I can’t overstate the power of the reactions the Azio Izo keyboard got when people saw it sitting on my desk. Not many mechanical keyboards have big volume wheels attached to their frames, much less style them in a showy reflective gold to pair with a gold spacebar and escape key. Go past the gold and you’ll see that the rest of the keys have some sort of round shape that almost makes them look like little candies.
Azio is no stranger to bold keyboard designs like this one. Until now, the most notable keyboards have been his Retro Classic Line. These literally try to recreate the look of old-fashioned typewriters with flat round keycaps and metal frames. The result, as one of my colleagues pointed out, is a keyboard that looks like it can sink a U-boat and only supports encoding in COBOL.
I’m all for a piece of consumer tech that’s willing to embrace a striking design like this, but if you’re spending $129.99 on a keyboard, it should do more than just generate big reactions from everyone who sees it. After using the Izo as my main work keyboard for a week, I feel like the functionality doesn’t match the design. It’s starting Kickstarter today alongside a matching mouse and calculator, and the plan is to deliver to backers in August. The keyboard’s suggested retail price is $129.99, but Azio is also offering early bird discounts with its Kickstarter campaign that lowers the price to $79.99 and $69.99. For this review, I evaluated it at full retail price.
From the photos at the top of this article and throughout the page, you probably already know if you like the look of the Izo. In addition to blue, the keyboard is also available in pink and white. But whichever look you choose, you’ll get round white keycaps and a blingy gold escape key, space bar, and volume wheel.
I’m a big fan of these types of volume wheels, and the Izo’s are no exception. It feels nice and it worked perfectly whether I was using the keyboard in wired or wireless mode. Holding down the button also allows you to mute your computer and turn it on again, holding down the Fn key while turning it to adjust the backlight brightness. However, the functionality of the volume wheel cannot be reassigned.
The only problem with a volume wheel like this is that it takes up space, and space is a rare commodity on compact 75 percent-style boards like this one, which omit the numpad of larger keyboards but still include a function row. The more compact selection of keys means you have to be smarter with what you record, and Azio has made some bizarre decisions when it comes to the Izo.
The most egregious of these is that there is no dedicated printscreen key. Instead, of all things, you get an Insert key, a key I’ve only accidentally pressed in my nearly 30 years on this planet. The print screen button, meanwhile, is hidden behind a function key. For me, this minor omission ruled out using the Izo keyboard for important work events where I need to take screenshots on a regular basis. Without built-in support for key remapping, it’s not something that can be easily fixed.
The keycaps themselves are a bit of an acquired taste. Construction wise, they’re fine: a double combination of hardwearing PBT plastic and clear lettering to let the keyboard’s white LEDs shine through (there’s no RGB support here). But their round design takes some getting used to. I found my fingers slipping off the rounded edges of the keys a bit as I typed, missing the sharper raised edges you get on more traditional keycaps. I had no trouble installing third-party keycaps, but good luck finding some that match the unique look of this keyboard. There is no angle adjustment on the Izo.
While most keyboards are designed with Windows in mind and Mac as an afterthought, the Izo is primarily a Mac keyboard. The bottom row contains Option and Command keys, and although Windows and Alt legends are printed next to them, they are smaller and don’t let the backlight show through. It would have been nice to see Azio include replacement Windows special keycaps like Keychron does. You can switch between Mac and PC layouts by pressing Fn + Home. Azio only produces this keyboard with an American (aka ANSI) layout for now, but it says it hopes to release additional layouts in the coming months.
The Izo works as both a wired and wireless keyboard, via USB-C and Bluetooth respectively, and a gold switch on the top of the board toggles between the two. If you’re using it in wireless mode, there’s the option to pair it with up to three devices (much like Keychron’s keyboards) and switch between them with a hotkey. The initial pairing process is a bit fiddly and involves selecting one of the three profiles before putting the keyboard into pairing mode. The process of Keychron is more seamless.
Azio claims the keyboard’s 5,000mAh battery lasts a full year on a single charge if you use it with the backlight off, dropping to two weeks of eight hours of daily use with it on (which, trust me, you will) . It’s hard to compare directly, but Azio’s two-week battery life translates into approximately 112 hours of use, which is slightly higher than the 68 and 72 hours claimed by the Keychron K2 with its lights on, understandable given the larger battery in the board. from Asia . I wasn’t able to zero the Izo keyboard’s battery during my review period, but after two days of wireless use, the built-in battery indicator told me I had 60 percent of the charge left.
Other than that, the feel of typing on the Azio Izo is fine, as long as you want your switches to be clicking. The keyboard is only available with Gateron Blue switches, meaning fans of tactile or linear switches will be out of luck. That’s great for click-switch fans like me, but if you’re not, or if you can’t afford for your keyboard to be a little cacophony, then Azio isn’t interested in taking your money. The Izo is not hot swappable ie, which means changing the switches is only possible with a soldering iron.
I’ll just come out and say it: I think Azio’s Izo keyboard looks great. It has the kind of loud, eye-catching design that I wish more consumer tech would embrace. It won’t be for everyone, but if you’re into it, you’ll like it.
But you will have to put in some effort if you want to enjoy the look of this keyboard. The key selection is odd, it is available with a limited number of switches and the keycaps are an acquired taste. The Izo may look good, but he struggles to do it.
Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge