AZiO Levetron Mech5 Mechanical Keyboard Review
Tim Mammatt / 10 years ago
AZiO Corp is a new brand to us at eTeknix, so we’re honoured today to be reviewing their flagship gaming keyboard, the Levetron Mech5. AZiO Corp is primarily and American brand, although we do occasionally see some of their products over here in the UK – and should expect to see them more often soon. This is the first time I’ve had my hands on one of their products to review, so I will make sure I pay close attention to the build quality and performance. The keyboard itself is known for its modular form, with nearly every aspect being customisable. The Mech5 features slightly more features and a tweaked design over the other keyboard in the range – the Mech4, which also has a different colour scheme, yet the same modular characteristics. Before I dive into the review, lets take a quick look at what the Levetron will present us with feature-wise:
- Highly Modular Design – Move the macro keys to where you can reach them. Numeric Keypad and Macro Keypad modules are removable and can be positioned on either side of the keyboard
- 16 Dedicated Macro Keys – Programmable macro keys can be used as an in game shortcut, a specific keyboard character, or a whole key sequence using the keyboard software.
- Cherry Black Mechanical Switches – The Cherry Black mechanical switch is widely believed to provide the best gaming experience. Featuring a linear design ideal for rapid pressing of keys and the right stiffness to help prevent accidental key presses.
- Built-in Volume Knob – Perfect for audio control of your speakers or headset device.
You get all of this for approximately $109.99 so it’ fits in the middle of the mechanical keyboard market. Now I’ll take a look at this curious sounding keyboard, to see what its all about, though you should note, that since it is an American keyboard, it will have the US layout.
The Mech5 comes in a fairly large box, which is no doubt down to the modular parts. Straight away you can see the keyboard in all its glory on the front of the box so you know exactly what to expect. The design of the keyboard is almost grungy with a dark colour scheme and exposed metal. The left side of the front displays various features of what to expect with the Mech5.
On the reverse side of the box there is a more detailed breakdown of the various features and an explanation of the modular design. The right side also contains various translations of the features, in 8 different languages.
When you first open the box and remove the contents, it’s almost slightly overwhelming due to the different parts for the keyboard. The box contains the keyboard itself, which is an 80% design (Tenkeyless TLK), the additional numbered, the top macro buttons and the quick start guide and driver CD.
The whole point of this keyboard is that it can be fully customised to suit the user, so subsequently AZiO has made the Numpad modular along side the macro keys you’ll see shortly. AZiO have also included an additional calculator button, which is a nice touch as it is used often in our office. The Numpad can be attached on either side of the keyboard, which I’ll show you how in the image below:
On each side of the Mech5 there are “wings” which slide up to reveal a USB connector. The Numpad has the matching port on each side of it, so this simply slots into place and the wing lowers, locking it into place. For the purpose of this review, I used it primarily on the right side as it felt odd having it on the left.
The top row macro keys are also of a modular design, so you can decide if you wish to use them or not. The macro keys simply attach to the keyboard by a rail system – not dissimilar to that on a gun. There is a small cable around the back of the buttons which connects to a USB port on the back of the keyboard. This can then slide left and right along the top and can be flipped up to gain access to the function keys. In the top right corner there are two buttons, one that turns the win key on and off – useful when gaming, and A/B button that enables you to switch between two sets of macro keys that line the left edge of the keyboard.
In this image you can see the macro keys in the upright position. On the underside of it you can see a small retractable rest that when opened, rests between the function keys and the number keys – to give it a bit of support. To the right of the keyboard you have a nice, smooth volume knob that is great for controlling the audio levels on the fly.
Other than the top macro buttons, the Mech5 features a full compliment of Cherry MX Black switches, which AZiO describe as the best for gaming due to their stiff, linear movement.
AZiO has gone all out with the customisations you can do to the Mech5 by providing additional keycaps. These red caps replace the WASD keycaps. They are slightly lower than the surrounding caps, making it easier to relocate your hand on those crucial keys when gaming.
Fully assembled, you are presented with a beast of a keyboard. The whole design reeks of a mechanical, industrial machine with its chunky futuristic design. The hexagonal bolts are just a little bit of extra details, which really add to the overall design of the board. You can also see the macro keys down the left side of the keyboard we mentioned earlier. Despite the modular design, the wrist rest is attached to the board, which is an issue for some.
