By: Ben Joubert
August 15, 2016
When I was still young and ignorant, I thought I had all the answers. I thought there were no questions left to be answered, especially because all the tiny questions I had were so easily answered by the help of Google, my older brothers, or my parents. For quite a while, I thought to myself what more can there be to be found out. Other than the philosophical questions of "Why am I here?" or other such idea, I did not really aspire to answer any unanswered questions in the subjects I enjoyed, mostly because of my ignorance. However, I soon learned there are many things we do not know, and there are so many unanswered questions out there. I still find it interesting how I once thought there was nothing more to do in specific subjects, or make some sort of invention better than what currently exists. I mean, it is quite hard to take the keyboard a step further to make something significantly better than it currently is, just as an example. Mostly with keyboards, there are small steps taken forward to make everyday use a little better, but we still have the fairly standard idea of a keyboard we have had for a long time. New additions to keyboards nowadays mainly include cool new functions with flashy backlights, which can be customized in many different ways, but the basic idea stays the same. Today, we have the AZIO MGK L80 with Kailh Brown switches up for review. Read on to find out what new functions or ideas have been added to make this keyboard a good pick for you!
The AZIO MGK L80 Kailh Brown arrived in great condition from Walnut, California. The package arrived via FedEx International Ground, and it was accompanied in the box by the other two versions of the keyboard, the RGB and Kailh Blue versions. Overall, the packaging was excellent in protecting the products inside. There were a few sheets of bubble wrap, and air pockets to cushion the contents throughout the journey. Let us move on to find out if the contents arrived in good condition.
And it did. There was no damage to the retail box; not even any scratches. Each retail box of the different versions has different coloring to accentuate their differences. The version I will be reviewing has Kailh Brown switches, with red metallic accents and backing. The Kailh Blue version has blue metallic accents and a blue back, while the RGB version has silver accents with a black back for a more neutral look. At the bottom left, we find the name of the keyboard and its color. A picture of the keyboard takes up the rest of the room on the box, while there are the letters "MGK" largely printed behind the keyboard's picture. The sides of the box feature some different specifications, and the back advertises some of the main selling points of the keyboard.
Before we move on, let us have a look at some of the specifications of the AZIO MGK L80 (Kailh Brown), as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
Switch Type: Kailh Brown
Backlight: Red LED
N-Key Rollover: FULL NKRO (WIN)
Cable: 6 FT. BRAIDED
OS Support: WINDOWS XP, VISTA, 7, 8, 10
Dimensions: Keyboard / 5.8 x 17.5 x 1.4 IN
Palm Rest / 2.5 x 17.5 x 0.5 IN
Weight: 2.3 lbs / 1060 g
Box Content: L80 Keyboard / Key Puller / Thank You Card / User Guide
Warranty: 3 years limited
Inside the retail box, we find quite a few things. I was first greeted with the keyboard wrapped in a soft plastic, and foam blocks on each side to keep the keyboard in place to protect it from any damage or scratches. After lifting the keyboard out, there is an instruction booklet, and a Thank you card. The thank you card is something new to me, but all it contained is the warranty and contact information. The three-year warranty period is one of the longer warranties you can find on keyboards, as most manufacturers only have two years. In the instruction booklet, you will find information on how to change the lighting effects and record macros, which I will elaborate more later on in the review. The other contents are a keycap puller and a magnetic wrist rest, which was also wrapped in a soft plastic. The soft plastic had a rubber feel to it, which made it feel better than some of the other foam or plastic bags keyboards are usually wrapped in. However, I think it is time to move on to the AZIO MGK L80 itself.
I have always appreciated the clean and classy look of a brushed aluminum finish surface, especially when the keycaps are as open as they are on the AZIO MGK L80. The saying on the wrist rest, "Elegantly Fierce," fits best with the Kailh Brown version, because the red color gives it a fierce appearance, while the rest of the design has a very elegant feel to it. The rounded edges further emphasize an elegant look, and I must say I love the way it looks. The rest of the keyboard is made out of plastic, but it does not take away from the build quality. Furthermore, the majority of the keyboard is black with some red accents. The accents are located on the bottom and top edges, with some coloring around the volume knob as well. Around the LED indicators is some silver. I think AZIO has done a superb job at meeting the motto on the wrist rest. It truly looks elegantly fierce.
