Board your dirigible, prepare your Leyden jar cannon, and get ready to write your steampunk masterpiece because the Azio Retro Classic is here to make you feel like a salty yet wise mercenary.
This $299 keyboard does take some getting used to. The keycaps are round, which is a bit odd at first, and the wider layout means you’re going to be moving across the keys more than you would with a compact or 60% keyboard. The keys are sufficiently clicky, but because this isn’t specifically a “performance” keyboard, you’re going to notice a slight slowdown until you become proficient. This keyboard is mostly about styling, anyway, and the matching Bluetooth mouse will make your whole setup match completely. If you’re equipping a front desk kiosk at an old-timey barbershop or planning on making your desk a specially designed set-piece, this is the keyboard for you.
This keyboard/wrist rest set is, as you can see, pretty unique. Designed to look like a mechanical typewriter, the backlit keys are made of rounded metal and feature glossy keycaps with plenty of key travel and click. The keyboard surface is covered in thin Napa leather, a kind of leather made of kid, cow, calf, or lambskin—this definitely isn’t a vegan keyboard—and the chassis is made of aluminum.
The Retro Classic is a full-sized keyboard, which means it includes a 10-key number pad on the right and separate arrow keys. As a fan of compact keyboards, this model is almost too big for me, but if you’re used to the numpad for gaming or accounting, this is a good choice. It supports 6-key rollover which means it can handle light gaming.
The keyboard uses custom Blue switches from Kailh, a lesser-known electronics maker. The keycaps can be swapped out to allow for different configurations and keyboard types and the Retro Classic can be connected via Bluetooth or USB cable to a Windows PC or Mac. Switches on the back change the function key layout and activate the Bluetooth radio or USB-C port.
While I definitely prefer a more standard, IBM-style keyboard, I did enjoy working with this keyboard for a bit. It’s a clever riff on those one-off, artisan keyboards you sometimes see on Drop and other sites. Because this is more style than substance, a $299 price tag for the wrist rest combo is more than acceptable. While I wouldn’t make this keyboard my daily driver, I’d definitely use it if I styled myself a steampunk adherent.
The keyboards come in multiple colors, including hunter green and orange. The black was the most understated, and you can also get models with wooden surfaces if you’re worried about killing lambs. Using this keyboard is definitely a decision based on taste rather than technical need, and while this is more than capable as a computer peripheral, this is definitely not a hacker’s keyboard. However, if you prefer to clack away like Hemingway at his Olivetti or Anna Valerious tapping out a letter to Van Helsing, this is a good aesthetic choice.