Earlier this year, we had an amazing time trying out an AZIO Retro Keyboard. So when the chance to try a compact version came up, we jumped at the opportunity. This time around, the company sent us their R.C.K. Vintage Typewriter Keyboard (which stands for Retro Compact Keyboard)–another model in the Retro series of computer accessories. While it looks cool, how does it hold up as far as functionality and gaming go? We charged it up and gave it a proper test to see how well it worked for our review.
So let's get to the basics as far as design goes. This is basically a steampunk fan's dream. All of the components are custom designed to give a look and feel of an old-school keyboard if they kept making the same designs past 1910 with metal and wood. Yeah, there's plastic on the keys, primarily so that they could be used to create backlit LED keys for you to use in the dark. They feel very natural with small indents for your fingers that are far comfier than you find on a lot of keyboards. Because this is a compact design that can be used on Mac or PC, a number of keys are meshed together and the number pad is gone. The escape key serves as the battery monitor for charging, and all the necessary buttons for both systems are clearly marked for reference. But, they didn't ditch the media keys along the top.
The system works through either a USB connection if you choose to hard-wire it, or you can use the Bluetooth option if you prefer to work remotely. There are two interchangeable pedestals for the bottom back end of the system for you to give it some height, but unlike other models, these do not raise and lower on a whim–you have to change them out. You also have a wooden wristpad, which seems like that would be counterintuitive, but the wood actually feels like it's been treated to be slightly softer than normal, and the incline feels just right.
As far as performance goes, it took a moment to get used to the positions of the keys because this design also takes away some space from certain buttons like the Command and Shift keys, so there is a learning curve to getting it all down. I noticed zero difference between the USB and Bluetooth, as both reacted at the same time to regular typing tasks (like this review) or in gaming sessions like running around in Black Ops 4. The only major issue I had was key placement, and that's minimal when you get used to it.
Overall, I really love the AZIO R.C.K. and was surprised by how it performed. When you see keyboards that are stylish like this, you tend not to immediately think of them as a badass gaming accessory, but it did the job alright. It even came with a brush for me to clean out the keys with, rather than using a can of air, which is a lovely feature you would not have thought about. The battery life works well, though it will need a charge if you're using this daily on Bluetooth. The only real hurdle for many will be the price, which is $220. There are other gaming keyboards out there that do the same thing for cheaper, so really the extra cost is for the design. It's kinda up to you if this is worth getting it for the look, but I know many a steampunk or retro fan who would die for one of these.