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AZIO MK Retro Typewriter Mechanical Keyboard Review

AZIO MK Retro Typewriter Mechanical Keyboard Review

AZIO's MK Retro is a typewriter-inspired mechanical keyboard that is sure to turn heads and impress.

@chad_sebring
Published Tue, Jan 31 2017 7:48 AM CST   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: AZIO

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 27 IMAGES

Ever since the invention of the typewriter in the late 1800s, writing moved from the pen and pencil realm, and also took nuances of individual styles of handwriting out of the equation for readers around the world. If you happen to have been born early enough, you may even recall doing some of your schoolwork on this sort of device, where mistakes in writing required a bottle of White-Out, a few heavy breaths of air to the page being typed upon, and then you could continue on your merry way. Of course, we can also recall getting fingers pinched in the keys, the inevitable ding from the keyboard at the end of a line, and needing to swing your arm up to a large lever, shifting the page back to the left edge to be able to continue your work.

While the typewriter had a great run in the history of writing, it was replaced in the 1980s with word processors, and then into PC keyboards in the mainstream, and has ever since made writing anything from a novel to an IM message, as easy as it could get.

While most makers of PC keyboards are driving their attention to backlighting, RGB effects and customization of the LEDs under the keys, Macro keys, Profile keys, and a Windows lockout feature, AZIO took a nostalgic approach to mechanical keyboards. While most of the keyboard is the same as one would expect, with a two-piece frame, adjustable feet at the back, a 104-key layout, and the use of mechanical switches, aesthetics here are something we have only seen done in steampunk modifications to a PC. Never has someone came out with such a device to be enjoyed as it is, right out of the box.

We have you all together here today to discuss the latest creation from AZIO, and their keyboard development team, the MK Retro Typewriter Inspired Mechanical keyboard. What sets this device apart from all others is that not only does this design get back to the basics, for those who tend actually to use a keyboard for writing rather than for gaming, but more importantly have used a set of key caps that are very reminiscent of what we can recall from our childhood.

Rounded keycaps are used on the MK Retro, and each cap is concave across the top of them, and each is surrounded by a chrome ring, leaving open areas between all of the switches, allowing for the smooth, shiny top used in the MK Retro to shine through in all areas. If nostalgia is your thing, you don't care for all the fancy do-dads that come with today's mechanical keyboard offerings. If you are more of a typist than a gamer, the AZIO MK Retro will not only look amazing but will most certainly set your peripherals apart from anything most people have seen on the desk in this day and age.

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In the specifications chart provided from AZIO, we see this keyboard is named the MK Retro – 01, which almost makes us think more versions of this idea will come along in the future. It connects to the PC via USB, more specifically USB 2.0, and is at the end of a 1.8-meter cable which has been braided. The switches used in its interior are Tactile and clicky, resembling the action of Cherry MX or Kailh blue switches, but are not made by either company. The stems of these switches are olive green and are branded with the name OARMY. There is an option built into the MK Retro to enable either 6-key rollover support or NKRO, it works with any Windows operating system, and is backed by a two-year warranty against defects.

The MK Retro is 147mm from the front to the back, 455mm from side to side, and with the feet in the lowest position, stands only 40mm in height. As far as weight is concerned, the MK Retro is a relative lightweight at just 1043 grams, because the entire design is made of plastic. Aesthetically, every key is either round or rounded, the entire top of the keyboard is made of shiny black plastic, the lower section of textured black plastic, and just like how the key caps are ringed in chrome.

The outer edge of this keyboard also sports a thick chrome trim which unifies the design and makes for a keyboard that is stunning to look at as well. Another trick we have not seen before is that the MK Retro is supported with large round feet, almost what you might find supporting a chassis. However, that isn't the best part of it. The back feet are still adjustable, but use a set of grooves in the feet, to allow them to twist counterclockwise to be extended, and clockwise to be lowered.

At this point, locating the MK Retro is quite easy, just type the name into any search engine and the listings of where to obtain this device pop right up. In our search, we found that Amazon does carry the MK Retro, and currently is asking $109 for it. You can save a couple of dollars and choose to look at Newegg for the MK Retro, though, where we found it listed for $106.99. Right away we see that the pricing is not that bad for this keyboard, but we do also have to consider that outside of its flashy historical design, many features we find in PC keyboards today, are left out in this design.

However, it has been our experience that not only do we wholeheartedly appreciate the design and enjoy being unique, anyone who has seen this product during our testing has straight away asked if they could have it. It is just that amazing, that even without using it, those old enough to recall a typewriter in the first place seem to be drawn to the MK Retro like a moth to a flame, almost as if they cannot believe what they are seeing.

Chad's Peripherals Test System Specifications

Packaging, Accessories, and Documentation

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The packaging in which the MK Retro is shipped inside of is sleek and simple, but also has a nostalgic feel to it. With just part of the keyboard visible at the left all in chrome, when we look at the company and product names to the right, it has a certain art-deco look to it as well.

