Let’s talk about Azio’s Mk Mac Wired Backlit Mechanical Keyboard. Did you spot what’s missing from the name? Hint: it’s something 99% of other mechanical keyboards boast about. That’s right: Gaming! Look, we all know there are games available on the Mac, some of them pretty great and mostly modern. Also, some of you may even be holdouts from the Windows World, hoping against hope the latest PC blockbuster will eventually migrate its way over to Apple Land (sorry, Overwatch isn’t gonna happen).
If we’re being honest with each other…it’s probably best we acknowledge reality and admit the Mac excels at many things, but gaming ain’t one.
So why isn’t this an issue? Easy: most “gaming” mechanical keyboards are “gaming” in name only, offering up an otherwise decent keyboards with the G-label tacked on to help justify that enormous price-tag to amateurs with dreams of becoming professional gamers (hint: Nike works in much the same way). So by eschewing the whole “gaming” concept from the get-go, we finally get a mechanical keyboard that’s entirely about the typing experience – which is great!
In truth, the main reason why there aren’t many mechanical keyboards available for the Mac – and that means designed specifically for the Mac – is simple; most people using Apple’s PC are using Macbooks. Sure, there are various iMacs, Mac Minis, and the cannister-shaped Mac Pro, but when you factor in the smaller user base and obvious integrated laptop/keyboard dynamic, there’s little incentive for manufacturers to bother with the market. Besides, USB keyboards designed for the Windows market work perfectly fine with Macs, so where’s the problem?
In a word: style. In more words: style AND the lack of an authentic Mac keyboard layout. This means the CMD key and different placements, plus or minus a few keys here and there. If you work or have close contact with anyone in the arts (writing, film, audio, etc) chances are you’re familiar with this phenomenon. Using a PC keyboard usually means a mad-dash to the Settings App to change, remap, and modify the keys that simply don’t port over well.
With the Mk Mac keyboard, you won’t have any of those issues. And best of all, it works like a champ on Macbooks; this review is actually being written on a fairly recent Macbook Pro docked to external displays for maximum keyboard clickiness.
Longtime readers may experience a bit of deja vu when reading through this review; you’re not crazy (at least, not about that); the Mk Mac is actually a slightly modified version of the Azio MGK1 Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, with added macOS flourishes and – yup – a whole lot more whiteness. Pretty much everything in that review applies, minus the odd backlit coloring issues and obvious coloring differences.
Design: A Polar Bear In A Blizzard
Like never before, the Mk Mac keyboard defines Azio’s whole “Elegantly Fierce” aesthetic better than ever before. Whereas most mechanical keyboards ply on the rough edges and dark colors, Azio’s Mk Mac is practically all sunshine and light. Admittedly, the slogan “The Way It Should Be” does sound, shall we say, a bit authoritarian. Rather than conjure up images of a snowy nationalist wunderland, the sheer whiteness is in keeping with the modern status quo over in Apple Land; white, white, and more white, and occasional touch of gray. Remember when Steve Jobs boasted PCs were all boring beige boxes, and offered up multi-color iMacs? Yeah, neither does Apple.
Not only does the MK Mac look great, but it’s clearly built to last; underneath those raised keys is a heavy-duty aluminum plate, surrounded by an all-white frame. The dimensions are all solid stuff, too: 17.5 x 5.4 x 1.37 inches coming in at a reasonable 2.3 lbs. Connectivity is handled via the 6-foot USB braided cable jutting out from the center rear panel, which powers both keyboard and lighting – though you won’t find any of that fancy USB routing or additional pass-through options for other devices.
A row of Function keys sit nicely on the top-end, containing many of the basic functionality fun you’d expect them to, only slightly modified for Mac users: Exposé, Launchpad, brightness, and even individual volume up/down keys. The last two are a bit odd, considering Azio adds a pretty sweet volume rocker knob and mute button on the top-right. The only indicator light is the Caps Lock, leaving the majority of lighting to the actual keyboard keys themselves. This is good.
Speaking of backlights, four levels of highly attractive white LED backlights make typing in the dark or darkened rooms less eye-straining. There’s few options to change the lighting, except to make the keys individually responsive or turn them off entirely.
On the underside are four rubber nubs to keep things steady, while two extendable leveling legs to elevate the typing angle slightly. A nice dotted detachable wrist rest helps make those longer typing sessions a bit more bearable – and stylish. Did I mention it’s white, too? Surprise!
The Mac Goes Mechanical
As with the MGK1 this Mac-only keyboard doesn’t use genuine Cherry MX Switches, but instead Kailh Brown Switches from Kaihua; unlike the MGK1, however, there doesn’t appear to be other options (Red, Blue) for those who prefer their mechanical typing extremely loud ‘n clicky (Blue) or super-silent (Red). I don’t have an issue with this as I love my Goldilocks Browns; they’ve got just the right combo of tactile punch and 55cN actuation force.
If you’ve ever typed using a Cherry MX Brown (or, again, a Chinese knock-off) then you should know what to expect here; pure typing excellence. Those of you coming straight from Mac-only keyboards are in for a treat, though it might take some time to adjust from membrane-style keys to the more tactile experience mechanical keys provide. Native Mac keyboards are VERY good at what they do, which could be a major reason for the need to improve crappy stock Windows keyboards.
Ironically, the white-on-white coloring actually eliminates one of the MGK1’s biggest flaws, which was ill-spaced out backlighting on certain keys. Not only is every key brightly lit with just the right amount of (you guessed it) white LED lighting, but every symbol, letter, and number is easily visible, even on the lowest brightness.
One last thing; as crazy as it might sound, you can even use the Mk Mac on a *gasp* Windows machine, though not everything translates 1:1. This is par for the course when attempting to use Apple keyboards on Windows, made even more troublesome as Microsoft’s OS – even the latest version like Windows 10 – doesn’t allow users to natively remap keys (which is nuts). You’ll have to install a third-party program like SharpKeys to “restore” Windows keys like Print Screen and others. Clunkiness is the price you’ll pay for bringing pure-white elegance to the otherwise drab landscape of dark-colored keyboards.
Fun Fact: older Mac keyboards used to feature huge, raised keys for optimal travel and great actuation strokes. For many users, Apple’s decision to flatten their home keyboards to match the Macbooks never sat well, and forced them to adopt uglier, blacker Windows options. With Azio’s Mk Mac Wired Backlit Mechanical Keyboard there’s no need to compromise any more, as long as you love the color white. The typing experience is exactly what you’d want in Cherry MX Brown equivalent switches, and it even works (mostly) fine on Windows machines, too. There aren’t many mechanical keyboards made specifically for macOS, but the MK Mac is one of the best.