AZIO ELWOOD RETRO CLASSIC2019
TypeMulti-Function USB/Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard
If someone asked me what the perfect keyboard looks like, I would probably say something along the lines of wireless but back-lit, with a battery life of at least a year, dual compatibility modes with Mac and Windows and of course mechanical switches. When you actually put that into words you start to realize that something like this might not be too feasible from a design standpoint but nobody seems to have told AZIO that because they have gone ahead and done the impossible. Their keyboards feature amazing vintage looks coupled with feature-packed internals.
Intro and unboxing
The keyboard I will be reviewing today is the AZIO Elwood Retro Classic and this is a keyboard that won our Best of Computex 2019 award for the keyboards category. Right off the bat, when you receive the package, you can feel that something is very different about this purchase. The box is unusually heavy (in my experience, heavy almost always translates to excellent build quality) and comes with a hand-stitched cloth bag to carry the box in.
A wooden texture covers the box from end to end and a minimalist approach to design is used here as opposed to the one most gaming keyboards take. The back of the box is no different with some key features listed in four different languages. But it isn't till this outer layer is discarded that you start to get a sense of the luxurious unboxing experience you are about to have. In foil lettering and in a very classy style, AZIO is embossed on the black box which will house the keyboard.
The entire unpackaging experience looks like it was designed with incredible thought. It's not just taking the keyboard out of the wrapping, this packaging is clearly a value-added feature of the price tag that they are charging.
Inside the black box, a tastefully kept card and the actual keyboard covered in multiple layers of wrapping can be found. It is heavy and bulky and feels very sturdy. You could probably use this keyboard as a weapon in case of the zombie apocalypse - its that well built. I am not sure I can say the same for many of the plastic feeling keyboards out there. the contents of the box are fairly minimalistic as well, with some spare keycaps (always a nice touch!) and a cable. The Retro Classic features a USB-C port which is reversible and would allow hassle-free wired connectivity should you want it.
Looks and impressions
The AZIO Elwood Retro Classic keyboard uses mechanical switches from Kailh and features a highly tactile and clicky response, which goes well with the typewriter-esque theme they have going on. It features a 6-key rollover design and connectivity over USB-C or Bluetooth (whichever you prefer). The keyboard is quite heavy because it houses a mammoth 5000 mAH battery which can keep it powered for almost a year without the backlight or for a month or two with backlight.
The keys are rimmed by a raised border which improves intuitive detection of the keys and should make typing easier. The keys are well spaced and make it very hard to key in typos. This version of the keyboard includes a Numpad as well, which is an added bonus if you are someone that works with numbers. The wrist-rest is made from a light wood-type material that should easily last as long as you want it to although while it looks absolutely stunning, you probably want to go with a softer rest.
You can toggle between wired and Bluetooth modes using the switch at the back as well as switch the interface between Mac and Windows (wow). The keyboard height is very comfortable to type on but the rounded keys do take a while to get used to since all of us are used to the squared-off design of modern keys. The travel distance is fairly high as well which adds to the entire vintage experience the company is trying to sell.
As you can probably tell from the pictures, the entire build oozes of quality construction and I have no doubt this is something that will easily last for quite a few years. The typing experience is great as well, once you get used to the dated feel of a typewriter-style keyboard. One thing is for sure, if you want a vintage-looking keyboard, this is the one to get.
Conclusion and value proposition
Finding a value proposition for luxury items is hard since the luxury market usually has a very arbitrary utility function. Even then, the features of this keyboard speak for themselves. It features dual connectivity modes, dual interface modes, backlight and 6-key rollover with mechanical switches and great construction quality. In fact, if I really wanted to nitpick, I would say that this keyboard does not have N-key rollover which isn't too bad considering this isn't a keyboard aimed at gamers.
Considering some premium keyboards go for $170 and don't contain half the features this guy has, I would have to say the price tag of $219 is fairly justified. With a huge 5000 mAH battery (this is the largest in any keyboard unless I am very much mistaken) you can have this last for almost a year for a completely wire-free aesthetic. At the end of the day, the value of any device is in the eye of the beholder but if you are someone who misses the typewriter action of old and are in the industry of writing a lot of words, then this could be a great investment to make. This keyboard would also go well with custom builds using the retro theme.
All in all, I can't wait for AZIO to jump on board the optical-mechanical switch bandwagon and make a keyboard that could well and truly last a lifetime.
This is what absolute luxury in the keyboard space looks like. At a slightly higher price than the top end gaming keyboards, this elegant and classy mechanical keyboard offers a ton of features with an unbeatable aesthetic.
- Beautifully designed vintage-style keyboard
- Great-feeling mechanical switches (click and tactile)
- MAC & Windows modes
- USB and Bluetooth modes
- Reversible USB-C connector
- Huge 5000 mAH battery that can last a year without backlight
- Great unboxing experience
- High build quality and replacement caps
- No N-key rollover (only 6-key)
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