Ergonomics and Layout
Due to the retro design, which gives the keyboard its name, the keyboard needs some getting used to at first. This is mainly due to the round keys, whose edges are much closer to each other than on keyboards with a standard layout. At the beginning of the test, this led to typos accumulating, but after a few days, writing with the initially unusual layout was already very easy by hand.
In addition to the unusual shape of the keys, the ANSI key arrangement of the Retro Compact Keyboard also provides some time to get used to. Although Azio uses a German QWERTZ layout for the R.C.K., the keyboard only has a single-line Enter key, under which the hash key is located directly. Users who are otherwise used to the German standard layout and the large Enter key will therefore make frequent mistakes when using the Enter key, at least initially.
In combination with the soft palm rest made of genuine leather, which, like the 1,600 gram keyboard, is very slip-resistant, the R.C.K. is convincing in terms of ergonomics. Without the palm rest, pressure points and a slight numbness occur during long typing due to the angular and high edge of the keyboard. In my opinion this is not a negative point, because the wrist-rest is included in the delivery.
The installed mechanical switches, which Azio developed together with the Chinese company Kaihua for the R.C.K., also give no cause for complaint. In order to not only reproduce the typewriter feeling in the design, but also to make it palpable during use, the keys have a tactile click, which is noticeably palpable during typing but is not as hard as with a real typewriter out of consideration for frequent typists. The feeling when writing is comparable to a Cherry MX Blue.
Bluetooth, Battery and Mobility
The keyboard’s features, which include Bluetooth and a 5,000 mAh battery, give the impression that the R.C.K. is designed for mobile use. However, since the 1,600 gram keyboard is about 400 grams heavier than a DELL XPS 13, in my opinion the R.C.K. is no alternative to classic iPad keyboards for users who regularly use their hardware. Even when using the monochrome white backlight, a battery charge in our test endured several weeks of intensive use.
Furthermore, the R.C.K. is compact compared to standard keyboards due to the missing number pad, but can’t keep up with real dwarves like the mechanical Vortexgear pok3r in terms of size, which admittedly has neither Bluetooth nor a battery – let alone the striking design.