In the past, I have preferred tenkeyless keyboards, mostly because of the size of my desk. However, I found the slightly smaller width of the AZIO MGK L80 to be perfect for my desk. For specifics, the keyboard comes in at 444.5mm in width, 35.6mm in height, and 147mm in depth. They are fairly standard dimensions, but is just a bit smaller in some regards. As for weight, the keyboard weighs in at 1060g, which is pretty standard for a mechanical keyboard. The weight will help to keep it in place on your desk. Otherwise, the AZIO MGK L80 has no flex, even with the partly plastic construction. Even though the wrist rest is plastic, it still feels durable.
The wrist rest is a great addition to any keyboard, and required in this price range in my opinion. To further accentuate the elegant feel of the keyboard, the wrist rest attaches with magnets. It is easy to clip on and off, and the magnets inside are strong enough to not be pushed off during everyday use. Otherwise, it is also big enough to actually be useful. One thing to note, however, is that it can be attached slightly off center, which I only noticed by the edges, and never because of just seeing it. I do not think anyone will really care if they accidentally attach it a bit off center. The wrist rest also adds 63.5mm in depth to the keyboard, so it is quite a bit bigger. One thing I was worried about before attaching the wrist rest would be if the red accent would be covered, I was happily surprised that the accent is still visible.
Moving on to the layout of the AZIO MGK L80, we have a standard 104-key QWERTY ANSI layout. Basically, it has a half height Enter key, but otherwise similar to all the other keyboards on the market today. Since the keyboard layout is standard, the buttons on this end of the keyboard are the same as usual. The Windows key is located in the bottom left, and we have the first set of functions found from F1 to F4. They are macro keys, which does not require additional software to record them. I have always found recording hotkeys without the use of software to be a little clunky. However, it is fairly subjective if you prefer software compared to not using it. Macros can only be used in Gaming Mode. Recording macros on the AZIO MGK L80 is actually pretty simple. Pressing Fn in combination with any of the macro keys enables the recording mode, which will be indicated by the three white LED's flashing. After finishing the recording, you simply press Fn once more, which then will stop the three white LEDs from flashing.
Usually, on a gaming keyboard, there will be some functionality to open different programs with the Fn button plus one other key. The AZIO MGK L80 takes it one step further with the keys from F5 to F8. Each of them launches a different program starting with F5. They open email, default web browser, calculator, and the media player, respectively. As always, there are some media functions as well, which are found from F9 to F12. Starting with F9, this skips to the previous track, play/pause, skips to the next track, and stop playing, in that order. At the top right of the keyboard is where the gaming mode button is found, and the button to rotate between the different backlight options. The volume knob is right beside it, and I actually really like it. It has some feedback when you adjust the volume. The up and down arrow keys in combination with the Fn key will control the keyboard brightness. Overall, I like the layout of all the different functions of the AZIO MGK L80, and it keeps a balanced focus of the keyboard, with having aspects for both gaming and non-gaming use.
One of the bigger selling points of the AZIO MGK L80 is the full NKRO, or N-key rollover support. This means that each key actuation is scanned independently to ensure they are all recorded, and no pressed key is missed. This is helpful for gaming when you have to press multiple keys at once. However, I doubt anyone will actually have to press the entire keyboard at once, and usually 6KRO is enough, which just means you can press six keys at once. But why not play it safe and have NKRO? It certainly does not hurt.
For a gaming keyboard, I would say probably the most important aspect is the key switches. The AZIO MGK L80 features Kailh Brown switches, which is why it is a mechanical keyboard. On mechanical keyboards, each switch is an independent part. Other types of popular keyboards in the market today are keyboards with membrane and scissor based switches. The membrane keyboard is the cheapest and has a squishy feel to it when typing, while the scissor keys are more responsive, and work well for everyday office use. The mechanical keyboard is the most expensive of the three, because each key switch is an independent part. The more well-known brand of key switches for mechanical keyboards is Cherry MX, while others such as Kailh is an imitation of the Cherry MX as their patent expired a few years ago. However, while most people will not notice a difference between the two brands, there is a difference, and sometimes it is more pronounced depending on the keyboard. The color of the switch, which on the AZIO MGK L80 are Brown switches, also changes the experience. Starting at the most sensitive end of the spectrum is the Red switch, which is a good gaming one if you like to not bottom out. These are linear switches with no bump in the middle. Next up are Blue switches, which are known for having a great typing experience due to its audible and tactile click feedback. Brown switches are sort of found in the middle of the spectrum, with low resistance to typing, but still having more resistance than Blue switches. They too are nonlinear switches like the Blue variant, but they lack the audible click. Black switches have the most resistance, and are also good for gaming, but all of these are still largely personal preference.
The back of the keyboard is pretty standard, and nicely stands out with the red coloring. In the middle we find a square sticker with some information on it. Each corner has a rubber foot to keep the keyboard in place, and as usual, the top two rubber feet are also stands to angle it up a bit. Extending from the center back of the AZIO MGK L80 is a six feet long braided cable to add durability. The length of the cable is nice and long, and I do not expect anyone to have any trouble with reaching their computer or experience any everyday wear and tear to break the cable.
Moving on to the flashy lights of the keyboard, there is only one color, red, which matches with the accents. There are six different lighting modes, all of which can be cycled through using the button at the top right next to the gaming mode button. The different lighting modes are as follows: Static, breathing, FPS preset, MOBA preset, reactive, and of course, off. I prefer having the keyboard in static with the brightness set about the middle. As aforementioned, the brightness can be adjusted with the Fn key in combination with the up or down arrow keys. Overall, for a keyboard at this price point, the lighting effects are sufficient, and do not much else is required, unless you like very flashy lights, which is found in the RGB version.
For my own experience with the keyboard, I really enjoyed it. The overall use was comfortable, and I really appreciated the volume knob. Everything was simple, even the macro recordings and switching between the different backlight settings. I think the most important thing about a keyboard experience are the switches, which on the AZIO MGK L80 is Kailh Brown switches. I found the Kailh switches are a good contender compared to the original Cherry MX. I compared the AZIO MGK L80 to the Ozone Strike Battle, which features OEM Cherry MX Brown switches. The entire experience was positive, but I thought the Kailh Browns were slightly more rigid, and required more force to actuate than the Cherry MX version. This might be a consideration to some, but the feel on the Cherry MX's was clickier than the Kailh. Generally speaking, I would say the AZIO MGK L80 has good switches, but Cherry MX is still slightly better, but this will still depend on your own subjective preference, and for everyday use, I do not foresee many people noticing the differences.
From previous reviews of AZIO products, I think it is easy to say that AZIO has a very specific look they are going for -- clean and elegant -- whilst keeping the build quality to a high standard. The AZIO MGK L80 is clearly another testament to what they are aiming for. The build quality is great with the aluminum base plate, while also looking clean. Since the wrist rest attaches with magnets, it further adds to the elegant look AZIO is looking for while also being comfortable to the end user. Furthermore, the AZIO MGK L80 adds some helpful new features. There are some extra buttons that are not found on all keyboards, but it can definitely make the entire workflow more efficient. The functions I am referring to are the shortcuts to launch your email or web browser. The volume knob is also a welcomed addition to be able to quickly and accurately adjust the sound during gaming. On any gaming keyboards, programmable macro buttons are a must, and the AZIO MGK L80 does not disappoint with four macro buttons, which are relatively easy to use. In this area, I would have liked software to make the entire process slightly easier, as well as to adjust the backlight. The lighting system has enough functions to keep the keyboard flashy, and they are all easily adjusted with one button. The Kailh Brown switches are good, and the differences between them and Cherry MX switches will not likely be noticed in everyday use. The MSRP for the keyboard comes in at $100 USD, which for all the features offered is a fair price for what you get. Overall, I am very happy with the AZIO MGK L80, and what can I say? It is both elegant and fierce; in no particular order.
AZIO provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that are not likely going to matter to the end user.
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.6/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The AZIO MGK L80 (Kailh Brown) is an elegant keyboard with some fierce looking red accents and an even fiercer feature set to brag.
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