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While neither of the long skinny sides has anything to offer, just an expanse of the flat black cardboard, both of the smaller end of the box look like this. This time the names on the left are offered in a bold font, and like the rendering of the keyboard off to the right, all of it is chromed, alluding to what you get inside of the box.

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On the back of the box, the name of this keyboard is found at the top, on the left side. This is followed by a description of why this was made, what it delivers in features, and at the bottom, we see notations of USB connectivity and Windows OS usage. The sticker in the bottom right corner shows us the first look at the keyboard found inside and is also where AZIO has listed the specifications.

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Inside of the box, we find the MK Retro starting back at us, but we also find that it is shipped with a clear plastic cover to keep dust and debris off the keyboard while it is not in use. The paperwork is set atop the keyboard, so it is easy to find straight away, it is nestled into dense foam on either side to protect it, and the cardboard at the back contains the cable for connectivity to the PC.

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AZIO ships the MK Retro with a user guide which shows how to connect the keyboard to the PC and covers the dual functionality keys along the top for multimedia and desktop support. There is also a second insert that ships in the box too. One side of this is a thank you from AZIO for purchasing the MK Retro. The other side of that same insert asks if you are troubled in any way and if you are, inside it gives you the support information to make contact with AZIO to rectify the issue.

AZIO MK Retro Typewriter Inspired Mechanical Keyboard

AZIO) MK Retro Typewriter Inspired Keyboard

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Even when looking at the MK Retro from the side, it's sleek and sexy. The feet are surrounded by a chrome ring at the bottom, there is the thick band of chrome along the side of the frame, and each of the keys above it is also ringed with chrome. Playing against black for contrast makes the MK Retro pop when it is sitting on the desk.

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The layout of the 74 keys seen here is typical of any keyboard offered in the US. The row of F-keys doing double duty, the numbers and letters, and even the command keys are all rounded, however, and they allow that shiny black plastic below the chrome rings to shine through.

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Starting off with the multiple functions of the F-keys, we first start with the F1 through F4 keys. Here you can open the browser home page, open This PC, open the default mail handler, and also open Windows Media Player.

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If you are going to allow us to open a media player, multimedia keys are essential too. On the F5 through F8 keys, this begins, where we find the previous track button, the next track button, one to play or pause the track, and the last one to stop it.

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The last set of F-keys counties with multimedia and ends with a button to bring up the calculator. F9 will decrease the volume, F10 will raise it, F11 mutes all sounds, and as for the F12, we already mentioned its functionality.

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The right third of the MK Retro, while looking different than the square caps we are used to, delivers all of the keys one expects to see here in a 104-key layout. Command keys, arrow keys, a full number pad, and even optional arrow keys are all to be had as they surround the AZIO name painted in white.

MK Retro Continued

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There is one key on this side of the board that some may find handy, specifically if you are a speedy typist. The Print Screen key is also used to offer a switch from the 6-key rollover to NKRO support, making certain that multiple keys pressed are all read, rather than just six at a time.

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When it comes to the lock indication LEDs, they also went old school here as well. With tall LEDs for the Number lock, Caps lock, Scroll lock, and the Windows lock, they almost appear to be tube style bulbs standing proudly atop the MK Retro.

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The right edge of the MK Retro is identical to what we saw on the left side. Lots more Chrome, and an aggressive angle of attack to the keys since both feet ship in the extended position.

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With six feet of braided cable to make the connection from the MK Retro to the PC, we see it passes through a Ferrite choke before termination. The connection has an AZIO "A" on the connector to make it easy to find on the rear I/O panel and is also gold plated to fight corrosion to the USB 2.0 connector.

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Under the keyboard, we find the lower section of the frame is inset a bit, rounded as it curves to the flat plane, and is textured. The product sticker is found right in the middle of everything, and there are four large feet with thick rubber pads on them to ensure the MK Retro does not move around easily.

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Rather than flip out feet that typically collapse at the simplest hint of moving the keyboard, AZIO took a different approach. The central section of the back feet has three angled grooves in each of them, allowing the feet to twist and be adjustable in three total stages.

Inside the MK Retro

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Wire key cap pullers work to remove the rounded keycaps, but we would not suggest the plastic ones as it will likely scratch the chrome on the ends of the caps. Under each cap is a green stem poking through the shiny plastic top section of the MK Retro, and the torsion bars are hidden, and dummy holes are used to help support wider caps.

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These caps are molded in black plastic, and each key is then surrounded with a separate chrome ring to encircle the caps. The stems used to attach the caps to the switches is beefier than in moist designs, but will fit quite a few switch types, OARMY, Kailh and Cherry MX included.

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There are 22 screws that keep this keyboard together along with quite a few clips around the edge, but it is relatively straightforward to open things up once you realize the feet need to be removed as well. Inside of the lower section we do find ribs to support the PCB, and looking inside of the top section, we see holes for the switches and the same technique of applying the chrome ring to it that the caps use.

