8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

8BitDo is famous for its excellent controllers aimed at both retro and modern-day systems, but the company has taken something of a departure with its latest effort, the Retro Mechanical Keyboard.

As you can probably see from the design, it takes inspiration from the Nintendo Entertainment System, the console that kicked off Nintendo's remarkably profitable relationship with domestic console hardware (8BitDo also sells the keyboard in colours which closely match that of the Family Computer, the Japanese equivalent of the NES).

While we're sad to report that the keyboard isn't compatible with the NES itself, it has more than enough other features to entice Nintendo fans to make a purchase. Most obvious of all are the chunky, hot-swappable keys, which not only hark back to the keyboards of the '80s but also have mechanical switches that emit a reassuringly clunky 'click' when pressed.

There's a lot of travel on those keys – as is to be expected in this style of keyboard – and it took us some time to get used to it, mainly because we're so accustomed to the flatter keys of our Apple MacBook and Apple wireless keyboard. However, after a while typing becomes second nature, and the sensation of tapping away on the 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard is a really pleasant one – although, if you work in an office, the additional noise might prove to be somewhat annoying for your co-workers.

The 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard connects to your computer in one of three ways. There's a USB-C port on the back which permits a wired connection (a 1.8m long USB-C to USB-A lead is included in the box), but you can also link it wirelessly. A switch on the keyboard allows you to toggle between Bluetooth and low-latency 2.4G; for the latter, you'll need to plug the bundled USB dongle into your computer. When not in use, this neatly slots into the back of the keyboard; there's even a magnet which grips it in place, for added peace of mind.

The other unique element of the 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard is the fact that it comes bundled with 'Dual Super Buttons' – a separate controller which showcases two massive NES-style buttons which can be mapped for quick commands.

For example, you can map 'Ctrl + C' (the Windows shortcut for 'copy') to one of the Super Buttons, then map 'Ctrl + V' (paste) to the other. While they seem like quite a novelty at first, the Dual Super Buttons do come in handy, and it's possible to map some quite complex combinations to them, streamlining your workflow.

The 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard's internal 2000mAh battery takes around four hours to fully charge, after which point it will afford you approximately 200 hours of use when set to one of its wireless modes. The keyboard also boasts compatibility with 8BitDo's Ultimate software, which allows you to go even more in-depth with your button mapping and customisation.

8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard Review: Conclusion

Despite its lack of a pure gaming focus outside of its design, the 8BitDo Retro Mechanical Keyboard is one of the more pleasant mechanical keyboards we've used recently. It's customisable, has great wireless stamina and looks pretty darn cool at the same time.

It might lack gamer-style features such as fancy LEDs under the keys, but otherwise, it's a great way of showing your love for Nintendo (and the NES) even while you're working at your computer. The price might seem steep, but, when compared to other wireless mechanical keyboards, it's actually more reasonable than you might expect.

Should you be in the market for a new keyboard and wish to show off your retro gamer credentials at the same time, then this is a solid recommendation.

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