I’m a bit strange with my keyboards. I spend more time touching one than I do touching absolutely anything else. However, I couldn’t tell you what makes one mechanical keyboard better than the other.
Until now, because without hyperbole (okay, with some), the 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard is the one I want to be touching until I die. And that’s not because of ergonomics, reliability, or how hardcore the key mechanics are; it’s because of its look.
Gosh, it’s gorgeous.
I’m a bit of a weird choice to review a keyboard, but I wasn’t going to say no when I was offered one for review. I only know the general details about what makes one keyboard better than the other. I worked in IT for nearly 10 years, and the only thing that lawyers and engineers cared about was if it put letters on the screen. Some people wanted weird ergonomic models, but that was rare. I didn’t even care about how they sounded.
Until I watched the 1995 film Hackers.
That film features some of the clickiest keys I have ever heard, and I knew that my current keyboard wasn’t enough. I need something louder. I have to have that aesthetic for when I play the hacker games that make me feel smart. I need my neighbors to be able to hear my WPM from down the hall.
Initially, I was going to try and find a keyboard from the ‘90s before I discovered the audible greatness of mechanical keys.
The 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard has some great key sounds. If you’re not down with the particular key switches, the PCB is hot-swappable, so you can fit in something that suits your needs. Built-in is Kailh Box White Switches V2, which means absolutely nothing to me. However, I immediately fell in love with the sound. It has a lot of click, but less sharpness than my old Razor Blackwidow Ultimate (which uses Razor Green Switches).
Until it’s gone
What I really love is the aesthetic, which comes in two flavors. There’s one that is based on the grey/darker grey color scheme of the NES, and another that lifts the red/beige look of the Famicom. Unfortunately, they didn’t use a metallic gold plate for the marquee, but otherwise, it looks fantastic.
On top of the 87 keys, they put the 8BitDo touch to it with two knobs and three buttons, which grace many of the controllers, including my beloved arcade stick. The left knob is for switching between BlueTooth and 2.4Ghz, while the off position is used when you’re using USB. The other knob is volume, and rather than a tri-direction switch like the input method knob, it revolves freely but has a little click so you can feel each unit of volume you increase or decrease. You can adjust how much this unit is in the control panel.
The only drawback is the fact that it doesn’t have a numpad, but I think that’s because they wanted to keep it slightly portable, hence the wireless connections. I’m planning on eventually buying a separate numpad because it’s sometimes used in retro PC games. Also, I use it when entering numbers into a spreadsheet and sometimes hit the right Enter key. Right now, I keep hitting the right key blindly, thinking I’m reaching for Enter.
I did that just now.
I was initially planning on showing pictures of the 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard in its home as part of my PC setup, but I decided that cleaning up my desk would be too much of an undertaking. Listen, it’s sometimes said that a messy desk is a sign of a creative mind. It could also be laziness, sure, but I refuse to admit that.
So, instead, I’m just using the press shots of the keyboard, and you’ll have to take my word for it; it looks great.
The stress test
I also don’t know how to test a keyboard or even what I would be testing for. Is there a latency for keystrokes? Should I just press a button a few million times to see if it reaches the estimated lifespan (60 million, apparently)?
That sounds like a lot of work, so instead, I fired up Sega’s 1999 megahit Typing of the Dead. How far can I make it?
As it turns out, I made it to the last chapter using the default settings, which I don’t think is that bad since I haven’t played it in – my gosh – 15 years. For many of the chapters, I ranked at the top of the prepopulated leaderboards. I’m not sure how well a normal human would do in the game. I’m clocked at somewhere over 80 WPM with high accuracy. Please be impressed. I’d really like to excel at something.
So, now we know that the 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard is capable of handling Typing of the Dead. I’m not sure what else we’d need it for. I suppose it also does the other things I do, like playing text adventures, complaining about video games, and writing erotica. I’m even using it to “pen” this article, so that’s pretty cool.
Suffer like G did?
8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard also comes with two “Super Buttons” which are… hm. Well, you can map them to other keys, macros, or common shortcuts. I haven’t fully decided what I’m going to use them for, but I’ve currently got the one set closest to me as “mute.” I think I might set the other one to my video driver’s screenshot button. There are spots to connect more Super Buttons – four sets, for up to eight buttons. I’d really like to see that.
I imagine they’re more for streamers who need something mapped to somewhere easy to reach. I don’t watch streamers, so I have no idea, but I guess one could be mapped to do a fart sound. Do streamers… use fart sounds?
There are also two mappable buttons on the keyboard marked “A” and “B.” They’re called the Supper Buttons, and I am absolutely not making that up. I don’t think that’s a mistake, either, so someone has my exact sense of humor, which is to say, one informed almost entirely by Homestar Runner. I set one Supper Button to work as the Fn key, but when I have mute and volume right on my keyboard, I don’t know what I’d use it for. I’m just compounding my decision issues.
Th-This is my keyboard! It was made for me!
But the fact is that the 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard is the keyboard for me. I have a lot of nostalgia for the beige electronics of yesteryear, but in particular, I love the Famicom. The lock screen on my phone is a Famicom controller (it unlocks to an NES controller home screen). It’s this weird intersection between a toy and a computer.
I’m not using hyperbole, and I don’t intend to gush. But the fact is, it’s a keyboard that aesthetically suits me better than anything else possibly could. This is for me. This is my keyboard.
My only concern is that the beige keys will eventually become yellowed from constant use, and I’ll eventually—begrudgingly—have to part with it someday. I’m already thinking I should buy a compatible replacement PCB for it, if this one gives out after 80 million keystrokes. I want this keyboard to last forever. It may sound dramatic, but I’m hoping that I go out before it does, and if that happens, make sure to bury me with it.
Don’t actually do that. That would be wasteful.