Azio Retro Classic BT Mechanical Keyboard Review – A Different Kind of Premium
A MECHANICAL KEYBOARD has become a must-have for (most) PC gaming enthusiasts, and there's plenty of brands out there to choose from that market to that demographic. Razer, Roccat, Corsair, HyperX, and about a thousand more manufacturers all sell mechanical keyboards. These range from small, portable units to hulking installations adorned with per-key, color-changing LED lights and tons of extra buttons for programmable macros.
AZIO'S RETRO CLASSIC BT is a mechanical keyboard that offers a few things the vast majority of mechanical keyboard makers don't, with a startlingly different design aesthetic than the blacks and chroma LED that seem to be the persistent styling trends for performance keyboards these days. It's a premium mechanical keyboard that places aesthetic at foremost importance. The design calls to mind manual typewriters of the early-mid 20th century, with circular keycaps instead of the traditional square. The frame is a heavy-duty zinc-aluminum alloy, with riveting accentuating the design. The whole thing looks very Art Deco, and is unlike any keyboard I've laid eyes on.
Azio Retro Classic BT Mechanical Keyboard Review: Modern Typewriter
Of course part of the premium nature of the Retro Classic BT is the switches. The circular keycaps set atop a modified set of Kailh Blue switches. To get the backlighting to show through the center of the keys, the Retro Classic BT uses a non-MX standard stem, which means only the keycaps that come with the keyboard will fit. That might be a turn off for some buyers, but since a large selling point of the Retro Classic is the aesthetic, I'm not sure why you'd want to change the caps out.
The keycaps, unfortunately, aren't metal, though I can understand how the added weight might stress the switches. However, they're made of a sturdy plastic which feels like it will hold up to years of typing. Each key has a slight indent so that your finger is naturally drawn towards the middle for a solid strike. I thought that the slight spacing between the keys might throw me off, but I've grown fond of the small gap, and it actually helps negate accidentally pressing adjacent keys. The keyboard also comes with a set of keycaps for Mac-specific keys so you can replace the Windows specific ones it comes installed with if you are using the other platform.
The Azio Retro Classic BT is available in four styles, each of which I found utterly gorgeous. If you're looking for a keyboard that pops out, the Posh comes with a white leather backing and copper frame, while the Artisan has a black leather backing and copper frame. For something more subdued you can grab the Onyx, which has a black leather and black chrome color scheme, or the Elwood, which has a beautiful walnut wood backing and gunmetal frame.
One of the most noticeable things about the Retro Classic BT, besides the aesthetic, is how heavy-duty it feels. This thing is an absolute beast of a keyboard, partly because of the amount of metal used in its construction, and partly because of the 6,000 mAh battery inside. The Retro Classic BT allows you to use it wired via a USB-C port, and a USB-C to USB-A Male cord is included. However, the big thing that sets this model apart from Azio's standard Retro Classic model is its Bluetooth capability.
Wireless mechanical keyboards are a rare species, which relegates a lot of people who have an HTPC to using keyboards with soft membrane switches. My main gaming PC is hooked up to my TV, so when I play games on it, I usually use an older Logitech MK360 wireless keyboard with a Logitech G900 mouse. I thought the Retro Classic BT might be a bit too heavy to use while sitting on the couch comfortably, but the extra weight actually helped to stabilize it.
Depending on how you use your keyboard with your HTPC, it might be a bit unwieldy, but it worked excellently for me while gaming. However, it is a bit too heavy if you just need to use your keyboard for a moment, and I still use my Logitech for just logging into a streaming service or other small tasks. Azio claims that the 6,000 mAh battery lasts 1-2 months depending on backlight intensity and up to a year if the backlight is off. I haven't had the opportunity to use it for a full battery cycle, but I can say I've had no issue with the battery dying when the keyboard wasn't connected to a power source.
Azio Retro Classic BT Mechanical Keyboard Review: A Keyboard to Remember
One criticism I have though is that the keyboard didn't come with a Bluetooth receiver. Since Bluetooth is the significant difference between the Retro Classic USB (which retails for $189.99) and the Retro Classic BT (retailing at $219.99), I'm surprised they didn't throw in a Bluetooth dongle for those whose computer's don't have a built-in Bluetooth capability.
The Azio Retro Classic BT is a beautiful keyboard that the big keyboard manufacturers should take some cues from. I have some excellent keyboards from the big names in PC gaming peripherals, but none of them stand out aesthetically from the others. I've grown tired of the black and chroma LED style that almost every higher-end mechanical gaming keyboard uses, and the Retro Classic BT is a breath of fresh air with its unique look, heavy construction, and pleasant feel.
I've really enjoyed my time testing the Retro Classic BT, and for now, I'll be continuing to use it as my daily driver. I love the solid feel, it has, though if you're not a fan of the way the key throw feels, you may want to avoid it. Unfortunately, this keyboard trades the ability for any customization for its unique look and if you want a product you can trade out keycaps and switches on, this isn't it. Additionally, if you're heavily reliant on macros, there are no macro specific keys, which are typically standard on most gaming keyboards.
The Retro Classic BT might not be the most option-packed mechanical keyboard, but it's undoubtedly one of the best looking. It's quite an investment at $219.99, but if my time with it so far is any indicator, that price gets you a surprisingly robust keyboard that looks phenomenal and has Bluetooth capabilities that let you use it on a multitude of devices without the hassle of plugging it in.