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You may think this image is inverted, but this is the orientation in which the switches are installed in the MK Retro. Note that there are no LEDs installed in any of the switches, and now we can see the OARMY name and logo present on each of these green tactile and clicky switches.

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The PCB inside of this keyboard is bright red, but we took this image for another reason. Notice that all of the solder work is tidy and that there are no signs of any residue left from the flux. This goes to show that even on parts many will never see, AZIO cares about quality and cleanliness.

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Without much more to do than to send the keystrokes off to the PC, AZIO chose the Holtek HT68FB560 MCU to drive this MK Retro. This is an 8-bit RISC architecture IC, and is more than enough power to do what this keyboard asks of it.

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Once powered, not much changes with aesthetics; that is until you activate the locks. While all of the keys are not backlit as most users enjoy these days, there is a brilliant white glow from the lock LEDs at the top right corner when active. So bright in fact, it can be picked up in the periphery if you accidentally press the Caps lock, for instance, you will know you did so right away.

Gaming and General Impressions

DOOM

While any keyboard can be a gaming keyboard if you need it to, that is not exactly the intent behind the MK Retro. However, when it came to playing a few maps of Doom here and there between reviews, we found no issue making the switch from writer to gamer. If you are not sure where your hand goes on a keyboard, without backlights, it may be tough to orient your hand in a dimly lit room, but with the Windows lockout key available, at least you won't exit the game by mistake fumbling around.

OVERWATCH

Playing round after round of OVERWATCH leaves us with much of the same feeling. We have no issues gaming with the MK Retro, and this is where the Windows lockout key comes in very handy as you blindly reach around for the various keys to command your characters abilities.

It is easy to tell when a movement has been made, as the report from the OARMY switches is similar to what you hear of a Cherry MX blue switch, and the feel is just about the same as well. While not intended to be gamed on, the MK Retro shows no weakness at this task, outside of features it may be lacking.

Windows and Productivity

With quite a bit of typing being dome on the MK Retro before this review, we feel that once the learning curve has been adjusted to, the MK Retro is as much of a pleasure to use as any other keyboard we have had on our desk. Of course, it is going to take some time to get used to the lack of square switches almost forcing your fingers into the proper locations, but the concave shape of these round keys has a similar effect, just a bit less noticeable.

While 6-key rollover is plenty for most to get by with, but with those that can type near the speed of light, the NKRO support and built in anti-ghosting the MK Retro comes with is greatly appreciated as well.

Final Thoughts

While we would love to say that AZIO is the only one out there offering a keyboard this unique, there has been a press release that Nanoxia is also offering a board similar in concept to what AZIO brought forth. This in our minds does not steal any of the thunder away from AZIO, though. It makes things better in our minds, as we are not the only one who appreciates this trip down memory lane to days gone by, but if another company is offering a similar product, it has to be a hot design.

While this is technically a keyboard for the typists and writers out there, and even more specifically those that can recall using an authentic typewriter in their past, we recommend you do not dismiss the MK Retro for this intention. In our experience, it may not come with all of the latest and greatest features of "gaming" mechanical keyboards, but at the same time, it is more than capable of being done.

Two things stood out to us in the aspect of things we didn't find workable or did not care for. First of all, be very aware that this keyboard is a fingerprint magnet, and fresh out of the box, the static charge it has will attract every bit of dust to the chrome and shiny black plastic finishes. The second thing and one that is more detrimental to the keyboard is the lack of ability of the rear foot functionality. For some odd reason, we could not get the feet to collapse on our MK Retro. We had to remove them to open the keyboard, and without pressure on the internal spring in the back feet, they functioned smooth as silk and as intended.

However, both from the factory as well as after we reinstalled them, we could not get to either the midrange height or the lowest height. If we installed them closed, we could raise them, but again could not get them to lower. In all honesty, we did not need to adjust them from their fully extended height as it is most comfortable for us to use it like that, but we do bring forward any issues we find.

All in all, the MK Retro is a game changer. Of course, there are going to be a lot of the younger crowd that just doesn't get it, but they also tend to use membrane keyboards due to a lack of disposable income. For those of you who can recall using a typewriter, like all things retro, or are looking for an easy way out for a steampunk look, the MK Retro is right up your alley. Even with a few small things that can be annoying to some users, we feel that AZIO has taken us back 30 years in looks while delivering everything good about what it is the use a computer.

You do not have to go through all the hassles associated with traditional typing; it just looks like you do. While it may not be the most robust solution to mechanical keyboards on the market, the styling, nostalgia, and its ability to impress anyone who sees it is all worth the price it takes to acquire the MK Retro.

Chad's Peripherals Test System Specifications

TweakTown award
Performance97%
Quality including Design and Build90%
General Features90%
Bundle and Packaging95%
Value for Money93%
Overall93%

The Bottom Line: AZIO's MK Retro is a head turner of a keyboard! It is affordable, looks stunning, takes us down memory lane, and is the first of its kind. Even though it lacks in gamer oriented features, this is a perfect gift for those typists in your life.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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