Gaming Keyboard Final Thoughts
There’s a features war going on in the keyboard market these days, with vendors striving to outdo each other with ever-increasing feature sets. Some keyboards that I have reviewed have such fine control of their 16-million color RGB backlights that you can invoke credible simulations of flames or arcs of electricity crackling across your keys (or even play Tetris, as I’ve seen in one demo); and craft macros that position the cursor to an exact pixel and post key press and release events with millisecond precision. The utility software used to control these features is by necessity complex, and often seems to have been designed without any input from a user interface designer– you’ll need to invest hours or even days to learn to use the features of the keyboard effectively.
The simple feature set of the Azio Armato, in contrast, can be mastered in a minute or two. All the macro and lighting features are local to the keyboard, and there is no software you need to install to make use of them. I suspect this will prove a significant advantage long-term: will companies producing complex keyboards that require complex utility software to utilize continue to maintain the software? Any user of an old printer or scanner knows how drivers can become incompatible with new operating system releases, and how reluctant companies are to spend the money to update software for products they no longer sell.
The advanced capabilities of other keyboards look good on paper, and are fun for reviewers to play with, but they’re arguably of little real-world use. They don’t make the keyboard “type” any better, and in the heat of gaming you’re not going to be looking at the amazing lighting on your keyboard anyway. Advanced macro capabilities certainly have their place, but I’d guess most people’s needs would be easily handled by the Armato’s simple implementation. There’s also the advantage of being able to use the macro features on any computing platform, rather than being limited to Windows.
Equipped as it is with Cherry MX Brown switches, the Armato’s as nice to type on as any MX Brown keyboard, with a nice tactile “click” that’s missing in the linear MX Red and MX Black switches, and a much quieter sound than the noisy MX Blue switches. The red backlighting is visible in normal daytime room lighting, but not overly bright, at maximum intensity.
If the capabilities of the Armato don’t rise to the level of other high-end gaming keyboards, keep in mind that it’s significantly cheaper and much easier to operate.
Azio Armato Conclusion
The Azio Armato Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is aimed at purists and gamers who are looking for a solid, capable keyboard with basic lighting effects and macro features. Its robust, metal-heavy construction and use of genuine Cherry MX key switches bucks the current gaming keyboard trend of using less expensive Chinese clone key switches and minimal plastic enclosures. Clever features of the Armato include the polished metal chamfers around the key openings in the top plate, which provide reflections that look like accent LEDs, and the magnetically-attaching wrist rest.
And if its lighting and macro features aren’t as elaborate as those of other high-end gaming keyboards, neither is its price, which is $25-$75 less, depending on the comparison.
Gamers who value simplicity and basic functionality over bling and complexity will find the Armato ($129.99, Amazon) an excellent value.
+ Genuine Cherry MX Brown key switches
+ Solid, quality construction
+ Simple macro and lighting features easy to master
+ Two year warranty
– Styling is perhaps a little too aggressive
– No options to choose other Cherry switch types