Setup and Software
The Mech5 is reasonably simple to setup, granted it is a modular keyboard so will take a bit longer to snap everything into place, but once settled, it’s easy to do over and over again. The cable is around 6ft long with two gold plated connectors at the end to provide the keyboard with additional power. Straight off the bat you can use the keyboard when connected to the PC, but you won’t be able to map the additional macro keys.
Once the drivers and software are installed from the CD provided, you are greeted with this screen. It is relatively simple compared to other keyboard programs we have seen, but I see this as a good thing. On this screen you can select the keys you want and assign them macros.
First off you have to create the macro you want, so then once it is saved into the software, you can bind it to a key.
When a key is selected, you are given the options in the image above. There are various things you can get the keys to do, from opening programs, running a macro or even quickly typing a string of characters. All of that can be done in the screen above. For the purpose of this review I set the top macro keys to media keys. It is as simple as pressing a record button, carrying out a sequence of actions, then saving the macro.
So that is it when it comes to setting the keyboard up and using the software. Now it’s time to put it to the test.
I’ve been playing a lot of Battlefield 3 when I can (surprise surprise) alongside a bit of Diablo 3 when I’m taking it easy. The Mech5 was great for the FPS as the Cherry Black switches were nice to push and required enough force so you knew when the key had activated. Where the keyboard really shone was in Diablo 3 as the macro keys were perfect to assign to casting spells and issuing commands. The ability to have the top macro keys set as media keys also allowed me to control my music whilst I was playing, great for those awesome kill streaks and capturing the flag in BF3: End Game. The one little issue I have with the keyboard is the strip of macro keys down the left side of the keyboard as I kept pressing the bottom key instead of the left Ctrl key – a small, but annoying issue I’ve had with all the keyboards which have macro keys in that position. Overall the Mech5 provided a great experience for gaming and in some cases actually improved my performance.
I do a lot of typing on my PC, whether it’s for eTeknix or when coding/designing websites so as you can imaging, typing quickly became a chore on the Cherry Black switches due to the larger amount of force required. This rapidly introduced strain into my fingers making it very uncomfortable during long typing sessions, like when reviewing. What I did like however, was the fact I could map so many keys to do different things. This was particularly useful in programs like Photoshop as I could use the “A” macro keys for things like selecting the vector tool, and then use the “B” macro keys for opening programs. The top macro keys were also well suited to acting as media keys and the volume knob was a great convenience, so much so, I actually miss it on keyboards that don’t have it.
I think the Levetron Mech5 is a great keyboard for gamers, its got loads of useful features packed into it’s futuristic chassis and the fact that it is modular and almost fully customisable is a great aspect to have. Whilst some may find the keyboard bulky, even with the Numpad detached and the design off putting, when it is actually put to use, it is almost flawless. AZiO really has put a lot of thought into redesigning the Mech4 to create this monster of a keyboard, with little things like an added calculator button adding to a great experience. The overall quality is pretty decent as we often see with mechanical keyboards, so it’s quite capable of lasting longer than the components in your computer.
The keyboard isn’t all amazing however, as you may notice in the previous paragraph I did mention that it was a great keyboard for gamers, as it is not so great when it comes to typing. The Cherry Blacks are a good choice if you don’t press that many keys – like when gaming, but when it comes to typing the additional force required to get the switches to actuate, really puts strain on your fingers, resulting in an overall painful experience. As I also mentioned in the previous paragraph, some may find the design a little too chunky and the style of it too busy. Personally, I quite like the industrial look to it and I love the attention to detail AZiO have put into it, however some could see it as tacky and too busy. Another annoyance I had with the keyboard is the lower left macro key position, as I always have with keyboards with a similar positioning of the macro keys. However, this is more down to preference.
Overall AZiO has made a great first impression on me, from the modular design that allowed me to customise how I wanted the keyboard layout to be, to all the great features packed inside. Sure it may be like Marmite so some, but thanks to the innovate design (something we don’t often see with keyboards) it should really stand out for anyone looking for a decent gaming keyboard that also won’t break the bank. As the AZiO has used Cherry Black switches, I won’t be recommending this keyboard to anyone who does a fair amount of typing, but anyone who loves gaming and wants a keyboard that looks the part, then look no further. To sum it up, the AZiO Levetron Mech5 is decent, high quality keyboard with an innovative, customisable design and a full complement of features, making it perfect for gamers, but due to the characteristics of the switch type, it’s not so good for the heavy typists. For all these reasons, I’m happy to award the AZiO Levetron Mech5 with the: