mounted to the brushed metal top plate of this keyboard. The color chosen is sort of a smoky grey color when seen in brighter lighting, but once the LEDs are in play, and since the LED is almost blue rather than true white, the color you are left with in the dark is almost identical to that of the top of the EXO 1 mouse.
What really puts the rest of the market in check, sans a select few that we have seen in our time here, is the ultra low pricing we found this keyboard being offered for. The MSRP upon release was set at $89.99 and for a mechanical keyboard, that is on the low-end of the scale. Consider though that at both Newegg as well as Amazon, currently both are selling the AZIO MGK 1 for just $70 with free shipping at either location. Kicking another $20 off an already lower priced keyboard is not a sign of weakness, as this keyboard has been a real trooper in our testing.
Packaging, Accessories and Documentation
The front of the packaging offers a very large image of the MGK 1 front and center, and is the first we are seeing that it comes with a wrist rest as well. We also see that this is marketed as a backlit mechanical keyboard that is elegantly fierce.
On the shorter end of the box, we find a mini image of the keyboard off to the right, and all of the same categorizing and descriptive terms from the front. What we do like is that the box has been sealed so that you know it is fresh from the factory and not tampered with.
The longer side again covers what we have already seen, with the text at this end and a tiny image of the keyboard at the other. We are not going to show the opposing side, as it offers multi-lingual specifications charts, and we will see the English version anyways.
The other small end of the box offers an identical panel to its opposition, but we do like seeing the sealed box on this end as well.
On the back of the packaging, we find a very large image of the keyboard taking up most of the panel with eight features explained and pointed out around it. Off to the right side is a full list of specifications and it also shows us that in the box is the keyboard, the palm rest, and a thank you card.
Opening the box, we find that the MGK 1 is wrapped in plastic, and both ends are supported with high density foam end caps. The cable is wrapped up and kept in place in the folded over bits of cardboard at the back.
Under the MGK 1, we found the thank you card that also offers information for unsatisfied customers, the clip in palm rest made of plastic, and we even found a red key puller included inside of the box.
AZIO MGK 1 Mechanical Keyboard
The left side of the MGK 1 is bright red and mostly plastic, and also has a crosshatch pattern applied that makes it a bit easier to grab and move. Along the top, we see the thickness of the metal top plate, and above that, we find the key caps angled to the back.
On the F1 through F6 keys, we see that they all offer dual functionality. While pressing the Function key, you can bring up the browser, check mail, use the calculator, or load the media player. The F5 key offers a rewind key, and the F6 is used for play/pause functions.
F7 is the fast forward key, while F8 is the stop button. F9 offers a Windows lock out, F10 decreases brightness and F11 increases it, while the F12 cycles through off, on, and a follow the key presses mode.
While we do get to see the entire left side of the key layout as well as noticing the futuristic looking font, we can also see just a bit of the red from underneath, and the bluish grey color of the brushed metal top plate.
At the top right corner of the MGK 1, we find that there are LEDs denoting the Numbers lock, the Caps lock, and the Windows lockout functions are active by illuminating when they are. We also find the mute button and rubberize volume wheel.
The number pad and commands are all as they should be, as well as with the arrow keys. Points to note are things like the additional arrow keys on the numbers, and the roll over support keys on the Insert and Delete keys at the top left.
Extending the feet puts a much better angle of attack on the key caps. We also see that on the right end, it is again red to match the left side, and offers the design embossed on it to help grip this side as well.
The bottom of the keyboard is mostly flat red plastic. With the manufacturer sticker in the center, rubber pads at the corners, and a groove at the front to snap in the palm rest, the only thing left to address is the flip out feet, which have no additional grip offered on them.
The USB cable is braided on the outside of a rubberized black cable. It is six feet from the keyboard to the gold plated USB 2.0 connection, and even offers a ferrite choke to eliminate any noise.
Removing a few of the key caps, we can see that this does indeed offer Kailh blue switches. We can also see the LED above each of the switches.
The caps we removed are first molded in white. After that they are taken and painted, leaving the legends and iconography exposed, allowing the LEDs to backlight each key.
Inside the MGK 1
After taking apart the MGK 1, we found that there is a very short ribbon cable that is hard to remove from the PCB on the lower red section. The USB cable is soldered directly to the main PCB, and with the switches being mounted to the metal top plate, the PCB does not come away from that plate.
If you had the inclination that due to cost they would cut corners, that is not what we see at all. Even something as small as removing the residue from the soldering process is addressed leaving a very clean PCB inside.
The MCU in question is this 8-bit Holtek HT66F8560. This will take care of this feature set as well as the traffic, and also offers the flash memory for the preset functionality of the secondary buttons.
We also found this Holtek HT68F40 which we initially thought may be some form of a USB controller, but upon seeing the specifications, we find this to be yet another 8-bit MCU with onboard flash. Maybe one does the talking and the other runs the settings.
With everything back together, we also added the palm rest to show you what that looks like together. The front of the rest is sloped right to the table, and with dimples all over the top, it clips in slightly higher than the metal top plate.
Believe it or not, the keyboard is now powered and fully illuminated. We have activated all of the locks for this image, and you can see they are definitely visibly illuminated.
We do feel that this keyboard needed one more step up in brightness, as we took one of the key caps off to show how bright it isn't. While we should see almost an over glow effect, with the caps molded in white, unless it is near dark in the room, the LEDs are hard to distinguish.
No doubt that the MGK 1 is stylishly simple, yet is able to get quite a bit out of this driverless option in mechanical keyboards. The bright red sides of this keyboard go well with many case build themes and would feel right at home in a lot of offices. The sleek look of the bluish grey brushed metal top takes this from something only a gamer would use, to something your coworkers may envy on your desk as well. With the secondary features offered across the top, not only covering the multimedia keys, but also offers hot keys for the browser and such at take much less time than moving the mouse and clicking on icons. Offering swappable 6KRO and NKRO as well as anti-ghosting are also huge plusses to consider, and while lighter than most solutions, it is still sturdy and resistant to flex and vibrations.
There are just a couple of complaints we would like to address, though. First, there is the lighting issue. In our opinion, the lighting is more blue than white and may contribute to the brightness lacking. We do feel, however, that compared to most other offerings, these are a bit dim no matter how you shake the stick. The second thing we noticed is that these Kailh switches seemed a bit soft. Considering we frequently use them, and the last few keyboards before this all sported the same switches, we have a feel for what they should be. They are audible, and travel well, but for some reason we cannot explain, the activation pressure does not feel as heavy as the Poseidon Z forged before this, or any other for that matter.
While your initial impressions once we addressed the pricing may have left you with a bit of a chip on your shoulder, assuming they must have given up something to offer this sort of a deal. The reality is that under every rock and around every corner, mechanically and with the quality control, there is not one serious thing to complain about.
Even though we did air a grievance or two, we still feel that with an asking price of around $70 to your door, you truly do get your money's worth with the MGK 1. It is hard to deny the pricing, the stylish looks, and when you realize it is at least $25 cheaper than many competitors, you too will start to really appreciate the AZIO MGK 1 mechanical gaming keyboard like we do.
|Quality including Design and Build||95%|
|Bundle and Packaging||90%|
|Value for Money||99%|
The Bottom Line: AZIO's MGK 1 is sleek and sexy to look at, uses mechanical backlit switches, and it is driverless. Even so, there are plenty of features and a great price point to make most users very happy.
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